It Is Finished


I recently created and completed a quilted wall hanging of a cross. My mind envisioned a stained glass window with sunlight emanating through and around the cross at the center.

Since I’m fairly new to the quilting world, this was an ambitious project for me. I had great fun choosing my colors. My math skills leave a lot to be desired, so I kept my pattern simple. Still, I did a lot of reconfiguring of my pieces as I went along.

The wall hanging is not perfect by any means, but the colors are pleasing to my eye and it adds a warming effect to the cedar wood wall where it hangs.

Most importantly, it is a visual reminder of my faith which centers on Christ’s sacrifice for me. He completed the work of redemption on Calvary’s cross.

My subconscious mind hasn’t quite let go of my project, and I was still trying to complete it in my sleep. My conscious mind kept breaking through with the message: “it’s finished—you completed your wall-hanging. Stop worrying about it and just enjoy the end result.”

Perhaps the Lord was sending me a message through my dream—to renew my soul during this Lenten season and focus my thoughts on the cross, his finished work, and move forward into the light.

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Dancing in the Sun

This summer one of my friends gave me a dancing solar flower. It makes me smile every time I see it dancing in the sunshine. I call it my “happy flower.”

I decided to order a few to give to my friends. When they arrived I was disappointed to see three were broken. I opened all of them to make sure the others were O.K. I placed them in a window with good sun exposure—all but one danced, including the one with the broken flower and another with a missing leaf.

My first thought was to throw out the broken ones, but the more I watched them dancing happily in the sun, I knew I wouldn’t discard them. It wasn’t their fault they weren’t perfect, and they were still doing what they were created to do.

A quiet voice whispered inside my heart, “There’s a lesson here. God looks beyond our imperfections and accepts us just as we are.”  All are beautiful to him and he has a purpose for each of our lives.

Too often I focus on appearances—an attitude instilled in me by a perfectionist mother, who in turn, could never live up to her father’s standards. I’ve fought against this attitude my entire life, with varying degrees of success. At times I’m annoyed with myself and ashamed by my initial response to individuals. Recently I embarrassed myself by making a comment about a woman everyone admired and respected, “even though she isn’t physically attractive.” I sat there with my foot in my mouth, feeling as stupid as I would have looked had I actually been able to accomplish that feat physically.

A friend posted on Facebook a picture of a pit bull with this caption, “I have a dream that one day I will not be judged by my appearance, but by the content of my character.”

I know I’ll never be perfect no matter how hard I try. So why do I try to impose this on others? Colossians 1:22 says our human nature is sinful and imperfect, but in Christ, we are holy and blameless and we stand before God without a single fault.

Just as my “gimpy” flowers dance because of the sun, God wants us to reflect the light of His Son and dance for Him.

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Healing Wounds

Recently I cut myself on some jagged metal; it was a small, deep cut. I cleansed it, applied ointment, followed by a bandage. At first the wound was extremely sensitive and I carefully protected it. As it healed it began to itch forming layers of dead skin. I picked at the layers exposing new pink skin. Although the wound was healed, it was still tender to the touch.

The steps to healing a wounded spirit are similar.  To cleanse the wound an apology may be needed, some sin confessed, or a talk with the person who hurt us to gain more understanding. Giving the wound time to heal is essential; if we continue to pick at it, it will not heal properly.

Communicating with God will give insight into the issue. God can help us understand the other person better and soften the hurt or anger in our heart. Proverbs 16:6 says: “Unfailing love and faithfulness cover sin.” It’s hard to feel loving when you’re angry with someone. Yet I know from personal experience that love is the answer to relationship issues. As I’ve confessed my lack of love, God has slowly healed the wound enabling me to forgive that person and let go of my anger and my “rights.” Part of love may call for accountability for the offense or in setting boundaries with that individual. As we pray, God will give wisdom to know what’s necessary.

Love is never a wrong response–letting God change our hearts, even as we confess our own lack of love.

