{ Dear God, What Does Prayer Look Like to You? }

Dear God,

What does prayer look like to You?

 

Do You see our prayers like a cloud, rising?

Or do petitions position themselves like pinpoints on a map?

 

Do you hear them or feel them or

Did you already answer before the world began?

 

Does prayer turn Your heart like a stream of water?

Does it make You turn Your head and notice us?

 

Do You ever shake your head and decide it’s a no-go because you see the whole picture and it won’t work out best that way?

Do you wish we would understand?

 

Do prayers collect like sand in an hourglass?

Like rain in a bucket?

Like tears on a pillow?

 

What does prayer look like to You?

 

~~~

His promises are true / Romans 4:21

He never changes / Malachi 3:6 & Hebrews 13:8

He is always good / Psalm 145:9

~~~

Photos from Unsplash

{ The Blind Friend and the Sobbing Drunk on the Beach }

Yesterday, I sent a message to a total stranger, requesting help for a spiritually blind friend. 

Think: Asking Santa for a new baby sister, or calling on the President to help the family purchase a new dishwasher.

I am now sitting here at 3 a.m. wondering what the response will be, and I am comforted by sudden thoughts of being in good Bible company.

I recall — with hope — some innovative, yet seemingly inappropriate ventures that pop out of scripture — ones which ended remarkably well:

  • A harlot with faith who hid foreign spies in her roof. (Joshua 2)
  • Buddies who lowered their needy friend through a crowd and a roof to get healing ~ budding in line at best, and at worst: breaking and entering. (Mark 2:4)
  • A controversial woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, in front of a batch of scorners, then went on to wipe His feet with her hair. (John 12)

Have you ever done something outlandish or eccentric, but for a worthy reason?

  • Said to a stranger: “God told me to talk to you…” 
  • Dumped kindness and grace on someone who slighted or offended you?
  • Sent an anonymous gift in the mail?
  • Stretched beyond norms to rescue someone you love?

God’s ways — as seen in scripture — show me that He doesn’t always work within our manners, ways, protocol, or traditional appropriate-ness.

Jesus doesn’t bid us all approach Him as gently weeping sinners, sitting in shiny church pews. Sometimes repentance and God’s forgiveness wash over a sobbing drunk, stretched out on a sandy beach. 

So, all to say, I am praying that God, who creatively used a donkey to speak to a prophet (Numbers 22:22), will use my strangely unexpected message, sent off to a total stranger, to open the eyes of a blind friend.

Photos:

Bible Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Blind Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

{ Mom Life: Donating Love }

Being a mom is not a BEING LIFE; it is a DOING LIFE.

It’s a constant, daily, demanding string of decisions between selfishness and donating love cheerfully.

  • When a sleepy wanderer-child interrupts my calm early morning…
  • When I want the kitchen all to myself…
  • When I had a busy day and just wanted to rest….
  • When I am trying to think and someone asks me rapid-fire questions…

Will I snap in irritation, sigh impatiently…or donate love cheerfully?

Donate: verb:

1. to present as a gift, grant, or contribution; make a donation of, as to a fund or cause:to donate used clothes to the Salvation Army.

2. To provide (blood, tissue, or an organ) for transfusion, implantation, or transplant.

Yep, that is motherhood. Donating gifts, contributions, blood, sweat tears, heart, soul and more — whatever one has left to give.

I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls…

2 Corinthians 12:15

It’s holding tight, It’s lettin’ go
It’s flyin’ high and layin’ low
It lets your strongest feelin’s show
And your weakness too
It’s a little and a lot to ask
An endless and a welcome task
Love isn’t somethin’ that we have
It’s somethin’ that we do…

There’s no request, too big or small
We give ourselves, we give our all
Love isn’t some place that we fall
It’s somethin’ that we do…

from Love is Something That We Do by Clint Black

Still working on it.

~ Lisa

{ Vamos a la Casa del Señor }

I wrote once before about my mother-in-law, Zenaida, on this blog, but last week I had the privilege of writing about her again, because we said our final goodbyes to Mama Z last week.

