Perfectly Imperfect

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There is a new hobby I have found in rehabbing old furniture.  A hobby that has come from trying to create a fun and whimsical space for the kids on a tight budget.  Just jumping right in seems to be how I do things best and learn as I go.   As the flaws in my painting and in old scars of the furniture started showing a different kind of beauty has developed.

I can’t help but think of how imperfect I am and how life in general is.  It is through these imperfections and scars that God can create our greatest beauty.  Giving Jesus our sin, our scars, and our weaknesses He covers them with His righteousness and turns our flaws into something of beauty.  Each of our lives are unique and have a specific purpose planned by God.  We can remain dark and drab or allow Him to bring out a beauty that we cannot see or create in ourselves.

Philippians 1:6 “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

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What Will You Leave Behind?

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For some time now our youngest daughter has been telling me I need a new Bible.  In her words mine is “too crusty”.   A new Bible was my special gift from my husband and children this year.  They got me a study Bible because they thought it would be helpful in teaching Sunday school.  The gift and the wonderful thought my family put into it will be something I will always cherish!  What is of the greatest value to me is the fact that she thought my Bible was too worn.  This got me to thinking about what do I really want to leave behind when God calls me home.  Do I want to be shiny and new possessing a shiny new Bible?  Do I want to have riches and material things stored up?  Here is a list of what I truly want to leave behind someday.   What would your list consist of?

As a mother what do I want to leave behind for my children?

I want to leave behind worn out Bibles from hours spent seeking God’s wisdom in how to raise them and how to live.

I want to leave behind worn out knees from hours of praying for guidance, for protection, for my family, and the world we live in.

I want to leave behind worn out hands from a life spent serving others.

I want to leave behind a worn out back from helping others carry their burdens and giving them to God.

I want to leave behind worn out feet from working and never being idle.

I want to leave behind a worn out heart from loving, empathizing, and having compassion for all others.

I want to leave behind worn out vocal cords from singing God’s praise.

I want to leave behind a life well spent and lived to the fullest.

I want to bring the only thing that I can bring when I die and that is friends and family my life has helped lead to Jesus.

Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

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A way to Remember Papa on Christmas

 

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In the Grief Through the Holiday blog I mentioned how my father loved Christmas and that he would make up fun clues for a scavenger hunt for a special gift each year.  Dad liked to spread out the gift giving time as long as he could.  My grandparents lived too far away for us to see everyone all in one day so it was always just the four of us on Christmas.  This is not a tradition I have taken on for my girls as we cram three Christmas’ into one day so time has always been a factor.  This year my youngest asked that I do clues for a gift like Papa.  With this being our first Christmas without our beloved Papa I decided to grant her wish and to make the clues a walk down memory lane as a tribute for Papa!  I thought I would share on the blog for anyone who knew and loved my dad.  It has been helpful in our grief to include his memory and what he stood for on this special day as well.

1. As requested, this is the very beginning of your Christmas mission.  A path that will  involve Papa’s memory to vision.  As you search remember the hunt itself was inspired by this man.  A man who loved Jesus, his family, people, Christmas, and he taught about God’s plan.  The first stop will be something that represents his roots and how he got the “Clark” label.  This stop will become very apparent find it if your able.  The next clue can be found underneath a table.

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These tables were my father’s parents.  He was going to take the wood from these and make gifts in his wood shop from them.  I am getting ready to paint them and give them new life in their original state as tables.

2. Wow you two are pretty swift.  Your next clue can be found with Mom’s last Papa gift.

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Just a couple weeks before he passed dad gave my sister and I each a set of these for our birthdays.  He had made the handles from wood from another table of Grandma and Grandpa Clark’s.

3.  This clue my dears was Papa’s guide through his life’s journey as he trod.   I pray that for your lives you also will fully rely on the Word of God.

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This was one of many of my father’s Bibles.

4. Papa was quite the story teller and craftsman that is no fable.  This clue can be found with this forty year old Clark built cradle.

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My father built this cradle for my 2nd Christmas.  He made things to last that is for sure!!

5. This game is serious there is no time for tomfoolery.  Find your next hint with mom’s junk jewelry.

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My jewelry and music box he built when I was a kid.

6. Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.  Ah but there use to be a lot of noise coming from this little house.

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I mentioned the playhouse in the Grief Through the Holiday blog as well.  Built and rehabbed twice by Papa.  Now in the state of needing work again.  About 8 years ago he said this was the last time he was going to fix it up…

7. Thankfully this mission has no threat of danger.   Under a shelter built by Papa you will find the Greatest Gift and True Reason laying in a manger.

