Tuesday, January 27, 2015

MEMORIES

I look over at my mom occupying the passenger seat as I drive her to the appointment. Her emotions seem tangible, and that frown she's wearing, it makes my heart sink.

"No one bothered to ask me, to ask us, what we thought, and what we wanted," she says in a tone and volume she hasn't used with me in who knows how long.

I try to reassure her. "Mom, I did talk to both of you." But as the words depart from my mouth, they seem empty. Because I know that in her mind, it isn't true. There is nothing I can say except, "You are right, Mom. You should be consulted on these decisions."

Her spunky disposition, that lively spirit I can trace back to my earliest memories, it's still there. And slowly, in the midst of many trials and errors, I am learning. Music ~ songs dating back to her era ~ they seem to soothe her. I reach for a CD and fill the car with melodies from the forties. Instantly, the tension subsides, and I hear her voice chiming the lyrics she sang in her twenties. Her body begins to sway to the beat, hands tapping on her lap. The rest of the ride is a joyful one for mom, reliving memories I know nothing about.

Loving someone through this chapter in life, it's downright painful at times. "You need thicker skin," I hear. It's true. But how to grow thicker skin, yet hold on to the compassion and tenderness, is tricky.

Tomorrow will be more of the same ~ moments, when she's smiling, content. Others when she wrestles with confusion, muddled memories, and the agitation that accompanies both. Her, wanting so desperately to maintain control of her life and her surroundings. Faced with the harsh fact that those years are behind her. And me, trying to figure all this out. Loving her and caring for her in ways that keep her dignity in tact.

Memories flash before me, the years when I was a handful and my mom had her own share of moments when she felt inadequate, wondering if she was doing it right. Still, she did her best and loved me through it all. Does she deserve any less?

Love isn't always easy or pretty.

"Come on, sing along," she prods me with that feisty expression she wears so well. And I join in, grateful for the memories she still holds tightly in her mind, and for the ones we are making here in the car. Side by side, swaying to the music.

Friday, January 16, 2015

PRAYER LIFE

Let's pray freedom-prayers. Bust down the door and set captives free prayers. Because nothing...NOTHING...is impossible with God.

Let's pray healing-prayers. Fully restored, made like new prayers. Because He is our Great Physician and He can do ANYTHING.

Let's pray purpose-prayers. Divine guidance and living your calling prayers. Because He has good plans for ALL of us.

Let's pray salvation-prayers. Open their eyes and soften their hearts prayers. Because He longs to welcome everyone.

Let's pray victory-prayers. Beat down and shut up the enemy prayers. Because He is our victory and we don't have to live in fear.

Let's pray provision-prayers. Give us this day, bless the work of our hands prayers. Because it all belongs to Him anyway, and He is our Good Father.

Let's pray protection-prayers. Covering our minds, bodies and souls prayers. Because He is our only shield in a perilous world.

Let's pray friendship-prayers. The laying down of one's life prayers. Because that's what He did for us.

Let's pray wisdom-prayers. Cry out for discernment, guidance and counsel prayers. Because we only get a distorted view of ourselves and the world around us.

Let's pray unity-prayers. Forgiving, loving and merciful prayers. Because a house divided cannot stand.

Let's pray miraculous-prayers. Jaw dropping, eye popping, how could this be prayers. Because He is still in the miracle business.

Will you pray with me?


"Never stop praying."
~1 Thessalonians 5:17


Copyright 2015 by Julie Cowell.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

PEACE OFFERING

A peace that passes understanding? Yes, that's it. Because I felt anything but peace. I felt attacked. Judged. Misunderstood. Insulted.

And that "peace"? I didn't expect it to wash over me like a tidal wave, drowning out those horrible, toxic feelings. So when it came unexpectedly, all I could do was whisper in wonder, "Thank you, thank you...".

I walked through the day as though I was treading on holy ground. Because, truth? I can't manufacture peace like that on my own. This radical, defying peace...it's not in me to create. It's all part of the GRACE package, a GIFT. What He literally died to give us.

All I did was to go to Him. "These feelings, take them! I'm giving them to you, Lord. I don't want to hold a grudge. I don't want to give anger permission to take up residence here."

"Forgive and leave it with Me." That's the message I got. "Okay Lord, I choose to forgive, and You can have it all. Take it, please take it. Thank you, thank you for being willing to take it away."

