My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad; my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right. Proverbs 23:15
For the past 22 years our family has gone on a camping trip with my husband’s family. When the kids were little they used to look forward to that weekend like it was Christmas. I have to admit, it’s one of my very favorite family traditions too. As the cousins got older, the weekend would often be broken up because of ball games, summer jobs, camps or other events that happen in life but the time together has remained a constant. This past weekend as I sat watching and listening I was amazed at how much things had changed but yet how much they had stayed exactly the same.
It doesn’t seem all that long ago I was packing the play pen, high chair, toys, diapers and two dozen outfits for wet dirty toddlers. This morning as we quickly packed up our stuff I watched as the nieces and nephews who once required all that stuff try to cram all those things into their own vehicles. I had to chuckle a few times at the whole “going to the beach” part of the weekend too. For years we raced to set up camp and get organized amid the excited pleas from the children to go swimming. We knew we only had a small window of time until the patience were all used up and the excited pleas turned into desperate whines! I watched the same folks who used to beg to go, load up their wagons with sun screen, towels, buckets and shovels, snacks and drinks to trek down to the beach. At first I felt old but those feelings quickly turned to blessed and grateful.
We live in a world that emphasis lots of things that stand in contradiction to solid family values. As I looked around the campgrounds all I could see were families. It’s a weekend steeped in good clean fun. There were babies to pass around and toddlers to play with and so much laughter. Sometimes I think this world changes so fast but then there are weekends like this one and I realize how many simple things in life never seem to change! Only one of our own children could make the trip this year and just at the point in the weekend when my heart was the heaviest my delightfully cheerful great-niece jumped up on my lap with the dirtiest feet I’ve ever seen and we just giggled. As her pregnant mommy was trying to get her and her two sisters into the vehicle to go home I got the chance to re-live an event that just made my heart feel better. I stood three little girls in the camper bath tub to scrub their dirty little feet and I was surrounded by the sound of toe tickling giggles and everything was suddenly alright with the world.
I was reminded this weekend of all the things in life I think I need…but don’t really need at all! I think it takes a weekend like this to realize all the greatest things in life come with a small price tag. Things like watching the nieces and nephews you once held on your lap hold their own babies on theirs. Watching cousins reconnect and laugh in their 20’s like they did when they were 5. Watching my brother and sisters in-law swoop up grandchildren and love on them in a way they didn’t always have time to do with their own children. The greatest part of all is seeing how God has so generously blessed this family with health and happiness and love. I don’t need God to grant me wealth or power or fame, I just need him to keep showing me his great works through simple blessings like this weekend. The way this family tradition has endured over time is his way of showing me he’s in charge and he will be generous and kind to his faithful!
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to think about the simple gifts God has blessed you with to show his great love…then tell him thank you.
Blessings on your day!
Return to me and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:7
Did you ever lose something important? It can be a real pain in the neck to stop everything and look for something we misplace. Maybe for you it’s your phone, keys or shoes, for me it’s my glasses. I’m at that lovely age where I need reading glasses. In an attempt not to waste time looking for them, I’ve purchased 5 or 6 pair from the dollar store and have them strategically placed all over the house, good plan right…not so much! I still spend too many minutes retracing my steps and trying to find a pair when I need them. I was looking for a pair the other day and I remembered the three things my dad used to say when we lost something. Sometimes he would say, “Good grief child, you’d lose your head if it wasn’t screwed on to your shoulders!” If he didn’t say that, then he would offer the following helpful tidbit, “Well, I don’t know where it is but I know you’ll find it in the last place you look!” The last really helpful thing he would say was, “Humm, I can’t imagine what happened to it since you put it right back in the proper place it came from!” I can laugh now, but when I was a little girl I didn’t find much humor in his wisdom.
