Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Magnolia Tree

When I was a girl, we had an amazing Magnolia Tree in our backyard.  I would climb it almost everyday, and because of its many branches, it became an adventuresome land of childhood imagination.  With each branch, I would climb higher and higher.  As I would pursue the top of the tree, I found myself overcome with a sense of achievement - a feeling of invincibility.  I just knew I could do anything I set my heart to accomplish.

At the base of the tree, there was a set of two perfectly designed branches.  They attached to the tree one on each side of me so that when I grabbed onto them with my hands, I could pull myself up as if I were a real Olympic gymnast on the Parallel Bars.  I would lift myself up using all the strength of my arms and would swing my lower body back and forth, back and forth.  Other times, I would wrap my legs around one of the branches and hang down from the thick limb as if I were a monkey.  With the back of my knees giving me all the support I needed, I would oscillate as fast as my young body would let me.  I imagine I was an interesting site to behold as my poor mother would look on through our living room window.

It was in this tree where my innocent mind would fantasize about the days ahead.  It was there, atop this glorious Magnolia Tree, where I first imagined being a wife and a mother.  As I sat on the branches, I would remember the sweet prayers of my parents - prayers that asked of God to provide me with a man who loves Him more than anything in the world.  Because if He loved God more than anything, then he would love me.  I would smile as I imagined becoming a mother for the first time.  It's interesting because I always pictured myself as being a mother of sons.  Perhaps it was a subconscious heart-felt desire of mine, but I knew boys would be a part of my offspring.  I also knew I would have a daughter as evidenced by the attendance of all my female Cabbage Patch dolls at the base of my Magnolia Tree.  They, along with my first baby doll Karen, were always with me, and nothing gave me greater pleasure than to discipline them if they ever got out of line. 

I do have many fond memories of that ol' Magnolia Tree, but I remember some sad times, too.  My grandparents would visit about twice a year, sometimes only once a year.  Their arrival would bring so much excitement to my little girl world, that I would literally lose sleep over it.  But just with the heightened excitement of their coming, there was a direct correlation to the amount of sadness I would experience at their going.  I can remember being sad for days after their departure.  It was such a sweet treat to have them there.  And once they left, I would of course, venture outside to my special place of solitude.  On those magical branches, I would cry and mourn over the time I wish I had with my grandparents.  Again, I would find myself imagining the days ahead.  I would console my heart by dreaming of future Christmases and birthdays surrounded by my very own children.  And in the picture, by all means, would be my grandparents and my parents.  We would ALL be there doting on one another and laughing as we celebrated life together.  Being together.  That, for me, was the most wonderful part.

As I grew up, just like so many other people, my childhood fantasies didn't quite turn out the way I had imagined them.  There might have been a time in my life where I would have believed the philosophical idea of, "If you build it, they will come." But with each passing year of my life, I realize that no matter how much we pray or dream, things just don't go the way we hope.  And as much as I would like to kick and scream about that, I've learned, also, that doesn't help things either.  Divorce happens.  People pass away.  Illnesses change the direction of our lives.  Loved ones come and go.  Friends don't mean to forget about you, but they do.  And it's all because of one thing - we are human.  Merely mortal beings.  Unfortunately, people will fail you.  But...

God. Never. Fails.

I wish I knew why life brings rough patches.  I wish I could explain why Godly people do ungodly things.  I wish I understood why diseases take the lives of people who have done nothing but serve the Lord for their entire existence.  But I don't.  And honestly, I am not entitled to an explanation.  One thing is certain.  As life has brought its share of trials and tribulations this truth I can hold onto...