Here are some words I shared at the funeral of this tenacious Cuban lady, and the full story of her courageous exit from Cuba follows…

“We have a big family and each time after we had a baby, Zenaida would come for a visit, bearing LOADS of food. She didn’t just bring a meal and a bag of salad. It was more like:

  • A huge watermelon
  • 2 XL bags of tortilla chips
  • 3 pineapples
  • A large, heavy homemade loaf of banana bread, baked in a bundt pan
  • A 10-pound package of ground beef
  • And an institutional sized box of cereal

When she arrived, our refrigerator and freezer would be stuffed full and there was so much food on the table that there often wasn’t room for anyone to sit down and eat there.

That was just how she gave. 

She gave BIG. and

She gave generously.

On these visits after a new baby, Zenaida would find things to clean. She was thorough, and there was always something to clean at our house. She would scour the grimy highchair, she would pull out the washer and dryer and sweep behind, and once she used a toothpick to completely detail our toaster — removing every last crumb.

Zenaida loved to work with her hands, and she would add beauty and sparkle to her creations and sometimes add her own creative touch to something she had purchased. She made her own clothes and was not afraid to tackle complicated styles. She usually chose fancy fabrics with a little sparkle, and she always wore her outfits with her favorite jewelry.

Zenaida and I shared a love of sewing, however, the fabric I usually chose was much more plain and simple and I seldom wear much jewelry.

One time she took me aside and said:

“Lisa.  You shouldn’t dress so much like a nun.”

She sewed many dresses for me and for our daughters. Once she made me a jumper that had an opening cut out at the bottom.

She said:

“I made it like this, so when you are walking up the stairs, the dress will kind of open up at the bottom and show your legs a little bit.”

Actually, the dress I am wearing today is one that Zenaida made for herself and wore 30 years ago at our wedding. I think she would be happy to see me wearing something she made — and with a touch of sparkle in the fabric!

Tomorrow’s funeral service will include a Bible passage from Proverbs 31 about an inspiring, God-fearing woman. This is a fitting passage for Zenaida, because it includes phrases such as:

  • She works with her hands in delight!
  • She makes coverings for herself;
  • Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
  • The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil, all the days of her life. (I never knew Zenaida’s husband; he passed away many years before I became part of the family. But whenever she spoke about him, her words were loving and honoring.)
  • She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
  • Her children rise up and bless her. 

And that last phrase is our desire: to share words that explain what a priceless part of the family that she will always be, and to express gratefulness for her investment of love in all of our lives.”


More family members have written about Zenaida; read Theo’s tribute and Sophia’s story.

———————–

Zenaida’s Obituary

In 1963, Zenaida Martinez Araujo Luciano left Cuba with her beloved husband, two young sons, and nothing else but her faith and courage. 

On August 15, 2020 Zenaida left this earth with a full life, along with the admiration of her large and loving family. 

Zenaida was born in the town of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba in 1932. She was the only child of Francisca Martinez Araujo. Zenaida and her mother lived with Josefa Fernandez, a dear family friend, who became like a second mother to her. 

Zenaida attended Escuela de Comercio where she joined the marching band as a drummer and played on the volleyball team. After high school, she studied at Escuela Profesional de Comercio and earned her degree in international trade and customs in 1955.

After finishing college, she fell in love with and married Antonio Luciano. The couple welcomed their first child, Antonio Jr., while living in New York. After Cuban dictator Batista was removed from office, they returned to Cuba, where their second son, José was born. When the new leader, Fidel Castro, declared Cuba a communist state, Zenaida and Antonio applied for permission to immigrate to the United States. 

Zenaida and Antonio finally received authorization to leave Cuba in 1963, and when they departed their homeland, they were forced to leave behind their family and friends, their wedding rings, and all earthly possessions. After a brief stay in Miami, the family obtained sponsorship generously offered by the Richfield Jaycees in Minnesota. When Zenaida’s friends warned her that she would have to milk cows up in Minnesota, she laughed and said she gladly would.