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Their gifts were found under the stable behind Jesus.  The stable was built by Papa for our outdoor Nativity set.  Gifts are fun, but fleeting.  There is only one gift that lasts for eternity and that is God’s gift of His Son.

My sister had also done a hunt for her children and our youngest made a special clue hunting game for my gift as well.  The gift from my children and husband will be another blog!   Here is a picture of our daughter’s clues!   What a fun way we will remember our beloved Papa on Christmas!  His favorite time of the year!!

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The Most Offensive Man

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There was a man whose life began in the most humble of settings.  He was literally born in a barn.  His parents were very young and poor.  He grew up learning the trade of carpentry. In all historical documents none of them can claim any true offenses this man made toward anyone.  In fact all documents describe this man as loving, peaceful, and one who healed the sick.  Very early in his life there were those who wanted him dead.  A king even had all baby boys within the age range of this young fella in the land murdered to try to get rid of him.  He walked the earth for just a mere 33 years.  As he grew he exhibited love and peace to all.  His words pierced to the very core of those who listened and embraced them.  As he grew older and started spreading his message of the way to everlasting life there were people who were very jealous and hated him.  You see even though he had no money,  no home, no assets he was a man of great power and influence.  The love and peace that flowed from him were more powerful than any political sect, more powerful than the rich, and more powerful than religious leaders.  The power of love he demonstrated caused him to have tremendous influence.  Once again his life was sought after by those who were jealous and threatened by him.  With no true offense that could be found in him the jealous ones still managed to succeed in having him put to death in the most gruesome way known.

This man is Jesus.  Still today I continuously hear of certain sects that can not stand any symbol of this man that walked the earth 2000 years ago.  Any scenes that reflect the story of his humble birth and the cross the symbol of his gruesome death are highly offensive and hated by some.  Why would a man that was loving and peaceful who was murdered for doing nothing wrong offend some?  You see it was who this man claimed that he was and through his resurrection proved to be that is offensive to many.  Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, God in the flesh, Emmanuel God with us, and the Light of the World.  He claimed to be the Savior of the world.  The prophesied long awaited Messiah had come.  You see to acknowledge Jesus, who he is, and why he lived on this earth is to also acknowledge that there was a need for him.  That need is to save us from the human sinful nature we all have that separates us from God.

Our human nature being full of pride and selfishness has a hard time facing the fact that we are wrong.  That we need saving.  There are many stories about people who have been imprisoned for years that have been terrified of being free out in the world.  You see the walls of their cell became their comfort zone.  The same goes for us when enslaved by sin.  It becomes our comfort zone.  We are fearful of freedom.  It takes a step of faith to leave our sinful cell and to step into the freedom only found in following Jesus Christ.

Maybe the name of Jesus is so offensive because there has been no other man to make such an impact.  What other man’s name is praised by those who love him and used as a curse word of those who hate him.  His impact is undeniable.  The change of his disciples who were terrified the night of his arrest to the point after his resurrection they gave up their own lives sharing the good news of everlasting life through Jesus.  The change happens to this day as he brings peace, forgiveness, and freedom one heart at a time to those who choose to step out of the cell of sin to follow him.

John 8:12 “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Artistic Freedom

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The pictured Mr. and Mrs. Claus are now 33 years old.  Each member of my third grade class painted their own set of this festive couple.  What I remember of that day was that we were hurried to get them done and being rushed through this artistic outlet was frustrating to me.  Some of my classmates adorned Santa with purple eyes and green hair.  We were all proud of our own colorful interpretations of the couple. Apparently after school the teacher caved to her own obsessive compulsiveness, perfectionism, control freaky issues and got a little excessive with touching up these fun characters.  The next day when we were allowed to collect our Mr. and Mrs. Claus I could not find mine.   My name was on the bottom of these, but I just knew they were not what I had painted.  The big give away was the fact that I distinctly remembered painting Santa’s mustache.  There were other details that had disappeared to my own artwork and now all that was left was this imposter couple.  I remember crying out “Mine are gone!!”  One of my classmates picked these up and said well these have your name on them!  My teacher tried to console me and said she didn’t change anything only did a little touch up.  The words “Well you touched the mustache right off his face!” were what I wanted to blurt out.  Out of respect I begrudgingly took the imposter Mr. and Mrs. Claus home and they remain in my Christmas decorations to this day.

