manna from heaven. just enough. just in time.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: ‘Let every man gather it according to each one’s need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.’” Then the children of Israel did so and gathered, some more, some less. So when they measured it by omers, he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. Every man had gathered according to each one’s need. And Moses said, “Let no one leave any of it till morning.” Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. So they gathered it every morning, every man according to his need. And when the sun became hot, it melted.

Exodus 16:15-21

Let’s stick to the facts:

Fact: My mother is purchasing a house in Arkansas.
Fact: She has asked my father for a divorce.
Fact: She is moving to Arkansas.
Fact: Neither the divorce or the move to Arkansas are a secret.

As empty nesters, my parent’s lifestyles are largely incompatible and have been for some time. I can’t explain without compromising my parent’s privacy, so lets just say the divorce is probably a good thing in the long run. I understand the divorce. I can accept the divorce.

So what’s my problem?

I don’t understand the moving so far away. I’m working on it. From what I do understand, a few years ago, my mother reconnected with someone at a high school class reunion and has stayed in touch. He and his wife live in Arkansas. For over a year, my mom expressed her interest in moving to Arkansas and wanted my father to move with her. He didn’t want to move that far away from his family and friends and said no. He didn’t change his mind. Neither did she. So he is staying. She is leaving.

During my mother’s last trip to visit her friends, she bought a house. When she came home she told my father she wanted a divorce and that she was moving to Arkansas. She’s moving to a place that is two full days drive away. Two days there. Two days back. Considering we usually get about 7 days vacation at a time, that’s four days in the car for three days there. That’s not reasonable for us. The plane fare for four people isn’t something we can afford either. Over a year ago she asked me, “Would you come visit me if I moved to Arkansas?” I said, “Well, if you look at how often we’ve been able to visit Tom’s parents over the last 17 years, I would have to say, probably not, Mom. Arkansas is twice as far away.”

My in-laws live about 8 hours away, along with my husband’s grandmother, two of my husband’s sisters, their husbands and (total) four kids. We can leave Orlando in the evening after my husband gets off work, travel 4 hours to Valdosta, stay in a hotel overnight and arrive at my sister-in-law’s house around lunch time on our first official day of vacation! Then we get to visit 11 people for almost 6 days! And the cousins are the high point for the kids. The cousins and their dogs. LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of laughter! So, we do go to Georgia to visit, but never more than once a year. Some years we don’t make it at all. My husband’s family have never lived in the same city as us. He left home to come to Orlando for college. Finished college, married me and never went back home. So my kids have never experienced the loss of someone moving away before. They don’t know yet. They will not understand why she’s leaving. My 7 year old daughter is not going to understand why Mamaw is moving away. I can hear her now. She’s a smart kid. No matter what reason I give her for Mamaw moving away, she will say, “But Pappy’s staying here.”

And while I’m okay with the concept of my parents divorce, the process has proven to be stressful. I spent the morning yesterday with my dad, at an attorney’s office, reviewing his options and the settlement agreement my mother has drafted. A few phone calls with my dad and mother throughout the day. Late into the night, typing up the attorney’s notes for my mother.

The result? The most stressful day I’ve lived through in years. This is what my dad must be dealing with every day. I had no idea. He doesn’t like to “bother you girls with this stuff” as he said yesterday. I can’t imagine living through another day like yesterday. It was emotionally exhausting. I can’t imagine my dad living through every day like that until this whole thing is over. Every conversation is about the many, many, many details of splitting of debts and assets. It’s exhausting. I can’t do it. I could barely do one day. The divorce settlement needs to be signed already.

My mother is leaving. We can’t change it. We can only let her go. But the time between now and then is proving to be . . . stressful. And sad.

My pastor’s wife invited me to a women’s circle at church on Wednesday evening. I’m a member of another circle, but both kids were in Wednesday night programs, so I had the time. I arrived a few minutes late, after the devotion, but Sharon asked that the Bible used for the devotion be passed down the table to me. While the other ladies were discussing Breakfast with Santa and other circle news, their words became background noise as I read Exodus 16:15-21.

Thank you Sharon, for reminding me that God will provide just what I need, just when I need it. At the end of the day, when the manna is melted and I’m at the end of my ability to cope, I can go to bed with the assurance that the next day, He will provide again. Just what I need.

“If this is a blessing, it is certainly very well disguised.”
Winston Churchill

i am not alone

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12

I’m the book lady. Every year, my church has a HUGE rummage sale. Two full weeks, weekends included, are spent unloading storage units, picking up and accepting donations, sorting, pricing and basically setting up an entire gymnasium for the annual “Whale of a Sale” held the first weekend of October.

