Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Tonight, at seconds before midnight, we start the count down.  We yell it all together, some in unison with the TV, or led by the host at a party, or maybe you are tucked into bed already. We count those last seconds: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 -- Happy New Year!  When we were children, we would run outside after mid-night and bang on pots. After becoming of age, it was all about who you were with and who you would kiss first at midnight.  And we would drink champagne together.  But you had to wait for the countdown to be over. 

Time is great like that.  It is linear and predictable.  Sunset is at 4:39 pm. I can google it and see.  Sunrise is promised at 7:21 am tomorrow morning.  I can count on it.

Life is not like that.  I can't have a countdown on my life.  I don't know when the last second will be, the last hour, the last day, the last year.  I am old enough that I have not only seen the end of a year, but I have seen the end of decades.  Indeed, I have seen the end of a century.  I saw them coming and could plan. I could countdown.   

But I can't see the end of my life.

Maybe because I am approaching age 60, I am thinking of these things more.  My grandmother passed away at age 60, so my mom was understandably anxious as this age drew near for her.  But God in His mercy, has allowed her to see age 85.  25 more years and counting.  

What do we do as the time runs down on the hour glass?  How do we countdown, not for the New Year, but for our life?

This morning I saw this sweet scripture from the prophet Isaiah; a message from a loving God:

At that same time, a fine [pleasant, beautiful, fruitful] vineyard [God's people] will appear.
    There’s something to sing about!
I, God, tend it. I keep it well-watered.
    I keep careful watch over it so that no one can damage it.
I’m not angry. I care.
    Even if it gives me thistles and thornbushes, I’ll just pull them out and burn them up.
Let that vine [God's people] cling to Me for safety, let it find a good and whole life with Me,
    let it hold on for a good and whole life.”  (Isaiah 27:2-5, The Message)

At the end of my life, whether it is sudden, or a the long journey of a disease, I am with God, because I have clung to Him for safety.  I may not be able to countdown, and I do not know the time, but when it is time, I am sure of where I will be.  With Him.  He promises because He wants us to be confident, that even if we do not know the time, and we do not know the way, when we cling to Him, we are safe.  

God is keeping careful watch over me.  He tends to me.  He reminds me -- and I love this!! -- He is not angry with me.  He takes all my nasty deeds, all my mistakes and He pulls them out and burns them up!  But for me, myself, God promises He cares for me and not only wants to give me heaven with Him forever, but a  good and whole life.   

Now, there’s something to sing about!  

Father, I praise You!  I am overwhelmed by Your great love for me.  In 2014, let me sing and tell all I meet of Your beautiful, faithful love.  Let them see it in my life and desire Your peace too!

Let them take hold of My strength and make complete surrender to My protection, that they may make peace with Me! Yes, let them make peace with Me! (Isaiah 27:5 The Voice)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Fatigue

It happens every year.  The children say "Is it here yet??"  The exhausted moms ask, "Is it over yet??"

Shopping and decorating and Christmas cards and baking and cleaning and cooking and entertaining and more cleaning.  As Thanksgiving approached I promised myself I'll do better this year.  I'll buy less, I'll do less, I'll start early.  By mid-December I walked into work and declared, "I hate Christmas!" to whoever was listening.  On December 23 I was mailing Christmas cards.  Before 8 am on December 24, I was in ShopRite at the fish department, sneaking in one last purchase on my way to work.  So much for good intentions!

Who says this is the most wonderful time of the year?

And yet, in the end, it is. The miracle of the Prince of Peace.  The whole month included sweet memories of family and faith.   

Like my grandson, putting our plastic manger people in place, all appropriately facing baby Jesus, while singing "Salvation is here! Salvation is here and He lives in me..." Of course the best part was as he was singing, he was shooting at the plastic sheep with his elastic band gun.  Don't you just love boys?  

Then there was decorating the Christmas tree with my daughter Debbie, giggling as we struggled to get the lights around the back of the tree.  And my daughter Christina going to IKEA to buy herself a desk with the Christmas/birthday money we gave her, only to come home instead with a new bed for her son. What an unexpected treat it was to be able to attend the church service on Christmas eve and still have time to cook the special fish and pasta dinner for our family.  How I thrilled today to see the delight on my mom's face to receive the simple presents I gave her.  How sweet it was to watch my mother-in-law enjoying the lasagna I made for the family--her recipe that she can no longer make because of her dementia.  What a joy to see the pleasure of my grandson over the Pokemon cards I found at the dollar store. In the midst of the sea of crumbled Christmas wrapping paper in my living room, the dark cloud lifted and I saw truth.  

Yes, there was a lot of work.  Yes, it was a lot of stress.  It was not one day.  It was a month of extra effort.  But there was blessings in the family time because we had to do things together.  It was a time of building memories and opportunities to share faith.  

And isn't true that anything worthwhile involves work and sacrifice? 

Father, forgive me.  I focused on all the wrong things.  Christmas is about the cousins having time together, thinking about blessing family with special gifts, remembering old friends with cards and notes and photos.  All these things to squeezed into one month and it takes extra time.  It never needed to be post card perfect.  Your birth was certainly not about perfection. It was all about entering our mess at the lowest point, embracing our misery to help us understand Your love and Your desire to save us.  Christmas is about sacrifice, and I have not been willing.