So often as adults, teachers, parents, and leaders we do just what my third grade teacher did.  Instead of letting our children learn from mistakes we try to just cover them up, do the work for them, and try to correct issues.  This is impossible as we are far from perfect ourselves.  In my teacher’s effort to beautify Santa and Mrs. Claus she forgot to repaint his mustache.  She couldn’t perfect my work either.

What is awesome about God is that He takes us just as we are.  However flawed we are He loves us.  Other people and things of this world may tell us how and what we need to do to be perfect, but they are flawed themselves.  The only perfection is Jesus Christ.  He is the only one qualified to cover all of the imperfections of our lives.

The thing I love about the artwork of a child is that as they grow you get to see how their skills grow.  Coloring goes from purple scribbles all over the page to coloring between the lines.  If we try to cover up their imperfections we miss out in seeing their growth and development of skills.

God has allowed us to make choices in our lives.  No matter how bad or wrong He can bring about perfection within us through His Son Jesus.

A small broken sinner comes to Jesus with all the imperfections and Jesus covers all those terrible blots and blunders.  As the sinner learns and grows Jesus turns an imperfect life and person into a beautiful piece of art.  As the journey of this life ends, the believer finds themselves at the feet of Jesus. It is then that the  picture of this life is fully complete.    As we learn and grow in our faith we can look back on what we once were and see how God is making a once broken life perfectly beautiful.

Philippians 1:6 “being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Larry the Scaredy Cat

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Last Sunday my husband and two daughters set out to one of my husbands best friends country home on a mission.  The mission was a top secret one.  At least a secret to be kept from mom.  You see his friend has many cats.  With living in the country many were dumped there and he feeds them.  My husband has been wanting a cat for sometime to hang out with him in his garage and to catch mice that wander into the garage.   He is out numbered with all of the girls in our home and wanted a boy cat.  The secret was kept for about twenty four hours.  On Monday evening I went out to talk to him in his “man space” (he doesn’t like the term “man cave”)  I noticed some animal food, but was focused on our conversation so I hadn’t given it much thought.  Our small dog had followed me out to the garage and was sniffing around wildly.  Again I didn’t give that much thought because that dog is nosy and just kind of weird anyway.  When I called the dog’s name my husband realized she was there and that is when he fessed up to the newest Lucas family member’s presence.   I had to laugh when he said the cat’s name is Larry.  Larry is a fine name for a human being, but sounded hilarious to me for the cat!

This picture above is similar to what Larry looks like, but Larry is too scared to come out of hiding to be loved on let alone have a picture taken.  Larry has scratched my husbands hands and at this point is showing no signs of wanting any sort of friendship.  He comes out to eat when no one is around and dashes to hard to reach corners of the garage whenever anyone enters.  He has literally bitten the hands that feed him.  He doesn’t even come out to my “here kittykittykittykitty” call that has always worked for me when calling to feline friends.  Hopefully over time Larry will start to relax and trust that we are just wanting to show him love and provide for him.

There is another story I have been following on Facebook of a friend of mine.  A stray dog has been coming around his home and the dog has been obviously terrified.  He has been searching for the owners and has been trying to feed the terrified pup.  Over several days the pup has gone from running away if he approached her to now sleeping in a crate in his home on a fluffy warm pillow.  The dog started coming to him and eating from his hand.  He even got a “selfie” photo of he and the frightened pup looming behind him with scared puppy dog eyes.

These two animals have got me to thinking about how we are as human beings when it comes to trusting God.  We hang onto our fears, our pride, our control and cower in the shadows of our guilt and shame.  God patiently waits, calls to us, and reaches to us in so many ways.  His intent, like my husband’s and my friend’s with the cat and dog, is to show us love and to provide for us.  He longs to love us and carry us through this rough journey of life.  His greatest gift being eternal life to those who accept His gift of forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ. You see as we lay down more of our life, our guilt, our pride the more He fills us with His love.  There is no greater sense of “home” and “belonging” that I have ever known than through the relationship I have with Jesus.

As these animals lay down their fears they will find that there is a loving caregiver waiting to show them compassion and provide “home” for them.  Are you searching for “home”?

Ephesians 4:22-24 “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

“These are a Few of my Favorite Things”

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One of my favorite musicals of all time is “The Sound of Music”.   The songs get in my head and are so fun to blast out singing around the house.  Lately God has been opening my eyes to so many simple little blessings in life.  The song names simple favorite things like raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens and goes on to say that when feeling bad the writer simply remembers his/her favorite things and “then I don’t feel so bad”.

