Friday, August 7, 2015

The journey we call life, , , , , , , , , ,

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."  Jeremiah 29:11

     Each of us as Christ followers has a unique journey - planned by God Himself.  It is true!
      Some take straight, consistent roads - living in the same community for most of their life, content to work one job for years, serving  Christ in one place; personally touching generations of families they know by name.  I was once of this mind set.  But God had other plans. And I am thankful for the winding road.
      Others may travel the globe - boarding planes, buses and trolleys on a regular basis - influencing lives of countless others from various cultures and walks of life.  Me? I have yet to board an airliner.
     Some may move from place to place, not always stationery due to career changes, relationship status, educational endeavors or service to one's country.  Yet, they serve Christ wherever they are. I admire them a lot.
     The point being, we are all on personal journeys and where God has planned for us to be.
     Reflecting, my journey for 50 years was centered in one small town in the heartland. It was there that I spent my childhood, raised my family and became a middle aged woman. 
     My early years were filled with fun times among friends, 4-H Club, swimming for hours on hot summer days, piano lessons, lots of baseball games, rollerskating, and bike riding. Also, flying kites and picnic lunches, sleepovers in the backyard. (our tent was made of quilts hung from the clothesline!) I loved swinging as high as possible in the best swing ever -  made by my dad, it hung from a sturdy limb of a giant oak tree. 
     Add walking to school every day - in the sun, rain or snow. No rides to school for this gal - in the long run, it made me tough. Cold temps did not detour me. Ice skating was one of my favorite winter pastimes!  I would skate until my toes were numb.
     Oh, it wasn't all fun and games.  I had challenges at home, chores and responsibilities.  Still, my parents, along with teachers, 4-H club leaders and later bosses at jobs planted a strong work ethic in me
      As a teenager, I made the most important decision of my life. I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and was baptized at the First Baptist Church in my hometown.  It was a whole new beginning for me - my sins confessed and forgiven, I experienced a second birth and His precious Holy Spirit filled my being and dwells within me still. 
      I thank God for those who helped me grow in the knowledge of God's Word.  The devoted followers of Jesus in that quaint church provided a strong foundation in the Word of God and helped me understand what it means to be a Christian.  
     Many others - too numerous to mention, have shaped who I am today. People from near and far. I believe God sent each one - not any one person or experience has been an accident in my life.  All the roads in my life's journey thus far have been planned by God Himself - there is great comfort in realizing this fact.
     As a young mother of three, two boys and a girl, I learned more about love than probably any other time before. It was such an amazing experience raising children God had loaned to me- what an awesome opportunity and privilege. The most important job I have ever had. I loved it! And still do. Today I am a grandmother of five with another on the way! Thankful for each of these blessings!  My cup of tea is having them all in one place under one roof - a rarity in this day and age.
     Going from a town girl to a farm wife was no easy adjustment but I was more adaptable than I realized.  God knew.  I went through a lot of growth spurts during those years - the lifestyle so different than what I had known, Although I did not often realize it, God was always at work in me through tough times and joyful moments, shaping me, forming me. 
         And He is not finished with me yet.  And that is a good thing because I have lots of growing to do, even at 63.  And, I'd like to finish my race strong - like Paul wrote about in his letter to the Philippians. (see the third chapter)
     During my journey thus far, He has given me plenty of opportunities to serve and develop skills and spiritual gifts. At first, I did not realize I had them. That is, until I began to use each one- gifts of teaching, leading, writing, news reporting, and composing music.
     As a freelance journalist, I have gotten to know so many interesting people from all walks of life and I still am! Did I know I would do this one day?  Not really.  But God did.
     In the past 15 or so years I have ventured away from the small town community. I enjoy going back there now and then to visit. However, I have moved to other places - a lot of transitions -  but, I have had the opportunity to know so many awesome people from all walks of life and cultures. This has been such a blessing.
