Thursday, January 29, 2015

What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?

Hey Friend,
This may seem like an odd question to be asking myself when I am 53 years old.  I was never one of those kids who always knew what they wanted to be.  I envied those who had dreams of being a doctor, nurse, actor, lawyer, engineer, policeman, dancer, etc. 
The one thing I do remember wanting to be as a young girl, was a wife and mother (yes, I hear the collective groan of the feminist movement).  My mom's predominant role was being a good wife and mother and I looked up to her. 
I remember sitting down with my parents to decide what I was going to major in in college.  I remember our humorous conversation reminiscing about my dad trying to help me with my math homework and me always ending up in tears.  From those experiences, we deduced that I probably wouldn't make it as an engineer. 
Since I didn't have any great desire to "be" something, we started with what am I good at?  English and writing rose to the top. (That's why I cringe with ending a sentence with the word "at" lol)  Okay, English/Communications Major was what I would be.  Finished. End of discussion - except for my dad's final parting words, "Make sure you take a typing class."
I did well in my major in college, and I did take that typing class.  Jobs were scarce when I graduated so my typing sustained me for awhile in temporary jobs until I finally landed in the Human Resources department for a large holding company.  I walked employees through their relocation benefits as they moved about the globe.  I discovered that I loved working with people and helping them.  After getting married and relocating, I worked my way up as Relocation Director for a large Real Estate and Construction Company.  It's interesting how God takes us down paths that we would have never imagined.
Finally it came time to be what I always wanted to be - a wife and mother.  I would say, by far, this was the most demanding, most exhausting, yet most fulfilling job I have ever had.  I loved (on most days) being home with my kids.  I felt like I was in that sweet spot where God wanted me to be.  Sure, I had my days when I wanted to run away from home. 
I still remember vividly the day the UPS driver came to the door to deliver a package.  I was in sweats, my greasy hair up in a pony tail, wrestler's knee pads on my knees because I was scrubbing tile floors.  Barbie, and her excessive wardrobe and yacht were strewn all over the floor and Steven, my youngest, was running around in a t-shirt only because being naked from the waste down was the only way he seemed to "get" the necessity of getting to the bathroom when nature called.  I will never forger the look on that driver's face when I opened the door to sign for the package. Yes, this is what I had dreamed of being?!
Fast forward through many years of being a stay at home mom.  That is until infidelity and a divorce blindsided me.  I was immediately thrown back into the search for a job.  Only thing was that while I was busy being Mom, the computer age blew by me and left me in its dust.  What marketable skills did I have?  After much searching and fretting, I signed on as a teacher assistant at a private Catholic school that was just opening its doors. 
God certainly was looking out for me as I was assigned to work with a beautiful Christian teacher in the third grade.  Kim and the children filled a gaping hole in my life and as much as I helped and loved on those kids, they returned the favor ten fold.  So I could now add "teacher" to my resume.  I followed up teaching grade school with becoming a preschool teacher for several more years. 
Then, God brought a wonderful man into my life...or I guess I should say back into my life since we had been friends in high school and at the same time I was sidelined with two major surgeries that took a long time from which to recuperate.  My work life came to an abrupt halt and it quickly became clear that I would not be able to return to a job that required a lot of standing, stooping, kneeling and getting down on little people level.
It was during that time that my blog was born.  Out of sheer boredom and not being able to put any weight at all on my knee, I rediscovered my love of writing.  Once again I felt like I was in that sweet spot...only problem was that it didn't pay the bills. 
Once again, God's timing was impeccable.  My husband and I were married and I was excited to once again be in the fulfilling role of wife.  I was still needed in my role as mother to grown children (Mother is a job from which you never retire).  I sunk my teeth into my blog and being the General Contractor for a myriad of repairs needed on our 18 year old home that desperately needed some TLC.  My wonderful husband encouraged me to take some much needed time for myself - just to be good to myself after many years of neglect. 
This felt good for awhile, but I was always used to serving.  You name it, within the church and the community, I had done it.  Everything from Sunday school teacher, to MOPS (Mothers of Preschool) coordinator, to Junior Achievement board member, to helping start a Christian School in Pakistan,etc.  Serving has always been as necessary as breathing for me.
So here it is January 29, 2015 and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up?  I apologize that this post has been less about answers and more about journaling questions in my head.  I feel, once again, like I am back at square one wondering what I want to do with my life.  Do I go back to work? And if so doing what?  Do I serve in another area and if so where?  Do I take classes to improve my computer skills?  Do I learn another language?  Do I take up playing the piano again?  I honestly don't know...I am thankful, however, that I have the luxury of making a choice and am not back in that world of being a single parent trying to make ends meet.
All I know is that God brings us to these crossroads in order that we learn to wait expectantly on Him.  I do believe that He wants us to not sit passively, but to strike out in a direction in which we feel led and if that's not the way, He will close doors.  (This has happened to me already). 
I am brought back to having the scale read "less of me and more of Him".  I need to trust and believe that He has a perfect plan for me.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future."  (Jeremiah 29:11)
Notice, from this scripture, just who it is that has the plans that will give me hope...the Lord!
I am not good at waiting and being patient, but God's word has instruction on that as well:
They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:31)
And so, I wait...and I pray...and I listen for His still small voice.
I know I want whatever I do to glorify Him and to build His Kingdom.  That is about the only thing I'm sure of.
What about you?  Do you ever struggle with the question, "What do I want to be when I grow up?"  Would you share how you have found direction.  I love stories that give us all hope. 
Thank you for reading the ramblings in my head.  I pray, as always, that you would be blessed in your endeavors no matter what part of the globe you are tuning in from!
ps. Please continue to pray for safety for the staff and children of Redeemer Christian School.  If you want to see REAL faith in action, follow the lives of Christian servants working to spread the gospel in places where radical Islamic ideals prevail.  I pray earnestly for our world...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