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Sinking the Hook

Newspaper headlines are meant to grab our attention. Editors and writers both know the importance of “sinking the hook” at first glance.

This recent intriguing title drew me in: “Few seconds of laughs for two months of work.” The article was about a comedian and the development of one of his jokes. A new joke earned “a decent laugh” so the stand-up comic revamped it a bit and next time it got a greater response.

Seeing its potential, he continued to tweak the joke, making it more precise and less wordy.  Over the next two months his joke evolved into a two-sentence bit rather than a half page story.

My writer’s mind began to make comparisons between the development of a joke and crafting a well-written piece. A creative idea comes to us and we sit down to write, getting our thoughts on paper (or computer screen). Then we go back, reread, and rewrite, paring it down so it’s readable and easy to grasp without excess verbiage.

Occasionally we decide to throw out a carefully honed paragraph because it simply doesn’t work or isn’t necessary for the piece. Even though that can hurt, we know our work was not a loss because we learned from it. We “practiced our craft” and improved our writing. The prickle of excitement that comes from our creativity settles into satisfaction at seeing progress in our written piece.

The newspaper article ended with the comedian’s quote, “No joke is ever finished.” This could also be said of our writing. However, since writing usually involves deadlines, writers develop the wisdom to know when to say, “It’s done.” At least until the editor tells us differently!

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Phantom Cries

When Emily’s four-month-old baby boy died unexpectedly, Linda, an ICU baby nurse, told her, “You’ll hear him crying at night.” Although the words sounded harsh, Linda wanted to prepare the grief stricken mom for that possibility.

In the tiny casket, surrounded by small toys and teddy bears, Shane looked like a doll dressed in little boy clothes.The bears were a gift from a local group, Infants Remembered in Silence (IRIS), that supports grieving parents. An IRIS representative met the frantic, grieving couple at the emergency room and stayed with them while the doctors worked to resuscitate their baby.

IRIS practices the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT): “He [God] is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” Someone who has experienced a similar loss can relate in a way others cannot. They are the only ones who can say, “I understand your pain.”

The young pastor who led the funeral service read many comforting Scriptures reminding us of Jesus’ compassion and special love for children. We sang, “Jesus Loves Me” and “Children of the Heavenly Father.”

Friends transported the small casket to the hearse and then to the gravesite. Shane was buried next to his great grandparents, a comfort to his grandma, Lois. It was a beautiful spring day and the birds sang, almost as if they were welcoming Shane to their peaceful home.

As a believer, I’m reassured by the promise of Christ’s love and a home for us in Heaven with him. Lois envisioned her husband, the baby’s grandpa who is already a resident there, reaching out to take little Shane in his arms to welcome him home.

Emily’s sister, Amanda, stood behind her and Eric at the gravesite with a hand on each shoulder—a gesture which said, “We’re here for you; your family will walk this journey with you.”

It’s been said that losing a child is a parent’s worst nightmare; their world is  changed forever. Phantom cries will invade their dreams, and the loss of baby Shane, will always be with them.

“Comfort them, Jesus, in their grief; draw them close to you for strength and healing in the days and months ahead. Help me to remember them in my prayers.”

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Preparing for Lent

In preparation for Lent I’ve been reading Scot McKnight’s book, “The Jesus Creed.” The author states two reasons why Jesus suffered and died on the cross: Christ’s suffering enabled him to fully identify with the human experience of pain and sorrow, and his death atoned for our sins so he could redeem us for his own.

“This grotesque suffering is God’s loving communication of sympathy in our physical suffering…. Jesus is with us—in our pain, in our suffering, in our ghoulish encounters with abuse, and in our injustices…he suffers with us.”

“Like the Passover lamb, Jesus claims that his death is vicarious as he represents us and substitutes for us. He experiences for us what we do not want but deserve (slavery and death), and provides for what we do want but don’t deserve (a life of freedom). By participating in his death, we are set free by his death.”

