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The Master Plan
Category: Member Blogs

The Master Plan

 
For years I'd been wandering, wondering where God would put me. I prayed but didn't listen for an answer, and would follow any lead that I thought God sent me. It didn't matter what came down the pike, because I thought God sent me an answer to prayer.

*BUZZ!* Wrong answer!

Oh, I was really good at making plans. I had plans, back-up plans, and back-up, back-up plans. I had a binder filled with plans of the great ideas I was going to do, and everything I was going to accomplish. 

With all this frenzied planning going on, I was too busy to hear God laughing.

Was His laughter mocking me? No. He was laughing because my plans aren't Hisplans. You see, I had a Master Plan, but I forgot to plan with the Master

No wonder He was laughing when I kept revising plans over and over- and failed over and over. The look on my face must have been priceless!

It's like us watching our kids try something new and quite impossible. "Okay Mom, watch me lift a car like Superman!" And we smile as our toddlers try to lift the family mini-van. They're so cute when they try, but you know they'll come running up afterwards, asking why they couldn't do it. Your chuckles aren't mean- you just wish they had talked to you first.

So there stood God, grinning as I tried plan after plan. Only when I failed a plethora of times did I come to Him, finally willing to listen.

God did and does have a plan for me. Oh, He won't tell me all of it, but He gives bits and pieces when I need them. I'm not the best student either, so sometimes I need to go back and ask Him again-"Are You sure this is where You want me?" 

I have to be patient and listen for His answer- Which is not easy sometimes.

I'm a planning master. When I'm 'in the zone' (or should I say 'in His zone') things run smoother than cocoa butter on a warm baby's butt. I love when that happens. But when my plans take me off track? Let's just say it's a bumpier ride than a jeep with no shocks going up a mountain of cobblestones.

Maybe you're like me and make plans until you're exhausted. Maybe you've even heard Him laugh as you tried to lift your mini-van. Just remember that you can always go back to Him and ask why things didn't work out as you planned- the answer might just be because He was left out of the planning process!

If you get an answer right away- great! If you don't, just step back, take a deep breath, and pray. But more importantly, listen. He's there for you. He just might need a minute to stop chuckling!
Within My Heart ~ The Search For My Children Update…
Category: Member Blogs
Tags: Son Children The Search For My Children Within My Heart

I am so excited to share that I am in contact with my son and the parent that adopted him. everything is cool between his mom and I even though Robert and I have been out of the picture for many years. She was fine with Robert and I getting in contact with her again and be in contact with our son because we always got along with each other before.

I talked to my son for the first time on Wednesday. He was able to meet his Dad and Grandfather that is terminally ill over the phone. I talk to his mom about possibly coming out to see his Grandfather before he passes and they are considering it. Than I talked to him on Thursday too. I do not remember Thursdays phone call to much though. But I am grateful to be able to contact with them now.

I think I sent photographs of the family on Thursday because they sent Robert and I some of my son earlier that day. And when we get to Alpena on Sunday I will take more photographs of the family during the time we are there and send out more to my son on Facebook when I return home from Alpena Because they think it's more important for my son to get to know the family through photographs right now.

They also wanted me to give there number to my Biological Mother since she seemed interested in meeting my son and sending letters to my son. I was in shock when I heard this but I was happy to know that my mother did this so she can be in contact with her Grandson now too. So I told my mother not to call them until Monday late afternoon because they went out of town for the weekend and my son  returns home and takes a shower after school.

Give vs. Get
Category: Member Blogs

Give vs. Get

 
I love Youtube.

Oftentimes I look for clean comedians because I love stand-up; I love the jokes, but hate the language that most comedians use. Yesterday I looked for Christian comedians, and found one of my favorites, Michael Jr.

Michael is one of my favorites because he likes to play with words just like I do. It's so easy to mess with the English language! But then he adds some awesome revelations that blow me out of the water. Yesterday was one of those times.

I'd been having trouble when going to church. People seem to ignore me, or not have time to talk when I start up a conversation. Sundays are the only times I get any face-to-face-time with other Christians. But lately I'd been feeling disgruntled, unappreciated, and unacknowledged. 

