Chasing Rainbows–Part 2

I wonder if one of the reasons we find rainbows so beautiful is because they are most often seen in the midst of a storm. How brightly their colors 745971_rainbow_in_the_clouds_2shine set  in a background of gray! Whether that gray comes from storm clouds or an extended absence of sun.

When our daughter was young, she loved searching for rainbows, and she often found them–streaming through clouds, hidden in puddles of oil, or created by sprinkler spray. It amused me the places she’d find bits of color. All because she chose to focus on the blessings rather than the spills and clouds.

Last spring, during a particularly stressful time, our family decided to spend the day at the Plaza in Kansas City. We were in the process of moving, which required hours of meeting with realtors, roofers, tilers, painters … And as my husband spent the work week in Omaha, where we planned to move, most of this fell on my slightly ill-equipped shoulders. (I even learned to spackle!)

Needless to say, by the time Saturday evening came, I was tired, hungry, and ready to go home. (Plus I had some writing deadlines to meet.) But God had other plans, plans that hit us dead on, moments before we were to merge on the freeway.

39917_tire_in_the_grassLooking back, it was quite comical–and maybe even a bit miraculous. As we were driving toward the freeway, a tire came flying straight at us. Yes, a tire! It hit us with enough force to crumple our front end and jerk our  car to the right. Then it ricocheted through the air, over the sidewalk, before landing in someone’s lawn. The car it flew off of sputtered, it’s now bald axis scraping against the pavement.

My husband pulled to the side of the road, stunned, and the young man without his front tire did the same.

I still marvel at what might have happened if the accident occurred on the freeway, as both of us merged in 70 mile per hour traffic. A hidden blessing. A life-saving miracle.

Long story short, but as we waited for the police to come, I grew increasingly impatient. (And no, I didn’t pause to think that God might have just saved our life and perhaps the lives of many others by preventing us and the loose-tire driver from entering the freeway.) It didn’t help that I had to use the restroom. But it was cold out, and the nearest possible restroom was down the road a ways.

And so, like any selfish, privileged brat, I began to feed my impatience until it grew to irritation. Our sweet daughter, also tired and hungry, noticed.

“Are you okay, Mom?”

I glanced behind me at her furrowed brow and slight frown, and it was like God shown a flashlight in my heart. By fuming, I was modeling the opposite of what I wanted to train in our daughter. And, if not careful, I could sour our evening, our weekend.

The choice was mine. Would I focus on the gloom or search for the hidden rainbow?

With God’s help, I chose the latter, and opted to head for that bathroom some distance away. It was at a fast food restaurant. I invited my daughter to join me. It was cold, and I was still hungry, but as we walked, giggles soon emerged. Silliness that can only come from the expression of a teenage heart.

What began as an inconvenience had turned into a chance to connect. And I almost missed it.

When my friend, Iris, was dying of brain cancer, we talked about miracles. Frustrated that God hadn’t healed her, I wondered aloud if God performed miracles as often today as He did in Bible times. Her response. “I believe He performs miracles all the time, but we’re so focused on seeing big miracles that we miss the little things He does every day, like showing us shooting stars.” (To understand her shooting star reference, read “When God Lights Up the Sky.”

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Making Lemonade

Each day, no matter how dreary our day or circumstances, I believe God sprinkles His blessings–His rainbows–around us, inviting us to grab hold of the blessing. The choice is ours. But let us never forget, others are watching, and our actions speak much louder than our words. They reveal the depths of our love, of our trust, of our surrender.

I’ll leave you with two verses:

Psalm 71:1 “My life is an example to many because You have been my strength and protection” (NLT).  (Can you say this? Notice, it’s not about your strength or determination, but your surrender–your reliance on God for strength and perfection. Kinda simplifies things, no?)

Matthew 3:8 “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” (This reminds me, my life is to “prove” the power of the gospel. How can I do that? By living a radically transformed life. And how can I live transformed? By drawing near to God, staying connected to Him, daily reading His Word, the Bible, and putting into practice what He shows me. How are you living a transformed, divinely-empowered life?)

