Monday, November 30, 2009

Take the "un" out of unsettled

We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.
1 Thessalonians 3:2-3 (NIV)

The question I dread the most about moving is "Are you settled yet?"

Each time we move, I go through an identity crisis. With no point of reference, no credentials, and no history in a new place, it's as if I have to identify myself all over again. A totally unsettling experience!

My husband's new job provides him both a role and an automatic structure to become involved within a new community. School offered our children a built-in social network that helped them get established quickly; consequently, we timed our moves to occur either during the school year or immediately before classes began.

I don't have a specific way to connect; yet, I have a basic need to be accepted and loved in my new world. I'm afraid the nitty-gritty of settling pushes even an outgoing, Pollyanna, Myers Briggs ENFJ personality type like me out of my comfort zone.

Mary is an incredible young woman who willingly abandons what she knows to settle on something better, Someone greater. I treasure her story recorded in the Bible's New Testament.

The Master has been in her home before. He's not like other rabbis. He cautions about distractions of performance, good intentions, and the tyranny of the urgent. He offers unconditional love and welcomes alike the downtrodden and healthy, outcast and upright, sinner and saint to sit at His feet and learn from Him. He heals the sick, gives sight to the blind, and brings the dead to life. Goodness. Were Lazarus not reclining this very moment at the dinner table, it would be nearly impossible to believe the Master had raised her beloved brother from the tomb!

Yet, something is different about this visit. An urgency. A determination. A heightened degree of compassion fused with an intensity that seeps into every corner of the house. Perhaps intuitively, Mary senses the tragedy ahead.

Taking what is very likely her most valued, earthly possession, Mary can do no less than demonstrate her complete devotion to Jesus. She breaks open an entire flask of precious, perfumed oil; and in a lavish, extravagant gesture of affection, she anoints Jesus' head and feet with the costly treasure. Then, in complete abandonment, and at the risk of her reputation, she unbinds her headpiece and wipes His feet with her hair.

As the perfume fills the house with its powerful fragrance, not everyone understands. Some object silently. Others openly ridicule the extravagant display of devotion. "Leave her alone," Jesus says in the face of his disciples' disapproval. "She has done a beautiful thing for me." (Matthew 26:6-13; John 12:1-8)

Mary pours out her very life in love and sacrificial service. She settles once and for all the question of Christ's lordship. The sweet scent of that sacrifice still lingers today.

Like Mary, I, too, settled the question of Jesus' lordship. Leaving behind family, friends, job, and sense of belonging that help define me, I look to Jesus to soothe my emotions, strengthen my resolve, and confirm my identity. I am a:
child of God, forgiven, holy, and dearly loved
wife, in honor and love, committed to the marriage covenant I made with my husband
mother, charged with nurturing two children
steward, faithful and entrusted with the time and money God has given me
friend, sharing Jesus' love in the world that I serve

As a newcomer, I want to belong. With a renewed confidence, I focus on how to settle in and not bemoan that I have to do it. Besides, I've learned there are some distinct advantages to being new. Without old commitments, I have more control over my time, I find time to break old habits, and nobody has seen my wardrobe!

Friend, what is causing you to feel unsettled? In faith, will you pour out your heart at Jesus' feet? He knows your name. He loves you totally and unconditionally. I pray you will be strengthened and encouraged in your faith.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

PS 10 tips to help you settle in your new home
  • Meet your neighbors (write down their names), borrow an egg, deliver a plate of brownies
  • Find a church home
  • Become part of the community, learn the area's history, meet your mail carrier, register to vote
  • Volunteer at your child's school
  • Invite a neighbor for coffee/tea
  • Attend a Bible study group, join a book club, take an exercise class
  • Have a picnic in a local park
  • Join a newcomer's organization (attend more than one meeting)
  • Take a walk
  • Don't rush from appointment to appointment, spend time, visit with those you meet

Monday, November 23, 2009

A prayer for thanksgiving

"Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts."
Psalm 105:1-2

As we pause this Thanksgiving Day, will you join me remembering in songs of praise and words of thanksgiving the unconditional love and gracious bounty that our Almighty God, Creator and Sustainer of life, so richly gives us?