Lost stuff is one thing, lost souls are quite another. When Jason was little, he was shopping with me and while I was busy looking at a stuffed rack of winter coats, he crawled inside one of the circular clothing racks and hid. I panicked when I couldn’t find him. After a few short seconds of frantically calling his name my racing heart slowed a little when he peeked his little chubby cheeks through the clothes and screamed “I’m right here mom!” I’ll never forget that feeling and the hug that came right before the scolding was the best hug ever! I went through a time this spring where I felt a little lost. I was continuing my daily prayer but I just felt like God wasn’t as close as he usually was. I felt like I was drifting away and I just couldn’t find my way back. I know it’s not uncommon for people to go through periods of dryness in their prayer life but I sure didn’t like it. When things were most difficult the evil one was trying to convince me God had abandoned me I began to pray that God would find me and bring me back and close the gap I felt between us. That was my prayer for several weeks and on the darkest day, I read these words from the Prophet Malachi, return to me, that I may return to you.
Once those words were stuck in my head and my heart I began to realize God hadn’t gone anywhere! He is the fixed object in this relationship…I am the variable. In order for him to come to me, I had to go to him. I had been seeking the good feeling of his presence, I wanted his blessing and his grace but I wasn’t seeking his presence. I wanted a big heap of me and my happy blessed life with a side of God…he wanted it the other way around. I wondered why he wasn’t answering my prayers and bringing me comfort and peace; he was just frantically calling my name trying to bring me back home to his plan. I was uncomfortable because I wasn’t where he was asking me to be. He wanted more of my time, my heart and my trust. He wanted me to return to him so he could return to me. When I was trying to find my way and figure out what I needed to change, scripture tells me that all the while, he was frantically calling my name and searching, much like the day I lost Jason and he rejoiced greatly when I returned. The day I got it figured out was a great day and that is exactly the day I remembered the story of a lost Jason. I have no doubt he popped that story into my head just to prove a point and I’ve never felt so loved! I guess my dad’s wisdom was right. He was the last place I looked, and it’s amazing how easy it is to find things when they are in their proper place…God first not me first!
A Seed To Plant: If you happen to be feeling a little distant from God, ask him to woo you back then have the courage to return with your whole heart.
Blessings on your day!
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105
Happy birthday Joyful Words! I can’t believe it’s been two years; the Monday’s and Thursday’s have just clipped right along. It’s very humbling to be a part of what the Holy Spirit can do when we say yes and get out of His way. This work is truly the work of the Holy Spirit because more than 200 posts later, He just keeps sending the words. I have no training, no related degree, I am not a Scripture Scholar or Theologian but yet y’all just keep on reading…and I thank you for that! Someone asked me when I started how long I would keep the blog up and I remember thinking; I’m still stuck on “how” let alone “how long!” I suppose as long as the Holy Spirit keeps sending the ideas and people keep on reading I’ll just keep typing.
As I read through some of the archives I realize there are some pretty common threads among the posts. I suppose that’s a testament to the fact that we all wake up every day, try to love the Lord a little more than we did yesterday and ask forgiveness for the same shortcomings week after week. I think we share that struggle and I think we can blame most of it on Adam and Eve! Every now and again as I wrestle with my own sinfulness I imagine having a conversation with Eve and saying something like, “Really Eve…was the apple really THAT stinkin’ wonderful looking; let me tell you about that stupid piece of fruit you ate!” Then I realize, I am Eve, again and again and again so who am I to point fingers and roll eyes! It doesn’t matter if it’s an apple, a bag of potato chips, a gossipy conversation or an inflation of the truth, it’s all the same, its human weakness and sinfulness and we’ve all got some!
Sometimes I worry that I don’t have anything new to say but I suppose there is comfort in that as well. I guess as long as we wake up in the morning and realize there will never be a perfect, sinless day we can take a deep breath and ask God to lift us, guide us and do our best to hang on tight to his sleeve as He leads us through the day. It’s the letting go of His sleeve that trips us up isn’t it! Maybe my next post should be called “Hold on to my sleeve silly…that’s all you have to do!”