That's when it came, that rush of peace. Unexpected grace. Seeping in to the deepest crevices and hidden places, and washing all the toxins away.

The circumstances didn't change. No apologies, no confessions of how injurious and inappropriate the words were.

It doesn't matter. His peace does that. It silences the voices that harp on the injury. It opens the floodgates for grace to flow in. It releases the grip and deflates the power of the person who hurts you. It is freedom, pure and intoxicating liberation.

And I see ~ why on earth would I want to harbor anger, resentment, bitterness? Why would I make the choice to bask in feelings of woundedness? Knowing His peace was there...waiting, beckoning, wooing.

When He offers His peace in exchange for our pain? A peace that passes ALL understanding ~ it's too good to pass up!

"The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
~Philippians 4:7

Forget what hurt you but never forget what it taught you."
~Author Unknown

Copyright 2015 by Julie Cowell.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

RED TABLECLOTHS

We were sorting through mounds of linens, boxes of them piled high. Mom was quick to decide what she wanted to hold on to, and seemed happy to let go of the rest. Two tablecloths caught my eye. I asked mom about them and she encouraged me to take and use them. I set the cloths aside, excited about my new treasures.

Midway through the sorting process, I stepped out of the room to take a phone call. When I returned, one of the tablecloths had been reclaimed by my sister. My first thought was to say something. But I quickly realized, she had no idea I'd asked mom about those particular cloths. Plus, she seemed so pleased at the thought of using them in her own home. "It's just a tablecloth," I told myself. No linen could hold a candle to my sister and the relationship we've shared over the years.

Twice since then, I had fleeting thoughts of the tablecloth while standing in my own kitchen. The red would have been a cheerful addition to our otherwise neutral pallet. "Just a tablecloth!" I reminded myself.

A couple of weeks later I was helping a friend sort through boxes of items she was eliminating from her life. I stumbled on a beautiful quilted red tablecloth, and just the right size. "You should take it and use it," she offered. "It'll look good in your kitchen."

Since then, the tablecloth has spent many days on our kitchen table and on our patio table as well. It's a lovely reminder that if we put people before possessions, little treasures in life have a way of presenting themselves.

I can visualize my mom's red tablecloth on my sister's kitchen table, certain it adds color and life to her home. I'm so glad she is getting to enjoy the cheerful statement it makes, and the fact that it came from our mother. I glance over at my own red cloth, stitched by the hands of my dear friend, and I'm reminded of what matters more.

People over possessions. Every time.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A FRIEND'S LOVE

It was a small sliver of sunlight that woke him. He pulled the blanket up over his head, drowning himself in its protective warmth.

Out of habit, he reached toward her side of the bed. The empty space hit like a punch in the gut.  He inhaled deeply, hoping to catch a trace of her fragrance. There it was, that intoxicating blend of jasmine and another scent he couldn't put a name to. It was her scent.

The sheets soaked up his tears as they flowed freely. Who said men don't cry? He'd cried enough to flood a bath tub the past few days.

"I can't do this, Lord. I don't know how to live without her. Why? Why did you take her?!"

Memories came rushing in at record speed. The initial pain that had landed them in the Emergency Room. The tests. The unthinkable diagnosis. And then...not even a week later...gone.

He grabbed hold of her pillow, ignoring the ring of his cell phone on the bedside table. A brighter, bolder stretch of light forced its way into the room, reminding him it was one more day. One more day without her, another day alone.

The doorbelt chimed in the distance. Once, twice, and a third time. He stared at the wall, willing the sound to stop. The loud and insistent knocking that followed told him someone wasn't going to give up easily. No matter. They'd eventually leave.

"Hey buddy, are you okay?" It was the voice of his best friend.

"What are you doing here?"

"I let myself in. I've been calling and calling, and you're not picking up or returning my calls. I was getting really worried," his friend said as he made his way into the bedroom.

"Just go. I need to be alone."

"I'm sorry, but I can't do that. How about some breakfast? My treat."

The mention of food made him queasy. "No food."

"You've got to eat. Let's take a walk down to the pier and get some coffee. We can talk. Or not. Whatever you like."

"I'm a mess. Haven't showered since...well, you know. Just go."

"I'm not leaving. Shower first if you want. You've got to get up. This isn't good for you."