Acknowledgement is important to me. I run the bread ministry- everyone takes bread home with them every week, without a single word of thanks. I also sing before communion services, and again as they pass out the elements each week. My husband is a deacon and works diligently for the church, and my kids do a lot concerning clean-up and helping in other ministries. We attend church each week, and everyone loves my husband and kids.

So why won't anyone talk to me

I sequestered my grumpy self on the couch on Saturday, deciding to watch a little clean comedy. But I received much more than laughter.

Michael Jr. spoke about Giving vs. Getting when you walk into a room. "Go into the room with your mind on giving instead of getting and see what happens" was the essence of his lesson. This blew my mind because I'd been going into church with the exact opposite attitude for months- after all weren't me and my family doing enough in church?

*BUZZ* wrong answer!

Fine. So I took a deep breath, cleared my negative thoughts, and went to church the next day with this new mind-set. 

I gave smiles to everyone. I gave questions, asking how someone was doing, then gave my ears to listen to what they had to say. I gave thanks and appreciation to those who helped me with my ministries. I gave a testimonial in church giving thanks to God for getting me started as a self-published author.

And in so giving, I got a lot back.

People asked me about my gimpy knee and how I was doing. They asked to see my books (I brought the sample proofs I ordered, though that was not my intention to show them off- my pastor asked to see them last week- I wasn't intending to do a testimony about the books either!), people hugged me, and congratulated me. For the first time in a long time, I'd felt like I was part of the church- not just a worker bee in a hive.

Now if I can just behave myself and keep that mind-set to 'Give' and get rid of the 'Get', I'll be able to bless a lot more people and not get grumpy about it.

So thank you God, for letting Michael Jr.'s videos pop up on Youtube. And thank you Michael, for not only giving me a laugh, but helping me become a better, more giving Christian! 
What do you REALLY mean?
Category: Member Blogs

What Do You Really Mean?

 
My mom taught me a poem when I was a kid:

A son is a son until he takes wife,
A daughter's a daughter the rest of her life.

Sweet, right? My mom was telling me that no matter what, we'd have a lasting girl-bond. Awesome.

But through the years of teenagerism, I forgot most of the poem. I was in my late teens when she asked me if I remembered it. So I recited:

A son is a son until he is wed,
A daughter's a daughter...until she is dead?

Okay, so it still rhymed, and the message was kind of the same, but alas, I had completely missed the mark. My mom was too shocked to reprimand me- or was she just laughing too hard?

Similar words, completely different interpretation.

Most people assume you meant things the way they themselves have interpreted it. I was a newcomer to a Bible reading group, and we were asked to read and talk about Acts 1. The leader asked what was the former book talked about in Acts 1:1, to which I promptly replied 'Theophilus'.

Well, the lady sitting next to me went into a tirade about how there's no book called Theophilus, and have I ever even read the bible before? She looked at me as if I was some kind of hell-bent renegade heathen ready to be roasted in Satan's flames.

The fact that I was new to church and hadn't read the bible before never even occurred to this lady. She was basing my answer on her interpretation that everyone in Bible study has already studied the bible. Go figure!

I misread the verse in Acts 1:1. He was talking to Theophilus, not talking about 'The unabridged, unpublished works called Theophilus'. But being a Bible noobie, I simply didn't know better. Too bad, too- despite the hard-to-pronounce title, it might have been an interesting book.

I'm not the only one who misunderstands the written word either...
 
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This is why writing humor comes naturally to me- there's just so much to misunderstand in the English language! One word could have a ton of different meanings- you just have to put the word in the proper perspective first.

Having a son with Aspergers helps me in this area too. I have to be concise with what I say, otherwise he gets mixed messages. Aspies also have a hard time reading body language, so I often have to exaggerate my gestures and expressions so he gets my point. 

Doing so has also helped in the humor department, because most humor is about exaggerations and over-emphasized expressions. People laugh harder when I tell a story in person! The gestures and expressions help to clarify the meaning of the story.

Hearing can also be misunderstood. Amazing Love has the chorus 'Yoooooou are myyyy King, Jesus yoooou are myyyy King' But when I was listening to it on the car radio (and quite distracted by driving) it sure sounded like 'You are mocking, Jesus you are mocking' Yikes!

(go ahead and take a minute to find that song and listen- I know you want to! I'll wait.)