Thank you for allowing me to share stories about my family, my little lovelies and my goofy life. Thank you to each and every one of you who have commented or “liked” or “shared” the posts, all of your support and encouragement keeps me writing. I can’t tell you how completely goose-bumpy it feels to be bolted awake at 3 am on post morning to write a different post because the Holy Spirit tells me to and then a few hours later have a reader say, “thank you, I really needed to hear those words today!” Folks, let’s be clear, I am not in charge of this adventure and I find it so amazing when things like that happen, thank you for sharing those things…To Him be the glory! Mostly, I’m just very grateful that we live in a country where we can share our faith so freely and I’m convinced WE NEED TO DO IT MORE! Thanks for tuning in each week, you are a bigger blessing in my life than I can even express! No homework today, just a giant BLESSINGS ON YOUR DAY!
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
When was the last time you heard someone scream in an excited voice, “Yeah, I’m third whoo hoo for me!” Uh…probably never, that’s just nuts. Or is it? We live in a world that promotes being first, best, biggest and fastest. Being third is nothing to aspire to by most standards, or so I thought. I was reading an article recently and in small print at the bottom of one of the pages was a quote from the author who said she constantly strives to be third; God first, others second and herself third.
I chewed on that thought for the better part of two days and quite frankly I am amazed by it. My first reaction was, oh yeah, good idea, I do that too. Then reality whapped me upside the head and I was flooded with examples of times I truly was not content with third place. God is so good at honestly putting me in my place. Then I moved on to this thought…well surly it doesn’t mean third all the time. For instance, it’s my obligation to be the best mother and wife I can be so I have to try to be the best or first in that role. Then I thought about my teaching, surely God and a whole batch of parents each year want me to be the best teacher for their children. Imagine the gasps at open house if I proudly announced I was the third best teacher. I then proceeded to go into the pattern I usually go into when I hear something from God I don’t really want to agree with; I decided the quote was flawed or goofy.
It’s usually at that point I have to give up and ask God why He really lead me to the words and begin to open my mind and heart to the truth He’s speaking through the words. He didn’t fail me! After some pouting, praying and processing I got the truth. The truth is, it isn’t about me at all! God has to come first or my life is nothing but one long chain of goofed up stuff. God always has to be in the front seat because I’m a lousy navigator and take way too many wrong turns and dead end paths…He never loses the way. If I believe He will lead me perfectly in anything I do in His name then it’s easier to let Him claim first place. If I can agree to that, I have to remember the greatest commandment is to love others. It’s the most basic thing He asks of me and honoring His request to love Him by loving others means putting others in spot two. It just seems like the least I can do for the God who has done everything for me. That leaves third place and instead of selfishly looking at it as a consolation prize I had to stop a minute and realize those first two places were for Him and service to Him so third place is as close to Him as I could possibly be. After thinking it over, I really like third place. If I’m doing everything I do to serve Him and the people He created then how can I want anything more? If I let Him be first and offer everything I do to Him, it will all be just as He wishes and that will always be right! Thinking of third place in a new way is very freeing! The pressure is off…I just have to follow along behind first and second with a heart full of love and I will win every time! I’ll just stay locked in third and glide along on His tail wind! The journey to heaven is a great one…and the prize for coming in third is magnificent! Bronze just became my new favorite color!
A Seed To Plant: Spend some serious time this week pondering which spot you’re in. How can you work harder to come in third?
Blessings on your day!
