Tag Archive | God

A Mouse in the House

Late one night a couple of years ago, my oldest son came into my bedroom, woke me up and asked, “Mom, do we have any mouse traps?”

Well, of course, that could only mean one thing. Yet, in my drowsiness, that didn’t keep me from asking the obvious: “Why, do we have a mouse?”

“Yes, Mom, we have a mouse.”

“In the house?”

“Yes, Mom, we have a mouse in the house.”

“Where?”

“The last I saw, he was running behind the toaster.”

“On the counter?”

“Yes, Mom, we have a mouse in the house running behind the toaster on the counter. Do we have any traps or not?”

Maybe it was because I was half asleep, but by this time I was beginning to feel as if I was a character in a Dr. Seuss book.

I fell back to sleep listening as my son struggled to set the traps — successful or not, I didn’t know at the time and really didn’t care. I just wanted to go back to sleep. I value my sleep.

About three hours later I was startled awake by noises coming from the kitchen. Not just noises — loud noises! Had it not been for the earlier conversation, I probably would have thought it to be an intruder. The mouse was making so much noise, seemingly running into everything but one of the traps.

I found myself lying in bed wondering if my mouse was blind. The next thing I knew, I was not only intently listening for the mouse, but also singing: “Three blind mice, three blind mice; see how they run, see how they run.”

By now, partly because I was obviously tired — as evidenced by the spontaneous singing of nursery rhymes at two in the morning — and partly because my ears and body were on high alert listening for any signs of the mouse heading my direction, I now had to go to the bathroom!

So, I began thinking that process through.

“I’ve got to put shoes on. There’s no way I’m putting my feet on the floor barefooted.”

Then I thought, “Maybe I should put on my bluejeans as well . . . after all, if he can make his way to the kitchen counter, he should have no problem running up my legs!”

After reprimanding myself for letting my imagination get the best of me, I made a mad dash across the hall and hightailed it back to bed, crawling under the safety of covers as quickly as I could.

By then, of course, there was no way I was going to get back to sleep any time soon. “Did Ben get the traps set? Can the mouse climb up on the bed? Why not? Should I turn on my bedside lamp? Or will that only be leading the mouse straight to me?” So many questions; so few answers.

After turning on the light, I sat there motionless, listening for the least little sound. Then suddenly I heard it — a noise that I thought was getting closer. I held my breath and kept listening. Sure enough, the noise WAS getting closer, no doubt about it.

As I was leaning over, scanning the bedroom floor, looking for any signs of the mouse, I nearly toppled over when I was started by what sounded strangely like my name. “Cher-wo, can I have some water?” The tiny little voice nearly scared me to death! It turned out to be the 4-year-old daughter of a single mom staying with me for a few days.

End of story? The 4-year-old got her water and was sent back to bed. I turned out the light and eventually fell back to sleep with the song “Three Blind Mice” running through my head. And the mouse? I have no idea. We never did catch him. Perhaps he ran off the minute he heard me singing about cutting off his tail with a carving knife!

Lesson learned: At first I really didn’t think I had one. But, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if I have ever listened as intently for the voice of God as I did for that mouse. Have I ever sat so still and listened as intently as I did that night?

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Quiet Times in a Noisy World

I read something the other day that made me stop and think. It went something like this: God’s characteristic way of working is in quietness and prayer. Yet, it seems that in today’s society, quietness is nearly non-existent.

Nearly everywhere we go, noise is being promoted. Whether we’re shopping, eating out or participating in any number of activities, there is usually music or a radio station being played “in the background.” And restaurants of varying sizes and clientele now offer TVs as well — usually more than one and usually on different stations with the volume turned on. To carry on a conversation at some of these restaurants becomes frustrating, if not impossible. Then we also have added into the mix the not-so-private cell phone conversations being carried on at the table next to us. This list goes on and on. That’s what’s outside our homes.

Sadly, once in the privacy of our homes, things may not be much better. Family dinners around the kitchen table with everyone sharing their day are all but extinct. In many homes, families may still gather at the kitchen table, but cell phones are positioned next to plates as if they are another utensil and a TV is blaring nearby because we don’t want to miss the news, or because one of our favorite shows is on. Then there are the “family” dinners that aren’t even in the kitchen at all. Instead, these are found in the living room or family room with the TV front and center. And, for many families, most dinners are “on the go,” grabbing a bite between activities which have family members running helter-skelter in multiple directions.

