God’s Grace

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Ephesians 2:8  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

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“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” God’s grace is freely given to anyone who believes. His grace is bestowed on us without any work on our part. It is not something we deserve or can earn. For many of us that is so difficult to understand, but it’s absolutely true. God’s love for us is given by grace. How blessed we are!

The Rose of Sharon

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Song of Solomon 2:1   I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys.

Although we really don’t know the flower to which Solomon specifically referred, I have always loved the plant we now call “the rose of Sharon.” My parents had a row of them planted in our yard and they grew up along with me! By the time I was in high school they were over eight feet tall and blossomed throughout the summer. Their seeds germinated quite easily and I can still remember my mother complaining about having to pull the baby shoots out.

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When I discovered they would grow on our property in Conway, I was thrilled because they required little care. I bought a single blossom pink one from a nursery and discovered they were actually part of the hibiscus family (Hibiscus syriacus). Then my dad gave us one from his yard, and it was a double white. I treasure both because they remind me of my childhood home and my parents. Imagine my surprise in discovering they are native to east Asia and the national flower of Korea. God has truly blessed us with the beauty of His creation. It may not be a rose but its beauty is undeniable. Makes me think of the Shakespearean quote: “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Some even refer to this flower as the Chinese hibiscus. I prefer “rose of Sharon” because it draws me to the Bible and causes me to thank God for sharing His creation with us. In Genesis 1:29, He gave us every seed-bearing plant. Truly His gifts bloom on and on all around us! Remember to “stop and smell the roses.”

 

The Joy of Nature

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Psalm 96:11-12 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.

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Where is your favorite spot to communicate with the Lord? Oh, I know He hears us wherever we are and whenever we need Him, but most of us have a place that is dear to us. For some it may be a walk on the beach or a hike in the mountains. I especially feel drawn to the mountains of North Carolina and the Lake Junaluska Assembly is my most beloved spot. Looking at the cross there by the lake or viewing the Rose Walk make me feel more in tune with the Lord. Any time I focus on flowers, I feel as though He has gifted me with a special time of sharing. The hymn, ” In The Garden,” states this so eloquently: “And He walks with me and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own.” Yes, I am His, He loves me beyond measure, and He will never leave or forsake me! Let me surround myself with the beauty of His World and know that I am His child forever. Join me today and let us walk through this world with Him.

Flowers of the Field

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Matthew 6:28 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.

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Why do we worry so much? I guess it’s human nature, but when we look at the beauty of God’s creation, especially in the flowers He designed, we remember that everything we are and have comes from Him. Jehovah Jireh, He, will provide! I am often amazed by the flowers or plants that spring up on their own without being planted. Some refer to this as “volunteering.” The seeds fall or birds carry them to a new location and they appear without any intervention by man. One such example came about by God’s design in our front yard. We have a lantern mounted on a post in front of our parking pad and I have tried planting numerous flowers there. Impatiens did well but I wanted something more permanent. I tried a wisteria, but it died and then I settled on some Confederate Jasmine. That’s still there but hasn’t thrived. This year I was pleased to see a hummingbird or trumpet vine had begun along with the jasmine and was far surpassing it. Yes, all my trials were for naught, BUT GOD brought a seed, and it flourished with no help on my part. Sometimes we try too hard to make something happen when all we need to do is sit back and LET GOD! He is in control and we need to depend on Him for the answers to our problems. Worry solves nothing, but prayer and faith in God brings answers! Thank you, dear Lord, for your blessings!

“O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom has thou made them all; the earth is full of Your riches.”  Psalm 104:24

Share His Word!

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Mark 16:15 (NKJV)   And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

I promised to continue my story of how meeting with Jessie Smith at her pottery drew me even closer to the Lord. Jessie made both my husband and  myself feel so very welcome from the first moment we stepped into her shop. She glowed with the love of Christ, and it was evident in her work. Her workshop ( www.facebook.com/Potterybyjes)  and her ability to create works of art through clay made me think of the biblical references to the potter and the clay, but today I want to focus on the way she shared God’s Word through her work.

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JES 15    Proverbs 3:5

How seriously do we take Christ’s directive to spread His Word? As His followers, we are supposed to share our knowledge of Him with others, believers and non-believers alike. That is why I was so pleased to find that Jessie had put a reference to Proverbs 3:5 ( look close) on the underside of my new platter. Not only did she share her artistic talent with others, she freely talked about her faith and felt led to post a scriptural address on this piece. God was speaking to me through her work. Yes, I need to trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. He is my strength and will keep me safe and secure as long as I lean on Him and not on myself. He is the true vine and I am but a branch. As long as I maintain my focus on Him, like Peter when he tried to walk on water (Matthew 14:29),  I will succeed.

