My sentimental journey

An ordinary girl's walk with an extraordinary God.


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We Are All God’s Favorite

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A shadow of favoritism formed over my mom at the birth of her younger sister, Donna. Her parents made the poor choice of comparing the two siblings throughout their lives… even on the most menial tasks. The sting of favoritism ,coupled with comparison, delivered a deadly blow to my Mom’s self-worth. She was daily reminded of failure to measure up and it haunted her long after her parents passing .

Mom carried a distorted image God never intended her to gaze upon .She learned of God’s love early on in life while sitting on a little bench in the basement of Minthorne Church’s Sunday school class. But, her heart never fully recovered from the deeply embedded favoritism wounds that plagued her all her life. Her tenacious love for God did enable her to overcome many hardships and disappointments she encountered along the way . And,God’s love gave her wisdom and courage not to repeat the same mistake of showing favoritism and comparison towards my brother and me.

When we look a the definition of favoritism , ” the unfair practice of treating some people better than others,” we know it’s contrary to God’s nature. Numerous Scriptures underline this intrinsic truth of His loving character. Romans 2.11 reminds us ” God shows no partiality .” He is no respecter of persons . Peter exploded with this good news  when God revealed there was not distinction between Jew or Gentile. All are grafted into the same tree. He declares in Acts 10.34  It’s Gods own truth ; nothing could be plainer :God plays no favorites ! It makes no difference who you are or where you are from. If you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open .” (Message)

How freeing it is to belong to such a merciful and loving Papa, who does not compare or measure,raise a high standard or base His love on conditions.

Today I rejoice in the legacy of my mother’s loving choices against favoritism. I am   thankful to a God who declares we are all His favorite.

Published by The Christian Journal May 2014 Lisa Thompson Jennings

 


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Tender Hearts & Thick Skins

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Janet and I were neighbors and all around best buddies, our closeness evident by the telltale photo of the matching outfits we sported on our grade school field trip to OMSI.  We completed our wardrobe down to the lucky rabbits foot dangling from our Levi belt loop’s.  Really, how lucky could that poor rabbit have been?  When I think of Janet my mind is flooded with happy memories and funny stories, they are like brilliant stars nestled in a night sky of gratefulness.  A treasured childhood friend to share silliness and secrets, whether walking to school, playing together, or during sleepovers; experiencing laughter till our sides hurt brought on by our countless goofy ways we could amuse ourselves.

One of our favorite games was playing Montgomery Wards catalog, in our day (which sounds incredibly old ) you could pick up and return your orders to the Mall 205 Ward’s store. During that age they relied on employee customer service and good old fashion handwritten files to keep track of it all. What fun it was to play after school, setting up shop downstairs on my parents covered pool table.  A toy pink phone for imaginary calls… check, a Ward’s catalog… check, files made up with fake names like Frank Frone… check, all the proper tools to ignite our wild imaginations. Why we never worked at Montgomery Ward’s when we got older I will never know. We had serious mad skills I tell you!

Some of our other memories were going door to door collecting money for the Christian Children’s Fund. One time, we chose to clean the handwritten graffiti from bathroom stalls during recess just for fun!  Each school week was occasionally mingled with some mischief… at times less than angelic.  Rounding out our Friday’s with our hit single we belted out our song, “We’re going home today, today, today!! ushering in our weekend.  It makes me giggle at the very thought of it.

One moment we walked to grade school as children, next thing you know we were catching the bus to Junior High with the first stroke of blush applied to our cheeks. Time flew by but the memories linger remaining a steady source of joy.  Recently,  while at the check stand I was gazing at the outrageous tabloids that slander and exploit people without grace or kindness. I wondered how does one being attacked handle such lies, falsehoods and slander without being able to tell their side of the story? A two sided coin only baring one side oblivious to the other side’s details.

