{ This Valley }

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This valley does not go on forever.

Just keep walking.

One step at a time. 

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While you are walking

While you are praying

While you are looking up

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The ground will rise to meet you,

The wind will suddenly be at your back

And sunlight will fall tenderly upon you.

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You will know that God

Has been

Holding you gently

  In His loving grip.

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“May the road rise to meet you, and the wind always be at your back. May the rains fall softly on your fields. May God hold you gently in the palm of his hand. — Traditional Irish Blessing

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The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. — Numbers 6:24-26

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Photos:

K

Jeremy Bishop

Wolfgang Lutz

 Marc-Olivier Jodoin

This is one of my all-time favorite devotional books: Streams in the Desert.

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As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 

{ Better Than }

God’s steadfast love is better than life. ~ Psalm 63:3

A good name is better than great riches. ~ Proverbs 22:1

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9

The end of a thing is better than its beginning. ~ Ecclesiastes 7:8

The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. ~  Ecclesiastes 7:8

To obey is better than sacrifice. ~ I Samuel 15:22

But God treats us much better than we deserve… ~ Romans 3:24

Consider others better than yourself. ~ Philippians 2:3

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Photos:

 Annie Spratt

 Michal Janek

 Tim Marshall

{ Word of the Year: Stretch }

 

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This is how I chose the word STRETCH for my 2020 Word of the Year: 

I’d like to withstand and even embrace the changes that come my way.  I’d like to learn to stay joyful in the middle of a changing family, life and world. 

 

So I Googled:  “What’s a word that means can withstand changes?

That led me to the online publication: An Introduction to the Study of Physics, Volume 1 By A. F. Walden, J. J. Manley. (Recommended reading for those who struggle with insomnia.)

The word I found there was elasticity.

I looked up synonyms for elasticity and found: words like stretchy, flexible and pliable.

The word stretch can also mean: reach, develop, extend. 

Philippians 4:12-14

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

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To find your Word of the Year, try following these simple steps, courtesy of The Dolly Mama.

Photo by Unsplash:Michael Walter

 

{ God’s Math: 1 + 1 ≠ 2 }

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  —Isaiah 55:8-9 

I am not a math whiz.  Of all my extended family members, I am probably the least gifted with numbers.

My brain lives in the realm of pictures and approximations. Math is too exact; too detailed.

Yet, other family members seem to be fearless of numbers. My math-major sister-in-law said once in a casual setting, “I love abstract math.”  

What is that? Math with no visible symbols? Who would want to make math harder than it already is?

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So, the other day, I was visiting a church, watching a group of missionaries assemble at the front.

This caused me to think of my daughter, who is working at a refugee camp far away, going beyond her comfort zone, doing brave things in a company of global strangers.

Which caused me to consider all my children and who they are becoming.

I wondered: 

Lord, how did this happen? How can it be that you take children from a humble home, raised by imperfect parents, and grow them into amazing, beautiful souls?”

It doesn’t add up.

So, I was thinking about God’s kind of math, right there in the church service. 

God’s equations go beyond 1+1=2. God’s math goes beyond what seems logical or rational.  God’s math even seems to work backwards sometimes.

God’s kind of math says:

  • 2 small coins can sometimes mean more than a large sum of money.  (Mark 12:42)
  • Weak can be more powerful than strong. (Isaiah 40:29)
  • A few resources in God’s hands can multiply at a miraculous rate. (John 6:13)
  • Those who are last shall be first.  (Matt 20:16)
  • When you give to God, you get back way more than you gave. (Luke 6:38)

Things put into God’s hands seem to explode exponentially.

Finally, the omnipotent God is not only a master multiplier, he is a caring Creator. Which earthly number cruncher would not only count stars in the sky, but also lovingly name them?

He determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names. Psalm 147:4

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Photos:

John Moeses Bauan

Alexander Andrews

{ Rhetorical Question, Anyone? }

My daughter and I were sitting in the kitchen, when I casually threw out the phrase: “rhetorical question” in conversation.

Suddenly, she reacted as if someone had scratched their fingernails down a chalkboard.

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With a smile, she admitted that misuse / overuse of the phrase is a current pet peeve of hers! Then, we enjoyed some friendly banter alternated with Google searches for the proper defining of “rhetorical question.”

Can you imagine having that as a pet peeve?*

[ Was that a rhetorical question*? see definition below. ]

I feel that my grievances are slightly more normal, but you may disagree:

  • Drips of dirty wet boot slush that stretch across a kitchen floor
  • Used dental floss and dental floss picks in places other than the garbage
  • Dryer lint left on top of the dryer
  • When people say “Aldi’s” instead of “Aldi” (Picky, I know)
  • Any song by Neil Diamond
  • An unnecessary apostrophe used in a word that happens to have an “S”. (Are you with me on that one, Sara?)

Speaking of literary terms, I experienced something rather ironic last night.