Many of us have become so accustomed to noise that we find it harder and harder to do without it. Even when we’re alone, we have to have noise. The TV comes on first thing in the morning, is turned back on immediately after work, and stays on until the sleep timer shuts it off for us. And, what’s really sad is that sometimes we sit and watch TV shows we don’t even particularly like or enjoy — we just want the noise. We seem to have an aversion to quiet. I know. I’ve been guilty.

Bad habits can start innocently enough. For me, it was the death of my husband. The noise helped keep me from feeling quite so alone. But after a while, I realized this was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. So I intentionally went back to my pre-widow days of enjoying true quiet times alone with God in the early morning hours — no TV, no background music, only the sound of clocks ticking. I returned to the wonderful anticipation of waking up and being excited to see what God has for me in His Word.

If we are conditioned to only respond to noise, we will miss out on God’s word for us. We will miss hearing his still, small voice. As Christians, we should no longer be content to remain in our fast-paced, noisy world and let our time alone with God “just happen.” We must re-condition ourselves and purposely set aside a time of quiet and solitude every day. It must become a priority for us to find a time and a place where we can meet one-on-one with God and enjoy his presence.

I realize what is idyllic for one is not for all. We are all made differently and we are all wired a bit differently. And, besides that, no two homes are the same. So many factors have to be considered when planning your personal quiet time. For instance, I think of the working single parents with young children at home who are often stretched so thin with responsibilities that it’s hard to find time to think, much less spend a few relaxing quiet moments alone with God.

For those of you who struggle to find a few minutes to yourselves for a quiet time, I encourage you to read a blog Jennifer Rothschild recently posted entitled, “Who Made the Quiet Time Rules, Anyway?” at http://www.jenniferrothschild.com.

Bottom line: quiet times alone with God don’t often “just happen.” They must be planned. And it’s up to each one of us to evaluate our lifestyle and intentionally plan our daily one-on-one time with God. Whether it is in the privacy of your own home or (as Jennifer suggests) in the car or on the treadmill, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that, wherever you are, you are able to turn off the world’s noise, focus on God, and fine-tune your hearing so you can hear what His Spirit is whispering to you.

Question: In the fast-paced world that circles around you, how do you intentionally set aside a quiet one-on-one time with God? What does your quiet time look like?

Near Misses

My guess is that we’ve all had them — those “near misses” of events that, except for the grace of God, could have ended so differently. Allow me to share with you one of those that keeps coming back to my mind even now, some 25 years later.

Summer, 1988. Our family of 5 had headed to Douglas Lake (in East Tennessee) to spend the day with a church group boating, swimming, picnicking, and just plain having a good day of fellowship with Christian friends. God blessed us with a Saturday that could not have been more beautiful.

After making the 30-minute drive from our home to the lake, I immediately did what any mother of a 2-year-old being potty-trained did — headed straight to the bathroom before doing anything else. Meanwhile, my husband and sons headed to the dock to join several others getting ready to go out on the boat for the first of many trips around the lake that day.

A few minutes later, as I was holding my daughter, Stasie, at the water’s edge watching (and hearing) the fun taking place several yards away, she asked me a most unusual question: “Mommy, why is there an arm in the water?” Thinking I hadn’t heard her correctly, I asked her to repeat what she said. Again, clear as day: “Mommy, why is there an arm in the water?”

Glancing down to the area she was pointing to, I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. But, since there were trees in the area, I told her it wasn’t an arm — probably just a tree branch that was floating in the water and had now drifted away. Nothing more was said and the conversation quickly left my mind as more friends arrived and the activity-filled day continued.

Then, that night as my husband, Gary, and I were watching the late news, a report came on that suddenly brought the conversation between my daughter and I back to the forefront of my mind. It also explained something else as well. The report said that after another day of diving on Douglas Lake, divers had been unable to locate the body of a man who had fallen off a boat a few days earlier and was presumed to have drowned.

My heart began to race as I remembered the conversation Stasie and I had had several hours earlier. Had she really seen an arm in the water after all? We had seen the diving taking place a good distance to the right of where we had spent the day, but assumed it was some sort of a training exercise. The thought had not crossed our minds that it was anything serious. After this news clip, Gary and I didn’t quite know what to do. Should I try calling someone? If so, who? And would they take seriously the question of a 2-year-old?

