The Search for Value

My mother wore pearls when I was young. Many women in the 1950 to early 1960’s wore them, usually with full skirts or tailored suits. Women of that era dressed up when they went shopping, making sure makeup was in place along with their ever present pearls.

The style of dress then was meant to show that you were a lady of refinement, of manners and yes, of value. Styles of clothing and manners (unfortunately for the latter), are no longer stressed in the same way. Women find their value in different things in our generation now.

As the years progressed, my mother progressed too. She began wearing pants most of the time, having found them to be more practical and comfortable working around the house. She refused to wear denim jeans, however, giving opinion to the thought that, “Jeans are for blue color workers.” Funny how our opinions are formed….she was probably told this by her parents. And they were salt of the earth, hard working farmers, so she was no snob. My sweet mama and I had a few battles about my wearing jeans, but she gave in by my high school years!

Pearls have a very interesting beginning. They can grow both in oysters and in clams. Clams have inferior pearls which are not used in jewelry, typically. Oysters however, form precious pearls of varying color and size, but all with that soft luster to them. If you have ever seen the more rare black pearls, they have their own beauty.

Pearls are formed as a kind of balm following an injury or irritant to the oyster. The creatures do what they can to heal themselves, and inside their shells produce layers of the pearly substance over and around the irritant. Mankind has learned to replicate this process in oyster farms, making little cuts into the inside edge of the oysters, encouraging the pearl-making to become more prolific. Then, they wait-because it can take years to obtain pearls of any size.

In my mother’s journey through life, she found something better to give her value. Something for her to value above all else. She found the Pearl of Great Price, talked about in Matthew 13:44 in the Bible. In the parable, Jesus is telling of a man who found such a pearl in a field and selling what he had, bought that pearl. The man “invested” in it. In the story, Jesus was describing himself and the opportunity to know him as the object of great value.

I do not wear my mother’s pearl necklace, but I keep it to remind me of her, and of the treasure she told me about one day. I wear the Pearl of Great Price in my heart, and hopefully, the soft glow of that grace filled treasure can be seen in me.

There is no comparative value to be found in knowing Jesus, in having a real relationship with him and following his lead in life. His worth will never devalue or disappoint!

The Holly and the Ivy

Right about now, the melody to the old English folk song is probably running through your head. “The holly and the ivy, now are both full grown; Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.”

When I looked into the history of this now commonly sung Christmas song, what I found was interesting. It was supposed to have been written in the early eighteenth century-at least, the earliest noted mention of it was around 1710-1711.

The Celts had some superstitious beliefs regarding the holly and ivy, that it protected them from evil influences. They also thought holly to be sacred, symbolizing good will and peace. A symbol of Christ’s crown of thorns-the red berries being the blood and the pointed, greenery of the ivy being the thorns-but also ongoing life. Additionally, ivy symbolizes fidelity. I used ivy in my wedding bouquet along with flowers. An interesting aside, ivy can be a little tricky to grow, requiring attention and frequent, light watering. Hmmm, an analogy to marriage perhaps?

An early practice was to put a leaf of ivy into a bowl of water on New Years Eve and leave it until the Eve of the Twelfth Night, or January 6th. If the ivy was still green at the end of that time, it promised a good new year, if brown or dying, there would be a troubled year.

Nowadays, we simply like to decorate or see decorations with the holly and ivy. I venture a guess that not many still hold to the superstitions, but the history is informative. I prefer to think of the Christian symbolism of the crown of thorns, of God’s goodwill in sending his son to us when we had lost our way-and the promise of everlasting life. This reminder only makes the season more meaningful. A heartfelt Merry Christmas to you and yours!


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I find people both fascinating and confusing, but I expect that is a pretty normal experience for most of us. One of my favorite pastimes is people watching, and there are countless places to do this. People are everywhere! I like to glance over at a pair of adults talking and wonder if they are siblings, friends or significant others. I imagine what the topic of discussion might be. I love to watch children play and find the dominant one of the group, that natural-born leader. It is usually quite evident. The pied piper tooting his invisible flute and all the visible followers follow.

I was thinking specifically about some childhood friends I had and don’t even see anymore. Life changes. People move away and start new lives. One particular friend of mine, I’ll call her Keely, and I enjoyed playing Barbie’s together. Or, at least we did, until my parents got fed up with her shenanigans.