It is not about creating the perfect holiday, it is about embracing the truth of the mess we live in, finding Jesus in each face, and making the sacrifice of love required to be a blessing to them, in His name.  

Thank You for changing my heart and helping me see Your beauty in it all.   Thank You for coming and changing everything.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Mother is an Amazing Woman!

To celebrate my mom, Louise Micchelli, on her 85th birthday.

Tomorrow my mom will be 85.  It's hard to believe.  Mom continues to be articulate, well dressed, and active, spending her days caring for her home and socializing with friends and family. She looks and acts more like 65.

Princess Louise in yards of Tulle
and Lace on her wedding day
Mom was always young in my eyes.  My favorite first memory of her was watching her apply make up.  Although she is a woman who never left the house without "putting on her face" as she called it, she always had a natural beauty.  Vivacious, witty, lovely, intelligent, extremely social, mom should have had sisters.  Instead she is an only child. To make up for the lack of family, she adopted people.  Often her friends were younger than she, because she had a youthful spirit. Married to my dad, who came from a family of nine siblings, she embraced them as her own.  The life of every party, she enjoys dinners out and all social gatherings.  If there is music and dancing too, that is even better.

Mom loves drama and stories.  She watched soap operas all of her life.  I remember coming home for lunch when in elementary school and she would have the TV on and we would watch "her stories" together as we ate.  Afterwards, we would discuss the characters and their lives.  There were no taboo subjects with her.  She would talk about anything.  At the dinner table, with the five of us, (mom, dad, my grandfather, brother and me) there were no "girl" subjects and "boy" subjects.  We all would debate everything together.

Mom was born ahead of her time and embraced the Women's Liberation movement during the 60s and 70s with a passion.  She wore mini-skirts and halter tops and could pull it off too!  When I became a young woman, we often shared clothes, because her figure and styles were youthful.  Her motto was "if you've got it, flaunt it!"  She did and she did!

On the practical side, Mom encouraged me to attend college and to pursue a career.  She never said to me "you can't do that," or "that would be very hard for you," or "girls don't fill-in-the-blank."  Mom passionately insisted I could become whatever I wanted.

Mom herself went the traditional route. After high school, she worked as a secretary, got married at age 23, built a brick house a few miles from her parents, and then settled down to have a girl then a boy. She stayed home with us until she was just too bored and tired of not having enough money.

Wanting something better for me, she never tired of telling me that I was beautiful, smart, and talented.  She is my most enthusiastic supporter and my biggest fan. Encouragement is mom's greatest gift, continuing to fill me with the confidence and courage to try new things and to not give up when faced with failure.
Mom at 85 with Debbie and me

The other side of the coin is her gift of truth.  Our family valued truth above all.  Her dad, my grandfather often said "Lies have short legs."  Mom always told me the truth, even when it was not what I wanted to hear.  In retrospect, she told me things no one else would have told me.  Blunt and honest but loving, she always had my best interests at heart.  Whether we agreed or not, I was always certain of her acceptance of me.

Mom, you are an amazing woman, and I am so grateful to God you are still going strong at age 85.  You have taught me, and your granddaughters as well, that there is nothing we cannot do.  As a result, we try. And that is amazing.

Father God, thank You for the special woman You gave me that I call Mom.  Forgive me for not always appreciating her and showing kindness to her. Help her to know how much she has contributed to all the good things in my life, just because she was loving, encouraging and honest. Bless her with many more healthy and joyful years, and when it is over, bring her home to Your loving arms forever. 

...Do not forsake your mother’s teaching (Proverbs 1:8b)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Her delight and desire are in the law of the Lord

Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the woman
who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly
[following their advice, their plans and purposes], 
nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk,
nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather.

But her delight and desire are in the law of the Lord,
and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God)
she habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night.
(Psalm 1:1-2 Amplified,
pronouns are changed, well, because He meant us too!)

So the end of the 31 days have come and there were a lot of words, but if I was to sum it up, I would used these verses. 

To be totally transparent, what I have done in the last 31 days is just what King David says here in Psalm 1. I have made it a habit of every night to meditate, ponder and study the teachings of God. I have nothing to offer of myself that is of value.  Only His Word gives life.  So what He has shared with me, I have shared here with you too.

In the end I found I have been wonderfully blessed by this exercise, beyond what I could have imagined. As I considered His Word, I compared it not to what I knew but how I was living, and God in His mercy has revealed much to me. But more than that, He has changed my heart.

Becoming an Excellent Wife does not come by compiling a list of rules, gritting our teeth, rolling up our sleeves and working harder. It comes by desiring and delighting in God, reading His love letter to us, and allowing His beauty to become our own.  

Most of my prayers ended up by asking God to increase my faith.  Faith does not come by anything we can do ourselves.  Trusting God comes about in the same way you learn to trust anyone else.  It begins by hanging around Him and seeing demonstrations of faithfulness day by day.  As we read His Word, and talk to Him in prayer, and see His working things out in our lives, we see and then believe that God is faithful, full of peace, joy, kindness, and mercy. 