Now thank we all our God,
With hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done,
In whom his world rejoices;
Who from our mothers' arms
Has blest us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today.

(Source: Now Thank We All Our God, Lutheran Worship, Concordia Publishing House)

LORD, as I sit down to a Thanksgiving table, I want to thank You for Your goodness to me. Thank You for meeting my needs every day--for food and shelter and clothing. And for the many extras You provide that I so often take for granted.

Thank You for family and friends who make my life complete. Thank You that even when we are miles apart, we are bound by the cords of Your love.

And I thank You that I live in a country where I am free to worship You and to read Your Word.

Most of all, I thank You for Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You that He not only died for my sins, but that He is alive today and at Your side hearing my prayers and preparing a home for me in Heaven.

Thank You that I can face tomorrow with hope because Jesus is living for me.

O, Lord, how truly rich I am! Thank You for all You mean to me. Amen.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following


Monday, November 16, 2009


"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
Proverbs 17:22 (NIV)

"I love my life. I love my house. I love my people."

Unfortunately, Wendy Ann's seemingly euphoric state was short-lived. As I turned the corner to enter our foyer, I unwittingly stepped on her tail. Justifiably agitated, she skedaddled. Taken by surprise, I screamed. A sweet moment of contentment rudely interrupted for both of us.

Wendy Ann joined our family the week we moved from North Carolina to Michigan. Eight-weeks old, a disproportionately large head, and an elongated set of whiskers, it's quite possible Wendy wasn't the brightest kitten in the litter. What she lacks between her black, pointy ears, however, she makes up for in entertainment.

The day we set out in tandem on our 800-mile drive north, my husband, our daughter, and Wendy Ann led the way in our SUV. I followed in a second vehicle with our son, dog, and a second cat. We weren't on the road an hour when my husband motioned that I should stop at an approaching exit.

"The cat's been crying since we left Charlotte. Meg is so worried about the cat that she began crying shortly after Wendy started. In a few minutes, I'm joining them!" my haggard-looking spouse lamented as he walked up to my vehicle.

Laugh! Better yet, laugh out loud!

According to modern-day stress management research:
  • Laughter reduces our level of stress hormones which results in a stronger immune system.
  • A good belly laugh exercises our diaphragm, contracts our abs, and works out our shoulders; all which leave our muscles more relaxed. Our heart even gets a good workout!
  • Laughter is a great distraction that takes the focus away from our anger, guilt, stress, and negative emotions.
  • Humor provides a more lighthearted perspective and helps us view events as opportunities.
  • Laughter is contagious. Bringing more laughter into our lives helps others around us lighten up as well.
Solomon recorded similar insights almost 3,000 years ago in the Old Testament book of Proverbs. He wrote, "A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit." (Proverbs 15:13)

Did I mention the reason my husband tended a mournful kitten and weepy daughter was because I nursed our injured dog? The day before we left Charlotte, as the last boxes were loaded on our moving van, our cocker spaniel literally "blew out her knee." A quick trip to the animal hospital, we were told to restrict her activity and get her to a veterinarian in Michigan as soon as possible for knee surgery.

Allow me to translate "restrict activity." Throughout our 800-mile drive and for the next four weeks, I coaxed and carried 27 pounds of gentle disposition outdoors numerous times a day and monitored as our cocker "did her business."

Dear friend, good, bad, or indifferent, things happen. And, yes, we need to exercise thoughtfulness and sound judgment. Let's just not forget to throw in some laughter along the way. Wisdom, mixed with a hearty dose of cheerful spirit, goes a long way to improving our health. We're a lot more fun to be around; and in the long run, we're able to do more good.