Since it was late and diving wasn’t going to resume until the next day anyway, we decided that I would make a phone call the next morning. Well, that phone call turned into three as various attempts were made to connect with the proper agency. I mean, after all, who do you call in a situation like this? Once on the phone with the proper authority, I began my awkward explanation of the day before and relaying to them the unusual question my 2-year-old had asked me. After determining our exact location, the kind lady told me that where we had been was a bit farther south than where they had been looking and she doubted the body could have floated that far. But, she told me she would alert the dive team and they would send some divers closer to where we had spent the day, just in case.

The evening news report? Divers had located the body of a man who had fallen off his boat and drowned after hitting his head.

To this day, a couple of questions remain unanswered. Did Stasie really see the arm of a drowning victim in the water? Was my phone call instrumental in helping divers locate the body, thereby giving closure to a family? I can’t say for certain, but, given how quickly he was found after days of searching, I strongly suspect the answer to both questions is, “Yes.”

So, what was our “near miss” I spoke of earlier? Well, just think how differently our day would have gone had I seen what Stasie apparently saw. And how differently would our day have gone had this body floated just a few feet further into the roped off swim area? Can you imagine the shock? The nightmares? Just the thought alone is enough to bring shudders. While a 2-year-old would most likely not remember such a traumatic event, her mother would — as would many others who had been swimming in that area that day at that time.

So, although questions remain, thank you, God, for this particular “near miss.” Thank you for being our Protector and for sparing us from a potentially traumatic event that day.

Focus 2014

I first started this blog article with the intent to write about resolutions. But, after a couple hundred words, I changed my mind. I hear that’s a woman’s prerogative.

Then I thought I would write on my most memorable New Year’s Eve celebration. That lasted all of about a minute. It didn’t take long to realize I didn’t have one — unless you count the ones when my mom or dad or other family member ended up going to the emergency room for sudden health problems. Why that always seemed to happen on New Year’s Eve is beyond me. Other than those events, I really don’t have a memorable New Year to tell you about because I’m not usually awake to welcome the New Year in — not even the year 2000! Given the opportunity to “party hearty” or sleep, I’ll choose sleep every time. I jokingly tell people that I’m not responsible for anything I say or do after 9:00 p.m. It seems that’s the magic hour that my brain begins to shut down. Usually I will intentionally fall asleep, asking someone to wake me up a couple of minutes before midnight. I’ll say “Happy New Year” and give a quick, although unenthusiastic, “Whoo-hoo!” then promptly fall back to sleep.

Next I thought I would tell you about our Christmas Day we just experienced. But, I figure your chaos and mine would probably be too similar to hold your interest very long. I mean, who of you didn’t also endure a very noisy remote control monster truck running you over, a 3-year-old banging on drums, and a 6-year singing to her heart’s content in the microphone that came with a new keyboard she doesn’t yet know how to play?

So, I had a talk with myself, “Cheryl, what do you REALLY want to write about? Forget what people expect to hear. Forget about the requests some have made. In the quiet of this hour, what is it that’s weighing heaviest on your heart?”

And you know what? I don’t know! I think my five senses are still on overload from the past month of flurried activity.

But, as I think on it, I realize that in the midst of all the activity of the past month, I also purposely began thinking on the Year 2014 and began jotting down notes of changes I wanted to make in my life. Taking time for reflection is a good thing. It’s good for us to pause and take a long, hard look at our lives. To stop and ponder the things in our life that make us comfortable as well as the things that make us squirm just a bit. Areas in our life we want to improve or do better. Perhaps things we want to accomplish before we die.

So, here I am back where I began — resolutions. Our New Year resolutions tell a lot about us. I’m not usually one prone to make resolutions — especially verbal or written ones. I think I have an adverse reaction to the word itself. Almost as if it were poisonous or maybe a synonym for failure. To be resolute in something is to be so determined that nothing will keep you from accomplishing whatever it is you’ve resolved to do. To be resolute in something is to be committed to it.

In thinking all this through, I realized that, for a long, long time, I have been too afraid of failure to formally declare a New Year “resolution.” Instead, I have been calling them “goals.” But in reality, they’re a whole lot like resolutions. It’s just a gentler word for basically the same thing. But why be so afraid of failure? Why not be like the inventor who never gave up? He never looked at all his failures as “failures.” He looked at them as multiple ways of how NOT to do something. Each failure brought about a lesson learned. And you know me — I’m all about lessons learned.

So, this year, although I have multiple goals I’ve shared with an accountability partner, I am making a written resolution. An over-all resolution for the year 2014. A single word to summarize all my goals — FOCUS. As in “Focus on Christ, not my circumstances.”