I remember playing a lot for one summer when I was about 6 or so. For some reason, after playing for awhile, Keely would go over to the storm sewer, lean into the street by the sewer drain, and throw my Barbie down. In our neighborhood, the storm sewers were quite prominent on the corners of every intersection, with big manhole covers. I don’t think my parents called the street crew for assistance either, thinking that they were busy men. The only way to move the manhole cover was with a crowbar or the specific equipment that the water/street crew would use. Crowbars we might have, but the average home owner did not have equipment to lift that heavy cover to get down into the sewers, nor would they be likely to try. And those sewers were deep-at least to a 6 year old. I remember staring at Keely while she laughed, and then I did what any child would do, I went home crying!

After the second time Keely did this, my mother said, “No more playing with Keely!” I imagine there was a confrontation between our parents the first time this happened. I can very vaguely recall an irate telephone call. But twice was too much. After all, toys were not cheap and my parents were not wealthy, they could not afford to replace the dolls.

So what made Keely do that? Was she jealous of what I had? I think she had dolls too. Was she influenced by an immature, mean-natured parent who did things like that to her? I suspect the latter. I was always a little scared of Keely’s dad. As a result, Keely was what now would be called a “mean girl”.

People still puzzle me as an adult. Sometimes we are selfish and short-sighted when we do or say things. We struggle to do the right thing. Yet, I still see God’s redemptive hand in all kinds of people’s lives. Keely is a spiritual counselor now. What I suspect was a rocky childhood, (not ordained by God because God is never unkind), was used as a catalyst to make Keely search for Something inherently kinder and more stable. Someone Who could also change Keely and make her more kind as well. We all desperately need kinder and more stable.


When I was about 14 years old, I took a summer job working in the fields. Specifically, I was walking beans, back when they did this by hand, going up and down the steamy rows tugging those huge weeds up by the roots, rather than using the current process of weed control with cultivators and/or other methods and machinery. I know-I’m older than dirt!

To say I had no idea what I was in for would be an understatement. I was a city-girl, not at all cut out for the very physical labor of farm life. I clearly recall going home at the end of each day, showering, laying on the couch in exhaustion, eating supper and promptly going to bed. Quite a learning experience for me. I do not remember the income I received, but I’m pretty sure I did not feel it was worth the hard work. I did have two positives in my favor; I was more resilient then and I also had the Lord helping me out.

Being a word geek, I enjoy checking my assumed understanding with the actual definition of the English language. The definition of “stretching” in the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (2007) reads as follows: (n.) extending out beyond ordinary or normal limits; also, (vb.) to become extended without breaking.

Yep. I definitely felt extended beyond ordinary limits, and I seriously wondered if I was going to break during that summer job. Most of those weeds were towering over my head and I was probably eighty pounds dripping wet at that point of my life. My whole body weight was used to rip those weeds out of the ground! My muscles were yelling at me for the abuse I was giving them. Even with good gloves and long sleeves, my arms were criss-crossed with cuts from the edges of the sharp foliage.

Spiritually, we have daily opportunities to stretch beyond our capabilities, and often we may feel as if we are going to break. Often we want to quit. We are likely all acquainted with the prayer that goes something like this; “Lord, help me. I know you won’t give me more than I can bear. You are my strength and my hope, and I know you will get me through this ___________.” Fill in the blank. Sickness, fear, worry, helplessness, hurt, sorrow, exhaustion-all words indicating trial of some sort.

The prophet Jeremiah knew this. He was also an intercessor, and he often felt overwhelmed by the constant turmoil of Jerusalem. In chapter 32 of Jeremiah, the city has been besieged again, this time by the Babylonians, but there is the thread of promised restoration by God. And Jeremiah’s acknowledgement of the promise. In verses 17-19, Jeremiah is praying to the Lord and as part of his petition verbalizes, “Nothing is too hard for you.” and, “…great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to the ways of all mankind…”

The Lord is faithful to meet us and restore us when we have been stretched, or are still having to stretch, beyond our comfort zones. He extends his love and his hand to us, particularly when we feel the strain of life. If you are slogging through a never-ending field or feeling burdened like Jeremiah, remember God’s faithfulness and purpose. He sees you!