We have all struggled with hurtful and untrue stories told that slammed against the walls of  our integrity. Casting suspicion on our foundation we hold so dear.  Sometimes, I am guilty of setting my eyes on only one side being represented, believing that to be the whole truth without hearing the other side.

As I wrestle with my own personal pain from untruthfulness spun against me, it presses me into seeking endurance for the injustices. Causing me to mumble this question to myself as I unloaded my shopping cart ”  How do they do it God?  I gently   heard the words “thick skin” rise up in my spirit, and the memories of how Janet and I had a pre-summer ritual.

Before summer arrived we would prepare our tender feet for the freedom of barefoot days by toughening them up.  Our solution: A “foot boot camp” without boots.  These tender feet that were previously cradled in warm socks and comfortable shoes, barely seeing the light of day, would be exposed not only to the sunlight but the dark hard asphalt and rough cement, going… “all natural”.  Quickly acclimating our tender soles to lessen the nuisance of feeling every poke and jab of the harsh ground beneath.  Thus, giving way to a foot loose and fancy free summer!

It made so much sense to me back then, and it so applicable to me now. My tender heart and thin skin feels every poke and jab of harshness and disapproval of others toward me, focusing my attention on my wounded soul.  Instead, I want to use these opportunities to develop a thick skin of grace foregoing being callous to their deep woundedness.  This allows me the freedom to enjoy the green pastures the Lord leads me to. His endless glory stretched out beneath my eager feet.  His glowing canopy of  approval and forgiveness gives me the strength to say, *1  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  *2  “Being able to throw open our doors to God and discover at that same moment that He has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand–out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praises… with our Tender Hearts and Thick Skins.

1*  Luke 23:34 NIV

2*Romans 5 1:2 The Message Bible


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Grace Filled Storms

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The  sun is  shining brilliantly outside my window while robust winds toss trees seemingly without mercy and downright relentless. Inside my feet dangle freely and rather comfortably positioned right over a toasty register unaware of the robust gales outside.  As I ponder these mighty winds our beloved  city of Troutdale is know for displaying,  I’ve come to conclude with great conviction I might add, Chicago could have strong competition holding the title of  “The Windy City” if it was ever up for grabs.  This little town is proving to be one heck of  powerful contender thanks to the  east winds whipping through  the Columbia River Gorge.  If by chance we were in Christopher Robin’s neck of the woods.  Winnie the Pooh would call this a “blustery day” indeed.  However, my  mind is  contemplating and pondering more then the breeze that rattled the windows ,but instead what the rest of the day holds.  Feeling my spirits being churned  equally as the unsettled blasts of winds presently a mere stones throw from my cozy indoor haven .

For later today my husband and I have plans  to visit  my brother at his Alzheimer care facility where he now resides.  Each visit  bracing myself expecting to experience storm tossed, squally feelings of loss.  Deep longing for days gone by  when my brother and I could laugh and communicate more freely.  Far before illness sprawled graffiti painted words such as limitation on the walls of his life. Trying through it all to hear the heart of God over my redundant and deafening questions of why. Why this Lord?, why now ?, why him.?  Aware for now these why questions are left unanswered.  Regardless, I know I’m not alone for many of you can relate to the  wrestling thoughts of your personal whys? Maybe it’s the why of an illness, a painful divorce, a heartbreaking death, or some other tragic loss? Perhaps you don’t ask the why’s like I do being aware that focusing on them is usually not very helpful.  There is a key to  greater understanding whenever I  pause to fix my gaze  at the bigger picture called  eternity…  glimmering with all  its’  truth  shining brightly before me.  Laura Story’s song, “Blessings” is one of my favorites, every time I hear it  I sing along in full of  appreciation of its’ profound  lyrics… some of it goes as follows…

“What if my greatest disappointment or the aching of this life , Is the revealing of the greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
 and what if the trails in this life … the rain, the storm the hardest nights are your mercies in disguise.”