And the more we are with Him, the more we are too.   

I know that part of being an Excellent Wife for me is having an husband who loves me tenderly and completely.  It makes everything so much easier.  That is a great mercy and I am grateful.

But in my experience, during good times and in bad, choosing the path of God's ways brings peace and fruitfulness.

And she shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything she does shall prosper [and come to maturity]. (Psalm 1:3, Amplified)

Father, yes, I want to be like that, a tree firmly planted, ready to bring forth fruit!  I know it is not by anything I can do.  All these traits I have discovered of the Excellent Wife are ultimately impossible to do apart from Your Spirit.  As I continue on my journey, I ask You to hold my hand and lead me to the best paths.  I rejoice that even when I am faithless You are faithful!  I ask that You cover over all the mistakes I have made and work all for good.  You are so good at that.  You are so good.  Thank You. Thank You.

I pray a double blessing for all who read this, that You would let them see how Beautiful and True and Trustworthy You are always.  I pray that in their marriages and in their families, You would give them the desires of their hearts, and beyond. Amen.

Begin over at the beginning: the 31 Days start by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In Everything

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:24)

It comes back again and again.  Submit, serve, be subject to.  It is not in just one place, it's all over.  How can we ignore it?  So we look at it again, one last time before we are done with this topic.

Reading this again I noticed a few things: 

First, as believers, we are all urged to submit humbly to one another.  It is not just wives to husbands, but also husband to wives, and ultimately each one to another.  Humility is the norm, putting your needs before my needs.  If our model is Jesus, we need to submit to each other as He submitted to the Father and served us.

Second, there needs to be a leader.  Leaders are important.  Some one needs to be responsible for where a group is headed. In a school, that is the principal.  In a business, that is the boss.  In the church, that is Christ.  In the marriage, it is the husband.  It is not us wives.  Sorry, it's not. No matter what our opinion is of that fact, it is truth presented.  Without a leader, or with multiple people trying to lead at the same time, there is confusion, chaos, and conflict.   

Third, husbands are not told to whip their wives into shape and make them submit and serve. Husbands are not told they are more important or better than their wives.  Submission is a choice between equals. 

And really, what is the other choice?  The other option is to do whatever we want to do, careless of the impact on our husbands and children.  The other choice is selfish and prideful.  And as that model plays out in the family, each member looks out for their own needs.  There is inevitable strife and broken relationships.  No wonder that a God who loves us tells us to submit to each other.

Fourthly, Paul doesn't tell us to submit conditionally.  He doesn't say submit when you are comfortable about it, when our husbands are obviously right, and demonstrate that he has the best interest of the family at heart.  No, Paul tells us to submit in everything.

Wonder what he means by that?

I think it means that we should submit to our husbands in everything.  And that is hard.  Really hard.   

Submission, humility, serving one another in love is not natural to us humans.  It requires the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.  Only by the Spirit is this possible. 

The good news is Jesus first submitted to His Father. He first loved us so much that He left Paradise and came to the earth to serve us and save us. He was more than our teacher, He did something. Through His death, He broke the power of sin. Through His resurrection, He broke the power of death. Through His Spirit, He empowers us to live in His supernatural way, empowering us to choose the better path.  The path of submitting to our husbands, respectfully, in all things.

Father, fill me with Your Spirit so it is possible for me to make this better choice of selfless humility.  Remind me, it is the better path, especially when I am afraid.  Let me not make excuses and make exceptions but take You at Your Word. In Everything.

And the Spirit makes it possible to submit humbly to one another out of respect for Christ. Wives, it should be no different with your husbands. Submit to them as you do to the Lord, for God has given husbands a sacred duty to lead as Christ leads the church and serves as the head. (The church is His body; He is her Savior.)  So wives should submit to their husbands, respectfully, in all things, just as the church yields to Christ. (Ephesians 5:21-24 The Voice) 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A life that agrees with true teaching

You, however, must tell everyone how to live in a way that agrees with the true teaching.... Teach the older women to live the way those who serve the Lord should live. They should not go around saying bad things about others or be in the habit of drinking too much. They should teach what is good. By doing this they will teach the younger women to love their husbands and children. They will teach them to be wise and pure, to take care of their homes, to be kind, and to be willing to serve their husbands. Then no one will be able to criticize the teaching God gave us. (Titus 2:1,3-5)

Here Paul, the great teacher, was teaching another teacher, his son in the faith, Titus. Thus this instruction is not only for the teacher but also meant to be a blessing to the Christian community where Titus ministers. 

It shows an important principal: It is not only about us.

As we mother, as we care for our family, our daughters watch us and they
learn.  We can tell them things, but in the end, they learn more from observation than from anything we say.  

They watch how we treat each other, how we talk about each other.  Are we critical, mean spirited, condescending, quick to spread a nasty but oh, so interesting tale? Or are we kind, generous and loving?