Watered Gardens

I did not inherit my mother’s green thumb. I do not have the natural instincts to know exactly what plants need and when, like she did. Her gardens were gorgeous things to behold! Mine, not so much. The biggest challenge I have with plants is that I forget to water the poor things….until you can almost hear their parched throats whispering for liquid, and see nearly lifeless, limp leaves signaling surrender.

Living things need water. Arguably, that may be the most common denominator of everything that lives; humans, animals, and plants. And all other creatures that we may not even know the existence of, but God knows. It is not insignificant that the Bible says that water existed even before the creation of day and night, sky, land, etc. (Genesis 1) In verse 2 of that chapter, it says, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” (NASB) God separated and gathered the waters in the next few verses, and called them heaven, earth (land), and seas.

Water represents life, both biblically and in science. We know a large percentage of our bodies is water. It has been proven that humans (and probably most animals) cannot go without water for longer than 72 hours. If they do, they are severely incapacitated, organs start shutting down and eventually death will occur. When I was in my forties, I contracted a rather nasty bout of the stomach flu. I became seriously dehydrated and had to have several bottles of saline at the doctors office to get me back on my feet. I will never forget how completely weak I felt, and my brain would not work correctly. I could not remember things that had happened earlier that day.

What a comfort to know that our Lord takes care of us. He provides natural water for us to drink when we have worked long hours, or in hot temperatures, or both. There is nothing like water to quench your thirst! Graciously, God has also given us spiritual water for our souls. In Isaiah 58, it promises the Lord will guide, satisfy and strengthen us. It also says in the second half of verse 11, “You will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (NASB) A garden ministers to everyone’s soul. It takes the water it is provided, and happily grows and blooms for God.

We love to visit public gardens anywhere they are grown and well-tended. It makes us feel peaceful and somehow, closer to God just to see His creation. My mom also loved it. She had many wonderful qualities that we enjoyed-she was sweet and funny and she loved her Savior. I did get the love of my Savior through her inspiration, most importantly, but would have liked to inherit her green thumb too. <sigh> Perhaps I will invest in a cactus garden.


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When my grandchildren come from Iowa with their parents for a visit, I often find little reminders later that they have been here. Grandchildren leave things behind in the repacking sometimes, like a hair bow, a sock under the bed (those socks are always escaping somewhere), or a Lego guy or weapon. They left-behinds always make me smile. If the left-behind belongs to the grandchildren, we happily mail it back to them, or put it aside to bring along on our next trip to see them in Iowa. If it belongs to our toy collection, we put it back so the toy won’t be lonely.

One of the most precious of these reminders are hand prints on the sliding deck door or bedroom window. It isn’t unusual to see that handprint there for months afterward. I am in no hurry to wash it off! Funny how that changes from the time you had children and felt like you were constantly wiping down prints from everywhere, to the adoration of your grandchildren’s prints that signify they-were-here!

Every fingerprint is individual. In very early history, the Chinese found use for fingerprints in identifying personal property. In 1684, a scientist, named Dr. Nehemiah Grew, noticed the uniqueness of the ridges on each persons fingers and studied this. In 1870, Dr. Henry Faulds began studying skin furrows after noticing finger marks on old pottery. His research only furthered the discovery/study of fingerprints. By the early 1900’s, most countries had some method of fingerprinting in use, although applications have become much more accurate today.

In the same way, if we look closely we can identify God’s fingerprints all over our lives. In the blessed and happy times, and in the painful, difficult times, God’s hands are there-comforting, holding, pointing the way, directing us in the way we should go. They signify His presence in our lives, and they are even more special than my grandchildren’s.

The Lord tells us we are so important to Him that He has graven us on the palms of His hands. While speaking particularly to the people of Jerusalem, the Bible scripture in Isaiah 49:16 applies to us as well, if we believe and follow the Lord. It says, ” Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.” (NASB) Some translations use the word engraved or tattooed in the place of inscribed. In other words, His followers are forever before Him.

God feels as tenderly towards us as we feel toward members of our own flesh and blood family. And if we are blessed, towards our church family as well. The Lord can’t and won’t forget us. He doesn’t need any left-behinds to remind Him of us. We are engraved upon his hands!