Twenty years ago, memories of some childhood abuse issues came back to haunt me. I counseled with my pastor who helped me face the pain of these suppressed memories. I also spent time by a lake reflecting, praying, and processing what I was learning. One day I prayed, “God, I feel like I’m drowning and going down for the third time. Please help!”

In my mind I heard Jesus say to me, “I know what you’re going through. I was rejected and abused by my own people too.” Those words assured me of his presence and gave me hope. I realized Jesus understood my pain.

In one of my counseling sessions a wave of shame passed through me; I felt dirty and disgusting. My pastor suggested I picture myself pulling off the mud that was caked on me and throwing it away. As I did that, I had another vision—that of Jesus on the cross, covered with the mud I’d just thrown off from me.

I was horrified, but he turned his head and looked at me with such compassion. Then I understood why he died. He took my sin and my shame (both my own and what others did to me) onto himself.

Although it was a painful time in my life, I learned to know and love Jesus in a deeper manner and to appreciate what he sacrificed for me so many years ago. McKnight’s words brought these memories of Jesus’ love and assurance back to me in a fresh way.

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Made to Crave

Last summer a friend from church invited other women to join her in a six-week study of Lysa Terkeurst’s book, Made to Crave. Lanette had already lost over 120 pounds. Needless to say, she was an inspiration to us.

The title intrigued me. I certainly dealt with the desire for unhealthy foods and I often gave in to them. Even though I was only a few pounds over my desired weight, I knew I did not make the best choices in my daily diet. I wanted to get control of my sugar and carbohydrate addiction.

In her introduction Terkeurst writes, “It’s not the ‘how to’ I’m missing. It’s the want to…really wanting to make changes and deciding that the results of those changes are worth the sacrifice.” Right away I was hooked. Like the author, I knew the right way to eat; I just lacked the discipline to do so. I needed a new focus.

Another simple statement jumped out at me in Chapter One: “We crave what we eat.” She goes on to say, “God made us to crave.” Before the thought, “That’s not fair,” got too firmly entrenched in my mind, she adds, “The object of our craving was never supposed to be food or other things people find themselves consumed by, such as sex or money or chasing after significance.” We were made to crave—God.

Terkeurst realistically points out it takes time to reprogram our taste buds. The more veggies and fruits we eat, the more we will crave them. The opposite is also true. By continuing to eat cookies and brownies, or chips and dip, our body and mind will believe it needs that to feel good.

God gives us power through prayer and his word to strengthen our weak wills and to make healthier choices. A verse that I chose for my motto is: 1 Corinthians 6:12 “Everything is permissible for me…but not everything is beneficial…I will not be mastered by anything.” This helps me not to feel deprived. I tell myself, “I can eat that cookie, but it’s really not good for me.” Most of the time that works for me because my goal is not just to lose weight but also to be healthy. I don’t want to be obsessed with food and treats. I believe, as stated over and over in the book, we are made for more. We are made to have a strong, healthy body and a spirit that’s connected to a loving God who wants the best for us.

It’s a challenge to make the right choices day after day. I sometimes have to readjust my focus, away from feeling deprived, to wanting to please God with the choices I make. Terkeurst suggests using our cravings as a prompt to pray.

This journey will be different for each person. For me the focus is on eating healthier foods, especially in regard to snacking. Yesterday I walked into the store and my nose was assaulted by the smell of donuts. I had to walk by them twice to drop off my prescription and then again to pick it up. I breathed a prayer for help to resist this temptation and I walked away without them in my hands.

Although I still allow myself occasional treats, I don’t let my cravings rule me. The old way of thinking that I need unhealthy food to make me feel good is no longer an option for me. On the days when my focus wavers and I fail, I don’t beat myself up but turn to my loving Friend for his help and forgiveness.

God wants us to be free of anything that weighs us down and detracts us from him. I don’t enjoy my human weaknesses, but when I turn to him and claim his strength, it forges a stronger link in my walk with him.