The three factors of misunderstanding-  speech, sight, and hearing. All can be used to make things clear, or muddy them beyond comprehension. Even theBible states that things will become more understood as the Second Coming approaches- and how many times have you heard of someone misinterpreting the Bible? More than you're willing to count, I bet.

Don't be afraid to ask someone to clarify something for you if it's misunderstood. Ask until you understand. If you're the one being asked, be kind in your tone, and patient with the one asking. And if you don't know the answer, lead them to someone who does- or at least will know more. You never know where a question about God will lead, whether you're asking or answering. But either way, you willbe blessed!
Defining Purpose
Category: Member Blogs

Defining Purpose

 
It's a brand new year and most people do a life reboot- reevaluating goals, making new resolutions (and breaking them 2.3 seconds later), and making plans to do better this year.

Others decide to dig a little deeper and seek out purpose. But what is our purpose- especially for us Christians?

I came up with this to help me, and I'm sharing in hopes to help you.

PURPOSE:

P- Pray
U- Understand God's Word
R- Record key scriptures
P- Plan goals
O-Outline action steps
S- Set a realistic schedule for actions
E- Examine your progress

Before you do anything, pray. Pray for His help to find your purpose. Pray for change. Pray for the right changes. Pray for the energy to do what you need to do for God. Pray for guidance, pray for wisdom, and pray for using time wisely- including time to rest and read the bible.

Understanding God's Word isn't always easy. Digging deeper takes effort; it helps to have a study bible and the internet to help define what scriptures seem confusing.
Speaking as a word smith, when reading different renditions of the bible, some verses seem to say different things to me- but when I dug deeper, God's Word became much more clearly defined. For instance, when I first read the bible, I didn't understand why they used 'fear' a lot. But after digging, I realized 'fear' didn't always mean afraid- many times it meant respect! Big difference.

Writing down scriptures that speak to you can be a huge help in getting you through tough times, or encourage you to move forward. Little notebooks are wonderful tools for this, and I have one filled with gems of wisdom when I get in a spiritual bind- which happens a lot.

Instead of making resolutions, plan goals instead. What does God want you to do? Where do you feel called? When can you take time to fulfill these goals? How can you glorify God in your plans? Once you find your purpose, God will help you fill in the blanks.

Having an outline helps you get to those goals. Start with your purpose and work towards your goal. If you have trouble planning from A to Z, work backwards from the goal, taking small steps until you're back to your purpose. It's better to work backwards from Z to A for me- but of course I'm weird. Do what works best for you. Just get those plans defined, steps written down, and get ready to take action!

If you're anything like me, you have an over-zealous streak that thinks you can do more than you actually can do, so you over-schedule yourself, then burn out a week later. Setting a realistic schedule for action steps will not only boost your confidence, but you'll gain a sense of purpose you might not have had before. 
Accomplishments on a regular basis feel good! So why schedule the joy and glory out of your true purpose by doing too much too fast? You can't grow a tree in a week (just try begging a tree to do so and see where it gets you), and people can't function properly if they work themselves to exhaustion. Work at your owntrue pace- so what if it takes two years instead of one for you to do something? The point is you'll be a lot farther in accomplishing your goals in a year than you are now! 

When you're in a lull or a rut, it helps to take a look back and see just how far you've come. Even if you're behind schedule (especially if you've overestimated your time and energy like I usually do), it helps to see just what you've accomplished in the time that's passed. Don't see it as 'I'm behind and have so much more to do!'- see it as 'Wow- I've gotten this much done! I should tweak my schedule, now that I know what my pace is.' and move forward. You're not running a race- and God is very, very patient. Ask me how I know.

So what is your purpose? What is God calling you to do? I hope this post helps you define what God has in store for you- because no matter what that purpose is, you will be awesome doing it!
"Change" by Sarah Johnson Tags: family aging Christian life Christian women

My shop was just closing when she shuffled in,
Pale, gray and hunched, frail, bent and thin.
Her sweatshirt was clean, but well-worn here and there
Her face pinched in pain, but with friendship to spare
I asked, “Can I help you?”
She answered, “Yes, please.”
Then reached for my hand and gave it a squeeze.