Jettison the Junk

It might be interesting to evaluate all the stuff from all the closets, attics, basements and garages we keep during a lifetime. The word stuff in this blog could be defined as “something I might need, use again, or wear again”. It could also include, “something someone could use”, or “something my kids might want someday.” It is illogical how often we tell ourselves and others this. Who are we kidding?

Personally, I am guessing that if I started at one end of our cul-de-sac and laid north to south and end-to-end the things that I have not used for years, and in all honesty have probably forgotten some I even have, it might go to the outskirts of town. Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration, but I find myself frustrated with myself for not being able to let go.

We did do a massive purge in 2013 before we moved out of Iowa to a new state, and embarrassingly, we had two of those big, industrial dumpsters full. In our defense, our house in northern Iowa was big and had lots of storage, so we just kept storing. But we got brutal in 2013 and just tossed. It was then an accumulation of thirty-four years of marriage, three houses, two kids now away at college, but surprisingly not a partridge in a pear tree was to be found. (Unless I missed it in the dumpster. I did not see everything my husband threw in there.)

It is time to purge again. I have started in my clothes closet and have gone through purses, shoes, scarves and other accessories. My loss is Goodwill’s gain. Still to be done are actual pieces of clothing, which is harder and has more emotional attachment for me. Some bring to mind special family events or long days when I was still working at the office. Some make me think of raising my boys and what sizes I could fit into then! Oh my. Some are just dreams of what I might fit into again.

Another list on the agenda are some of my cooking aids that were never unboxed from the last move because we got tired. They just got put in a closet with best intentions to pull them out and put them away in a week or so. What is it they say? If you haven’t used it in a year or two you aren’t going to use it? But, why do we cling to this stuff? There are those who would say it is because we have security in these items. Maybe so. Or we think our memories will be lost if we let go of the things.

Our real, true, doesn’t-take-up-too-much-room-or-collect-dust-in-a-box security is in a person. That person is Jesus. He keeps us secure in His never failing love. He tells us, “…do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor as to your body what you will put on.” Matthew 5:25. He also encourages us by saying, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 (NASB)

So go ahead-get rid of some stuff, you’ll feel good. Jettison the junk!

On Becoming Perfect

Sometimes I slip, sometimes I stumble, and other times I completely capitulate to the coercion of gravity and fall flat on my face. Not graceful, not pretty, but very human. During those times, I have learned to show myself a little mercy. Although I grieve over my mistakes, I know I have a God who loves me perfectly, in spite of my imperfections.

There will never be anything that will cause my Savior’s love to cease. I love imperfectly but he loves without flaw. His flawless love peels me off the pavement and pushes me onward, and his example inspires me. I am learning to think, act and live as God would want me to do.

In the fifth chapter of Matthew there are crowds around Jesus, and shortly after he gives the soul-stirring beatitudes, in verses 43-48 he addresses various life scenarios and how to do the best thing, the loving thing. Jesus tells his followers to greet all, not only those known to them, to love even their enemies, and to be perfect as God is perfect. Along with the followers that day (most likely), I too ask how do we do all this? Not by our own strength or merits, that is for sure.

When I did a little digging in the concordance, I realized the meaning and application of the word perfect here is not only broader, but time defying. I like the Amplified Bible translation of verse 48, it gives more insight: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect [that is, grow into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity].” This underscores that the perfection that Jesus is encouraging in us comes by God’s hand. It is not an immediate expectation but a work-in-progress future accomplishment.

There is definitely progress in my own personal pilgrimage from years ago when I do a quick review of then and now. A portion of that learning curve is helped along with just getting older and having more life experiences. On one hand, you learn how much you don’t know, but you also learn what things hold true value. What is impactful and far reaching. I am stretching towards the “proper height of virtue and integrity”, and I know with the unlimited, unearned, nearly incomprehensible grace of God I will get there. If our hearts are set upon Him, we all will.

Ah, youth!

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I was a bit of a handful as a child, a fact my mother would easily agree with were she still here amongst us. It wasn’t that I was a naughty, misbehaving child, it was the fact I would disappear outside and my mother did not know where I was.