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.  He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see what he has done and be amazed.  They will put their trust in the Lord.  Psalm 40:1-3 (NLT)

So on this spring-like day in February, I think I will venture out to that ol' Magnolia Tree one more time.  As I climb those elderly but thick branches, I will remember.  I will remember what my God has done for me.  And as I wrap my knees around that limb just one more time, I will throw myself back.  I will let the wind blow through my hair and I will laugh.  I will be downright giddy as I imagine the days ahead.  Because this I know - Jesus loves me for the Bible tells me so.  My time in this life will come to an end.  When it does, the very thing I fantasized about as a child will finally come true.  I will be in the presence of family.  And as we celebrate eternity together, I will look in the actual face of my Savior.  I will touch His cheek and before I kiss it, I will say, "I'm home, Father.  I'm home." 

And just like that - every hardship I've faced in this life won't matter.  Any dream I had as a child and as an adult will pale in comparison to the reality of eternity with my Heavenly Family.  Friends, hold onto the dream that matters.  You can bet on this.  Hope is on His way.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Rocky Boy Tribute

When the hubs and I were engaged, we got our first puppy together.  It was a 2 pound chihuahua we named Honey.  She was our pride and joy.  We loved her so much and still do.  Your first "child" always holds a special place in your heart.  She still does since we are so thankful she is still a part of our family.  She turned 11 in December and we hope to celebrate several more birthdays with her.  I tell you about Honey so that you'll know how much dogs mean to our family.  They are a huge part of our lives.  There is no doubt that we are dog people.  Totally.

A few years after we got Honey we decided to have another doggie child.  We knew quickly that we wanted a Boxer and after searching for a while, we found the perfect one.  It was love at first sight.  He, to us, seemed like the pick of the litter.  While all of his rowdy brothers and sisters were running about, there he sat on his hind legs, still as he could be, and perfectly cute as could be.  It was a match made in Heaven.  We couldn't wait to get him home and start our new lives together as a family of four - dad, mom, big sister Honey, and little brother Rocky.

You can imagine our shock and disappointment when we got home only to learn Rocky was a bit more hyper than we anticipated.  He thoroughly enjoyed bouncing around our tiny apartment.  It just wasn't the same to nap on the floor.  He much preferred the couch or our bed.  And who needs to actually pee outside when you can just take care of your business right there on the carpet?  Just like any new parents, we were exhausted.  Did I mention cute little Boxer puppies grow up to be big Boxer dogs?

At night, we would kennel Rocky, and I remember hearing Rocky move in his kennel.  I would shoot straight up out of bed because I knew what was coming next.  And then it would happen.  He would stand up and pee right in the floor of his kennel.  The force of his urine was so strong, it would splatter all over the wall and bedspread of the bed in our guest bedroom.  Usually I would run in there and try to take him outside before he had time to pee, but I often didn't make it in time.

We were so relieved to move out of the apartment and into a house with a large backyard for Rocky to run and play.  He loved being outside and we loved having him outside.  Not just for the safety and purification of my carpets, but because he loved having the freedom to run and play.  He was a great guard dog.  I always felt so safe knowing he was out there keeping watch over the comings and goings on our country dirt road. 

Sadly, Rocky passed away today.  We knew he had cancer and had also battled heart worms.  (We really tried to avoid this happening through regular heartworm treatments.  But they don't always work 100% of the time.)  I knew his time was coming but these things always catch you by surprise.  I don't care how much you try to prepare yourself for the heartbreak, you can never prepare enough.  It always stings.  Of course, we gave Rocky a proper burial in our backyard, and I know it will be sweet to have the opportunity to honor his sweet life each time we see his grave.

So, this blog post is for our Rocky Boy.  Rocky, we already miss you so very much.  You left an impression in our hearts.  And here is what we vow to never forget about you...

You were always so excited to see us come home.  You would wag your tail and I swear, you'd smile at us.  Your nose had a way of curling up out of excitement which is why one of your nicknames was Curly Nose.

You loved chasing the neighbor's cars.  But you had a way of discriminating.  You didn't chase every neighbor's car...just one in particular.  I think you knew it annoyed them because as they drove by, they would roll down their window and yell at you to get out of the way.  This negative interaction had a way of energizing you.  You just kept right on chasing them.  And if you were feeling really spunky, you would bite at their tires.