Her friend parked the car, and then followed her in.
“My granddaughter brought me out for a spin.
And I’m shopping for Santa,” the old lady grinned.
Her voice dripped in warmth, her hand still held mine,
“I’d like one or two flowers, if you have the time.”

“Of course. What color, what size, shall we look?”
We shuffled along, the few minutes it took.
Her friend never left from just by the door.
She cleared her throat loudly, her foot tapped the floor.
Her cell phone was glued to the side of her head.

She rolled her eyes rudely, as the old woman said,
“One red, one white—could you wrap them with gold?
This little one’s sweet; can it withstand the cold?”
She chose and we strolled through poinsettias galore;
She did not stop till we’d toured the whole floor.

“Now, that one, just there,” her gnarled fingers poked air,
“Would you get it for me? May I rest in your chair?
I retrieved what she asked for, posthaste, with delight
“Can I get you some water? Are you feeling alright?”
“Yes, Dearie, I’m fine. I just love shopping for others.

But my children are gone now. No sisters. No brothers.
So my granddaughter takes me to do what I need.
This big one is for her.” More rolled eyes—My thoughts, “Yes. Indeed.”
“Can you wrap it real special, with the best ribbon you have?
I want her to like it. To think that it’s ‘rad?’ ”

“Yes, that’s the word,” I replied with a smirk.
The thought made us both giggle, as I set to work.
The eight or nine plants, she had chosen with care
Were soon packaged and ribboned, and festooned with flare.

I tallied the total; she dug through her purse.
The young girl kept talking, then let out a curse.
The phone was slammed shut and shoved in a pocket.
She shot to the counter just like a rocket.
Without any prelude, and wasting no time.
“You done here yet? Which package is mine?”

I wouldn’t have known the old lady troubled,
But she still held my hand and the clenching was doubled.
“This one is for you. Let me pay, then we’ll go,”
Still gripping my hand ‘til the blood couldn’t flow.
I squeezed back with patience. She breathed deep, then let go.

I turned to the cash box and tallied the tow.
She dug ‘round her bag for a change purse tied with string.
They were tethered together by a rubber band thing.
A mortified look crossed the child’s mocking face.
“Is that what I think?” with disgust and disgrace.

The coin purse, mere threads and mostly half rotten,
Tied to the handbag, was fished up from the bottom.
“Why, yes,” she said brightly, a glint in her eye,
“It was my mother’s. And yours, when I die.”

With gnarled fingers as pincers, plucked sovereign by cent,
Then a small wad of dollars, until all was spent.
The girl trudged to the car, crassly threw in her booty.
“Excuse her, she’s young,” said with grandmotherly duty.

A small awkward silence, then with raised eyebrow she offered,
“Did I mention this coin purse belonged to my mother?
I’m ninety-six now, but when I was a girl
That change purse was newer and so was my world.
It wasn’t the place where ‘mere’ money was gathered–
Far more than that, in all ways that mattered.

When my mother would wield it, to open for plunder,
I felt like a queen, and it’s no wonder:
It held ice cream cones, and shiny new shoes,
Licorice lace for sad days, when I had the blues.
And cocoa on snow days, marbles and mints.
That purse spilled out treasures that just never quit.

“Can I go to the movies? My car’s out of gas!”
As a newlywed bride, ‘our’ first Christmas together, her last.
And love, mostly love, that I’ve missed all these years,”
She muttered quite softly, eyes blooming with tears.
“And someday I go where my mother has fled
And my grandchild will be all that’s left in my stead.

Hope she finds more than tatters and rubber band ties.
Hope she sees past the surface to where real love lies.
My change purse, I’ll leave her, and all that I have.
My memories are hers, both good and bad.

“Thanks for your help.” Squeezed my hand, shuffled out.
But in her wake, left more hope than doubt.
I too have a change purse that was once my Mother’s
I just dug it out, from a box filled with others.
And sure enough, it was brim-filled with change.

Hope my children don’t think it’s too old or too strange.
I’ll open it freely to share what’s inside.
Love and acceptance, not self and not pride,
But genuine giving, that money can’t buy.
I saw just this week, my old friend had died
She managed to live to one-hundred and five.
I sent a poinsettia—the granddaughter cried
And gripped an old coin purse with sorrow and pride.

Sarah Johnson is a regular contributor to RUBY magazine

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