This occurrence was in the 1960’s when parents simply fed their children, saw that they were properly dressed and sent them outside to play. Often, kids in my neighborhood played all day long-only coming home for lunch to refuel and to perhaps bandage a skinned knee or two. When we played outside together, it was not hard for moms to hear their kids and know where they were and have some idea of what they were doing. There were guidelines to playing, of course. One of the rules I was supposed to follow was to come home to tell my mom if I went into a friends home for any extended time.

There were plenty of times when I either got so involved in my play that I forgot the rules, or when I just decided I did not want to make the effort to go home and tell my mother my plans. Whichever way this went, I sorta got in trouble. I recall instances when my mom would literally pull me into the house, with me being screaming mad, because there was usually a swat or two on the behind and she was going to ground me with no more playing for awhile. Torture for a kid growing up during the long, wonderful, spring-through-fall months in the midwest.

I also loved to “visit” some of the older folks on our block, which counted as another time when my mother did not know where I was. I liked to visit the kindly grandparents in the hood, I suspect both because I found them interesting but also because they gave me snacks. My mom often threatened to put a sign on my back, “Please don’t feed her.” My poor long-suffering mom!

Fast forward a number of years and I have figured out that there are guidelines and rules to life that not only need to be followed, but are to my benefit to follow. No longer can I pull off the forgetfulness of youth or the lack of reasoning ability in younger years. When I am disciplined by the Lord, I try very hard not to kick and scream. I know ultimately it is for my good and that the Lord loves me and watches over me…and leads me onward. Yes, there is often discipline along the way, but God is SO worth it!!

In the Bible it is clear what the Lord thinks of all of us in His dealings in our lives. “‘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 hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'” Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV). This is for you Mom, a little tribute with one of your favorite Bible verses. I bet you are having the best time in heaven!

Mayonnaise, and Choices

While out doing my regularly scheduled grocery run, I glanced at my shopping list and headed for the salad dressing aisle. Upon arrival I did not mindlessly grab our tried-and-true mayo, but paused to actually look at the multitudinous choices on the shelf. Displayed were not only regular and light mayonnaise, but different oil bases and legions of aiolis. Garlic, sriracha, bacon, truffle, pepper, chipotle, and on it went. I was amazed at how the selection had grown since I last really paid attention, and my stomach correspondingly growled. Marketing…at its best.

It got me thinking how we are assailed with so many options, from early age to (hopefully) graceful maturity. I did an online search, and the majority of sources said that up to 35,000 choices are made by each of us, every day! On the scale of importance I am fairly sure mayonnaise selection is not high on the list, but what is? What choices really matter?

Probably one of the most relied upon scriptures about choices in the Bible is the story of Mary and Martha upon Jesus’ visit to their home. It contrasts the difference between the sister’s attitudes as to what they thought important. Mary, as we know, sat at the Lord’s feet while he spoke, listening to every word he said. Martha was more occupied with the service end of things, and became frustrated at what she thought was inconsiderate behavior by Mary. I am comforted by the understanding of Jesus when he responded to Martha’s request that Jesus make Mary get up and help her. ” ‘Martha, Martha’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary.’ ” He was referring to Mary’s choice. The Lord finished redirecting Martha by saying, ” ‘Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'” Luke 10:41-42 (ESV)

I believe first of all that Jesus said this with compassion for her and not condemnation. I also believe the Lord said this and stressed the importance of it by repeating Martha’s name twice. Repetition is often used in the Bible in many different contexts when noting importance. It was necessary that Jesus get Martha’s attention and that Martha understand this. It wasn’t that Jesus did not appreciate what Martha was doing, but it simply wasn’t the most important thing at that time. Relationship to him was, and is, the most imperative.

Interestingly, in verse 38 just a few verses above, it states that the invitation to their home came from Martha. Perhaps Martha had the gift of hospitality more than her sister-it just needed a little motivation check and attitude adjustment. And I am sure after Jesus spoke to her that it did change.

I want to make wise choices in my life, and I want my relationship to Jesus to come first. This is the stable foundation of my whole existence. I am still a work in progress and I certainly mess up, and often, but the Lord is so patient. I am going to begin to pray like the priest did in Psalm 119, whose authorship is attributed to Ezra but not known. Whoever the petitioner was, the prayer in verse 173 is this: “May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.” His hand is ready to help because I choose the Lord.

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