While living in Minneapolis, Zenaida and Antonio’s family grew as they were blessed with sons Nicholas and Giovanni. Sadly, in 1974, Zenaida’s beloved husband died of cancer, which left her with four children, limited English, and without a driver’s license, car or income source. Dauntless and determined, Zenaida pushed through these new challenges, and studied to become a U.S. citizen in 1976. She learned to drive and secured a job at the VA in laundry and food service. Later, she transferred to the IRS, where she worked for 20 years. After retiring in 1997, she was free to travel, sew, care for her grandchildren and attend their important events.  

Zenaida will always be remembered as a persistent, generous, faith-filled person who never gave up. She was the #1 fan of her grandchildren’s activities and she was always the first person to deliver a happy birthday phone call or a severe weather update. Among many other things, she was an expert seamstress, a sports enthusiast, the best banana-bread-baker, a lavish food-giver, towel-embellisher, soup-maker, salsa-dancer and the rainbow-jello-queen. 

This past year, Zenaida faced her cancer with dignity and courage, and she often expressed gratefulness to her family, who cared for her in her home. Zenaida passed away on August 15, 2020 at age 88, surrounded by her devoted family.

———————————————————————————————————————

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

{ My Grateful List }

Thank you, Dolly Mama, for the grateful list idea.

  1. God is sovereign and never changes. The pandemic is raging, but the rest of the natural world still proceeds predictably and peacefully at God’s direction. He is in control.
  2. My imperfect marriage. Sometimes, my man and I are a real piece of work. But, because of Jesus, my husband is mine and I am his and there is hope and humor and love that can go the distance.
  3. Prayer. It is only recently that I am really clinging to the power of prayer in the lives of my children, teenagers and young adults. I cannot control their worlds anymore; only God can. Talking to God about them is the only thing that gives me peace about them.
  4. Little outdoor getaways.  I cannot get out of the house and sit at a coffee shop and write or read or think right now. That used to be my little treat to myself; my little breakout time. But I am thankful recently for walks on local trails and a beautiful spring so I can enjoy peace and quiet outdoors.
  5. Homecomings. Because of the pandemic, most of my young adult children had to migrate back home and work remotely. This has been such a pleasure. 
  6. Food. There is enough.
  7. Home Repairs. Another silver lining within the sad, global pandemic. With an altered work schedule, my husband and sons had time to work with an expert to get a new roof put on. One son painted a needy room and we also got rid of lots of junk.
  8. Health. I am grateful for good health and don’t take it for granted. 
  9. Vehicles that work right now. 
  10. Fun books: read-alouds, audiobooks and volumes that keep people happy in hammocks all day long.

Featured Photo:Joel Holland

{ Who Said Love Is Pretty?}

Who said Love is pretty?
Love is not a fragile flower
Or a delicate blossom
Love is a stubborn weed that refuses to be uprooted.

Love is not a silky, elegant fabric
It’s a stained and sturdy tarp
A rough and lowly burlap

Love is a rusty anchor
A moss-covered boulder
A weatherbeaten barn.

Love has been through
Waves
Trials and
Storms
And love will be there forever.

Love gets
Wrinkled
Burned and
Scarred

But love is too busy
Doing
Working and
Praying
To look into the mirror

~~~
© Lisa M. Luciano 2020
Image by Bernhard Stärck from Pixabay

{That Moment in Time}

You have Youth but you waste it

You have Time but you squander it

 

You have people who love you

Friends who embrace you

Family who know you

 

But you ignore the gold mines that surround you

Choosing junk, trash and folly instead

 

And your skin is smooth

Your teeth are strong

Your ponytail is thick

You can touch your toes

You can leave the house without makeup and

You believe all your dreams will come true

 

And at the exact point you realize those days are gone,

You instantly realize what a gift they were.

What do you call that moment in time?

~~~

Help us to remember that our days are numbered,

and help us to interpret our lives correctly.