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Luke 12:34
Sometimes summer’s greatest gift is a few extra minutes to catch up on everything that got piled a foot deep during the busy spring! This summer brings those extra minutes none too soon! There are a hundred “little something’s” that need my attention. One of the things that seriously needs my attention is proper grocery shopping. Rushing from spring ballgame to event I ran to the store for emergency goods and just enough to get us through the week. The need for a thoroughly organized trip came to light when we ran out of ketchup two weeks ago. We can have the same bottle in the fridg for a month or two so I didn’t think too much about it. I just made a mental note to make sure hamburgers didn’t appear on the menu until I’d made it to the store. Unfortunately I didn’t really realize how often I needed just a little bit here and there until it was gone. One of the kids asked for meatloaf last week and I need ketchup for that. We were out of milk so scrambled eggs became the breakfast of choice and one of the kids likes just a little ketchup…oops! Then there was the night one of the kids grabbed a burger and fries on the run and brought them home. The girl at the drive thru forgot to throw in a packet of ketchup so what would have been no big deal turned out to be a big “OH MY” when again one of us stared into a ketchup-less fridg. After a while it just became funny. If it weren’t for the groans I’d skip buying it for another week just to see how many times someone reaches for it!
Sunday breakfast is a big deal at our house. It’s one of my favorite times of the week because everyone is usually home and I love having everyone’s feet parked under my kitchen table even if it’s just for 20 minutes! After we got settled at the table and prayed, someone asked for ketchup for the hash browns and I just busted out laughing and promised to go to the store early this week. As we continued with breakfast, I realized ketchup and prayer have some similarities. Sometimes we view them as just a tiny little extra to enhance what’s on our plate. Sometimes the comfort and peace that comes from a consistent prayer life are taken for granted like the ketchup; until we’ve got something on our plate that really requires it. We can even manage to seemingly get along just fine without it for a while until…wham…we need it and get frustrated when we can’t reach out and grab it. And honestly, if we fall out of the habit of consistent prayer we may not even realize it right away. Of all the things on my shopping list ketchup is one of the less expensive items so I didn’t go without because I couldn’t afford it or it was in short supply, I just forgot! Kinda like prayer don’t you think…it doesn’t cost anything to pray, it doesn’t require anything more than stillness and time…but sometimes we forget until we get in a tough spot.
As I get organized for my summer and my fist proper grocery shop in a while I’ll first make sure I take some time to re-organize my prayer time. I really don’t want to run out of ketchup again so it’s a priority item on the shopping list but I REALLY don’t want to run out of great conversation opportunities with my Heavenly Father so I’ll make sure that takes the highest priority…way above ketchup!
A Seed To Plant: Take a look at your summer priorities and make sure you give quiet peaceful prayer minutes the top spot!
Blessings on your day!
She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year…1 Kings 17:15
A wise little girl told me one time that what the world needed most is “more giving stuff away.” It made me giggle but something about that simple little idea just clung in my thoughts. When I heard this line in the story of the Prophet Elijah and the widow this week that little girl’s idea bounced in my mind. As adults, we know the word is generosity and she’s right, the world needs more of it. The widow in the story matched her loving generosity with a gigantic dose of trust as well. I think that’s a pretty powerful combination don’t you? In case you don’t know the whole story; a widow and her son were preparing to die of hunger during a famine. The widow had only a tiny bit of flour and oil to prepare one last meal before starvation. Then out of nowhere appears this man asking for bread and water. She explains the situation and he tells her to make him a small cake before she does as she plans. In other words, hey lady, feed me first before you and your son have your last nibble of bread and die of starvation. I think I might have been looking for something to throw at Him! Not the widow, she responded with generosity and trust and her reward was a bin of flour and a jug of oil that never ran dry.
I was watching a little video clip about St. Katherine Drexel last weekend and her life too demonstrated enormous generosity coupled with amazing trust. When Katherine’s wealthy parents died, their estate left Katherine and her sisters with 14 million dollars each. Today that amount would be closer to 400 million. Even though her family was very wealthy, their wealth was outmatched by their generosity. The Drexel family opened their home three afternoons a week to bring in and feed, clothe and pray with the poor and the needy. Guided by her parents example of loving generosity, Katherine became a nun and used her fortune to generously serve societies lost and forgotten. Out of that entire fortune, not one little bit was saved for herself. One of the people I was watching the video with said, “I think I would have set some aside in a special little account just in case.” Like the widow, it was generosity first, trust second and blessings third.