My personal prayer this year is the hymn, “Open My Eyes That I May See,” by Clara H. Scott (alternate, updated words by Jeff Redd).

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth You have for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unlock and set me free.
Silently now I wait for You,
Ready, my God, Your will to do;
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth so sharp and clear;
And while the message sounds in my ear,
Everything else will disappear.
Silently now I wait for You,
Ready, my God, Your will to do;
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my mouth, let me declare
Words of assurance everywhere;
Open my heart, and let me prepare
Your loving kindnesses to share.
Silently now I wait for You,
Ready, my God, Your will to do;
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Am I Smarter Than a Six-Year-Old?

I’ve had multiple times to ponder that exact question and I must say that some days I’m not quite sure!

A few months back, Haley, my granddaughter, asked me what the difference was between “concentration” and “contemplation.” Wow! Good question. Not sure I’ve ever really thought about it much before. So, after a quick mental back-and-forth battle, I answered her the best I could.

Thing is, she has kept me on my toes a lot! My daughter, Stasie, and I noticed a good while back that Haley has a thing for words. It seems that every time we turn around she is coming up with a word or phrase that takes us by surprise. And, what’s more, she usually uses it in the right context, or at least pretty close.

Take for instance one drive home from Sunday morning church. Stasie and I were talking about how unusually tired we both seemed to be and were seriously debating having nap time before lunch. (Nate, my 3-year-old grandson, had already dozed off in his car seat, making our situation that much worse and our decision that much easier.) Overhearing our conversation about napping, Haley chimed in saying, “Well, I prefer to just rest.” What 6-year-old uses the word “prefer” over the words “want to”?

She got to “just rest.”

Or, take the time she asked me if I could “accelerate” through the frozen food aisle because she was cold.

Sure thing! So I chuckled and sped up.

Then there was the time she decided I not only needed to zip my winter coat, but button it as well. So she stood there facing me and, with gloved hands, began to button my coat for me. Without giving up and without taking her gloves off, she finally succeeded at getting all 4 buttons through their corresponding holes and in place. Then she stood back and exclaimed, “Well, that was a struggle!”

“Yes, honey, it sure was!”

Last week as Haley and I were waiting at the bottom of the hill for her school bus, I began asking her questions about her bus “seat-mate.” I learned that he was a boy, that he was probably 5 or 6 years old, and that he was maybe in Kindergarten. When I asked what his name was, Haley paused for a while and said, “Well, that question has me stumped!” Then, with finger raised, she said, “But I will discover it eventually!”

I’m sure you will!

I just stood there shaking my head. I’m not sure what this young lady will grow up to be or do for a living, but I suspect it will have something to do with words — either written or spoken. And I will try my best not to discourage her interest, but will instead encourage her natural ability to grasp words and their meanings. The next time she begs to join in a Scrabble game, I just might include her — even if it does mean I might lose!

Am I smarter than a 6-year-old? I’m still not sure. I like to think so — at least most of the time! One thing I do know is that this amazing granddaughter is a lot smarter than I was at her age.

But I wonder something. Haley has no idea she has a gift for words. She just uses them. When either Stasie or I comment about what she just said, you can see from her expression she’s trying to figure out why what she said was so amazing or unusual. She doesn’t see her gift or ability as anything special — yet. To her it’s as natural as breathing.

As you know, I can’t let this story end without a life lesson being learned or a life application that I need to take to heart. What I have personally taken away from these reflections is this: I know that God gives all of us different gifts and abilities. And it’s up to me to make the best use of the ones he has given specifically to me.

But I’m left wondering: Do I have a gift or ability others see in me that I may be in denial of — yet? Is there something that comes as naturally to me as breathing that I haven’t seen as anything special — yet? Is there something more I need to be doing for God that I’m not doing — yet?

I’m fairly certain the answer to all three questions is, “Yes.” If so, then I need to take some action. I need to focus on getting rid of my “yets.”

Do I Really Want Normal?

A friend and I were bemoaning the fact that just when we think life is about to get back to normal, someone goes and moves the line! The more I thought about that, the more I began to wonder if there is such a thing as normal.

Although I had in my mind a definition of “normal,” I went to good ole Webster and looked up his definition. To my surprise, his definition took up nearly 1/4 of a column and included 8 different answers (with parts a, b, c, and sometimes even d) — the last of which I would have had to stop and look up about every other word in order to understand! Definition #8: “having the property of commutativity under multiplication by the transpose of the matrix each of whose elements is a conjugate complex number with respect to the corresponding element of the given matrix.” What???!!! I suspect only a math whiz could understand that definition on a first read-through.

