“I am with you. I will watch over you everywhere you go”—Genesis 28:15(NIRV).
Almost 11 years ago, I took a giant leap of faith. I left a northeastern Oklahoma community where I’d lived since 1969—except for the times I’d gone away to college—to move to a larger town about 70 miles west. I left behind family and friendships formed over a 36-year period to a place where I knew very few people.
However, during the time I’ve lived in Rogers County, I’ve been blessed with a multitude of friends. Those friends have encouraged me, laughed and cried with me, prayed with and for me and stood by me during times of trouble. Even more importantly, being here has helped my faith grow. Through my church family and the people of faith God has placed in my path, my spiritual eyes have been opened to embrace what God can do in our lives when we place our trust in Him.
What does God ask of us?
I like what best-selling author and minister, Norman Vincent Peale said about faith. “Faith is the most powerful of all forces operating in humanity and when you have it in depth nothing can get you down.”
However, it wasn’t always that way for me. I’d only been in Claremore about a year when I yearned to return home. Prayer and the advice of wise individuals revealed to me I was here for a reason. Soon, I came to call this place home. I had no desire to return.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”— 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV).
Toilet paper and paper towel tubes tumbled out along with assorted pieces of cardboard, ribbon and other castoffs deemed recyclable by my grandchildren. I was preparing to move. In the process of packing to prepare for the next adventure God has planned for me, I’d opened cabinets set aside to contain the treasures they often used to create masterpieces of their imaginations.
Their treasure trove also included empty oatmeal canisters, rolls of masking tape, crayons and markers as well as a variety of things I might have tossed if I hadn’t seen the possibilities through my grandchildren’s eyes. My dilemma? What should I throw away before I moved and what should I keep?
In addition, Brennan has a servant’s heart.
Just a few days before, my oldest son and his children had come for lunch and a visit. During the course of our conversation, we talked about my move. Later, while going through boxes in my garage, we came across one of my oldest grandson’s creations. He’d spent several days with me last summer. He has a wonderful imagination, and he’d turned cardboard boxes and tubes into an outfit suited perfectly for a warrior, complete with a shield and sword.
Although Brennan is excited about my new adventure with God, he was disappointed when I suggested he take his creation home with him. He knew his parents wouldn’t keep it as long as I had, which was almost a year. I think grandmothers are like that—at least this Nana is. I assured him that when he came to visit in my new home, I would provide all he needed for his imagination to create anew. I added, “You know the best part is in the creation process itself.”
“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me”—Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT).
Photo by Carol Round
In a world of man’s making, we’re overloaded with the sights and sounds of too much. What do I mean? In the name of progress and profit, most people own things our ancestors considered extravagances. We see life through our humanity instead of through spiritual eyes.
My maternal grandfather was a mail carrier in a rural Oklahoma town where owning a car was considered a luxury. Today, most families have at least two, and sometimes more, vehicles parked in the driveway or on the street in front of their houses. Today, we consider it a rite of passage to get a driver’s license at age 16. Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers never learned to drive. Instead, they relied on their husbands to navigate the roadways. When my grandfathers passed away, their wives relied on neighbors for transportation. That’s just how it worked in those days. Neighbors helping neighbors.
In today’s world, many of us don’t even know our neighbors. We no longer sit on our front porches in the evenings, swapping stories and watching our children play until the street lights come on. We’re too tired after a busy day at work. We return home to eat the last meal of the day, sometimes plopped in front of the TV, or afterwards, before we head to bed.
If we seek Him wholeheartedly, especially in the messes of life, we’ll find Him.
In our busyness, however, we miss what’s really important, including daily glimpses of God. Because we’re focused on making a living or rushing our children to ball practices and games or other after-school activities, we’re missing out on God’s best.
When I was a child growing up in the 50s, life was much simpler, allowing my sister and me and other neighborhood children the luxury of spending time outdoors. God’s creation was our playground. We soaked in the sights and sounds of nature, almost daily.
“Children, you show love for others by truly helping them, and not merely by talking about it”—1 John 3:18 (NIV).
To grow in our Christian walk, we must take the lessons learned in the storms of life and put them to work for His kingdom. After the most recent storm in mine, when an EF2 tornado ripped through my neighborhood, I learned what it means to love your neighbor.
After the storm had abated, I assessed the damage through disbelieving eyes. I was overwhelmed. I was thankful my dog and I were unharmed. I was also grateful because the damage could have been more extensive. Then, the outpouring of love from others brought me to tears.
