This year Valentine’s Day was on a Wednesday. My husband and I normally do not make too big of a deal about this holiday. He usually gets me a card that makes me cry and a box of chocolates (because I once told him that $65.00 for a half dozen roses was ridiculous). This year, he got me roses (from the grocery store, so not $65.00) and a card that made me cry, but no chocolate because I had just lost ten pounds and did not want to find it again.
That afternoon, I had gone with a friend to run an errand and returned after he did. When I got home, he said we were going out to dinner. We do not normally do this because I do not like standing in line for an hour to be rushed through dinner on Valentine’s Day. My husband also has severe food allergies so that limits where we can eat, and since we live in a small town, we have to drive more than 35 minutes to eat. He decided on one of our regular places that does more takeout than dine-in. When we got there, they were busy but there was only a few minutes wait for a table, although they were busy with takeout orders.
We had a lovely Valentine’s Day. The problem began because I normally attend church every Wednesday night. Lately, I have missed a few times because of my husband’s medical issues, but I usually let someone know if I am not going to be there. I was not thinking about church or even paying attention to my phone; we were out having Valentine’s dinner.
When we got home, I finally checked my phone. I discovered I had a missed call from the preacher and a message from the preacher’s wife. They were checking on me and wanting to know if I was okay. The following morning, I also had a message from the music leader’s wife (I am the church pianist). Although I replied to her message, apparently she did not get my reply until after her husband left for work. He called me to make sure everything was okay. By then, I was laughing. I was missing and did not even know it!
All this concern made me think, “All these people missed me in church on a Wednesday night! God must miss us when we do not spend time with Him like we should!” I try to have my quiet time with God every day. My goal is to spend time with Him in the Word and then talking to Him in prayer. When I am in the car, I try to listen to Christian contemporary music to keep me focused on Him. Sometimes, life happens and I do not get to spend the time that I want with Him. I may just have time for a short prayer. It is those days that I miss out! I miss Him and He misses me! God misses us when we do not spend time with Him!
Have you ever felt like God was trying to tell you something? I have had one of those weeks. God spoke to me four different times in one week about LOVE!
I serve on a planning committee for a Christian women’s conference. To promote the conference, some of the committee appeared as guests on a local radio station, and the main speaker called in. She said that she would be speaking on love and forgiveness. When she said this, I felt a quickening in my spirit. I was not sure why or what He was trying to tell me, but I was listening.
When she spoke at the conference a few days later, she started with the traditional, “God is love.” But, then she flipped that around: “Love is God.” True love is God through His sacrifice of His Son for our sins. I continued to listen. She went on to talk about the ongoing process of forgiveness. I still was not sure where this was going for me, but I was beginning to get some ideas.
The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 4:8 (NASB)
The next day at church, the preacher began his sermon, and guess what it was about? Love! We need to be doing things out of love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 states, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” He continued with Ephesians 4:15, “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” We should do everything in love. This is sometimes difficult to do, especially when we feel we have been wronged.
Three days later, I went to a funeral. I will not go into details, but the grieving family demonstrated such an outpouring of love and forgiveness. This was so emotional. Despite the grief this family was experiencing, they were concerned enough and loved someone else enough to make sure he knew that he was loved and that the family harbored no ill feelings.
From the events of this week, I learned so much, including the realization that I do not always do things out of love; I do a lot out of obligation. In my words and actions, I do not always show love. I also realized that there were people that I thought I had forgiven but unforgiveness had crept back in. I had previously been on guard for it, but I had let my guard down. God really spoke to me this week and I know there is more I need to work on and probably more that I will get out of it.
This past spring, the kids and I did some spring cleaning. We started by cleaning out the kitchen cabinets. After twenty-six years of marriage, it was time to start replacing things. As I looked at my dishes, I noticed that they were old and chipped. Several had been broken and had been thrown away. Over time, I had bought random bowls because I was down to three in my set. I kept looking at these old, worn out dishes and I decided it was time to get new dishes.
In with the New
I set out to find a new set of dishes. After much searching and waiting for the right sale (I’m a bargain shopper), I found a set I could be happy with. I bought two eight-place settings. A few weeks later, I decided to order a third set in case some get broken in the future when I cannot replace them.
When the last set arrived and as I was unpacking them and loading them in the dishwasher, I found that one of my new bowls was broken. I called the store and was told that I had to either send the entire set back or return the set to a store about one hour away from us. Since I had already run half the dishes through the dishwasher, I was not very happy. I was upset so my husband took over. He started calling stores that were closer, and fortunately he located the same set of dishes only thirty minutes away. We loaded the broken set up and took them back. Of course, I stood at the checkout and unpacked the entire set to make sure there was not any broken ones in that set.
Lessons Learned from Broken Dishes
Yes, my old set of dishes was still usable. But they just did not look nice anymore and it was time for a change. Through this experience, I realized that God uses us even when we are broken. Sometimes, we have to be completely broken so that we can start new. God can use that brokenness for His good purpose! Sometimes, it is not until we are broken that we truly turn to Him. We do not always see a need for God until then. That is when he can use us.