The definition I most closely had in mind was 1b: “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.” Okay . . . now we’re talking!

So, if I were to pick one day to describe as being “normal,” what day would that be? A work day? A weekend? A day from years gone by when the kids were growing and soccer practice and/or cheerleading drills were part of the daily routine? Or is the definition of a normal day something more recent? Perhaps a day spent with the grandkids? Or a Saturday with no special agenda?

In my years of living, I have been guilty many times over of saying (or shouting), “I just wish things could get back to normal!” I would venture to say that every time I’ve said that, it was during a time when my life was in turmoil because of something negative that happened. Perhaps I woke up with a sick child on my hands. Or maybe the car broke down. Or maybe a family member was diagnosed with cancer. But, is that really fair? To only wish for “normal” days when things go awry?

What about when our days are interrupted by good things? Perhaps the unexpected visit from a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while? Or maybe a surprise birthday party thrown just for you? Or maybe spontaneous celebration because of a check in the mail that came at just the right time?

Normal may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. To have a normal day would mean that I would have near “cookie-cutter” days — days much like the one before and the one before that and the one before that. How boring! I suspect very few of us would be happy for very long with days like that. Yet, many do. The first person who comes to my mind is my 99-year-old mother-in-law. Unless I or one of my kids goes to visit her, or unless she has a doctor’s appointment of some kind, her days are pretty much the same — normal. Each day is much like the day before.

So, while I suspect I will still sometimes wish life would go back to normal, my initial definition has broadened a bit. I don’t want “cookie-cutter” days. I realize now that, deep down, I don’t want that at all (at least not by the definition I initially had in mind!). I want days where there is the element of surprise. I want days where monotony is broken up by the unexpected — preferably good, of course! I want days when I’m surprised by the beauty of the sunrise or the sunset. Days when I’m caught off guard by the funny things my grandkids say. Days when I catch a glimpse of God working in my life and in the lives of others.

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

The thing with life lessons is that they often come when you’re not looking and when you least expect them. And, much of the time, you don’t even realize a lesson was taught until you have had time to sit back and reflect on things later.

One of the first lessons I remember my granddaughter, Haley, teaching me happened on the evening of May 27th, 2008. Haley was all of 15 months old at the time and our family was standing on a hill in a cemetery.

The days leading up to this had been filled with tears, decisions, and shock. My husband, Gary, had passed away unexpectedly on the 16th from a massive heart attack. We had no warning. From all appearances he seemed to be in perfect health. Only those who have experienced first-hand such a loss can fully understand. No one got to say a final goodbye. No one got to say a last “I love you.”

This particular day was the first of our year-long list of family celebrations and holidays that we would have to experience for the first time without our husband, father, grandfather, and son. And it was hard. Impossibly hard. It was Stasie’s birthday. Although we had the usual cake and ice cream and a gift or two, very little celebrating took place. Before she left the house that evening, Stasie asked if I would go with her to the cemetery. We invited others and, knowing a typical spring storm was approaching, 7 of us quickly loaded up in 2 cars and drove the couple of miles to the cemetery.

As we stood on that hill reminiscing, a gust of wind took us by surprise. Fifteen-month-old Haley immediately raised her arms in the air and began laughing and twirling around. The 6 adults just stood there, frozen in place, looking at each other — all fighting the urge to react the same way, but keeping our feelings in check. Was this appropriate? Should someone try to stop her? Almost as if on cue, we all turned our attention from little Haley to Gary’s then 93-year-old mother. What was she thinking?

To our relief, we saw her smile turn to laughter as the wind continued to blow. Soon others joined, not only in the laughter, but in the joy of the wind as well — complete with raised arms and twirling around. To us it was like an infusion of God’s Spirit, reminding us that death is not the end but, rather, the beginning of a wonderful, glorious, carefree life.

As the sky grew darker and sprinkles of rain began to come, we left the hillside. Less than an hour later, after the storm had passed, we were blessed with a glorious rainbow — yet another reminder of a God who loves us and who cares enough to make his presence known, especially in our darkest hours.

So, thank you, Haley, for taking the lead and reminding us grown-ups how to live. Death’s sting has been swallowed up in Christ’s victory. Hallelujah!