Like others, I wandered into the street to appraise the storm damage and to check on my neighbors. I was in a daze. A neighbor asked if I were okay. I replied, “I think so.”
Then, that same neighbor’s son put his arms around my waist and said, “Carol, don’t worry. It’s going to be all right.”
Others are blessed when you allow them to help you.
The tension released itself in the form of tears as I returned the reassuring hug of a six-year-old. Yes, it was going to be all right.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble”—Psalm 46:1(NIV).
As I finished eating my supper, I listened to the ongoing storm coverage on television. Tornado warnings had been issued for several northeastern Oklahoma counties, including mine. While I am not afraid of the storms, I do follow the advice given by those who are more experienced than I am in these matters. When the weather forecaster urged Rogers County citizens to take cover, I didn’t hesitate.
The final warning I heard before heading to my master bedroom closest was a tornado had been sighted heading to Claremore and would strike at 8:11 p.m. Unless the tornado changed its route, my neighborhood was right in its path.
As I huddled with my puppy under a blanket in the closet, my cell phone pinged repeatedly with text messages from friends. “Are you watching the weather report?” “Are you okay?” “Are you taking cover?”
I didn’t know what I would find.
I answered a few messages and ignored others because my cell battery was low. I tried to comfort my dog. I had entered the closet at 7:45 p.m. Minutes seemed like hours as I listened to the storm sirens blasting a warning.
I began to pray but before I asked for God’s protection, the Holy Spirit brought to mind something that had been bothering me all day. The day before I’d had a misunderstanding with a friend. Our stubbornness had led each of us to blame the other. We had ceased communication. However, my heart knew I needed to ask God for forgiveness before I could ask Him to keep me safe.
“Anyone who comes and listens to me and obeys me is like someone who dug down deep and built a house on solid rock. When the flood came and the river rushed against the house, it was built so well that it didn’t even shake”—Luke 6:47-48(CEV).
Wednesday, March 30 began with my usual morning routine: a mug of hot tea and time with Jesus. I was excited about my day, which included lunch in Tulsa with a dear friend, followed by a stop at my real estate agent’s office to sign the contract for the sale of my house. God is leading me on a new adventure—a new chapter in my life. My spirits were soaring. My house had been on the market less than a week and I’d had two full-price offers.
After inking the contract, I returned home to wait for my agent to stop by with the “sold” sign. Forty minutes later, I snapped a photo of her attaching that small metal sign to her real estate one. I wanted to celebrate because now I didn’t have to keep my house in pristine condition for showing. I could take a breath and quit worrying about every dust mote and piece of grass tracked in by my dog.
Before turning to the Lord, I was the poster child for control freaks.
Before the sale, I’d swept, vacuumed and dusted almost every day. While I’d been a meticulous housekeeper in my younger days, keeping my house spotless is not a priority now. When I speak to women’s groups, I love telling them I used to be a Martha, bustling about to make sure everything was in perfect order for guests. However, since committing my life to the Lord, I’m a Mary who wants nothing more than to sit at His feet.
Since Jesus opened the eyes of my heart in 2001, my priorities have changed in other ways. Bible study, prayer and continual spiritual growth have become my goals. Serving Him wherever He calls me is my delight, whether it’s on a mission trip outside the country or in my own backyard. Being obedient to His calling is why I’m packing to move. Through fasting and prayer, I’ve learned to listen for that still, small voice showing me what steps to take in obedience.
“So be very careful how you live. Do not live like people who aren’t wise. Live like people who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity. The days are evil”— Ephesians 5:15-16(NIRV).
Have you ever sat in a public place quietly observing others? Maybe it was at a mall or a park. Maybe it was while waiting at the doctor’s office for your appointment where you found yourself listening to the words of those around you, watching their actions and even judging their appearance. I know I’m guilty.
However, have you ever thought about the reverse? What if others are watching and listening to you? Would they see Jesus in you if they did?
Have you forgotten you represent Jesus Christ in this world?
Read and reflect on the following questions and then answer the previous one
- If someone had observed me throughout the day today, would they know I was a Christian without having to ask me?
- Where is God on my priority list?
- Am I serious about my faith or is it just a game I play to make myself feel better?
- Do I act the same way when I’m at church as when I’m with other friends or with my family?
- Am I willing to make sacrifices in order to grow in my relationship with God?
- Do I take time every day to consider the love of God, to remember what Jesus has done for me?
- Am I willing to follow Christ and live out my faith even when it costs me something?