Don’t be puzzled, this is not a post offering financial guidance for managing the millions of dollars you have lying around, I will let you manage your millions yourself! It is however a good day to look at all of the thing that constitute our personal fortune, like our time, health, resources and God-given gifts and talents. It’s a good day to evaluate our generosity and trust, using the example of the heroes of our faith. There are people like Katherine who have so much and then there are people like the widow who have so little yet both acted with such generosity it left a mark! I suppose that eliminates all excuses for the rest of us doesn’t it! We are each called to be generous stewards of our gifts no matter how great or how small they seem. We are also called to give an example of generosity to our friends and family. I wonder what Katherine would have done with her fortune if she hadn’t grown up in a home that flung open its doors to love and care for the poor? I have to ask myself what I have taught my own children about generosity.
I think the biggest thing sitting on my heart as I type this post…what does my loving God have in store for me if I were to act in complete generosity and trust? The widow got a blessing far beyond imagination, Katherine Drexel was blessed immeasurably by those she loved and served in the name of Christ. So what’s waiting for me? I suppose I have to grow in trust, act with greater generosity and see what happens. I’ll keep you posted!
A Seed To Plant: As you sit in prayer this week, ask God to show you how to be more generous and trusting.
Blessings on your day!
For I know well the plans I have for you…Jeremiah 29:11
Have you ever noticed how many things just go together; peanut butter and jelly, ice cream and hot fudge or salt and pepper? Lots of things come in pairs that just match. I experienced a pair last Friday…ending and beginning. As the 3:10 bell rang, I said good bye to my last group of little lovelies. The end of the year is always hard for me but this year it was the end of my days in first grade and the beginning of my career as a 5th and 6th grade religion teacher. I guess you could say I’m trading the little lovelies for the middle lovelies. Life is full of tradeoffs! There are lots of things I will miss with the little lovelies! I’m not sure how many hugs, drawings, homemade necklaces and dandelion bouquets I will receive from my middle lovelies but I’m convinced they will give me a whole different set of blessings and gifts. It’s hard to imagine what they might be at this point but I’m looking forward to the discoveries.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs about moving down the hall to the middle lovelies. I’m nervous because I’m following in the footsteps of a giant of a teacher. She was gentle, humble, holy and a brilliant religion teacher. She truly touched the hearts and souls of the students she taught. I’m also nervous because this switch was God’s decision. A change this big was not on my radar but I prayed that He would show me what He wanted me to do…He made it crystal clear so I’m on my way down the hall. I suppose the third thing that makes me nervous is, I was comfortable; I knew what I was doing and now I have to figure out how to do this job all over. I need to study 6th grade language arts and teach with novels instead of books that focus on the sound of one short vowel. I have to dig deeper and teach the meaning of Jesus’ Gospel message rather than just teaching who Jesus is. When I think about everything I need to do and plan and learn this summer, I wonder if God really knew what He was doing and I realize just how steep the learning curve is for next year. When I feel like I’m about to be swallowed up by doubt, I have to stop and remember who’s idea this was. I will figure out how to teach 6th grade Language Arts and I will get used to the way the middle lovelies will be more independent and challenging but the real trade off in all of this; I get to teach about the majesty, love and absolute greatness of God four every hours each day! That will be amazing. It’s funny how often I can teeter between excitement and doubt about the decision. Those are the moments God calls me into prayer.