As I finished this post, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. Turning toward the front door, I saw Wendy Ann once again resting on our foyer rug. Dreamy-eyed, she lay spread-out, on her back, her long tail extended, savoring her peaceful surroundings.

"Dumb cat," I thought with a chuckle.

Let's lighten up and live!

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Friday, November 13, 2009


A special welcome to those of you who found your way here through my Girlfriends in God devotion "What Dwelling?".

Sharon, Mary, and Gwen are wonderful friends; and I'm thrilled you stopped in Nomad Wife for a visit.

Please drop by anytime.

Blessings, dear friend.

Faithfully Following

Monday, November 9, 2009

A disconnect in dependence

"Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

I just want you to respect me.

We sat in the hospital lounge that warm summer afternoon several years ago longing to help our father understand why he was hospitalized. Months earlier, his doctor gave him a very discouraging diagnosis--early stage of Alzheimer's. Because of his increasingly erratic behavior, we sought out additional medical help.

Exasperated with our conversation, he finally uttered, "I just want you to respect me."

Goodness. We thought we were. To better understand our dad's frustrations, we asked him to describe what respect looked like to him. His words hit our hearts like the gut-wrenching force of a heavyweight boxer's punch to an opponent's stomach. "I want to run the farm and drive the tractor," he replied.

My daddy was born on the farm that he worked his entire life. Restricting him from operating machinery or working in the field would be akin to John Wayne starring in an action-packed western movie, minus a horse. Unthinkable, at best.

We knew we couldn't honor our father's request, at least not as he described respect. He demonstrated he wasn't able to operate machinery safely. We simply couldn't connect our dad's definition with the reality of his situation.

I remembered this incident with my father as I read Mark 10:17-31. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. A rich, young man ran up to Jesus, fell on his knees, and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Attempting to help the young man recognize that his only hope was total reliance on God, Jesus stated a list of commandments. The man insisted he kept all of them since youth. Jesus looked at him, loved him, and said, "One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor...then follow me."

The young man's question presents a disconnect--what must I do to inherit eternal life? The question is illogical. It can't be answered because what is asked is an impossibility.

Substitute any item for "eternal life" in the question. What must I do to inherit my parents' estate? What must I do to inherit my grandmother's pearls? What must I do to inherit my partner's share of the business?

How would you answer such questions? Be a good daughter. Be a kind and generous granddaughter. Be wise, trustworthy. All good, even typical, answers.

The real issue with the man's question is that no one can do anything to inherit something. Inheritance is a matter of dependence upon someone else's action, not self-reliance. The original owner has to give something to us. We need a status bestowed upon us.

If our parents, grandmother, or partner don't ensure that our name is listed in their will, it doesn't matter if we're a daughter, a good grandchild, or a fair business partner. No matter how hard we try, to inherit something, we have to be the beneficiary of another's actions.

Jesus loves the young man. He speaks directly to what is holding the man back. To inherit eternal life, Jesus tells him to leave behind everything in which he finds security; and follow Jesus.

We who believe in Jesus and follow Him will have a great treasure in heaven. However, it doesn't come as a result of our effort. It's what Jesus chooses to give us and is a matter of reliance upon Him.

My daddy came home from the hospital, but he never drove a tractor again. Later, he lost his balance, fell, and landed on the kitchen floor breaking his leg. He died as a result of complications from surgery.

He was a hard-working farmer, a steadfast provider, and a faithful husband of 53 years to our mother. Called to be Jesus' child and believing Jesus' words and work, however, my father received his heavenly inheritance because he depended on Jesus Christ.

Friend, are you experiencing a disconnect in your life? Would you ask Jesus to help you connect with the reality of His truth? Your eternity depends on it.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

PS Are you having to leave behind an aging loved one as you move? You can find encouragement and support on Focus on the Family Life Challenges website.