You Are Never Alone

Hey Friend,
This may sound a little sacrilegious to some, but I have learned many lessons about the nature of God from my dogs - the two I have currently and the one who passed away a couple years ago. 
I could come through the door after being gone for hours, or I could have been gone for ten minutes and I would get a greeting that said, "You're the best thing since peanut butter!"  Tails would be a wagging and a whirling with pure unconditional love.  A glimpse of how God sees me.
Recently, I got yet another glimpse of God's loving nature when I was down and out with an episode of OCD anxiety and depression.  Fortunately these episodes are few and far between, but when they hit...they hit hard.  It's hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it, but sometimes the best way to cope is, like when you are sick with a cold or flu, to go to bed and rest.  Resting or sleeping gives my brain a chance to take a much needed break from the onslaught of the repetitive, anxiety producing, obsessive thoughts. I may be in bed for a day, maybe two. 
Amazingly though, I am never alone.  Even if my husband has to go to work, Topper, the beagle, will jump up on the bed and curl himself into a ball near my chest.  He snuggles in nice and close, shuts his eyes, and there he stays.  Zoe, the senior lab, will lumber up the stairs (aching joints and all) to find me.  When she does, she lies by my side of the bed, lets out a big sigh and there she abides. 
All day they stay, they abide, and they never leave my side.  They are there and I never feel alone.
Another glimpse of God...
They forego their fun times in the back yard to comfort me in my pain.  They know I am hurting and though they can't make the pain go away, they can bring me love in the midst of it. Does this remind you of someone?
"Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.  He will not leave or forsake you."  (Deuteronomy 31:6)
In this passage, Moses is speaking to the Nation of Israel who is on its way to the promised land.  The "them" Moses is telling them not to fear are the nations/enemies that lie in their path.  If you read the longer passage, I love how Moses reminds them of the path that God has already cleared thus far. 
In The Message version it reads: "God is striding ahead of you and is right there with you." 
I love this because only God can be striding ahead of you and right beside you at the same time.  He is omnipresent.  He has also been with you in the past.
Past, present, future...with God you are NEVER alone!
I don't know about you, but this brings me great comfort.  I may not feel  God at the moment, but if I choose to go with the facts found in scripture, I know that He is always there with me and will never leave me or forsake me. 
He is Jehovah Shammah - The Ever Present One
Not only is God with us, but He promises us strength and help.  He even promises to uphold us when we can't stand in our own strength.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
The Lord even promises to fight our battles for us if we will only be still.  Who does that?
A God who thinks you are the best thing since peanut butter...
A God who loves you with an unfathomable love and has fought to the death with evil in order to save YOU...
A God who draws near to you, abides with you, and never ever will forsake you...
That's who.
Draw upon these facts whenever you feel alone...
"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."  (Joshua 1:9)
"Behold, I am with you to the end of the age."  (Jesus speaking in Matthew 28:20)
All three persons of the Trinity are with you always.  The Bible tells us that God sends us a Helper - the Spirit of Truth (Holy Spirit) who dwells in us and we can call upon Him in times of trouble. 
I don't know about you, but that's a pretty strong defensive lineup!
The days are sunny and bright now, but I am confident that when trials come, I will never ever have to face them alone. 
Lord, thank you for your promises to us, over and over again, that you are our constant companion and that you will never leave us or forsake us.  Thank you that you promise us strength, help, and will even fight for us.  Help us to claim the truth of these promises.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

ps.  Will you please pray for Redeemer Christian School in Pakistan?  Pray for God's hedge of safety and protection to surround them and keep them safe from the evil that is in this world and on their doorstep.  Pray for protection for the leaders and teachers and the innocent children. Pray that Jesus' light would shine victoriously.   