"Why are you doing this? I'm not good company. Go home."

"Listen, you're my closest friend. I know how badly you're hurting. Because I'm hurting too.  I'm scared for you. She was an amazing woman. The best. The void she left, it's huge. So I'm staying. We're going to walk through this together."

"You have work. And your own life to think about. Go home and be with your wife."

"Not a chance. This is where I belong right now. Come on, get up. I'll make coffee. Then we'll decide what to do...about breakfast...about your life."

"Why are you doing this? I'd rather you leave."

"Not a chance, buddy. It's what friends do. They lay down their lives for each other."

"I don't think I can do this. I don't know how to have a life without her."

"I know, buddy. I know. We'll figure it out together."


"A friend loves at all times."
~Proverbs 17:17

"There's no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."
John 15:13


Copyright 2015 by Julie Cowell.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

MORE AND LESS

More purposeful, intentional living ~ less going through the motions.

More "What is the good in this day and what good can I bring it?" ~ less "What can I take from it and what is lacking and wrong?"

More prayerful response in my relationships ~ less knee-jerk reactions.

More thanksgiving ~ less complaining.

More interceding ~ less judging.

More reaching out ~ less pulling away.

More order and planning ~ less last minute chaos and stress.

More frugality ~ less spending.

More trusting and believing ~ less worrying.

More grace for myself and others ~ less impatience.

More hope ~ less giving in to discouragement.

More focus on TRUTH ~ less leeway for the enemy to harass me with "facts".

More worship ~ less focus on self.

More beauty from ashes ~ less "pit" mentality.

More focusing on the positive ~ less being weighed down with negative messages.

More faith ~ less fear.

More tackling the hard stuff ~ less looking for the easier path.

More courage and stepping out of my comfort zone ~ less playing it safe and allowing anxiety to dictate my life.

More creative endeavors ~ less stale activities and idleness.

More honest, open communication ~ less passive-agressiveness and stewing.

More follow through on acts of kindness ~ less missed opportunities.

More or less ~ the choice is ours to make.

"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule."
~Matthew 5:3, The Message


Copyright 2015 by Julie Cowell.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

DON'T WORRY!

This retraining of the mind, it's hard. And when circumstances create even more resistance, it feels downright impossible.

"Don't Worry." I chant these two simple words in my mind over and over. But the words, they seem to float around in my thoughts like a thin mist, then evaporate.  As though the worries in the moment are too big and powerful to be brought down by just two words.

Until I open to Matthew chapter six. And there it is, clear as day. Don't worry ~ about your life, what to eat, what to wear, or what tomorrow will bring. "Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" That's Jesus talking! And I want to do more than just listen up. I want to live these two words ~ DON'T WORRY ~ in my daily round.

It hit me once more as I happened on Luke chapter ten as part of my daily reading. And though the name MARTHA is written on the page, it's my own name I hear as I continue in the passage. "You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better..."

I sit at our kitchen table gazing out the window at birds nestled on our feeder, delighting in a meal they didn't worry about preparing. "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"

I've tried, Lord. I have tried to lay down my habit of worrying. Why is this so hard?

"You are worried and upset about many things." My mind recalls my list, a mile long and ever growing. People, problems, puzzling circumstances ~ all coming together to drive me to that pointless place of worry.

Lord, I'm tired! Then I see it, that one word missing from this mounting list. TRUST. How short I fall in trusting You, even though You have proven Yourself to be faithful time after blessed time.

"Only one thing is needed." One thing. My One constant. If I look at everyone and everything on my worry list with HIS name stamped across it, I can learn the better way. TRUST. Let it go. "Seek first His kingdom, and all these things..." All of them, He's already got covered.

Lord, I see! But how do I change this old way of living? I've spent a lifetime dancing to the rhythm of worry. "Mary has chosen what is better..." I see, Lord. It comes down to a choice. Daily. Hourly. Moment by moment.

The car in the driveway needing repair and bills piling high, they are no match to God our Provider. Loved ones walking difficult paths right now, all are safely cupped inside the hand of our Protector and Guide. Daily uncertainties and seasons of transitions, they are no surprise to Him who goes before us.

