Sunday, July 31, 2011

Taboo Anyone?

My sister and I are making a concerted effort to bring our large family together for other than sad occasions.  We had our first gathering this past October at my sister's home with several of our female cousins.  We had such a good time, we knew we needed to keep the fellowship going.  It took longer than we expected until yesterday - 9 months later - to make it happen again, this time with an expanded invite to include more of our female cousins.  My sister and her daughter and ten of our female cousins came to the fellowship at my home. 

As a surprise, I asked my brother to bring our cousin Sammie who has been battling a serious illness for several months.  They were the only males allowed!  I'm just a month older than Sammie.  I've stayed in touch with him throughout his illness.  I knew he needed  a festive occasion after after his recent scary  hospitalization. Sammie and my brother ate, posed for pictures with us, visited for a little while, and made their escape. 

Two of my cousins are twins.  For this occasion they dressed alike - first time since they were teenagers!  Another cousin had 4 of her grandchildren (triplet girls and their brother) visiting her for the day and brought them to the fellowship.  The triplets had not met their older twin cousins which provided a perfect opportunity to get a picture of all of them together!     

    After the men left, we settled down for a game Taboo.  We played Taboo at our October fellowship and had so much fun that we were anxious to play again. Everyone who played before remembered who the best players were so it took forever to divide into two teams.  We played a highly spirited game!  Although my team has to live down the humiliation of losing, we know we'll have a chance to redeem ourselves at the next cousins' gathering.

Topping off our evening was my Create Your Own Sundae dessert with chocolate, vanilla, and chocolate mint ice cream, peanut butter brownies, whipped cream, chocolate chips and cherries.  What more could you ask for on a Saturday night surrounded by family!  I can't speak for anyone else, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nobody Greater

I spent last week as a volunteer for an annual week-long performing arts youth workshop.  I was one of 8 women on the Volunteer Committee charged with ensuring there were enough volunteers to monitor dorms and classrooms, escort youth on campus, serve meals, supervise activities, and assist whereever needed with our 300+ youth participants. 

I thoroughly enjoyed working with some truly special ladies: Connie, Tiffany, Daphne, Linda, Karen, Barb, and Gwen.  I'm blessed to have known 2 of them since junior high (or middle school in today's vernacular).  Tiffany's exuberant personality helped the Committee in maintaining high energy throughout the week. The Committee bonded so well together that we purchased matching shoes to wear with our program t-shirts! 

The Volunteer Committee worked efficiently and effectively in coordinating the collective effort of over 100 volunteers.  We provided everyone who interacted with us with plenty of laughter and fellowship to counteract the stress generated by 300+ youth AND 90 degree weather.  The camraderie the Committee shared, along with Krispy Kreme donuts, candy, fresh fruit, homemade cakes, and beverages, prompted staff and volunteers to take their breaks in our room.  No doubt about it - our room (Block 105) - was THE place to be!    

The staff, instructors, and the Volunteer Committee prayed daily for God's anointing over the Workshop.  We especially prayed for Ms. Dolly, who had been with the workshop since it's inception and is fighting a battle against cancer.  Yesterday was the culmination of everyone's endeavor as the participants performed a free concert for the community.  God answered our prayers as Ms. Dolly was able to attend the program after having major surgery just a few days earlier.  Also, our local mayor attended the performance and proclamed July 24, 2011 as "Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop Day!" 

Our youth proudly sang praise songs, danced, stepped, performed in the orchestra, showcased their personal art and newsletter, and signed to an appreciative audience.  The closing song, Nobody Greater, was a magnificent end to a splendid day.  Nobody greater than God could have kept this workshop going that started with 75 local youth over 20 years and has spread in recent years to as many as 500 from around the country!  To God be the glory, honor and praise!  There's nobody greater!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Give Me Strength, Lord

This week I'll be one of over a hundred volunteers assisting with a week-long summer workshop where approximately 300 young people will participate in performing arts classes, hear motivational speakers, and learn how to be and stay excellent in all aspects of their lives.  This is my fifth year volunteering with this organization.  It is challenging and rewarding work. 

I moved outside my comfort zone when I was blessed to serve as the program director for two years for one of the components of this organization, as my ministry in His service for years had dealt with women.  I found that He has also given me a heart for youth.  Although I resigned as the program director, the position stretched me beyond my imagination.  My career had been in Human Resources...working with adults.  Working with teens is entirely different! 

While I'm no longer the program director, I've stayed involved with the organization because the work they do is positively impacting the lives of young people.  My husband is now involved and takes a day of vacation to help with game day.  My sisters-in-law have been involved with the organization for many years.  My daughter also volunteered when she was in town.   This is truly a family affair!

I seek your prayers this week as I, along with all of the volunteers, the organization's staff and Board, and the instructors come together to provide a safe place where the Lord will be worshipped and praised.  Help us Lord, to glorify You while encouraging young people to:

1) be excellent in all their ways and endeavors,
2) trust You to guide them through everything they face, and
3) develop their own personal relationships with You. 

Father, give us strength that they will see You in us.  To God be the Glory!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Virtuous Women

This morning the women of my church sponsored a Prayer Breakfast.  Our theme was "Who is a Virtuous Woman" taken from Proverbs 31:10-31.  Over 80 people were in attendance.   Ms. Cassie, who is 90 years old, prayed with the Devotion Team and set our souls on fire.  Leslie, our dynamic guest speaker, exegeted the Scripture and made it plain for all.