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fitbits, Facelifts, and Best Kept Beauty Secrets

Hey Friend,
Obviously the title of my post is a little tongue in cheek, but I titled it such after reading an article in USA Today.  It talked about how cosmetic companies and cosmetic surgeons are capitalizing on the "forever young" mindset that pervades our society.
The article went on to say, "Boomers, in an attempt to keep the dreaded signs of aging at bay, will push the U.S. market for anti-aging products from about 80 billion dollars now to more than 114 billion dollars in 2015."
I am a baby boomer, and I would by lying if I said I didn't own any of these coveted fountain of youth serums.  In fact I once owned a small jar of one of the finest, most expensive creams on the market.  You see, my ex-husband had a very good work relationship with a certain Chinese company.  As is their custom, when they would come to visit the States they would bring lovely gifts usually from their country.  I had gotten to know them as well and so they would always bring me something beautiful - a silk scarf, a piece of jewelry, an art object. 
One year when they visited, we were all out to dinner and the Chinese contingency presented their gifts to the Americans gathered around the table.  For each of the men - a silk tie.  My turn came (note I'm the only female at the table)... I reached into the gift bag and pulled out 1.7 ounces of, you got it, anti-wrinkle cream.  All American eyes turned toward me awaiting my reaction.  I admit, at first, I wondered what they were trying to tell me, but after Mr. Lee piped up and said that his wife gives him big hugs and kisses when he brings her this cream from his world travels, I knew that it was being offered as a generous gift, sure to delight.  And delight it did...right down to the very last scraping of the bottom of the jar.
Fast forward to exactly one year ago when, at the age of 53, I walked down the aisle in a small intimate ceremony and I can honestly say that I have never felt more beautiful.  Even in my youth, with fresh soft skin and many pounds less than what I carry now, I never felt as beautiful as the day I married my husband Dave.  Friends described me as "radiant" and "beaming". 
Why was I able to pull off what no face lift or anti-wrinkle cream could? 
I was simply mirroring and reflecting the love that was being shown to me.
I was radiant because I was flowing together with the two greatest, most unconditional loves of my life:  My Lord and then my husband. 
And all of us, with unveiled faces, reflecting like bright mirrors the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same likeness, from one degree of radiant holiness to another, even as derived from the Lord of the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.  (Psalm 34:5)
As we come, unveiled, just as we are, before the Lord and spend time in His presence we are transformed into the same likeness and begin to radiate His glory and likeness to those around us. 
Spend enough time with someone and eventually they begin to rub off on you.
What also helps is a shift from "exterior thinking" to "interior thinking".  I'm not knocking your resolution to join the gym to lose those extra pounds or getting a facial or a new "do".  We are called to take care of our bodies - the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells.
The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 3:3-4:  Do not let your adorning be external - the braiding of hair and the putting on of jewelry, or the clothing you wear - but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.
"Imperishable beauty" the kind of beauty that transcends laugh lines (aka wrinkles), sagging skin and extra pounds is a gentle and quiet spirit. 
Think of the type of people you are drawn to in a room...yes, at first glance it might be the toned, tight skinned externally good looking people...but after awhile, who do you want to linger with longer?  Might it be the person who possesses an inner beauty or charisma? 
Beauty truly is fleeting (Proverbs 31:30).  If you don't believe this, pop in on your 30 year class reunion. Just kidding... 
Once the youthful good looks are stripped away, all that is left is the soul.
Perhaps because I have an anxiety disorder and have battled depression, I can look into a person's eyes and easily see into their soul.  Behind fake smiles, I can pick out in a heartbeat those who are dealing with depression or an illness of the spirit.  I am also able to see the radiant beauty of those who love the Lord.  I think it's because I am both of those people??!
But, how are your insides? What is the condition of your soul?  Look in the mirror.  Does your face scream wrinkle cream or are you radiant because you are mirroring the One who loves you unconditionally? 
God does love you unconditionally...just as you are.  You don't need to "pretty up" in order to come before Him.  Crawl into His arms and let His great love strip away your shame and let time in His presence radiate beauty from your countenance.  Like early morning sunshine shimmering on a lake, so will His holiness glisten in your eyes.  Just come.
Lord, let me come with an unveiled face before you.  Let me spend time in your presence so that when others look at me they will see the beauty and glory of your face.  Amen. 
In His love,
Happy 1 year anniversary to my loving husband, Dave!! 
Redeemer Christian School in Pakistan:  Thanks to your generosity we have big plans for 2015.  We will be adding additional books and school supplies as well as seeing that each child has their own Bible.  The children are already joyful over the scriptures they have committed to memory.  We always have the ongoing expenses of rent and teacher's salary.  On our wish list is being able to add tables and chairs (the children currently sit on blankets on the floor) and possibly a second teacher.  If you would like to help this dream come true:
Send donations to:  Bev Rihtarchik/RCS
                              103 Silver Lining Lane
                              Cary, NC  27513
Smiles of joy have replaced faces filled with despair as the children celebrate Jesus' birthday.  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Measuring Out Grace