Let’s talk about this:

Share a time when you’ve chosen to focus on God’s blessings despite an inconvenient or perhaps even painful circumstance. What was the result? Or, perhaps share the latter–a time when you allowed minor inconvenience steal your joy.

Share your thoughts and stories in the comments before or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

Jelly Beans, Candied Almonds, and Hearts … sigh

How much do I love thee? Let me count the ways ….

My husband is quite the romantic. He rarely buys me glitzy jewelry or takes me to five-star restaurants. He doesn’t read me poetry or take me dancing (perhaps you remember why. If not, you can read the reason here.), but he does buy me candied almonds when he’s at the outdoorsman store. He buys me jelly beans and packs of gum … just because. He sends me one sentence—uh … one word—emails, and calls me with absolutely nothing to say. 🙂 It’s like a trail of love, small actions sprinkled throughout our sixteen years together, easily overlooked if I’m not paying attention, and yet able to penetrate deep into my heart if I am.

If you belong to Christ, you have a husband even more tender, more thoughtful, more attentive than mine. Daily, Christ showers us with love, for no other reason than because we are His beloved. His treasure.

Today my sweet friend  Elizabeth Veldboom shares how God sprinkled tokens of love before her, like hidden rose petals waiting to be discovered and cherished.

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As I held the small angel ornaments in my hands, ready to purchase them, tears came to my eyes even as a smile touched my lips. I fingered the pretty white lace, and breathed in the words the angels held in their embrace: love, and joy. Yes, I had love. And I had joy, for I was loved.

But let me rewind a little bit. One morning last December in my prayer time I felt as if God were asking me to focus on “love” and “joy.” Love and joy? I thought, crinkling my brow. Could you be more specific, God? That’s kind of general.

If only I knew then how specific He could get.

A few days after that, I came across a blog post about the widespread phenomenon of the “one word for 2012” campaign. Basically, instead of concentrating on a huge resolutions list for the new year, participants were asked to consider focusing on just one word for 2012. They could do this through prayer, journaling, and just by asking God how He would have them apply that word throughout daily life.

The idea intrigued me, and I decided I, too, would focus on one word for 2012. As I mulled on it, my conversation with God a few days earlier came back to me. Focus on love and joy. Could those be the words God wanted me to concentrate on for 2012? I hoped not. They were two very broad terms. Besides, they were just that:two. I needed one word.

A week later found my mom and I at a craft fair. In the first room we entered, a woman selling lace angel ornaments caught our eye. As we ventured nearer, I felt a gentle tugging in my spirit to pay attention. Curious, I tried to listen closely to what God was trying to tell me. But instead of my ears, it was my eyes God used.

Looking up, one angel stood out from among the many. Love, I read. That would have been enough to make me wonder, but then I felt another gentle urging to keep looking. I swept my gaze to the side, and immediately recognized what I was supposed to see: joy, said another angel. I couldn’t believe it.

That was at least two months ago, but the words “love” and “joy” have kept resurfacing everywhere I go. And I’m not a bit surprised.

You see, I serve a God who takes joy out of the little things. Who never overlooks the smallest detail or tiniest trouble. Who orders and plans and organizes our steps. He is a God of greatness, yes-but He is also a God of the still, the small, the silent.

Psalm 37:23 says, “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (NLT.)

Every detail? Yes. Even the smallest: a single tear wetting the pillow; a snowflake drifting from the skies of heaven; the lace in an angel’s skirt.

No one is ever too insignificant for Him to notice. No problem too small for Him to care. Knowing He delights in and takes care of every little detail in our lives, we can rest easy and without fear.

I love that God delights in the details and in the small things. But even more-I love that God finds delight in the details of my small life.

I Hear Ya: In what small ways has God shown that He delights in the details of your life recently or in the past? What one word would you choose for 2012?