With God’s help I am gradually gaining victory over the “cookie monster” who has lurked in my mind and body for too many years. Thankfully he has also provided resources such as this book to guide me in my journey.

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Eating Humble Pie

I learned a lesson from my niece recently. She said, “In every sarcastic statement made by someone, even if it’s done in a teasing fashion, there’s a hint of truth.”

I was feeling impatient with her slow decision making while shopping, and I teasingly said to her, “Your mother and I are going to starve to death if you don’t make a decision soon.” Instead of hurrying the process, it made it worse. She tensed up and took even long.

Later I apologized. That’s when she made her statement to me. Her words stung, because I knew she was right. My impatience showed, even though I tried to mask it with humor.

I’m beginning to understand what the old saints from my childhood meant when they testified in church about how sinful they were. Back then I questioned, “What can they possibly be doing at their age that’s so terrible?” I knew they lived outwardly clean lives.

So now I’m one of the “old saints,” and my sinfulness shows in my attitude and actions at the most inconvenient times. It hurts others and embarrasses me.

Although I don’t enjoy being humbled, I find a little humbling is sometimes necessary to remind me not only of my sins, but also of my need to forgive others who irritate me by their humanity.

Thank God he is patient and forgiving to me.  I know I’ll need his grace and mercy for as long as I remain in this human shell.


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She’s making her list and checking it twice…

The message on my Dove chocolate wrapping read, “Do all things in love.” So, in love, I savored my daily chocolate indulgence while sipping a cup of hot coffee! Aah, a simple pleasure that always perks me up.

I thought about this message as I continued on with my activities for the day. Preparing for Christmas usually involves a lot of effort and a long “to do” list. Like everyone else, I get tired and wonder if it’s all necessary.

For myself, I could eliminate some of the preparations. But would that affect the happiness of others? My husband, Drew, loves a fresh Christmas tree. We don’t actually cut our own, but it still involves bundling up and traipsing through tree lots in search of just the right tree. After we cart it home, Drew lies on the floor and tries to harness it into the stand. My job is to hold on to it, and when it’s secure, step back to make sure it’s straight. Sometimes Drew loses patience with me if I take too long or am not specific enough in my instructions. In those moments I think about how much easier it must be to put up an artificial tree with the lights already attached. I wouldn’t have to water it daily either! But I do it because it makes my husband happy.

Then there are the Christmas cards to write out and mail, after the Christmas letter is written (my job). I know others appreciate receiving our greeting, just as I appreciate theirs. So I do it for that reason. Many of our traditions are probably preserved more out of love than anything. We know others would miss it if we stopped.

One year I didn’t bake our Christmas morning Bubble Bread and my grown children loudly protested! I didn’t realize they still cared. So now, each year I make a loaf or two to enjoy Christmas morning, along with the sweet soup Drew makes, one of his childhood traditions. He also makes krumkake, a Scandinavian pastry. Our son, Andrew, comes early to help him—a gesture of love on his part.

The time and effort we expend to do something kind for someone: taking a plate of goodies to a person unable to do their own baking, a meal to someone who’s ill, contributing to charities (especially those that help the hungry or vulnerable individuals)—to spread the joy of the season and show Christ’s love, is even more important.

As we give to others, we are blessed in return. I visited a friend yesterday to encourage her in the midst of her health problems; instead she encouraged me by her appreciation, not only for my visit, but also by the way she recounted all her blessings from God. Even though, physically, she’s unable to “do” for others, she is still using what she has to show love. Her short email message afterwards made me glad I made time to visit her.

Often we say, “it’s the little things that count,” but we may not always believe that, especially if our “to do” list looms large and long in our mind’s eye. However, as we search our memories, generally what stands out is someone’s effort to help or cheer us when we needed it.

This may be a good time to reassess our activities to decide if we are doing them because we genuinely care about other people, we enjoy preserving our traditions, or if we are just trying to impress others. Even if our reasons for doing things are positive, we may still need to adjust our attitude and not grumble about how busy we are.