Set your wisdom deeply in our hearts… — Psalm 90:12 TPT

~~~

Photo by Jan Kubita

{ Meet Angela Umphers Rueger ~ The Abundant Heart }

Warm Blogger

download

Angela’s blog The Abundant Heart was one of the first blogs I read when I started on WordPress. Reading the blog of someone who lives in Florida gave a Minnesotan like me warm fuzzies. 

While I was knee-deep in snow and ice, Angela was posting photos of palm trees swaying over a pleasant outdoor lunch on the back patio.

But I didn’t just like the weather on her blog, I loved the way she wove her earnest thoughts about scripture and hymns and godly living all together. She considers The Abundant Heart a ministry, and it truly is. 

Busy, Talented Lady

Angela and her husband recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary! Having raised three children, Angela wants to devote more time to her writing and other interests. Over the years, she has juggled many different tasks. Before moving to Florida, Angela owned her own cleaning business and was a high achiever at H & R Block. During tax season, she is known to a small group of clients as the “Tax Lady.” She also sings in the church choir and plays piano and guitar. And, she ministers to local college students by handing them gift bags every quarter that are stuffed with words of encouragement and goodies. 

But What About Her Day Job?

Angela has actually taken a short sabbatical from writing lately to become a full-time artist. In particular, she creates mixed media art and home decor items from the parts of old pianos. Angela has a growing Etsy shop called Encore Old Pianos and it’s an ideal place to find a unique gift for any music lover. Angela also sells her unique upcycled goods at regional craft fairs, art shows and a gallery called the Sand Dollar Cottage. She is also working on securing a spot in a busy local antique store. She hosts a blog called Encore Old Pianos that shows how she does her work and lists upcoming events. Angela posts current creations on Instagram (@angelathepianolady).

 

More About Angela

When Angela isn’t writing or creating or reaching out to others, you might find her reading her favorite book, The Holy Bible. 

Other books she has enjoyed include Not My Will by Francena H. Arnold and Humility by Andrew Murray. 

It’s been fun to *meet* Angela Umphers Rueger. She’s a woman of faith, intelligence and creativity. She brightens up the blogger world, and not just because she’s from the Sunshine State 🙂

~~~

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{ God’s Valentine }

chandan-chaurasia-_PBW5ZyPiOA-unsplash

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name,

You  Are  Mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
  And through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

When you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Isaiah 43: 1-3 ESV

~~~

Although this love message was written to God’s chosen people, Israel, it can speak comfort to all believers. In the New Testament, God’s never-changing love is affirmed in verses like Romans 8:38-39:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

ryan-stone-ZaZszsKyobs-unsplash

~~~

Photos:

Hush Naidoo

Chandan Chaurasia

 Ryan Stone

{ Meet Esther Goetz ~ The Dolly Mama }

It’s funny how people float in and out of your life. Your best high school buddy has disappeared, but the girl you didn’t know, who sat in the back row of homeroom, is now your dear friend and neighbor. 

Esther Picture for Dolly Mama

In a way, Esther Goetz is that kind of person. She was the friend-of-a-friend at our college on the outskirts of Chicago. I knew she was outgoing and friendly, and had grown up in Ethiopia as a missionary kid, but I didn’t know much more about her while we shared the same campus,

We went on with our separate studies and friends and lives. Graduation scattered everyone to build their own careers and families all over the map.

Fast forward three decades, when I stumbled upon a blog called The Dolly Mama.

Here I found someone with a kindred world view, words of truth, and a winsome sense of spunk. Esther’s photo and name looked familiar, and later I discovered that she was the Esther from college years, molded and sharpened by a life yielded to God and His Word. 

After college, she married Allen; they have four adult children, one son-in-law and a feisty toddler grandson. Esther and her husband lead the marriage mentoring ministry at their church (they have met with over 120 couples over the past 15 years!) Esther also leads a women’s group.

Her blog reflects what she does in real life, as she discusses faith, family and friendship.

Besides family, church, blogging, leadership and more, Esther likes to read! Right now, she is enjoying The Next Right Thing by Emily Freeman, and her three favorite books of all time are:

Whenever I visit Esther’s blog, The Dolly Mama,  I often end up crying or laughing. She inspired me to choose a Word of the Year– her 2020 word is HYGGE.

Some of her recent posts have titles like these:  

So visit Esther Goetz at the Dolly Mama.  Say hello, and be encouraged and inspired!

~~~~

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