One evening in our Awana group at church I was sitting behind all the kiddos and noticed how cute their different hairstyles were.  Although different, several of the boys had something that was the same.   Several of the boys had a cowlick in the back of their hair in the same spot.  Right on top in the back were the swirly cowlicks with several of the boys having a tuft of hair sticking straight out.  The name “cowlick” is hilarious on its own, but seeing several boys in a row with the crazy spot in their hair brought a new favorite to my list of favorite things.  Since that time I find myself looking for those crazy hair moments of kiddos to add an extra smile to my day.

Laughter has always been a favorite thing.  Laughter is very contagious when it is one of your favorite things.  The other night at my oldest daughter’s indoor soccer game my youngest daughter was sitting next to me in the stands.  During the game a wild ball flew to the sidelines and into one of the opposing team’s coaches.  The ball made him jump in such a way the ball cap he adorned flew straight off of the back of his head.  It had a rocket like effect with how quickly it shot off of his head.   My daughter let out a loud burst of a cackled laugh and continued to giggle at the sight.  What I found the most amusing was my daughter’s laughter and it was a sound that I carried with me for several days to follow.

God provides so many simple delights every day if we are paying attention.

A beautiful sunrise or sunset.

There is beauty in every season.

The smell of rain, spring, fall leaves, flowers, etc…

The twinkle in a person’s eye when preparing to tell a joke.

Toothless smiles of infants…and of the old…seeing people without their dentures is a favorite of mine.

When dogs smile…and yes they do smile.

Seeing the smiles and joy that a simple act of kindness can bring to others.

The list goes on and on.  The words of the song are true that when we simply remember our favorite things…then we don’t feel so bad.

Pay attention to this awesome world around us and you just might see a few of your favorite things and watch how your list of favorite things grows and grows!!!

Psalm 33:5 “He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.”

Grief and the Holidays

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For the first time in my life I have been dreading Christmas to a certain extent.  It will be the first Christmas without my father.  My father was Mr. Merry Christmas.  He absolutely loved everything about Christmas and it was the time of year the child in him shone the brightest.  It was very important to him to make sure his wife and daughters had a special Christmas every year even when the budget was very slim.  He always had a mystery gift that he wrote silly rhyming clues for us to follow in our search for this mysterious prize.  He spent hours making gifts in his wood shop and writing his clever clues through the years.

It was extremely important to him for the true reason for the celebration of Christmas to be remembered.  He wore and gave away buttons that said “Keep Christ in Christmas” and “Merry Christmas” on them.  In fact we had instructions to have “Keep Christ in Christmas” carved into his tombstone.  The fact that God so humbly came to this earth as a baby to ultimately die for us to save us from our sins was overwhelmingly awesome to my father.  He would be so giddy, joyful, and generous because of truth in the reason for celebrating Christmas.  It is Jesus’ birthday!!

We are starting some new traditions this year with helping mom carry on dad’s Christmas legacy.  I must admit yesterday when decorating in my own home I felt grumbly and grouchy doing so.  One ornament at a time my youngest daughter and I got it done.  With each ornament there was greater ease in hanging the next.  With grief sometimes it is one breath at a time and in this case it was one ornament at a time.  Today my sister and her family and my family all joined forces to help mom get dad’s outside decorations up and to decorate the inside Christmas tree.  A display for the neighborhood to remember that it is Jesus we celebrate and why.

I sat down to help get ornaments out of boxes for the kids to hang and opened the ornament pictured above.  Inside the box remained the gift tag.  “To: Dad, From:Anita”  The year of the ornament was 1998.  This was the year before Mike and I were married.  Before I even knew I would have two daughters.  I had forgotten all about that ornament and the fact that it was perfect for my dad.  My father had built a little playhouse for my sister and I when we were little girls.  It was made mostly from scrap wood and had gingerbread style décor much like this ornament.  At that time I wouldn’t have known that my father would rehab this little playhouse two more times for my own children.  In the year of 2014 this ornament has even deeper significance.

For families who are grieving it is impossible to fill the missing space that is there.  Lives that make such an impact on their families and circle of influence are never really gone.   Hold your families close and make wonderful memories.  Love and be generous to all people.  Most of all remember that God loved us so much to send His One and Only Son and that is why we celebrate!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

This everlasting life that God gives is the reason to celebrate Jesus.  Because of Jesus I will get to see my father again!

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