As your mother, you must know how special you are to me.  Not only were you my first doggie son, but you were the big brother to all 3 of my children.  Each time we brought a baby home from the hospital, you were the first one to greet them.  You would take a sniff of each of their little heads and this was your way of approving their existence.  When the boys played outside, you were always at their side walking next to them as they played in the yard or went on adventures along their nature trails created by them and/or their dad.  If you weren't walking alongside them, you were sitting nearby watching carefully so that no one would get too close.  You were an amazing guard dog.

You loved your big sister Honey.  Although Honey grew up to be a whole 4 pounds, she always treated you as if she was bigger and in charge.  She was, by definition, the Alpha Dog.  And you always respected her for that.  Although you had every right to be jealous since she was the "Inside Dog" and you were the "Outside Dog," you never did.  You loved her and would go crazy if the other neighborhood dogs got anywhere near her.  I know she misses you.

Yes indeed, Rocky Boy.  You were a great dog.  We love you and miss you.  You will never be forgotten.  Rest in peace, Curly Nose.  Rest in peace.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Scripture Memory Verse 4

Happy Verse Day (Same tune as Happy Birthday)
Happy Verse Day to us.
Happy Verse Day to us.
Happy Verse Day to us.
Happy Verse Day to us.
And many more...with the help of the Lord.

I am loving learning Psalm 139.  It is so personal and so intimate.  It's my very own love song to the Lord and His to me.  I hope this post finds you overwhelmed with the love of the Lord and grateful for His Word.  It has the power to change our lives and we don't have to be a Bible scholar or seminary student for it to do just that.  Here's my verse for February 15th...

Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. Psalm 139:4

Just this short verse, alone, gives me even more reason to think before I speak.  There's a great verse in Psalms that says, "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord.  Keep watch over the door of my lips."  Um, yes, please. 

I can't wait to hear from you.  What are you memorizing?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Scripture Memory Verse 3

Congratulations friends!  You have the first month of Scripture memory already behind you.  I wish we were all here together, sipping our coffee, sharing how the Lord has used our 2 verses from January in each of our lives.  I know there would be some testifyin' goin' on!!

Before I share my verse for February 1st with you, I wanted to give you a little insight into what the Lord is teaching me through the learning of Psalm 139.  When you comment, please feel free to share with the rest of us what God is teaching you.  Lord knows if we're gonna do this Scripture memory challenge together, let's at least agree to all learn from one another, as well. 

The first two verses in Psalm 139 are short and simple in structure.  The reminders, though, behind these simple words are quite powerful.  Wouldn't you agree that Jesus is a brilliant combination of love and mystery, power and humility?  I'm often struck at how He knows what we should be doing, yet let's us come to the realization on our own - how He wants for us to seek Him although He longs for an interaction.  In learning my verses for January, I was reminded that Jesus, simply put, sees it all.  Now, before you start having flashbacks of Scary Sunday School Teacher wiggling her bony, unpolished finger at you saying in her best Wicked Witch of the West voice, "I'll get you my pretty, and Jesus will too.  You know He sees everything," let's remember how much peace and comfort can come from knowing that simple truth.  Jesus DOES sees everything.  He knows everything, too.  He knows when I sit and when I rise.  He knows my deepest thoughts.  And although this thought can ignite fear in my heart because I know what kind of dark things lurk in my mind, I can't help but feel relieved to know I'm not the one in charge here. 

Yes, Jesus does see it all and He knows it all.  He knows this because He's created a beautiful plan for my life, and I will never be able to fulfill my purpose on this planet and in this lifetime based on what I know.  He is the Mastermind.  I am so thankful I have Him to submit it all.

My verse for February 1 is...
"You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways." -Psalm 139:3 (NIV)

Now, let's hear from you.  Your verse, its address, the translation, and any thoughts you'd like to share.