My blog is one way I attempt to share how the Lord has worked in my life. Looking back over the years,  I can see His Hand guiding me through both happy times and sad. His love and amazing grace is all we need, and we need to share this knowledge with others in our daily walk. How blessed we are to have Him as our Father!

 

Share Your Gift!

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1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

The Lord has given different gifts or talents to each one of us. My artistic abilities are severely limited, but I truly appreciate the artistic capabilities of others. During our July trip to our cabin,  my husband and I had the opportunity to visit a pottery workshop in Laurel Springs, North Carolina.

I’m going to take a slight detour before I share this visit with you. God works in unusual ways. It causes me to smile as I think about the way God brings people into our lives. We’d been blessed last August by meeting a young man, Tyler Smith, who helped us with his landscaping talents. Our talk wandered to our Christian faith, and Tyler invited us to attend church with him. Yes, I see God’s hand so clearly now. We attended Tyler’s church and met his wife, Jessie. Tyler mentioned that she was a potter, and I promised we would visit her one day.

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Now we fast forward to July. I was determined to see Jessie and her workshop, especially after having viewed some of her work displayed in a Facebook post. I’d spotted a platter that she’d created. It appealed to me both in color and in the message it spoke to my heart. Back in 2002, I’d been a mentoring mom in a Motherwise bible study at our church. Our study was focused on John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.” Oh, that platter had to have been made for me. I considered calling Jessie and asking her to reserve it but just never got around to doing so. BUT God was at work!

When I called to arrange our visit, Jessie (www.facebook.com/Potterybyjes) mentioned that she’d sold most of her inventory but would still welcome us. She also shared that some of her work was being offered by The Posh Fox in Roaring Gap, NC and also by The Mustard Seed Cafe in Sparta. Jim and I stopped at The Mustard Seed (love that name!) on the way to see Jessie AND THERE IT WAS!!! MY PLATTER!!! Praise God! For me it was a sign that it was truly meant to be mine.

(to be continued)

 

 

 

Peace – An Elusive Quality

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John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

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The peace I once so loved at our home in Conway was rudely disrupted this spring due to problems with a neighbor’s relative. I yearned to go to our mountain home and escape the daily annoyance I was finding so disquieting. Peace was eluding me, and I was allowing myself to be angry and stressed out by a situation that was out of my control. I prayed for comfort, strength, understanding,  and compassion, but I was frustrated and wanted or needed to escape what had become like a prison for me. Our Glade Valley cabin was a place where I hoped to regain my peace.

Peace and quiet, solitude, and freedom for our pets to wander were all awaiting us upon our arrival. I thanked God for bringing us to this “piece of heaven on earth.” I also asked Him to help me deal with my heart and lead me to restoration of peace. I truly wished we could move there permanently, but other concerns made this idea impossible. Would I find the answer for which I so dearly yearned?

Searching His Word, I first found Paul advising in Ephesians 2:14 that Christ Himself is our peace. Yes, Christ was the answer! My focus had become on the problem instead of on the answer. The peace I sought was still there only I was allowing myself to become blinded by the wrong emotions living in my heart. Where were the fruits of the Spirit? They were buried under a pile of anger and bitterness.

As the time came for us to return to our Conway home, I dreaded it but knew that we had no choice. I was so thankful for the time we’d had to rest and recuperate. Yes, Christ was the answer. I already knew that He would never have reacted as I had to the situation, but I’m still a work in progress. Aren’t we all?

We’ve been home now for almost a week and I’ve been determined to keep my focus on our Lord and His Word. My revelation came today as I read John 14:27. Christ is our peace and He’s given it to us. His love is all we need and peace is there as long as we give it all to Him. We are shaken when we let our hearts be troubled and let fear get a foothold. As long as my focus is Christ Jesus I am at peace. Thank You, Lord, for speaking so clearly to me today. May I hold Your message in my heart and praise Your Holy Name!

 

 

 

My Best Friend

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Who first said “A dog is man’s best friend?”  I don’t know, but there have been times in my life when I have agreed with that comment. Stay with me, because we have a short journey to take!

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The social media world of today has expanded  the world of friendship beyond anything our forefathers could have imagined. Facebook has brought us “friends” from all over the world. Many of us have never met all of our friends face to face, but we still care about them or do we? Read some of the comments being posted and one may begin to wonder if there’s anything friendly in some of these relationships. My mind tends to wander all over the place sometimes so I ask you to bear with me and join me on this thought process.

Who is your BFF? I’m really not into all the new jargon, but it is amusing. On Facebook and in the world of today, BFF’s come and go. People’s perceptions of our comments may lead to misunderstandings and imagined offenses. I tend to overthink when I post comments, truly never wanting to offend anyone, BUT it appears that I have still irked people that I considered to be friends. It’s like trying to walk on a tightrope; balance in this world of Facebook and Twitter is difficult to maintain.

BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS!!!! As the old familiar hymn reminds us “What A Friend We Have In Jesus!” He never gives up on us, “unfriends” us, or ignores us. He’s  right there during good times and bad. Friendship is a two way street, however, so talk to Him everyday about everything. He never gets bored or tunes us out. Earthly, worldly friendships come and go but His is there for eternity. Praise God!!!

Light the Darkness

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God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

Even though I am retired, I still rise at or before daylight every day. I feel I will miss something if I tarry too long in bed. Once it’s light, I need to be up and check out the world around me. Sometimes when I awaken in the middle of the night, I’m disappointed because it’s too early and I know I need to stay in bed and get more rest. Then daylight arrives and I feel that all is well. God is in control, and no matter what happens His will will reign supreme. Fears of the evening before vanish in the light of day.

As a child, I was never afraid of the dark, except when it came time to go downstairs into our finished basement. I would cut on the light at the head of the stairs and run down as quickly as I could, pick up whatever I needed, and tear back up the stairs to safety. I knew it was silly, but not being able to see clearly scared me. This fear left as I reached adulthood, but to this day I feel uncomfortable if I have a problem and nightfall approaches. The problem seems to grow and become more ominous. Oh, I pray now and find peace, but for a while the darkness looms as a threat.

When we bought our North Carolina cabin, I wanted to place a few nightlights in the combined living/dining/kitchen area to help us navigate if we arose during the dark of night. Imagine my joy to find an angel to light our way. She may have been part of a Christmas display, but she serves as a nightlight for us. Every night we spend in our second home, I find happiness in turning on her light. It has become a ritual. She shines nightly to remind me of the Lord’s blessing in bringing Jim and me to this piece of heaven on earth, His faithfulness to us each and every day, and His amazing love.

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Our world has been struck with unimaginable darkness over the past few years. 9/11, senseless mass shootings like that in Newtown and at Mother Emanuel AME Church to name just two, and more recently the attack on police in Dallas and the crowd in Nice celebrating Bastille Day. Innocent people have been killed because of evil and when it happens our world appears to be darkened. God’s light, however, continues to shine in those who respond and offer prayer, compassion, and mercy towards those who have suffered loss. His light never goes out and He will sustain us if we but turn our fears and deep. deep sadness over to him. He will get us through the time to mourn and bring us the encouragement and strength needed to continue on through the dark to His ever shining Light. Claim His Light and hold on tight. Faith will win no matter how dark it seems. His Light is immutable.

 

The Work of His Hands

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The intricacies of God’s creation astound me. I’ve always been intrigued by the beauty of the tiny hummingbird. How can anyone doubt God’s existence when we view the seemingly endless number of plants and animals He created?  Only an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God could be responsible for this world.

Our North Carolina cabin is located within two miles of the Blue Ridge parkway and about 275 miles from our home in South Carolina, yet they are a world apart in their ecosystems. One is a mountain paradise, cool in the summer due to its high elevation, while the other is located on a rural dirt road on sandy beach-like soil  with summers “hotter than a pepper pudding” as a dear friend used to say. Both bring us joy when we examine the varied flora and fauna they share with us.

Our cabin neighborhood has increased our knowledge of God’s creation and the unique qualities of each “new-to-us” plant. On Thursday we went to the local family restaurant we enjoy in Sparta and were approached by an elderly lady who wanted to know if we would like to purchase some of her leaves. Strange?  No, God was at work! She had gathered them early that morning and had tied bunches together with sewing thread. I wanted to help her and really didn’t think much about the leaves but asked the price ($5.00) and purchased a bunch.

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Curiosity got the better of me and we began chatting. The leaves were from the Galax plant. I recognized that name since my husband and I had frequently visited the town of Galax, Virginia (about twenty miles north of us up the Blue Ridge Parkway). I’m always interested in trying my green thumb (a blessing from the Lord above), but I soon learned these leaves  were out of my realm of horticulture. It appears, after some quick research via the web, that they only grow in the forest along a particular stretch of the parkway. They have gained popularity with florists because of their sturdy, attractive, long lasting addition to floral arrangements. Mine will travel back to South Carolina this week and,  I hope, adorn our table there for weeks to come.

Hidden in the depths of the forest, Galax leaves have become prized for their beauty. However, the Lord controls their cultivation. Horticulturists have tried to replicate a growing medium to raise them commercially to no avail. They remain a kind of mystery and are another reason/proof of the existence of God. They are the work of His Hands, and I thank Him for bringing them to us!  How blessed we are to be part of His creation!