Laura wrote “Blessings ” after a brain tumor hospitalized her husband in 2006  it was a stormy time for them and the road to recovery that followed.  When being interviewed by Kevin Davis of NRT she shared, “The song shows that we still have more questions than answers. But there’s a decision that I find God is asking us to make.  Are we going to judge God based on our circumstances or are we going to choose to interpret our circumstances based on what we hold to be true about God”?

Walking  in a temporal  world repeatedly  asking the why’s  tosses my soul back and forth blasting my faith with its’ billowing windstorms. Speaking from experience I have a battered soul to prove it.  However, today if I choose  to walk again with a  determined faith  making a sincere conscious effort to take each day as a gift.  Knowing full well God’s  mercies are new every morning, embracing more completely the here and now with all the messes and heartache that can accompany it.  Trying my best  to refrain from asking  a copious amount of  ” The 5 W+ H” of Journalist questions to God… consisting of  Who, What, When, Where, Why, How… settling wholly on the bottom line alone. What is that you may ask?  If we know who God is, and what are His promises… the When, Where, Why and How  with lose prominence. God is Love, God is Just, God is Faithful, to name a  few.  We can boldly  look to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith.  Whether it’s  sunny, windy  or both  we can   rejoice… turning our maze of questions into an  a “mazing” trust, *painting grace graffiti on the fences of our  limitations and losses.

Lord you know how I need you, Your truth, grace, hope and  joy. Casting my cares upon you for you care for me.

“The Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most temporal part of time–for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

“For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.  C.S. Lewis The Screwtape Letters

*Psalms 17:7  The Message Bible


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Bedazzled Friends

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True confessions .. I’m a bling girl, yes that’s right, admiring shinny, glittery, sparkling things just like a pack rat. Drawn to them like a moth attracted to a flame. Oohing and aahing their sparkle and gleam. No need for the real McCoy, let the imitations shine on!  What joy would be mine if I were to be the proud owner of a  BeDazzler, the official rhinestone setter of all things glitzy. I could “Be Dazzle” almost anything… my  dear friend owned one of these marvels,  however,lamentably was  cut short by her unamused husband hiding this man made wonder machine. Woefully being charged guilty of excessive bedazzlement. How could you not?  The ad lures you with the promise… “it’s easy, It’s fun and it’s fabulous” !  A Win, Win, and can we all say a rousing Win!

Recently, the Bedazzler has been on my mind, triggered by my friend Jen’s roller skating event at Oaks Park amusement center. My husband and I had the joy of watching her perform, all of us hoping that she would earn a spot to compete at Nationals. Oaks Park holds a special place in my heart , brimming with family history.  In 1948 the Vanport flood which caused the roller rink to be  submerged under water for 30 days.  Afterwards, it prompted the owners to rebuild the rink on pontoons.  They design was created to have a detachable floating wooden skate rink floor in case of flooding, of which  my grandfather helped build.

While in the 1950’s my mom and her sister Donna performed elaborate skating shows. Their photos still line the wall above the skate rental shop.

Gazing at these nostalgic pictures rekindled sweet memories of my mother and years gone by. While waiting for Jeni to skate we seized a few Kodak moments. Jen’s next routine would be to the music “Stomp” an upbeat lively number using drumsticks as her prop. Wearing an adorable outfit she  designed in true Bedazzlement fashion; the outfit dotted liberally with rhinestones. What a perfect addition to make her shine on the rink’s wooden floor… as if her performance and smile were not enough.

I’m brought to deep thoughts on the magical bedazzler, just as it  can add sparkle and life to an otherwise ordinary piece fabric, so to, deep spirited friends add  the sparkle we need to the fabric of our lives.

The dictionary’s description of bedazzled is to “impress forcefully, especially so to make oblivious to faults or shortcomings”. Heartfelt friends applaud your positive attributes  while  graciously loving you regardless of your faults and  shortcomings. Thus, giving you a desire to rise higher, empowering you to assess some personal areas that  need attention and growth. Your spirit embellished with love and jewels of grace, visibly glowing treasures from your divine friendship.