Do we numb ourselves with little pleasures?  Not only drinking but shopping,  mindless TV or internet browsing, or other non-productive pastimes that lure us away from the business of loving and serving our family?  Or do we willingly and joyfully serve our husbands and children?  Are we wise and pure?

Living a life that honors God and agrees with true teaching is the goal.  It passes the baton of faith because our children see faith being lived out.  Plus our children feel the affects of our love for them.  Our service to them produces good character, strong self-image, and confidence to face life's difficulties.  It enables them to love and serve their own families because they have seen how it works and that it works.

But let's be honest: it is hard to continue to serve others, to put their needs ahead of our own, especially when often what we do is unseen and unappreciated.  That is when it is advantageous to be a Christ-follower, because Christ did this so well:  

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

Jesus knows how we feel.  He felt how we feel.  Except He did it perfectly all the time.  And He has sent His Spirit to live inside us so that we can live this life that agrees with true teaching.  

I can't do it, really.  But He is faithful, He will do it. 

Jesus, I don't know how You did it.  I struggle day by day still, but I want this, I know it works.  Beloved make me better tomorrow than I was today: avoiding gossip and frivolous pastimes. Help me lovingly serve my husband, daughters and grandson with a pure heart like You did. Thank You that when I fail, there is Your grace to catch me!  My gratitude is beyond words.     

Monday, October 28, 2013

Let nothing terrify you

For it was thus that the pious women of old who hoped in God were [accustomed] to beautify themselves and were submissive to their husbands [adapting themselves to them as themselves secondary and dependent upon them].
It was thus that Sarah obeyed Abraham [following his guidance and acknowledging his headship over her by] calling him lord (master, leader, authority). And you are now her true daughters if you do right and let nothing terrify you [not giving way to hysterical fears or letting anxieties unnerve you]. (1 Peter 3:5-6 Amplified)
Don't you love Peter's train of thought here: Want to be beautiful?  Then be submissive and follow your husband's lead.  But it can lead to hysterical fears and anxieties that can unnerve you.  Great, Pete.  Have any other suggestions?  How about a nice spa treatment with a pedicure?
Can we be perfectly honest here?  Being submissive can be terrifying.
Sarah was a excellent example.  Following her husband Abraham's lead got her into two very difficult predicaments. First when in Egypt, Abraham lied and said she was not his wife and she ended up in  Pharaoh's palace. Decades later, Abraham does the same thing again and Sarah ends up in another king's palace.  Both passages of scripture are just a few sentences long so we can gloss over the fact that Sarah must have been terrified.  I certainly would have been.  Clearly in both of these cases, Abraham made wrong decisions for purely selfish motives.  Despite that, clearly Sarah went along with him and what he wanted to do.  
He was her authority and it was terrifying. 
Nothing this drastic has happened to me and yet, I can get unnerved and near hysterical when I am absolutely sure that Al is wrong.  I am right and if he would only list to me, if he would only follow me, submit to my authority, let me lead....
But God protected Sarah in both cases and it worked out well for her.  I am cognizant of that fact that this is just what happened to Sarah, and it is not a promise of the Lord.  And yet, He says I am Sarah's daughter when I am like her.  I am beautiful when I submit to my own husband.  The quiet and gentle spirit that is just not a part of me naturally.  But the Holy Spirit in me makes it possible.
And yet, I am reminded that when I submit to Al, as God tell us to submit to one another, I am really submitting to God.  I am really trusting God.   The only other option is to try to force the other person into submitting to you.  
Anyone can see how that is downright ugly.
Father, I want to obey You, but it can be uncomfortable at best and frightful at worse.  Hold me tight and remind me that I can trust You even when I feel like I cannot trust him.  Let me adapt myself to Al out of love for You.  Help me to follow his guidance and acknowledge his headship over me, because You have give him that headship and I can trust You.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

a quiet and gentle spirit

Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes.  You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. (1 Peter 3:3-4)

I was never good at that: quiet and gentle.  I was always more loud, outspoken, and forceful.  I thought those were good things.  Honest, authentic, expressive, that's good, right?  Action is good, right?  How will anyone know what is right if they are not instructed?  How is anything going to get done if I don't take action? How is the Kingdom supposed to advance if I don't push it?

Honestly, I did not see the problem.  Now I do.

A quiet spirit is one who trusts God.  A gentle spirit is one who respects others.  I don't need to straighten everyone else out, that's God's job.  I don't need to force things, even God does not do that.  Jesus is gentle, He works things gently so that they are redeemed for good.

Not only out in the world, but in my home, with my husband, with my adult daughters, I can have a quiet and gentle spirit, trusting the all knowing, all powerful, all loving God to work things out in their lives. And in my life with them.

When I am not doing this I am anxious, wrought up.  I am worried, trying to manipulate and control the situation.  When I let God handle it, I have peace, and my nature is charming.  I am beautiful in an unfading and incorruptible way. 

That's what I want to be.  Beautiful.  Like that.

Father keep reminding me to let You be God.  Help me to have this quiet and gentle spirit.  And I will give YOU all the glory because it is certainly not me!