Leslie said the Virtuous Women are strong and bring 100% to their marriages, not 50% to add to their husbands' 50%.  No, when the Virtuous Woman's husband found her, she was already at 100%, and both brought their full 100% to the marriage!  Proverbs 31:10-12, 23, 26 A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.   Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.  She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Leslie told us that Virtuous Women: 1) have BUSINESS SAVVY and should be serving on school and corporate boards, city council, etc.  Proverbs 31:13-14, 16, 18-19, 24  She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
2) are BEAUTIFUL. They stay physically fit - they take care of their bodies.   Proverbs 31:17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.  

3) and are BALANCED.  Leslie talked about the Virtuous Woman using her hands.  Virtuous Women are busy, not idle.   They take care of their homes AND are involved in their community.  They are not worried about tomorrow nor concerned about their pasts - they are able to laugh at the days to come.  Proverbs 31:15, 19-20, 22, 25, 27  She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.  In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.  She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needyShe makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.  When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.  She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to comeShe watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Leslie told us that most of all the Virtuous Woman is able to do all these things because the Virtuous Woman fears the Lord.  Virtuous Women use their hands and whatever the Lord gives them to honor Him.  Virtuous Women are blessed and will be rewarded for all that they do.  Proverbs 28-31  Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”  Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.  Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Leslie reminded us that all the women in the room this morning have the potential to be  Virtuous Women because the Holy Spirit residing in us gives us what we need to do our Father's will.  He's gifted each of us with something.  Our responsibility is to find out what He wants us to do with our hands and then do it so that when we face Him, He won't ask us "what did you do with what I gave you?"  Leslie challenged us to use up all that He has given us.  You may not have heard her entire message, but I challenge you, too.  What are you doing with what He's given you to do?  If you don't know what it is, ASK Him and He will tell you.  Listen for His voice and then obey.  Read Matthew 25:31-40 for ideas on what you can do while you're waiting to hear from Him.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Shout Is In Order!

On Saturday morning (June 25), I walked my 10-year-old granddaughter to the 'waterfall' near my home.  It's not really a waterfall, but that's what my grands have called it since I began taking them there when they were toddlers.   I took pictures of her and the resident ducks and geese before heading back to the house.  As we were walking home, the back of my knee began to itch.  I realized something had bitten me but didn't think too much of it.  By evening, the itching was intense. 

On Sunday, the back of my leg was itchy, swollen and red.  After church, I noticed the affected area was very warm and was growing.  I thought I might have cellulitis, something I was hospitalized with for three days more than 10 years ago.  If you haven't heard of cellulitis, it is a common, potentially serious bacterial skin infection that could rapidly turn life-threatening if untreated (source:  I called my doctor and after telling him my symptoms, he instructed me to immediately take Benadryl and come to his office at 8:45 a.m. the next day.   I purchased Benadryl pills, took two of them, and returned to church for an afternoon service.  For those of you at church that afternoon, now you know why I wasn't my normal self!

ROAD TRIP CANCELLED?  The next morning, my doctor confirmed that not only did I have an allergic reaction, I had cellulitis and might need to be hospitalized.  I was very concerned about the possibility of going to the hospital because this was the last week of my grandchildren's visit; there were things I wanted to do witih them.  On Friday (July 1) my husband and I had a 8.5 hour car drive to take my grands home.  I had action items to handle for the church Prayer Breakfast scheduled for July 9. 

My doctor determined that we'd wait a day and see how I fared after beginning two prescription antibiotics.  He instructed me to take the medicine immediately and return to his office the next morning.  When I returned the next day, my doctor expressed concern that I might have a blood clot in my leg.  He eventually concluded that my leg looked slightly better than the day before and prescribed another medication for the itching.  I asked if I could take the car trip on Friday.  He told me I was pushing it!  I asked what if I postponed my trip to Saturday?  He ok'd the trip with conditions.  I was to elevate my leg for 30 minutes three times a day and not to stand on it for prolonged periods.  He told me to call the next day to update him on the status of my leg.  He also said if the swelling didn't go down, he was going to order an ultrasound of my leg.

No problem!  Except, it's hard to keep a good woman down!  When I left his office on Tuesday, I had some errands to run and hadn't taken my antibiotics.  While out, I took the medicine without food.  BIG MISTAKE!  Half an hour after arriving at home, I threw up - twice!  The medication for the itching didn't work after applying it multiple times, and I, unintentionally, stood on my leg too long.  The burning sensation I felt by evening could have been from the infection, from the medication, or because of how long I had stood on my leg.   Hmmm, I was beginning to think the road trip wasn't going to happen. 

SCARY SITUATION  On Wednesday I had begun to turn the corner.  YEA!  On Thursday, my aunt called and told me her son was in intensive care and he might not make it.  My cousin, one month younger than me, is related to me through both my mom and my dad.  He lived away while serving in the military for 15 years.  Although he's been back for several years, we rarely saw each other until he became ill this past November. 

After going to the hospital, I wept when I left his room because he was on a ventilator and had an I.V. in his neck.  When I went back on Friday, they had removed the ventilator, and he was awake.  His nurse said his doctors were going to decide Saturday morning if he could be moved to a step down unit or a regular room.  YEA!

PRAISE GOD  With this good news, and my leg healing, my husband and I, along with my mother took the grands back to their parents, celebrated July 4 with my son, his family and his in-laws, and returned home to wonderful news.  My cousin was moved to a regular room.  Big IFs - if I hadn't gone to my doctor, if my cousin (already battling a serious illness) hadn't moved in with his sister the week before, if his brother hadn't stopped by unexpectedly and saw how sick my cousin was ... only God knows what our family would have been facing.  Thank you, Lord, for Your divine omniscience and orchestrating our minds and actions that testify to Your power.  Thank you for answered prayers for me and my cousin.  Yes, a shout is in order!!!  Feel free to join me!  And keep praying - I'm still on antibiotics and my cousin is still in the hospital.