I was writing a health supplement article — late into the night. The article centered around melatonin, the hormone involved with the human sleep cycle. It’s fascinating how melatonin:

  • is produced when light decreases in one’s surroundings
  • is released by an amazing, intricate system in the body which includes the optic nerve sensing a lack of light and sending proper signals to the brain
  • is intertwined with our circadian rhythm of sleep and wakefulness

 

I will get to the irony, but I must interject here that reading and writing about melatonin and the intricate workings of the human body reminded me that:

My Creator is an unparalleled engineer, masterpiecing to the rhythms and designs He’s planted everywhere in His creation!

Now back to the irony:

I wrote far too late into the early morning hours — disrupting pools of melatonin, I’m sure.

And, after completing the article on sleep, I proceeded to have the worst night of sleep I’ve had in years. Cold toes, unsatisfying pillow placement, hearing mysterious noises — the whole works.

How ironic, eh?*

What’s your pet peeve? Perhaps your list includes: blog posts where people whine about a poor night’s sleep, don’t get to the point, or make lists of unsolicited facts about body chemicals? Or people who scatter dashes and ellipses like grass seed? Care to share?

*rhetorical question: a question asked in order to create a dramatic effect or to make a point rather than to get an answer.

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{ Even Up Above Yourself }

Philippians is joyful letter, written by an incarcerated man of God, who loved his spiritual “children.” They were fellow believers, living miles away, who were struggling to live out their faith in a tempting and dark world.

I especially like chapter 2, though it’s easier to talk and write about it than it is to DO IT.

Anytime it happens, I know it’s only God working it out somehow through me.

Here is my paraphrase of this chapter, and unlike the true inspired words of scripture, it’s peppered with all my favorite punctuation marks — dashes, parentheses, ellipses, etc…

Anyway, it’s from the heart and I hope writing my version of Philippians 2:1-11 reminds me to do what it says:

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Following Christ brings encouragement, love, comfort, affection and a godly sympathy —

So, encourage me by living and walking together with unity.

Don’t be selfish or proud in your attitudes or actions.

Be humble — and lift people up — even up above yourself.

Don’t wallow in self-absorption; break out and joyfully meet a need…or two…or three!

Because (and only because) of Christ-in-you, you have His mind.

So…do things in the same way He did.

He came as a poor and lowly man…but in reality,

He was — and still is — G O D.

He willingly took on human form, with all of its earthly limitations.  He was a meek and loving servant — empty, humble and obedient.

His obedience took Him to the cross.

(But He didn’t stay there.)

After the unimaginable suffering came the unlimited triumph.

Now and forever, God has lifted Jesus up and given Him a name so powerful

it will make every knee bow

and every tongue admit

that yes —

Jesus Christ

really and eternally–

is  L O R D.

[And He — and we — will forever give God the glory He deserves!]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Philippians 2: 1-11  ESV

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Photo Credit:michael schaffler

{Abstruse & Scurvy-Free: Saturday Rambles}

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I mentioned last time that I had finished writing another health article — long by my standards– at 1800 words. These long-winded articles are all about health supplements. These are not household words like protein or gluten. Their names are abstruse and often separated by hyphens. I am a blank slate when it comes to knowing anything about L-pyroglutamatic acid or L-phenylalanine.

By the end of my 1800 words, I did learn how to spell phenylalanine — I just remembered the “lala” in the middle.

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I start collecting article info by Googling: “L-pyroglutamatic acid for Dummies” then Googling “L-pyroglutamatic acid for kids.” This gives me usable, chewable information, allowing me to begin writing.

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When it comes to health supplements, I am very impressionable…every article completion has so far wrapped up with my purchase of some health supplement.
This time I was writing about L-proline, which is a key ingredient in collagen. Collagen is what gives our skin structure and elasticity. Several amino acids go into the production of collagen. Vitamin C also plays a huge part in the formation of collagen, so when we don’t get enough vitamin C, our body can’t make the collagen we need. Our skin suffers, our intestines are prone to aeration, and left without collagen, our blood vessels would collapse.

So fascinating how God designed our intelligent bodies — the organs, enzymes, and amino acids are so needful of what we eat but everything (temporarily) covers for us when we take in junk. These articles leave me in awe of God’s creation.

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At the same time, they leave me craving things like lean protein, cabbage, berries and vitamin C. I feel like I am finally grabbing hold of such important tidbits of knowledge, such as what scurvy did to all those unfortunate sailors we learned about back in school. (Was that in history class or health class?)


Today, I’m looking forward to the Amazon package that should be in the mailbox today, holding a few jars of encapsulated, raw Vitamin C.

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On a completely different note, it’s Minnesota Hockey Day and my son just left to play in a hockey tournament, in weather under 10 degrees.

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I feel safer here inside with my L-pyroglutamic acid, phenylalanine and big cup of hot coffee.

Son gave me a hug goodbye; I handed him a protein bar and said, “Bye…have fun…make them be nice to you.”
No, Mama,” he said with a smile.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

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Photo Credits:

Dose JuiceThato Lehoko

Pixabay

{ 7 Questions }

I received a list of thoughtful questions from a dear one.

Answering these questions might be an excellent end-of-year exercise to rouse my sluggish brain cells out of their post-Christmas sugar stupor!

So…here goes.