But let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which [is not anxious or wrought up, but] is very precious in the sight of God. (Amplified)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Without a Word

In the same way, wives, you should patiently accept the authority of your husbands. This is so that even if they don’t obey God’s word, as they observe your pure respectful behavior, they may be persuaded without a word by the way you live. (1 Peter 3:1-2 The Voice)

Yesterday my friend Sue was telling us about an incident in her home where, during a commercial break, her husband made a statement about women in front of their son, and she thought it was dead wrong.  So she said so in no uncertain terms.  We all nodded in agreement with her assessment of the situation.  Then I asked her: "What was your husband's response?"  Not a good one, she told us, "He can be so stubborn. 

Yep, I have one of those too.

This is what I have learned: Just because I have something important to say, even if I am right, and he is wrong, doesn't mean I should say it.  Because the object of the game is to influence him. I have found that sometimes it is better to be silent and to be prayerful.  Other times when I do speak, I must be gentle, and respectful. That is the best way to influence him. 

Honestly, it is not only that he is stubborn.  Often I am harsh, unkind and disrespectful.
Ultimately, I need to be patient and wait for God's Holy Spirit to change hearts, whether it is my husband or my daughters or someone else.  People are more influenced by my life and character, than by what I tell them is right.  And often I find God is telling me to get out of His way, shut up and just pray.
Father, lately I have been convicted of speaking too much and praying too little.  My behavior demonstrates I trust my words more than the work of Your Holy Spirit working in the hearts and minds of those who I love.  Forgive me!  Help me know when to be quiet and when to speak.  When I speak, let me speak in kindness and with respect.  Let me pray always with confidence that You are mighty and You love us. Again, it all comes back to trusting You.
Let those around me be captivated by my life of  holy beauty because I worship and trust You alone!
The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty. (The Message)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Share the Holiness

And if you are married, stay married... If you are a woman with a husband who is not a believer but he wants to live with you, hold on to him. The unbelieving husband shares to an extent in the holiness of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is likewise touched by the holiness of her husband. Otherwise, your children would be left out; as it is, they also are included in the spiritual purposes of God. (1 Corinthians 4:10, 14 The Message)

This was me for 18 years.  I was the woman with an unbelieving husband.  Well, not that he did not believe in God, it was just that believing did not make a significant difference in his life.  Both of us were living like that when we got married in 1981, but for me, in 1988, my faith became alive and suddenly Jesus made a difference in everything.

At first, although Al did not share the passion for God that had ignited in my heart, he loved me, so we stayed together. When I found these verses, they gave me hope.

It is hard to hold tight to your faith when those in your household do not.  But it is my experience that this is true: your presence allows others around you to be touched by the holiness.  It's like reverse contamination.  As Jesus touched the leper and healed him in Matthew 8:2-3, the Holy Spirit within us will bless those around us in our home.  The NIV calls this sanctification, and the Amplified expands on it: the unbelieving husband is set apart (separated, withdrawn from heathen contamination, and affiliated with the Christian people) by union with his consecrated (set-apart) wife.  

By us staying married, being an Excellent Wife to a husband who is unable yet to be a Christian husband, we are giving him the best gift ever: we are allowing him to be sanctified, to be made holy too.  It was 2006, 18 years later, when Al came alive to faith in Jesus. Through the mercy of God, I was able to continue in faith all that time without him. 

During those 18 years, every day that I loved Al and trusted Jesus brought Al one step closer to a saving faith.  It was long.  It was hard.  It was so worth it.

If you are married, stay married.  Because God is faithful. He will bless you, your husband and your children.

Father, thank You for holding onto me and bringing others around me to comfort me and pray for Al when I was losing heart.  His conversion has encouraged me more than anything else in my life. Because it took such a long time, it became a huge miracle.  

Remind me this principal works for all those around me: my presence with them means the Holy Spirit is present too and having an impact in their lives.  Continue to strengthen me to be an influence for Your Kingdom!

Read more about our coming to faith: click here.      

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Do not deprive each other

Because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs.  The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.

Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:2-5, New Living Translation)

No discussion of the Excellent Wife is complete unless we talk about sex.  Ah, yes, sorry, and this is the day. In ministering to women I have found that the young unmarried girls need to be reminded NOT to have sex, but the married women need to be reminded to HAVE SEX.  

Yes, you heard it here.  If you have a husband, you need to have sex.  With him of course.  Yes, don't even wait to finish reading this blog entry, go, go now, find him!

Ha!  It is interesting that God knew that too.  We need to remind ourselves that when we are married, we are all in.  Even our bodies are not our own anymore.  And just because we don't feel in the mood, or are too tired, or he has gained weight, or I have gained weight, or too many little dirty sticky hands have touched me today and so now Don't! Touch! Me! 

Yes. I know.  I've lived there too.

But my husband has promised to be faithful to me.  There is no other healthy outlet for sex and affection for Al than me.  I need to fulfill that role if I am to love him well. Because if I am saying no, I am depriving him.  

And when I say yes, even when I don't feel like it in the beginning, in the end I do.  