I’ve come to the realization lately that God likes to shake us up and make us a little uncomfortable every now and again. He isn’t as concerned about our temporary contentment as He is the master plan for our lives. A quiet, peaceful and uneventful summer was on my list but apparently not His. I know He called me to this so I know He will equip me with what I need to get the job done but man is He ever bossy sometimes! I’ll follow, I’ll work hard, I’ll trust Him and I’ll be blessed! That’s how it works when you wake up in the morning and choose to be a disciple of Christ. He tests, we trust…simple as that. As I head into school today and begin to pack away short vowel bingo and little scissors I’ll remind myself of that and when I walk down the hall and enter my classroom for next year I’ll remind myself of that again. I can’t wait to see what He has in store for me and I have no doubt that the middle lovelies have much to teach me. Stay tuned for the adventures of Mrs. Wohlfert and her middle lovelies coming next fall. I have a stack of books and resources to go through this summer to prepare so I’ll be sure to bring you along as I learn and discover this summer. So…stay tuned!
A Seed To Plant: Give some extra prayerful thought this week to the areas of your life where God might be leading you to change. Ask Him to make you willing to trade comfort and contentment for growth and blessing.
Blessings on your day!
A time for everything...Ecclesiastes 3
Have you ever tried to mop up a puddle with a wet sponge? Didn't work so well did it! Basic science explains once that sponge reaches full capacity everything else just rolls off...there's just "no more room in the inn" so to speak.
To all of you lovely faithful readers who tuned in this morning to read a joyful word or two...I'm sorry but the sponge is full! It's the last week of school and there are more things going on than I can fit into the days. I should also note for those of you who don't know it; the worst day of the year according to Mrs. Wohlfert is...the LAST day of school and that day is coming like a freight train. It always feels a little like someone has just sawed off my arm with a butter knife when those little lovelies walk out the door the last time. SO...add the emotion of all that with the demands of spring time with a family and hence...you get one very wet sponge. I promise to have sufficient "sponge wringing" time over the weekend and I'll meet you back here on Monday with a great story!
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time this weekend wringing out your own sponge...life can make us all a little soggy!
Blessings on your day!
Be doers of the word and not just hearers only, deluding yourselves. James 1:22
Do any of you have a person in your life that is absolutely brutally honest with you? You know, that person who will tell you just like it is and is not one bit afraid to call the kettle black! This type of person has an amazing ability to leave you breathless with one quick sentence. The outcome is often the same…we stop, steam a bit, and then take some time to realize they just spoke a truth. We may not like the sound of it but it turns out very often to be something we needed to hear. I heard a story several years ago about a person just like this.
The story goes like this; a wife told her husband that she wanted to take part in a new Bible study group at the church on Tuesday nights. He replied “another one? “ “Yeah” she snapped, “You got a problem with that Mr. I go bowling and hunting and fishing and never go to church with my wife on Sunday?” The husband smiled and said, “I wouldn’t mind at all if you went to another Bible study but I don’t see any evidence that you’ve used anything you’ve learned at the last 12 Bible studies you’ve already gone to.” Ouch! There was that one honest line that left her breathless! After four days of no talking, no cooking, sleeping on the couch and no communication what-so-ever long, she realized he was right! She hadn’t changed one bit despite all the time, energy and resources she’d invested in her former studies. On day 5 she got up the courage to look him in the eyes and tell him he was right! She surprised her husband even further when she told him she wanted to make a deal with him. She said she would be willing to spend her time reviewing all the materials she already had instead of going to another Bible study if he would agree to go to church with her if he began to see her using what she had learned.
I don’t know how the story ended, but I have a hunch! St. James used some very simple words in this verse, words many of us, just like the lady in the story are challenged by; being doers of the word and not just hearers. I may aspire to be the town’s greatest cook and I may buy cookbook after cookbook and I might discuss cooking and recipes with others but none of that will really make me a great cook! I have to DO it…I have to roll up my sleeves, dig into the words and put them into action! I have to take a risk and be willing to get messy and goof it up a few times before I get it right! God doesn’t want to hear what we know; he wants to SEE what we know. Easier said than done for sure but now is the time to dig in and be a DOER of the word!
A seed to plant: Read James Chapter 1 and pick two things that hit your heart. Write down how you will “DO” those two things this week!
Blessings on your day!
Click on the items below to expand the options available to you to explore the Joyful Words blog.