(If you also would like some brain exercise, feel free to answer one of the questions ~ post your answer in the comment area below!)

Happy 2019.

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  1. If the last year could be summed up in one word, what would it be? Doors. Doors are pathways to growth, discovery and change. There were subtle but real changes in our family; new job opportunities, new friendships, and new “life tributaries” that occurred in our growing young adult children.   They are blossoming into their own persons.  This is hard sometimes for a mother.  I must bite my tongue when older children don’t automatically mimic our parental ideals. God is molding them uniquely; they have brains, prayers and dreams of their own.
  2. What are two or three major themes that kept occurring? Change. Reality. Release.
  3. What did I accomplish this year that I am most proud of? Small internal victories, like: Holding my tongue at the exact right time. Deciding to wait and listen before reacting. Asking another question instead of responding emotionally.  Ignoring a perceived offense rather than retaliate with a sarcastic / witty comeback. Choosing faith instead of worry.  (These might seem like itsy bitsy successes hardly worthy of mentioning, and they might have only happened once or twice in all of the 365 days of 2018. But to me, they seemed to be larger accomplishments than completing an Ironman triathlon….)
  4. What do I feel I should have been acknowledged for, but wasn’t? Hmmm….I will think about this one…or maybe I shouldn’t dig around to find something?
  5. What disappointments or regrets did I experience this year? Spending time doing unimportant, useless, time-wasting things.
  6. What was missing from my year as I look back? Nothing that I can think of. 
  7. What were some major life lessons I learned this year? Time passes faster than I think it can or want it to.  

So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Photo credit:Josh Riemer

Questions adapted from Lore Wilbert ~  http://www.sayable.net/about/ 

{ Untamed & Dangerous }

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The tongue.  That fiery, kind, brutal, life-giving, encouraging, poisonous puppet.  It doesn’t do the damage on its own; there’s a mysterious channel that runs from the heart and brain, looking for a way to get out. So, the tongue obliges, spilling its venom, or healing balm — whichever the heart dictates.

“She’s written about the tongue before,” you say.

Yep. I wonder why? Because it’s an ongoing, never-ending battle. I’m not what you’d call “a talker.”  But, I think a lot of thoughts and they boil just like anyone else’s.

So, I had a lot of these bubbling thoughts the other day — and it was a stinky brew. There was a real and present danger that it was going to force its way out of my mouth, via the formidable tongue.

Which led me to read (again) the words from the book of James (see bold words below) And, I read and wrote and summarized what I was reading, hoping that I will totally understand and assimilate the living, powerful word of God. The basic thing I want to remember: the tongue is untamed and untameable — humanly speaking.  That doesn’t mean, however, that I cannot try to control it.  When I ask God for His help, He will give it.

This is my uninspired paraphrase of James chapter 3, the revealing and helpful “tongue chapter” of the Bible:

We are prolific stumblers.  If you don’t stumble when you use your tongue, you must be a mannequin or a robot.  Just like small bits guide the big bodies of horses…and just like seemingly insignificant ship rudders control unwieldy, bulky ships, the tiny tongue effects enormous power and potential — for good or evil.

Forest fires are started by a small spark, and the tongue’s work is like that at first — a mini controlled blaze – one that turns into a menacing, chaotic firestorm.

The tongue is the Creator’s design, but it is a notoriously sinful member of our bodies — staining lives, reputations, and setting relationships ablaze. The tongue is a useful weapon in the soul-enemy’s arsenal.

Wild creatures worldwide have been tamed by humans — but not the wild, unruly tongue. It never can be tamed.  It’s restless and seems to be always itching for trouble.  Our tongues are double agents — blessing and cursing at will. How can both poison and healing come out of the same opening?  But that’s the sad truth about the tongue.  Kind words, and cutting words; helpful and damaging, encouraging and murderous — all pouring out of the same mouth…

James 3: 2-10 from the Bible:

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. ~ James 3:2-10 ESV

 

Photo credit: Sarah Louise Kinsella

{ My Psalm 34 }

I will choose to praise God – all the time.

He will be at the center of my words, my whims, and my ways.

My soul is clean because He washed it. Anyone who feels low, or dirty or discouraged– take heart! My God can be yours, too.

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Join me in a standing ovation for God!  Applauding, dancing and shouting for joy is not enough!  I want to show everyone how huge, how powerful and how worthy God is!

He’s at the root of everything, and He is the maker of it all.

As for me…I constantly need direction, hope and help.

I often crave comfort, contentment and healing.

That’s when I go searching for God in my thoughts, my dreams and my prayers.

It’s as if He wants me to search for Him,

think about Him and

ask Him for every little thing.

Because when I search with all my heart, I find Him waiting there for me.

And He sends my fears flying.

My soul glows when I think of God– and I’m not ashamed that I need Him.

When I feel poor and needy and unloved, He hears me.

He saves me out of anxious thoughts and guides me out of self-made troubles.

His angels huddle protectively around me.

I will trust God on any pathway and through every valley.

He will always deliver me in His own perfect way.

 

Inspired by Psalm 34:1-7

© Lisa M. Luciano

Photo Credit:Matt Botsford