So now, I am going! Goodnight! 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

a helper suitable for him

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

Up to this point in creation, everything God created was "good" until this part.  It was not good for the man to be alone.  

I see that in everyday life.  Men need something that is not innately inside of them.  I see it in men who live most of their life as single. Men need a "helper suitable."
Al, my hero, on the Beach House roof
I saw this the other day when we had a few days off together at our beach cottage.  Al could have done the last work items of our beach house alone, but he was more motivated to complete the jobs in front of him when he had his "helper suitable" with him, and that was me!

We did lots of things inside because the weather was rainy but then on our last day there, Al announced he had to go on the roof to seal some of the shingles flapping in the wind.  So here he is, my hero, on the roof.  Ok, it's only a small one story cottage on a cement slab so it's not really that high, but wait, how did he get up there?

The Ladder: How Al got on the roof!
Ok, so this is his ladder.  Don't laugh!  He is very proud of this ladder.  His dad made it himself and it is two parts, held together by sliding the one section into a metal sleeve.  The ladder got wet during Super Storm Sandy. The metal is rusted and the wood has black spots from the mold even after I bleached it three times.  Al refused to throw it out because his dad made it.  

But the pertinent information is this: Al actually uses this ladder to climb on the roof.  

My role?  Hold the ladder.

Maybe it is not a glamorous job, but it's very important.  

I think the Excellent Wife does that.  She is available, willing and able to do the dirty jobs, the mundane duties, and the tiresome tasks that are vital to her husband's life.

Because when you have someone to hold your ladder, you can get to higher places, you can get their safely and with more confidence.  In the end, all good things for Al are also for me.  It is my beach cottage as well as his.  It is my roof as well as his.  I thank God he is willing to go on the roof in the first place and I certainly want him to be safe. 

Holding the ladder, watching him work encourages him and he feels loved.  It's important.  Matter of fact, scripture tells us: That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24).

Father, I don't always like hanging around watching Al work, holding his ladder. This last time, I was struck by how valuable that role is, how God-ordained and God-honoring it is.  Encourage me to do it more often, with more of a smile.  Thank you for letting me see.

What is your husband's ladder?  How can you hold it for him?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

let her own works praise her

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:31)

I was one of those moms who hung up every piece of artwork my daughters created.  Our front porch looked like a preschool class room because I would tape up all their drawings and paintings there. It didn't matter if they were outstanding or mediocre, I displayed their work.  Because I loved them, every piece was special.

The next generation: Gio's artwork

In the end, I think that is how God sees us.  If we feared God, if we tried our best, what we have done delights Him.  He celebrates it.  What we have accomplished deserves public praise.

We nurtured our children.  We were devoted to our husbands.  We helped neighbors and friends. We cared for our home.  It may all seem mediocre to us, but to God, it was outstanding.

Because we are His daughters and He loves us.  And every one of us are special to Him.

Celebrate all she has achieved. Let all her accomplishments publicly praise her. (Proverbs 31:31 The Voice)

Father, what can I say but Thank You!  You are wonderful beyond words! You always give us the best not because we deserve it but because You are merciful and loving and faithful.  Forever. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

the bridge people

It is hard to get Harlem out of my mind, even two days later.

One of the most memorable parts was the people who lived under the bridge, close to where the Relief Bus was set up.  They never came over to visit us, but some of the men went to visit them, specifically to pick up several bags of their garbage.

"The stench there is awful," one of the neighbors confided in me.  "The police will stop them if they try to pee there, but they won't take them off the street."  Indeed, the bridge people did not want to leave their home under the bridge.  There is a homeless shelter, a detox program and affordable housing nearby but they choose--they CHOOSE--to live under the bridge. The neighbor shook his head as if to say: this is foolishness.  And it is. 

But are we that different? 

Today at work a client asked  for a service that was not in the best interest of their community.  I started to tell him exactly what I thought, but thankfully I was more prayed up today than usual and stayed silent. Afterwards I though, "He's just like the bridge people!" He had been making a series of foolish choices and this was in line with the rest of them.

It is always so easy to point out the bridge people.  It is harder to see my own bridge.  The bridge is a place of comfort and familiarity, the place I stay in spite of the fact that I know it is not in my best interest. I think I am right and not open to what anyone else thinks.  

But because I was more prayed up than usual, I prayed the scary prayer: "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24)

Translation: Lord please show me my bridge!

The day went on and tonight I went to a special praise and prayer service, based on Isaiah 6:1-10.  Isaiah had been given a vision of God, "high and lifted up and the train of His robe filled the temple."  Upon seeing the awesomeness of God, Isaiah feared and realized his inadequacy.  His response was, "Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips..." It was a cry of confession, because now Isaiah saw the Lord and realized he should fear Him.

Confession is the response to the fear of a holy and awesome God.  In God's presence we realize He is totally perfect, too beautiful to even look at it, and we are hopelessly flawed. 

Confession is the path to restoration with God.  And also with each other.  

And I confess to you that I don't confess nearly enough!  Confession should be a part of daily prayer and I don't do it.  I am so much better than I was that I think I am done. It is such a gut wrenching feeling when I honestly see my own sin that I don't want to look to close and see it.  