I’m the book lady.

I take two weeks off from clients and work the Whale, every day. In that two week span, I literally touch thousands of books. They are categorized by topic and fiction is alphabetized by author’s last name. They sit on three rows of 6 or 7 folding tables (the big ones), in boxes, spine up, facing the shopper. Each box has a sign sticking up from it with my handwriting on it, indicating the contents of the box: Cookbooks, Physical Health, Emotional Health, Parenting, Travel, Military History, American History, World History, Gardening, etc. In each box, you can see the name of nearly every book without having to touch a single one. If you are looking for a particular book, just ask me. I”ll tell you if we have it and, if so, exactly where it is. The comments from people who see it range from, “Wow. This is amazing.” to “Who did all this?” (in a “that person is insane” tone of voice.) In the first few years, I did much of it myself, but now there are actually a handful of people who “get” me and can help sort without messing up the system.



The added benefit is that I get first pickings. At a $1.00 per hardback and $.50 for paperbacks and children’s books, I bring home a bookcase worth every year. My I.O.U grows ominously for two weeks as I sneak boxes of books into my house. Some women buy clothes, secretly hang them in the closet and when their husband comments the first time the clothing is worn, the women say, “This? I’ve had this for years.” Not me. I bring home books, quickly pull off the price tag and shelve them. I don’t say a word. I read so many books at one time, I never get asked, “Is that a new book?” My husband can’t keep up. This year was more difficult. I ran out of shelving space and had to reorganize the playroom. A six foot shelf that used to house toys, games and puzzles now houses fitness, diet and health books. (The shelf is right next to the treadmill after all.)

So, I’m the book lady.

I was asked to give my testimony at United Methodist Women Sunday last week and that’s how I started. It went something like this (and thankfully, with laughter in all the right places):

"My name is Julie Mills, but if you were at the Whale of a Sale, you probably know me as the book lady. I’m not a librarian. I just have freakish organizational skills. If I’m invited to your house and you have books, I may organize them while we chat. One of the books that came in this year was “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve been on the waiting list at the library for this book for more than 6 months, so when it came in, it was MINE! Liz Gilbert is a journalist who spend a year of her life traveling in Italy (to eat), Indonesia (to pray) and India (to love). She wrote about her experience, and although she’s not a professed Christian, I’ve gained so much insight as I run her words through my own perspective as a Christian. I’d like to read an excerpt I found particularly meaningful. In speaking about the differences between her sister, Catherine and herself, Liz wrote:

"A family in my sister’s neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy, when both the young mother and her three-year old son were diagnosed with cancer. When Catherine told me about this, I could only say, shocked, “Dear God, that family needs grace.” She replied firmly, “That family needs casseroles,” and then proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing that family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this is grace.”
See, they’re not so different after all. Compare me to another 40 something woman, with two children and a minivan. Although we look similar, we would probably say we are very different. But when you look more closely, those differences fade. What I discover is that I’m not alone. Especially in UMW. When you are a member of a UMW Circle, you have microwave friends. Instant friends. Women who support each other. Pray for each other. Bring food in times of trouble. Women who understand, because even if they aren’t going through what you are at the moment, some of them have already gone through it. Others may face the same issues in their future. We can learn from each other. Trust each other. Encourage each other. Accept each other. I feel like I’m ready to invite any one of my circle friends to my house . . . and not vacuum. Okay, I’ll probably leave the vacuum cleaner out in the middle of the room and say I was gonna.

The point is, we’re not alone. In UMW, you are never alone."

After my testimony, I sang “Orphans of God” by Avalon:

Who here among us has not been broken
Who here among us is without guilt or pain
So oft’ abandoned by our transgressions
If such a thing as grace exists
Then grace was made for lives like this

There are no strangers
There are no outcasts
There are no orphans of God
So many fallen, but hallelujah
There are no orphans of God

Come ye unwanted and find affection
Come all ye weary, come and lay down your head
Come ye unworthy, you are my (sister) brother
If such a thing as grace exists
Then grace was made for lives like this

O blessed Father, look down upon us
We are Your children, we need Your love
We run before Your throne of mercy
And seek Your face to rise above

learning in flux

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-12 NIV

I don't know about you, but change is very difficult for me. I call it "flux" and I HATE flux. You're not where you were, but you're not where you will be - and you don't even know where you will be. When you combine that with God's will and all the current emphasis on God's "individual will" for your life in contemporary Christian writing these days , it can be paralyzing. I've been going through that for a few years now (my husband calls it my mid-life crisis) and am just coming to peace with it. (Not all the way there yet.) I've spent so much time in my life focused on gaining knowledge and achievement, that it's a very new place for me to realize I'm now more interested in significance. I love Loretta Lynn's quote: "I'm just goin through life, trying to matter."