Biblically, stones have been known to represent truth, used as boundaries marked off by stones.  Also used as witnesses to God’s loving faithfulness when Jacob set up a pillar in  Gen. 28:22; 35:14.  Aaron’s priestly ephod and breastplate were bedazzled with precious stones, holy truths glistening God’s love, set in stone for his people.

HOW DO YOU TAKE YOUR LIFE FROM DULL TO DAZZLING?  Get to know the heart of God for  you.. reading His life giving words of love and through the lives of true, deep spirited friends. Captivating you with their ability to add sparkle and shine to your world.  If you don’t have friends like that yet, I pray that God will send you one as quickly as you can say… BeDazzle.

Lord, help me be a friend to others as I would like for myself. Thank you that friends are a gift from you and your word says: “when you give a gift you add no sorrow to it”.  We rejoice today in your love and the love of our friends whether from the past, present, or future.

“If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give”.

George MacDonald

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Making Molehills Out Of Mountains

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Time was well overdue to remove the molehills that  popped up in our front yard nestling up against the curb. The desire to spruce up our flower beds before spring was now joined with increased  pressure to rescue my early blooming  crocuses now completely smothered in mole mania.  This pesky mole burrowing upward caused the crocuses delicate foliage to croak under the mountain of fresh tillage.

Rather hating to admit it, I was ever so slightly admiring this particular mole’s astute sense of focus.  Managing to erupt orderly mounts in unerring rows  while  tunneling through our sod. Somehow he was able to keenly and systematically dot neighboring property with the same impeccable streamline mastery.   Though I marveled that he was a gentleman of order, the mounding piles of dirt were still  a blight on our lawn.  It had been suggested  by a  friend that this was the work of more then one mole; if this was indeed  the case, their impressive team work scores a virtuoso 10. Whatever the scenario, it was nothing short of a  stellar performance. Earlier, I  momentarily reveled in their beauty when the heaps of soil were graced with a light dusting of snow.  These works of art resembled a miniature Rocky Mountain Range along our curb.  Finding this to be a rare occasion to acceptably make a snow covered mountain out of a molehill.

Shortly after removing the mounts of dirt it seemed to my joy and relief they had blazed a trail off into the sunset.  As you can tell by what you have read already, I’m nowhere near being mole savvy. By far, I lack the full knowledge of what these little critters are capable of doing. Let’s just say I greatly underestimated my opponent, this startling truth became painfully evident as I gazed upon my recent edged and weeded walkway. Gasping at what my eyes were beholding… a  fresh knoll of dirt burying my crocuses yet again!

Highly disappointed  that my one little patch of orderliness was no longer in order, wrestling an all to familiar lie that tidiness should magically stay tidy,well for at least 24 hours, right ?.  And when you cross it off your to do list it should stay done.  By now you would think  that my twenty one years of  being a stay at home,  raising and homeschooling our two boys, would have debunked this elephant size fib. Surely, I should have gotten that all too important memo. Truth is, in my heart of hearts. I know the  411. Life is messy and your 100% guaranteed “do overs”  are things like dishes, laundry and other assortment of daily chores.

A confessing slow learner by nature,  regretfully being revealed yet again  by my increased anxiety over this disheveled patch of a nearly perfect garden utopia.  When such emotional intensity flies into my radar it warrants further examination as to why I’m experiencing the growing tension.

Recently, I decided to discuss this dilemma with my dear friend Kelli over lunch.  She patiently listened as I dined away on my firecracker chicken. Hoping to grasp the truth of my underlying issue far better than my novice maneuvering of chopsticks.  My spirit was hopeful because when we seek God we find Him and the truth is revealed, as Kelli and I continued our conversation we were grateful for His faithfulness.  Without a doubt I’m sure He was perfectly content and thoroughly delighted to mingle in our laughter, tickled as we pondered Him, and was not distressed  one bit at my  raw  emotions. So grateful for  God given gift of authentic, deep spirited friendships. At that moment I caught  a glorious revelation exposed;  it was necessary to pull back further from my “tunnel vision” fitting for a mole.  Once again, God spoke His truth over a well worn path of  misconceptions.