      I have had experiences that have stretched me - but God has known just how much I could stretch. At times, I have wondered; I have doubted. There have been challenges like mountains to me. Even dark days.  It was during those times that God has literally carried me, not once, but many times.  I know this because I could not have done it on my own strength.  I praise and thank God for always being here.  It is true what He said.  "Lo, I am with you always."  One of my favorite verses in the book of Matthew.
      My resume is diverse but as I reflect, I can see God shaping me through every path I have walked and every person in my life.  I see certain themes repeated in God's consistent work in me -  I am a people person - of all ages! When others are hurting, I have learned the hard way, that in most cases, I can pray or lend a hand but the real solution is in the hands of God.  When they are happy - it is good to share in their joy! 
       I love creativity - perhaps a bit artsy, but more so with words and musical melodies.  Music does touch the soul like nothing else - it is a universal language.  So glad I took piano lessons and have had the opportunity to give them.  Writing music is a wonderful gift from God!
     I love teaching children and youth and making a positive difference if at all possible - no matter what the job or circumstance. 
      But, I detest negativity and constant hints of skepticism. Unforgiving attitudes in the hearts of others is another tough one for me to handle. And yet, I sometimes have a hard time forgiving myself and others - I have to ask for God to help me. "Pedestal thinking: is another one on my list - God created us all the same, right?  We all sin, right?  But, some of us think we are much better "sinners" than others.   Wrong.   (topic for another blog) 
      Thanks be to God, He is still helping me with those issues. 
      Bringing a smile to someones face brings me pure joy!  I try to be sensitive to people in pain - either emotionally or spiritually. Because, I too "have been there".  God taught me this.
     I am adaptable - much more than I ever thought possible.  God surprised me with this character trait.  I can see now how He was building this particular strength in me for years.  It has taken me awhile to get there.  
      I love laughter - it is, indeed. the best medicine for the soul.   God was right again!  I can  be content with simple joys but also yearn for new adventures. What is around the bend?  God knows - I am usually content with that but developing that contentment is definitely a process.
     "You either trust Christ or you don't" is a quote from a recent sermon at church.  It hits the nail on the head.
     The power of God is amazing to me.  Just one example - who would have thought a shy teenager who did not take one speech class could write and give sermons in a large church?  Not me.  Yes you, God said. I  give God the glory.  Sincerely, it was Him working in me.
     The power of prayer is also astounding.  I have seen and experienced it first hand and in the lives of others. I want to shout it from the rooftops. . . . "pray more!!!!"  He always answers and in the final analysis, He knows what is best.  But, we must remember to talk to Him often - not just when we need something.  Praises are so important in the life of a prayer warrior.
     Then, there are still areas in my life where I am weak and need to grow and grow some more.  Will I ever learn?  I'll be doing that until I leave this earth.  Isn't it amazing that God has not given up on me?  I am still developing into the person God wants me to be, even after all these years.  I have yet to realize the full extent of God's unconditional, forgiving and steadfast love.
     Sometimes I have a hard time drinking this huge cup of divine love into my spirit!  Can it really be?   
     The diversity I have come to know in my present living situation is fascinating.  The realization that everyday life here has many other colors and patterns has been good for me.  God knew I needed to step out of  my familar box and see another  part of the world I did not realize existed.
       And really, in the whole scope of life, I am still at just the tip of the iceberg.  Can I go back to being 25?  I need more years!!!  Again, God's timing is perfect.  I only need trust Him.
      The winding road I have walked, with my hand in God's, has taken me to places and experiences I could have never imagined. But God knew my journey from day one - nothing has been a surprise to Him nor will the future be. 
     I hope this post is an encouragement to you - if you are wondering, if you are going through lots of change or unexpected change, looking into an unknown future, please know this:  God is already there and He is at work in your life!  He is steadfast and unchanging - that is an awesome blessing - beyond words.  Take time to count it and relax in His arms.
     He has a plan and a purpose for your life.