If you're like me, you seek knowledge in decision making. And for me, that always means books first. I've found a few recently that have really made me think. One is written by Garry Friesen, called Decision Making and the Will of God. It's not light reading. It's a very big book. I got it at the beginning of my search for significance.


Throughout my life, I've often abdicated "big" decision making to God, thinking I was seeking and submitting to his will. Often, I would pray and "lay a fleece." Now this is weird. When I took a moment to look up "lay a fleece" on the internet so I could better explain it, this is what I found first - an example from Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen:

"We all know this one. Heck, we've probably all done this one in some way or another. When we "lay out a fleece" before God, what we are doing, essentially, is seeking to know God's will in a matter by asking him to arrange circumstances to indicate his answer to our question. In his book Decision Making and the Will of God, Garry Friesen uses the humourous example of the "phone fleece": Suppose you want to ask Gladys out, but you don't know whether it is God's will that you do so. You decide that you will call her up. If the phone rings and someone answers (and you hope it's Gladys), then God is telling you to ask her out. On the other hand, if you get a busy signal, God is telling you that Gladys is not for you. (She might be accepting a date from someone else.) If there is no answer, then you will try again later. Now, be honest: This is silly. Yet you've tried something like this in the past, haven't you? I have.

The idea of a "fleece" comes from the story of Gideon, which involved a literal fleece:

And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground. (Judg. 6:36-40)

And so, we are told, once Gideon received the sign from God that he and his army would surely save Israel, he went out and did so. We too display Gideon's exemplary faith when we follow his example. It sounds so pious, so spiritual, so faithful. But is it? Is this story about Gideon intended to authorize the practice of laying out fleeces to determine God's will? I think not. Here is why the context of this story militates against the practice of laying out fleeces:

1. Gideon already knew what God's will was. In fact, God had even sent an angel to tell him that he was God's chosen instrument to defeat the Midianites (Judg. 56:13-16). In fact, when Gideon requested the sign of the fleece, he acknowledged this: "And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said . . ." (Judg. 6:36, emphasis added). He wasn't trying to find God's will, he was trying to find a way out of it.


2. Gideon's fleece was motivated by doubt, not faith. Already knowing what God expected of him, Gideon apparently didn't believe it though the message came directly from an angel. So he requested a sign. Then he requested a second sign (Judg. 6:39), perhaps realizing that the first sign was rather stupid (there is nothing remotely miraculous about wool remaining wet after the ground has dried, after all).


3. Gideon must have realized he was trying God's patience. He pleads with the Lord not to be angry with him for making yet another request for confirmation (Judg. 6:39).


4. Gideon still wasn't convinced. In fact, after explicit instructions from an angel and two confirming signs, Gideon still needed to hear from the mouths of the Midianites themselves that they feared him (Judg. 7:9-15). Spying in the bushes accomplished what three supernatural events couldn't.


In short, this idea that Judges teaches us to lay out fleeces before God to know his will turns the meaning of the text around 180 . This is a classic example of misappropriation. The point is not that we should seek God's will by praying for signs. It is that God, in his grace, can use even his weakest people to accomplish his plan. Laying out fleeces in fact comes dangerously close to the pagan practice of augury - telling the future through signs and omens - which Scripture forbids."


http://mcclare.blogspot.com/2004/08/fleece-peace-and-still-small-voice.html

So there's an example of what I was doing - right from Garry Friesen's Decision Making and the Will of God. I read the first part of the book and got completely depressed, realizing the way I'd been handling decision making was . . . not supported by scripture. Unfortunately, I abandoned the book, mid read. After months of not making any "big" decisions because I felt my process was flawed, I finally went back to the book to find out how Friesen interpreted the process of biblical decision making. The short answer is wisdom. Gaining and applying biblical wisdom. Which takes time. I'm still learning how to do it. It feels like I will never get it.

Another book I'm reading is Goal Free Living by Stephen Shapiro. He talks about living life following a compass instead of a map. Decisions aren't necessarily "wrong" or "bad" they are just decisions and the outcome of those decisions lead us to the next ones. If a decision leads to negative consequences, we learn from that and use the experience to make different (we might say better) decisions in the future. Shapiro doesn't profess Christianity, but filtering his words through my perspective as a Christian, I can see how biblical wisdom can be applied in this process. As a Christian, I would say that within the moral will of God decisions aren't necessarily wrong or bad.