Elizabeth Veldboom is devoted to God, a small town girl, and a freelance writer.  She has previously been published in places like Guidepost’s Angels on Earth Magazine and Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters. Visit her blog anytime at www.thefearlist.wordpress.com– the place that is for the faint of heart. **And visit her blog today to get in on a fun give-away! She’s giving away a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

And come back here Saturday as we talk about our spiritual vision. God’s always working, loving, speaking, guiding. If you can’t see His hand, perhaps you need to get your vision checked. 🙂

God Goes Before Us, by Jodie Bailey

My daughter often jokes that her father and I will have “permagrins” when we are old. She follows this with an explanation of how weird we both are, adding, “But weird is never boring.” She’s at that age of analysis–where everything is explored, digested and discussed. Yesterday after a particularly giggly drive on our way home from the orthodontist, she said, “Have you noticed how all Christian moms are a bit goofy?” She then went on to talk about some of the Christian women she knew, comparing and contrasting them to some of the moms of her non-Christian friends. She wanted to know if being a Christian made you goofy. I had to laugh at her simple, tell-it-like-it-is, teenage logic. Then, once we were done sharing a giggle and a few, “Remember when,” stories, I asked her why she thought that was. Why were the Christians she knew so much happier than those who didn’t know Christ? She said, “Jesus must be really funny!” Ah, from the mouth of babes! Although I do think God must have a sense of humor (ever seen an angler fish?), you and I know there’s much more to it than that.

Knowing Jesus means knowing peace. Our family has faced numerous ups and downs, but even in the depths of trial, we can rejoice because we know-know-know God is in control. Because of God’s ever protective hand on our lives, the stress is not so stressful, the difficulty not so difficult and the pain not nearly as intense. And what happens when stress, angst and fear are removed? Joy is allowed to bubble freely.

Today’s post reminds us that we are not alone. God is ever-present, in the good times and the bad. He goes before us and levels the mountains and breaks through bars of iron. He walks beside us, holding us up when we are tired. He goes behind us, ready to catch us should we fall. And He goes with us, filling us with the love that penetrates so deeply, it overflows in love, joy, peace, goodness and self-control.

Today’s devo first appeared on Jodie Bailey’s personal blog on September 1st. As you read it, take time to really digest the truth presented. No matter where you go, God is with you. His love will never fail and His mercies are new every morning. He knows the answer to every problem you’ll ever face and He has the power to see you through.

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Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)–The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

I love this verse (and the dozens like it in the Bible), because I still struggle to remember that God goes with me… everywhere… always.  It’s so easy to get bogged down in my plans and worries and concerns that I miss the fact He is right there beside me.

But the cool part of this verse is in the very first six words:  The Lord Himself goes before you…

Not only does He go with us, He goes before us.  Everywhere we go, He has already been.  He’s already prepared the way.  No detour in our lives surprises Him.  No “out of the blue” happening catches Him off guard.  By the time we get there, He’s seen it all.  Oh, if that’s not comforting, I don’t know what is.  Why worry about tomorrow?  God’s already seen it.

So, as you peruse Deuteronomy, what verse leaps out at you?  Share it in the comments of this blog or blog about it yourself and leave us a link. Just be sure to link back to us.  Looking forward to hearing what you find!

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Jodie Bailey was Playwright of the Year in Methodist University’s annual Hail! Dionysus competition and has written plays performed by the Monarch Playmakers. She has been published in Teen magazine and collaborated on PWOC International’s latest Bible study. She has a B.A. double major in English literature and writing, and an M.Ed. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, the Christian Writers Guild, and Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. She lives in Tennessee with her husband and daughter.

She is an avid reader, a life-long writer, and an aspiring beach bum.  She is a stubborn child who resisted God’s calling for two decades until He hit her over the head with a Beth Moore Bible Study book, and she finally figured out He wanted her to be a writer.  When not tapping away at the keyboard, she watches NCIS reruns, eats too many chocolate chip cookies, wishes she were at the beach, roughhouses with her daughter, and follows her Army husband around the country.

We are nearing the end of our top twenty of 2010. In January, God willing, we’ll focus on intentional living, albeit with a few less posts per week.

If you loved today’s devo and think it should make my top three of 2010, leave a comment, fb share it, “like” it or tweet it. (And, I highly recommend you hop on over to Jodie’s blog for her Word Wednesday! She’s always got a nugget to share.)