Unexpected Beatings

Hail in the cilantro

We’ve been enjoying late afternoon showers, but about a week ago we experienced a surprise attack.  Several folks described the start of the hail storm as “someone throwing rocks on the roof.”  Since it was a sunny afternoon, we weren’t expecting walnut-sized ice balls to start battering everything in sight.

Clover surveying the hail in the yard

We had minimal damage involving a couple of tomato plants, but some families lost entire gardens.  Others now have to repair damaged cars, windows, and vinyl siding.

Neal holding the summer hail

This unexpected hail storm swooped in on a sunny day, did its damage, and left almost as quickly as it came.  People were stunned, and as they swapped stories, they said, “Can you believe it?  It was out of the blue!”

Someone close to me would’ve been celebrating 40 years of marriage today if some storms hadn’t swooped in nearly ten years ago.  We’ve all experienced unexpected beatings:  sudden job loss, a diagnosis of cancer, a car accident, betrayal.  The suddenness of it can knock you senseless, and leave you feeling disoriented, confused, and sometimes, alone.  I’m sure Job felt all of those things when he experienced the unthinkable.  Yet he was able to declare, “As long as my breath is in me, and the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness.  Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.  My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go” (Job 27: 3-6).  Job knew that God was bigger than even death itself.  No matter what terrors or afflictions he experienced, Job’s faith kept him grounded.  “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You” (Job 42:2).  After the shock, fear, weeping, or anger, the next step is often the hardest.  Keep trusting in God.  How?  Serve him faithfully.  Maintain your righteousness, one day at a time.  Our God is bigger than any unexpected beating, and He has promised to carry us safely through.  “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’  So we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5,6).

Prayer for today:  May I daily build my faith, so that when the unexpected happens, my foundation will not be shaken.

Sunday Morning Challenge

Gorilla at Fort Worth zoo

We visited this gruff-looking gorilla on a beautiful, mild day this past spring.  He did not look happy.  I decided I was grateful for the safety barrier, as I would not want to get too close to this grumpy guy.

When I was growing up, my dad often reminded me that when my face isn’t smiling, I look cold or even stuck-up.  That was good to know since I usually didn’t feel those things at the time.  The last thing I want to do is give the impression that I’m unapproachable.  Naturally there are times when I look grouchy because I am (just ask Neal).  But I just have one of those faces that looks unfriendly if I don’t consciously make the effort to look friendly.

Sometimes we put care into what we wear to worship, but forget to put CARE into our expressions.  Lottie Beth Hobbs wrote, “An approving, encouraging, cheerful, or loving look can do so much to lift the heart.  It can speak volumes without a word.  Just one look often has the power to cause a heart to soar or to sink.  Countenances–looks, eyes, expression–speak so loudly to instill doubt and discouragement, or courage and comfort, in the heart of others.  What do our looks say?”

“The light of the eyes rejoices the heart” (Proverbs 15:30).

Prayer for Today:  When the saints meet, may I never be guilty of reserving my warm face for my circle of friends, but instead greet every single person with eyes that light up and a sincere smile.

Revived

Thrift store rockers!

Had I seen these rocking chairs when by myself, I would’ve passed them by.  They looked worn and dreary to me.  But my friend Sheryl, who has the ability to see potential, pointed them out.  So I purchased the chairs for $2.99 each.  The plan was simple:  sand and paint.  I picked out a paint color the same day and envisioned getting the project done in one afternoon.  Ha!  Even with all of my guys pitching in, it took several days just to complete the sanding process. And then it took a couple more days to give the chairs two coats of Dolphin Gray paint.

Front porch rockers

We think the time and elbow grease paid off.  The chairs have been revived and now add a welcoming touch to our front porch.  Neal and I have already passed some time there drinking coffee together.

I’m so thankful that God sees the potential in all of us.  We might find ourselves feeling worn and weary because of past mistakes or sins.  But our God makes all things new (2 Cor. 5:17)!  We might find ourselves in a spiritual rut, lacking enthusiasm for Christian fellowship or desire to save souls.  But our God is able to revive us in His service (Psa. 51:12)!  The word revive means “to return to life; become active or flourishing again; to restore from a depressed, inactive, unused state” (Merriam-Webster).  It might take some time, and it might take some elbow grease (a.k.a. refining), but God can restore those who turn back to Him.

Prayer for today:  “Revive us again.  Fill each heart with Thy love.  May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.”

Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

On Saturday, I made this sauce.   I enjoy the depth of flavor that results from pairing rhubarb with strawberries.  The interesting thing about making this sauce was finding the right balance of sweetness.  Rhubarb is tart, so I started out with a whole cup of sugar.  My mouth puckered when I tried it, so  I added another half cup.  It was still too tart.  It took another half cup of sugar, and then it was just right.  The reason I added the sugar bit by bit was to avoid making the sauce too sweet.  Too much sugar in this sauce would’ve made our throats buzz, and would’ve also masked the flavor of the rhubarb.  I’ll include the recipe below, in case anyone’s interested.  We’ve been enjoying it with angel food cake, but it’d also be good over pancakes, waffles, or ice cream.

It’s a challenge finding the right balance of sweetness in our speech.  If we speak without thinking, our words can be too tart, and therefore, unpleasant.  Or, the things we say can come across as too sticky sweet when accompanied by a saccharine smile.  The only way to know the difference is to taste our own words.  With a little thought, kindness, and sincerity, our words can be “pleasant like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones” (Prov. 16:24).

Prayer for today:  It’s all too easy to snap at loved ones, or be fake with others.  May the words I say to my children, my husband, my neighbors, my church family, and to strangers that I meet, be pleasant and sincerely sweet.  

Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

In large pot, combine 2 quarts of strawberries (sliced), 4 stalks of rhubarb (diced), 2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of water,  and the zest & juice of one orange.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Turn heat down to simmer, and cook until rhubarb is tender (about 15 minutes).  Add 1 tbsp. butter to reduce foam (optional).  Cook for a minute longer.  Remove from heat and stir in 1 tbsp. vanilla paste (or vanilla extract).  At this point, you can pour into jars as is, resulting in a chunky, fruity sauce.  Or, you can use an immersion blender, as I did, to create a smooth and creamy, ruby sauce.  Enjoy!

“Life and Favor”

This little phrase that makes up the title of this post and my blog has always spoken to my heart.  It comes from the mouth of Job.  “You have granted me life and favor, and Your care has preserved my spirit” (Job 10:12).  In the midst of some sorrowful tragedies, Job acknowledged God as the Source of the blessings in his life.  He questioned his trials, but he kept his faith.  He believed God was his Creator.  “You have granted me life.”  Even though the lives of his own children had been taken away, Job understood that the Giver of life was still in control.  He believed  God was his Benefactor.  “You have granted me favor.”  God didn’t just give him life.  He gave him an abundant life.  Job was still blessed, and he knew it.  He believed God was his Deliverer.  “Your care has preserved my spirit.”  Even when experiencing loss, Job knew he could trust his heart to God’s safekeeping.  The providence of God kept Job from giving up, from shriveling up, and kept his spirit looking up.  This little phrase reminds me to be grateful for the blessings that all Christians enjoy.  God is the source of eternal life (Rom. 6:23), the abundant life (2 Pet. 1:3), and the protected life (1 Tim. 4:10)!