Often I don't look at all.  But I need too.  How can I expect my children to when I don't?  How can I expect my husband to when I don't? The answer: I can't!!

Pastor Tim was an outstanding example as always.  Confession of his own person flaws are often part of his sermons.  Tonight after he preached about confession and asked us to write our confessions down on posters on the church walls, he was the first to grab a marker go to the wall and start writing.  

Father, confession is a tender privilege of the redeemed.  You don't want to call me out and embarrass me.  You don't intend to turn Your back to reject me.  You are not surprised at my sin, only I am! You desire to restore me to Yourself and to these others here in my house, neighborhood, office, and church whom I love.  Father help me not to point at others' bridges and feel self-righteous but to allow You to show me my own.  Help me take the time and have the courage to do this.  

Ok, I have to ask you---what is YOUR bridge?  Why are you not leaving for a better place?  It's stinky there.  Just saying.       

Sunday, October 20, 2013

a woman who fears the Lord

... a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. (Proverbs 31:30b)

What does it mean to fear the Lord anyway? This theme repeats over and over in Proverbs and yet seems to stand in conflict with this verse from 1 John 4:18:

We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; His perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what He might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what He might do to us and shows that we are not fully convinced that He really loves us.

Worse, the definition of fear reads like this: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Also horror, alarm, panic, agitation, trepidation, dread.

This is our loving God?  I don't think so.

In this case, fear means deep respect for someone or something, high esteem, high regard, admiration, appreciation.

Fear of the Lord means understanding how big, how awesome, how powerful, how great God really is.  It translates into trusting His Word, and it is expressed by obedience to His commands.

The fact of the matter is, God is big and powerful and He can hurt us.  In that respect, it is foolish not to fear Him!  But on the other hand, He is tender and loving and has gone to great lengths, to the earth and back literally, to restore our relationship with Him and to arrange for us to be with Him forever in Heaven.

The Excellent Wife -- at the core of who she is, she fears the Lord.  It is the why behind her good character, purity, servant's heart.  Her relationship with God is the primary one for her and the influence of that relationship spills into everything she does, all that she is.

Proverbs begins with this theme, contrasting fear with foolishness: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)  The Excellent Wife seeks wisdom and accepts instruction.  She is willing to learn.  She does not feel she knows it all, or knows better.  She is willing to come to the Lord to find wisdom.

Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God.
For the Lord grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.

He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to Him. (Proverbs 2:3-8 New Living)

Wisdom is something God gives.  We can find it no where else.  But we have to seek it, ask for it.  God never forces us.

Father, I don't always want to come and ask You!  Honestly , even still, sometimes I just want to have my own way, do what I want.  I say I want to be wise, but not enough to search Your Word and obey it.  In wisdom, there is submission to truth and submission is hard.  Forgive me, Father.  You have given me so many reasons to trust You! In the end I do need to believe that You are good and You really loves me.  

I believe!  Help my unbelief!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Inner Beauty

Charm can be deceptive and physical beauty will not last... (Proverbs 31:30a, The Voice)

The Relief Bus: What's a human life worth? Everything!
Today I went on the Relief Bus to Harlem where I met Angel.  Angel is a totally endearing mentally challenged man who has lived in Harlem all his life and been following the Relief Bus for seven years.  During that time, he has experienced hardship and successes and today, he shared some of that with me.  I listened patiently as he struggled with some of the words, but it was so worth the time because of the sweetness of his story.  And after he was done telling me his story he smiled broadly with the relief of someone unburdened and he said "You are beautiful, just as beautiful as Johanna."  

Now Johanna was the Relief Bus team leader, young, blond and beautiful, but not only physically. She has the inward beauty of one who loves God, trusts Him throughly and serves Him continually.  I was so thrilled that Angel compared me to Johanna because in the brief time we had been together today serving, I was absolutely impressed by her too.

If there is any beauty that Johanna and I shared, it was based on the Spirit of Jesus.     

Physical beauty will not last.  How well I know!  I look in mirror these days and I scare myself: Who is that old woman in the mirror? My goodness, it's ME!  But there is a better beauty that does not fade, in fact, can grow deeper and richer with age.  And that is the beauty of faith--the inner peace and joy that comes from fearing the Lord.

... but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30b)  

Father, today I was more radiant than usually because we praised You and prayed on the trip into NYC.  Your loveliness doesn't aways show up so well on my face.  Help me to spend more time in worshiping You in the morning and praying to You before I start my day.  This way I can be more beautiful to all I meet and be Your instrument to bring in Your Kingdom.  

You too can share love of Christ with those in need, volunteer for the Relief bus by clicking here!  Hope to see you there. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

But you excel them all

...Her husband boasts of and praises her, saying: Many daughters have done virtuously, nobly, and well [with the strength of character that is steadfast in goodness], but you excel them all. (Proverbs 31:28-28, Amplified)

When I was growing up, we never missed the Miss America Pageant. I would sit with my mom and we would pick our favorites in all the categories. We liked the contest because it wasn't just about beauty.  It was about talent, intelligence and character as well. As a girl, I would imagine how it would feel to be crowned Miss America, the best of them all, receiving the roses and the crown while Burt Parks sang, "There she is, Miss America..."