God brings us through these times of brokenness. Like my husband did, He intercedes for us and takes care of our problems. We learn from it and then God can use us because of these experiences. And much like my broken dishes, God does not “throw us away” when we are broken. My well-loved old dishes have been boxed up and will go to one of my children when they get their first home.
We recently went on a long weekend with our children. While the trip was nothing big, it was definitely interesting. My story actually started two weeks before our trip.
My husband and I both drive large, gas-guzzling vehicles because of our farm. I decided we needed something smaller and more economical to drive. After much searching, I bought a small, used SUV. I got a great deal on it because it needed a wheel alignment and two new tires. The day before we planned to leave, my husband asked what we were driving on our trip. Since my old vehicle was in the shop and could not be driven safely, he wanted to take the new car.
Well, I had not gotten the wheels aligned or the new tires. Since we live in a small town, we have to drive about thirty miles to have all this done. We went to have the alignment checked and it checked out fine. The bad tires were the only problem! We then went and got two new tires. This took about six hours including drive time. We got home just in time to pick up my old vehicle from our mechanic. What a day AND we had to get up early the next day for our vacation!
The Help that Wasn’t Helpful
Next up, Google Maps! We were merely going from Oklahoma to Texas. Our first stop was the Texas State Fair. For this, we needed a map. My tech-savvy teenagers said Google Maps would help us with navigating. Apparently, that is not a good idea when you are driving through a large city with lots of loops and overpasses. At one point, it gave me different directions for about thirty seconds solid. I was so confused. I finally told the kids to turn the voice off and read me the directions as I drove. It also tried to route me to take all the turnpikes, which I could not due to the paper tag on the new car. Even though Texas has a reciprocity agreement with Oklahoma for turnpikes, the scanner must read the PikePass as well as the license plate. We finally figured out how to navigate through Dallas/Fort Worth and avoid turnpikes on Google Maps.
Arriving at Our Destination
We got to the fair and went on a quest for “fair food.” We all wanted to try fried butter. Yes, you read that right, fried butter! This is an incredible delicacy that we had seen on television years ago and was only available at the Texas State Fair. It is butter wrapped in a dough, deep fried, then topped with powdered sugar and honey. This was just as good as we thought it would be. We also feasted on fried Oreos and fried cookie dough among other things. Of course, my children do have their limits and did not want to try fried Jello or fried lemonade. Really, that was what they said no to!
We had a long day at the fair and then went to our hotel. My children wanted to stay at a hotel with an indoor pool since it was fall and too cold to swim outside. Being the good mom that I am, I found and paid extra for such a hotel! Did any of them swim? No!
The remainder of our trip was unremarkable, except for our navigation misadventures with Google Maps. I did learn that we did not have to spend a lot of money or go far away to have a fun vacation. We had a good time bonding as a family and eating some unusual foods.
Navigating Our Spiritual Lives
This reminded me that we do not have to spend a lot of money or go anywhere specific to spend time with God. He is our Father and just wants us to spend time with Him. Let’s start the New Year off by spending time with Him! The great thing is we can go straight to God. We don’t have to hassle with “Google Maps Bible Edition” that might loop us round and round in frustration before we ever even get to God! We can pray, we can go straight to the Bible, and we can count on the Holy Spirit to guide us. Navigating each day with God by our side will help make the best of every day!
I love music. Music has the ability to affect us probably more than anything else. Music touches our soul and makes us feel a wide range of emotions.
Because my grandmother was a church pianist, I always dreamed of doing the same. I took piano lessons for many years, but never progressed to the point that I felt was very good. (I think my piano teacher would agree with that.) After giving up on that dream, I thought maybe I could sing in the church choir. Alas, that was not to be either! The Bible says to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Well, that is exactly what comes out when I open my mouth–a joyful noise. Oh, believe me, what I imagine is this great voice, but I know that is not the case.
A few years ago, someone who knew I had taken lessons volunteered me to play the piano at church. Initially, I refused because I did not feel I could do an adequate job. God really spoke to me at that time. This was very difficult for me. Even though I had a piano, I had not played it in years. I spent many hours those first few weeks relearning how to play. I wish I could say that the first week of playing went spectacularly, but it did not. Oh, it was not bad; it was just very fast.
After about a year of playing for church, we were discussing spiritual gifts one night. One of the ladies in class said, “Toni’s spiritual gift is music.” I was shocked. I really did not believe it. Many years later, I now realize that music is one of my gifts. I just had not cultivated and used it…Now if I could just sing.
So many times, we do not realize that we have a gift or we hide it. God wants us to share the gifts he has given us. Think about what gifts you might be hiding. It is time to use them to God’s glory.
Prayer Over Our Hearts
Dear Lord, we humble ourselves before You, wanting to be used by You. You are our Creator, our Redeemer, our All in All. Please reveal to us the gifts that You have given to us. Let us use them to glorify Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.