Monday, November 2, 2009

90 / 10

"I am going there to prepare a place for you."
John 14:2 (NIV)

Pulling over to the side of the road, the driver of a loaded-down SUV rolled down the vehicle's window and inquired, "My family is moving to the town up ahead. What can you tell me about the people?"

"What were the folks like in the town you left?" replied the fellow who stood on the roadside.

"They were great! Kind, generous, and helpful," the motorist responded.

"Well, that's what you'll find up ahead," came the encouragement.

Packed to the hilt, the minivan stopped alongside the road and the driver asked, "My family is moving to the town up ahead. What can you tell me about the people?"

What were the folks like in the town you left? replied the fellow standing on the roadside.

"They were horrible. Selfish, self-centered, and thought only of themselves," the driver answered.

"Well, that's what you'll find up ahead," was the reply.

So, the decision has been made. You're moving. Moving is 90 percent attitude and 10 percent tactics. Granted, not all relocations are of our choosing. How we respond to the transition, however, is up to us.

Not surprising, God's Word offers us beautiful insight into moving. Let's look at the life of Jesus as He prepared to leave this earth and return to His Father in heaven.

Luke 9 tells us that Jesus set out with deliberate determination for Jerusalem. A time was fixed for His leaving. Setting His face like flint, He knew the time and He had a clear, certain foresight of the plan. Convinced He was not alone, He was certain He would not fail, become discouraged, nor be disgraced or ashamed. What confidence!

Concerned for those He was leaving behind and anticipating their future hardships, Jesus prepared His disciples for what was to come. He told His friends about His imminent betrayal; counseled them about His suffering, death, and resurrection; encouraged their troubled hearts; assured them He would send another Counselor, the Holy Spirit, in His place; and promised a future bearing much fruit. Praying for their protection, He left out nothing. What compassion!

Whether a move is planned or unplanned, expected or unexpected, wanted or unwanted, it can quickly become a truckload of anticipation and enthusiasm thrown together with a trailer full of disillusionment and disappointment at unmet expectations.

Take heart, my friend! No matter what journey you are on, no matter where your travels take you, you can make it. If you remain confident in Who is leading you and show compassion to those who journey alongside, it can be a real moving experience!

Below are basic strategies that have helped my family pack up our belongings and unpack them again in a different home. Also, check out After the Boxes are Unpacked, an excellent resource for those in the throes of moving.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

  • Be patient. Give lots of reassurance to those involved in your move.
  • Purchase a notepad, e.g., legal pad, spiral notebook.
  • Start lists, e.g., addresses that require updating (insurance, bank accounts), utility changes, school documentation needs.
  • Keep appointments with your current dentist, doctor, hair stylist, veterinarian, etc. This buys you time at your new location.
  • Set aside an emergency fund for unexpected financial needs. New construction, resale, or rental, no house is perfect.
  • Assemble a "survival box" (for the new location) that includes trash bags, toilet paper, black marker, masking tape, ibuprofen.

  • Mark boxes for transport, e.g., son's room, master bedroom, kitchen.
  • Provide a treat for those helping you move, e.g., donuts, pizza.
  • Don't get too upset over broken things. Something always breaks or gets damaged. Remember, they are just things.
  • Relax and go with the flow.

Push on
  • Expect a positive outcome.
  • Unpack one room at a time. Get out of boxes as soon as possible; but remember, Rome wasn't built in a day.
  • Ask questions.
  • Find a church home.
  • Meet the neighbors (write down their names), borrow an egg, bring them a batch of brownies.
  • Ask for referrals, e.g., nearest hospital, plumber, babysitters, car mechanic.
  • Go to the Chamber of Commerce for local information.
  • Make it feel like home, hang pictures (spackle is your friend).
  • Hold off large decorating projects. Experience your house. Walk around its rooms. Imagine the possibilities.
  • Remember those you left behind. Your leaving created a hole in their hearts, too. Think of them with a phone call, e-mail, or card.