Like the moles reappearance so had the flair up  my of irksome Achilles heels… one heel throbbing need  for perfection the other aching with the distortion of  destination rather than journey mentality. So rapid to appear, stirring up my spirit to become disquieted, my thoughts distorted and routed for dissatisfaction instead of  paths of peace that surpass all understanding.  All because  I chose to make mountains out of meager molehills.

I love what Zechariah 4:7 says

“For who are you, O great mountain [of human obstacles]? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain [a mere [a]molehill]! And he shall bring forth the finishing gable stone [of the new temple] with loud shouting of the people, crying, Grace, grace to it!

God  makes a molehill out of our mountains. Oh, how  I long to trust Him with mine.

Verse 6 chpt. 4 Zechariah says how we can achieve  this:

“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit [of Whom the oil is a symbol], says the Lord of hosts.”
So, until I get the problematic mole(s) eradicated for good, I will choose to let those mounts of earth remind me that God’s turning my mountains of troubles  into mere molehills while saying His grace is sufficient.  This comforts my heart that I’m loved without performing or arriving, but  simply being  His daughter… the same holds true for everyone.

Do you  have a looming mountain of human obstacles in your way? May we move forward in God’s power and might  declaring His promise together saying … So big mountain,who do you think you are ? you’re nothing but a molehill!.
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Beauty in our Barren Places

ImageAwhile back my husband and I  watched  Steve and Geoff the “Meteorite Men ” trek through  barren and high altitudes parts of  the Chilean Desert called the Imilac Strewnfeilds,  as far as the eye could see it looked  lifeless to me.  I’m not a big fan of the desert, however if you add an extra S to desert it becomes the word dessert and that I am a huge fan of.  I did  become enthralled  with the whole process, seeing that  void stretch of Terra ferma  reminded me of my life at times.  When my spirit  feels barren, arid and lifeless, the  grit  of my  circumstance blurring my vision  no longer  being  able to see any evidence of value or purpose in the wasteland of suffering. How comforting to know even in our desert times of feeling  spiritually dry, parched by life’s scorching trials. God sees  the  value, the nuggets of truth, tried by the fire and ready to mine the deposits left by our painful feelings of loss and devastation.     Steve and Geoff were excited with the possibilities…they saw the gold mine that lay at their dusty boots, armed with magnetic devices and keen eyes they gushed at the wealth they were beholding, one precious rough rock  at a time. So too  God mines our souls sweeping across them with the powerful attraction of His Grace, stooping down to marvel at the beauty and value of  which we often mistake as worthless.  Beauty for ashes, life spoken over the dry bones, humanity formed from dust …. God’s redemption in the most  drought stricken  and lifeless situations.  How precious to have such a loving Father as he; to see the value  when we see none, to rejoice over what the world would overlook.
Heavenly Father and miner of our souls, thank you for knowing first hand  the value in suffering.  As we travel through the desert times may your well traveled hand guide us with  your truths and  water our weary and torrid soul’s.  May our mind be refreshed in your promises and the hope that one day we will be coming up out of the wilderness times leaning on our beloved; and just as the  iron entered Joseph’s  soul when he was chained with fetters.  Make us strong, fortified with your walls of love, seeing beyond the pain to your exceedingly bright and precious promises.  Thus,  knowing that you make all things work together for our good.  From glory to glory, one  priceless nugget at a time….

Matthew Henry commentary says, “Afflictions are among our mercies. They prove our faith and love, they humble our pride, they wean us from the world, and quicken our prayers”

“Let the thankful heart sweep through the day and as the magnet finds iron, so it will find, in every hour some heavenly blessing.” Henry Ward Beecher

Isaiah 43:19…”Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”