Hey Friend,
Happy New Year!  I have noticed with each passing year that I have gotten better at breathing in God's grace.  As I grow older, and one hopes I have gained more wisdom, I struggle less with the notion that God is somehow disappointed in me.  I was a tried and true perfectionist who attempted to not sin or disappoint God.  Every time I messed up, I would heap guilt upon my head and feel like a failure.  This is not living how God would want me to live!
It's taken a lifetime for Romans 8:1 to sink in (and I am still a work in progress):  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  One translation of the word "condemnation" is disappointment.  Note that the verse does not say, "there is now less condemnation" or "there is now a little bit of condemnation". No, it says, "There is now no disappointment.  There is only grace.
God wants us to exchange our guilt for His grace!  Go ahead and breathe it in!
When I was a little girl, I liked to collect rocks and stones.  Even a glimpse of everyday quartz was enough to catch my eye and deem a rock worthy of being picked up and stashed in my pocket.  On my walk home from elementary school, my friends and I passed by Gracie's store.  It was a little Mom & Pop grocery store with a penny candy counter and tucked way in the back of the store was a glass counter that held the most beautiful gemstones.  I always had to make my way back there and marvel at the amazing crystals buried within what seemed to be ordinary rocks.
I would work hard to save up my money and on special occasions like Mother's Day or my mom's birthday I would pick out and purchase the rock that I thought my mother would love best.  Amethyst was one of my favorites, so I skipped all the way home the day I was going to bestow this gorgeous purple-hued rock upon my mother.  (Just what every mom wants). 
One day, when I was an adult with children, my mom showed me the collection of "rocks" I had given her over the years (both purchased and found).  She knew they were gifts from the heart. 
Giving rocks and stones is one thing, but there are stones that are not so pretty - the ones we throw at others in judgment.  I like to think that I am a gracious person, but am I really?  How quickly do I get annoyed at the person in front of me in the check out line at the grocery store who has 50 coupons (half of them expired or with special conditions) that requires the manager to be called over?  How quickly do I lose my cool with the customer service representative that I've called with a question or problem that isn't getting resolved?  How did my young children learn to call out, "You idiot" to other drivers on the highways and byways?
On a sideboard in my kitchen I have a little plaque that says "Grace".  Beside it is a smooth coal colored stone with these words on it:  "He that is without sin among you let him cast the first stone." (Jesus Christ)
God pours out His grace like rain on me...and then what do I do with it?  Do I pass it on or do I measure out judgment?  God has put it on my heart for me to truly try to walk in another man or woman's shoes before I make hasty judgments.  They are people too - with lives and "to do" lists and frustrations all their own.
If I want to be a directional arrow pointing people toward Jesus...I need to act a little more like Him.
That being said, I have chosen the word "GRACE" as my watch word for 2015 (last year I picked "INTENTIONAL").  As I am learning, with more success, to breathe in God's grace, I also want to grow in measuring it out as well.  Tall order, but with God all things are possible.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.  (Romans 3:24)
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.  (1 Peter 4:10)
Lord, I thank you for the merciful grace that you not only give, but lavish upon me.  Enable me to excel in the act of giving grace to others.  Let 2015 be the year I consistently measure out grace.  Amen.
What is your watch word for 2015?  Would you share?  If you've never chosen one before, would you consider praying for God to reveal to you what He wants to build in you this year?  I pray so...and let us be transformed together!
In His love,
ps.  Know that if you are reading my blog that you are being lifted up in prayer every morning and every evening.  That is my commitment to blessed.
I will report next week on the great things happening at Redeemer Christian School in Pakistan.