I think we all enjoy and desire attention, so don’t forget to show yourself a little love by enjoying a special treat and a few moments of relaxation! It may just give us enough of a boost to finish up that pesky list.

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A Lesson in Patience

My dad was one of the most patient, loving, persons I’ve known. Even with his seven children, he rarely lost his temper. My youngest brother with Down syndrome required a tremendous amount of patience and Dad was the person who worked with him most effectively.

In one area of his life however, his usual patient attitude fell by the wayside. He hated being sick. Whenever he landed in the hospital, his first question to the doctor was “When can I go home?” Our pastor once teased him, “You know, by the time a guy reaches eighty, you’d think he’d have learned all there is to know about patience!”

Even though I’m still a ways from eighty, I recently discovered I’ve got a lot to learn in that area as well. This fall I spent two weeks at our daughter’s home with her family, which included a new baby girl. Sonja had a C section and needed help with the older children, while she concentrated on feeding her new little one, and recuperating from surgery.

I loved being there to watch the response of her five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son when they met their new sister. My grandson literally jumped up and down and clapped his hands in excitement when I told him that baby Anya had arrived safe and sound. He kept saying, “She’s born—baby Anya is born!” Then, he raced to the garage to see if Daddy had brought them home yet.

At the hospital when Mirana and Iskandar met their new sister for the first time, I cried over their sweet innocence and sense of awe at how tiny her head, hands, and feet were.

After just two days in the hospital, Sonja and the new baby came home. The children’s excitement was palpable as they exuberantly welcomed Mommy and baby home.

In the next few days the reality of how their lives had changed began to set in. They wanted their mom to take care of them like they were used to. When Grandma tried to help them, they sometimes responded with, “No, I want Mommy.”

Negotiating with children has never been my strong suit, and at times my impatience won out. That was frustrating to me, as well as them. How do you teach patience when you don’t respond that way yourself?

I felt pulled between their needs, their demands on their mama who desperately needed her rest, and my own struggle to keep the peace in order to truly be helpful to my daughter. I love my grandchildren dearly, and was disappointed with my lack of patience and endurance.

A recent article published in the Faith and Fellowship, “Faithful to the End,” by Anthony Karlik, hit home to me. He said that all believers want to hear these words of Jesus when we arrive home in Heaven someday, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Then he related some of his struggles with fear, anxiety, and lack of patience in the midst of trials.

After being hit by a car on his motorcycle, he endured multiple surgeries, weeks in the hospital, and therapy to strengthen his shattered foot and leg. He said, “Throughout this process I went through every emotion known to man. From anger with God to rage against the one who hit me…and when I could finally fight no more, the only faithful one, our Lord Jesus, came to minister to me. When I hear the passage, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ I hang my head in shame because I am not worthy to be called that. But Jesus, knowing our condition, does not leave us in that state of brokenness.”

The words of Paul in Romans 8:2 are an encouragement to all believers: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because the law of the Spirit, alive in Christ Jesus, has set me free from the law of sin and death.” Although all of us will continue to face trouble in our lives, we have a faithful Savior who will be with us, and one day when all is said and done, he will faithfully come for us.

My two-week stay with my daughter’s family was a wonderful opportunity to get to know my grandchildren better and to experience their environment, both at home and at school. As I helped get them ready for school, drove them there, and picked them up each afternoon, I could appreciate more of my daughter’s world too.

It brought back memories of my days as a young mom, the joys as well as the frustrations. However, I was a stay-at-home mom while Sonja works full time. I worry about how she will manage it all once she returns to work.

While it will be difficult, I am confident she’ll do just fine. I reminded her that I had to rely on God for his strength to get me through my days, and she’ll need to do that more and more too.

So even though I sometimes fail in my patience, God forgives me and helps me to continue on with my journey of learning and growing in His love. Even if it takes me to age eighty and beyond to learn the lesson of patience!

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