I breathe it in ~ TRUST, choosing what is better. I exhale ~ worry, stress, and doubt ~ toxic pollutants to the soul I was never meant to embrace. Inhale trust, exhale worry. A new rhythm, a new way of life. A choice.

"Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"
~Matthew 6:25-27

"As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!' 'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but few are needed -- or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'"
~Luke 10:38-42


Copyright 2015 by Julie Cowell.

Friday, January 2, 2015

I AM RICH!

I felt poor. I know, in comparison to most of the world, I'm rich. But how I felt? Poor. Lacking. Deprived.

I hated feeling this way. I spent much of the day pondering ways I could generate income. Surely there was a job out there, one I would love that would provide a steady cash flow to wipe away the sense of lack I felt. The day ended in utter frustration and no direction towards employment.

Then it hit me. I have a roof over my head. And a cozy "nest" to  live in. I have a closet of clothes, and ample food in the cupboards. I am blessed with good health to enjoy life.

And people! I have a loving husband, such a good man. I have grown children and grandchildren who fill my heart to overflowing.  My husband and I still have parents, and mine live only feet away from our door. I am blessed with some of the dearest friends a girl could want. And there's our faithful dog, my sweet companion during the day.

I have purpose. I have dreams. I have interests I am passionate about. The list seemed endless.

Yet there remained this sense of lack. I still felt poor, less than, because our bank account wasn't what I thought it should be.

Then I realized. I have the fullness of God to whatever measure I desire. I can be as filled with Him as I desire. There is NO limit to His presence, His power, and His purpose and plans except what I put on them. If I can be completely filled, completely known by GOD, I realize. I AM RICH. Beyond measure. No amount of money can hold a candle to such wealth.

Walking closer to Him, my feelings of lack prove false. I am rich!

God's economy, it adds up to wealth that lasts forever. I can have Him to the fullest measure I desire. Rich beyond my wildest dreams.

I no longer feel so poor.

"I ASK THAT YOU'LL KNOW THE LOVE OF CHRIST THAT IS BEYOND KNOWLEDGE SO THAT YOU WILL BE FILLED ENTIRELY WITH THE FULLNESS OF GOD."
~Ephesians 3:19

"YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE GENEROSITY OF OUR MASTER, JESUS CHRIST.  RICH AS HE WAS, HE GAVE IT ALL AWAY FOR US -- IN ONE STROKE HE BECAME POOR AND WE BECAME RICH."
~2 Corinthians 8:9, The Message


Copyright 2015 by Julie Cowell.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

RUNNING ON EMPTY

"THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD;
I HAVE EVERYTHING I NEED.
HE LETS ME REST IN FIELDS OF GREEN GRASS
AND LEADS ME TO QUIET POOLS OF FRESH WATER.
HE GIVES ME NEW STRENGTH.
HE GUIDES ME IN THE RIGHT PATHS,
AS HE HAS PROMISED."
 ~Psalms 23:1-3

Christmas morning wasn't like other Christmases. I sat in the peaceful desert terrain, no big meal to create. No stack of gifts to pass out. The snow-capped mountain range down the road from where they live looked like a Christmas card sent straight from heaven for us to enjoy. Breathing in the crisp morning air, I stared at those mountains, and thought about the gifts God has poured into my life. Too many to count. But so often overlooked.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," I silently chanted over and over as gift after gift came to mind.  Prayers muttered in utter desperation...answered. Needs met. Hopes replenished. Lessons in abundance doing a radical work on my mind, my heart, my spirit. "Thank you!" I couldn't stop whispering those two words.

The silence, it felt like cool water refreshing a parched and weary body and soul. No chores to tend to, no calls to make. No appointments to hurry off to. Just this vast morning of quiet and stillness, filling me up with what I needed most.

Running on empty...it's a dangerous trend. Push push push to get it all done. Rush here, rush there, and all the while, feeling as though I am on a treadmill, trying to do a juggling act. Going absolutely nowhere.

Activities, errands, and appointments can be cruel dictators if we let them. And I realize, one of the best resolutions I can make this New Year is to stop...pause...rest...get refueled.  Not once or twice a year, but on a regular basis. I need to give myself consistent time to get replenished and renewed.

Because running on empty...it gets us nowhere.

"Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest."
~Matthew 11:28

"Jesus said, 'Let's go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.'"
~Mark 6:31


Copyright 2015 by Julie Cowell.