However, even as a girl, I was smart enough to know that Miss America was out of my league. But I could dream and so it went.

I would like to think my marriage has lasted 32 years because of my virtuous character and hard work, but I am sure it is all God's mercy.  God's mercy in closing doors that led to dangerous places, His redirecting me when I was being foolish, His blessing me with health and strength, but mostly His blessing me with a good man.  

My husband Al remarked about me a recent Facebook post: "Yes, she is a Excellent mom and wife, always caring for her family. I don't know where she finds the strength to care for us all. I love her more each passing year. God has truly Blessed us in our growing loving relationship. Love You , Dear."

Truly, Al's kind words about me is better than any Miss America crown! 

Regardless of how I am doing, it is a mercy that Al appreciates and praises me.  It is a blessing of God because Life is NOT Fair and many daughters have done virtuously and nobly and well but their husband don't express appreciation for them.  

Although even if Al did not compliment or value me, virtue is it's own reward.   

Father, thank you for the gift of my husband! Thank You that he loves and appreciates me and often expressed his these feeling to me.  Thank You that he thinks I am still beautiful even now at an age when my natural beauty has begun to fade.  Remind my sisters who are not as fortunate that You appreciate their integrity and that virtue is always it's own reward.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Her children rise

Her children rise up and call her blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied); and her husband boasts of and praises her.  (Proverbs 31:27, Amplified)

Children.  When they were little, mine always loved me. They thought I was wonderful, always right, perfect just as I was.  Then as the teen years creeped in, and the inevitable happened.  They began to look at me critically and see the flaws. The flaws were always there, but now, they can see them. No longer did they trust me so much because now they knew I was not always wonderful, right or perfect.  They were disappointed.  So was I. 

When they were young I was wonderful
In retrospect, I think that one of our goals as moms should be to not have our kids hate us by the time they are 25.  On the other hand we must discipline them and that never makes us popular.  

But it not about being popular.  The point is for us to have such good character, that even our adult children will look at us and recognize our virtue.

It is easy to look good when we are out in the office, with friends, at church, dressed our best, put together and on our best behavior.  It is much more difficult in the close up, in-your-face, from-sun-up-to-sun-down realism of family life.  The people who live with us know us.  We cannot hide from them.  Our true self comes through.  So if our children and husband say good things about us, we have succeeded.  

I spend too much energy making sure I look successful to other people, to be successful.  In the end I want my children to rise up, as if to applaud and say I am happy, fortunate, to be envied.  I want my daughters to be able to say good things about me.  I want my husband to boast and brag about me.  That is how I will know I am a successful woman.  I want to have the kind of integrity that shines through even close up.  That alone is my yardstick.

Father, remind me that what is inside of me comes out, especially at home.  Help me to watch over my heart and my attitudes as well as my actions.  Fill me up to love others not only during the day, but also at the exhausted end of the day, when I am home.   

Her children say good things about her. Her husband brags about her. (Easy-to-Read version)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bread of Idleness

She looks well to how things go in her household, and the bread of idleness (gossip, discontent, and self-pity) she will not eat. (Proverbs 31:27, Amplified)

I am a type-A person. I find it hard to sit still.  Especially when I am at home, I am always doing something, always moving (except when I am here doing this blogging thing!)  There is an endless amount of work to do here: dishes to wash, cups to fill with juice, counters to wipe, toilets to scrub, crumbs to sweep, clean underwear to fold, dirty towels to wash...  I am rarely idle!

So this version caught my eye as it amplifies the phrase "bread of idleness" to include the big three for women -- or maybe it's just me?  Gossip.  Discontentment.  Self-pity.  While the idleness flies over my head, these three hit me in the heart.

Gossip is like crack.  It is so easy to succumb to.  I am naturally nosy.  I want to know what is going on, and then I want to talk about it.  "Mind your own business, for goodness sake! Don't you have enough problems of your own?" I try to remind myself, even today.  But it is hard.  Heck, there are whole magazines, TV shows, websites, and novels that are pure gossip.  It is an industry, for goodness sake!  But it is the bread of idleness, distracting me from the activities of my own household.

Discontentment is another trap, with it's sister Self-pity.  I look around at what others have and say, "I want that too!" and "it's not fair" and  "why not me?"  I see things I cannot have and cannot  fix and feel sad and complain about them.  Better to look at the things I do have and I can fix to make better--that is, the activities of my own household!    

Gossip, discontent and self-pity are things we that can fill our valuable time. They redirect our lives and the lives of our families, in ways that are destructive.  Because these activities draw us away from what we can do to make everyone's life better: manage our own household!

It is not merely avoiding laziness, it is being focused on managing what belongs to us.

Father, please help me to be so focused on being a good steward of what You have given me that I can avoid looking to the right and left to what is not mine.  Let me heart be filled with gratitude and the desire to care for my husband, family and home.  Let me bless them!

She directs the activities of her household, and never does she indulge in laziness. (The Voice)