My poor son (and husband), I'm always inflicting my learning upon them when I've read something which impacts me. In trying to explain it to my son (and truthfully, myself in the process) I used an example (I think it's from Friesen): We (my husband and I) haven't decided what you (my son) should be when you grow up. There isn't one specific thing you are destined to do. We pray that you grow to be a god fearing, faith filled, honorable man who makes choices based on biblical wisdom. Within the moral will of God, whatever you decided to do, will be equally pleasing to us, as your parents. And equally pleasing to God.


It has been so liberating to come to this understanding. Whatever I choose to do - choose to do, will be equally pleasing to God. I get to choose!


I have to choose.


And again, with the "it takes time."


I'm also reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad, Captivating by John and Staci Eldredge, Ten Minutes from Normal by Karen Hughes, and about 10 others, so basically, I'm A.D.D. bibliophile. But it works for me.

"I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma."
Eartha Kitt

even GOD rested.

Saturday, June 30, 2007


God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were
completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 1:31-2:3 (emphasis added)

A client recommended a book to me on Tuesday and I found it at Goodwill on Wednesday for $1.99. I wasn’t really looking for it, the title just jumped out at me and said, “HEY! I’m the book Judy told you about!” God is so cool that way. The book is titled Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I haven’t really dived in yet, but my initial pre-read produced some food for thought. The book talks about setting boundaries and not allowing others to cross them. We allow other people to control our life - or just our time - because we don’t say “no” either to ourselves or out loud, to them.

I used to have this problem. Until very recently, in fact. For years, nearly every Christmas, I was sick. Sometimes a little sick, more often than not, VERY sick. I took on too many responsibilites, self-created even more responsibilites, slept way too little, ate sparingly (but very BADLY), abandoned exercise, and stressed out so completely that my immune system left skid marks and my body revolted. A few years ago, both my husband and I were both sick. We decided then: NO MORE.

I’m learning to say “no.” (Notice I didn’t say “I’ve learned.”)

First, I read a book (big surprise), Guilt-Free Living by Robert Jeffress. I learned (or was reminded) that even GOD RESTED!

Read the verse above again. Notice the words “completed” and “finished” and “rested.” Here’s what Jeffress had to say about it:

God was able to complete the grandest project imaginable. And once he finished that project, he rested from the act of creation. And he experienced satisfaction from his work.

In those six days, did God create everything that he could have created? I think not. There is no end to the galaxies, the planets, the animals, the plants and even the types of humans God could have created (why limit it to two?) Yet, after six days, God said, “Enough is enough! What I have done is great!”
And then again, talking about Jesus:

Throughout the thirty-three years of life on this planet, Jesus had one goal: to accomplish the work God had for him to complete. That singular, driving purpose is seen in Jesus words in John 4:34: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” When one thinks of all the needs Jesus must have seen around him - the disease, the heartaches, the broken relationships, the myriad of unsaved lives - coupled with the limited time he knew he had on earth we can only imagine the urgency Jesus could have felt.

And yet, as you examine Jesus’ life and ministry, you notice that he was never in a hurry. He walked everywhere he went. His schedule was never too busy to enjoy some lighthearted moments with his disciples, some playful times with children, or even a good party like the wedding at Cana. Jesus did not heal every sick person, raise every dead person, or even convert every sinner. Yet, when he hung on the cross he was able to say, “It is finished.”
Okay then. If the work of the Almighty God was followed by rest, who am I to think my work is so important? There is NOTHING wrong with going to bed the same day you wake up - instead of getting up the same day you go to bed! What was I thinking?

So, I’m learning to say no. But there’s a trick to it. Don’t explain why. If you are asked to do something, and you say no and give a reason, the person asking you will try to solve your problem. They will advise you, offer to do something, whatever they can - to remove the “obstacle” from your life - thus allowing you to say “Yes.” Don’t explain why.

I do apologize when I say “no.” I actually am sorry I can’t help. But not sorry enough to say yes to something that will sabotage my (and my family’s) daily life.

One of the big problems I’ve discovered is that people have expectations of me (you) based on their knowledge of my (your) gifts and abilities and they do not approve when I (you), don’t “use those gifts to glorify God.” When they verbalize this disapproval (wrapped in outward disbelief), the idea is that embarrassment and guilt will lead to a “yes.” No more. I used to do that. I’ve left a church because of that.

I’m a vocalist and I’ve sung in the choir for years. Over time, also I developed an interest in sign language. I combined the two interests and learned to interpret the music during the worship services at my church. The choir members were not happy. I was no longer singing in the choir. I was standing down in front of the first pew, signing the music instead. At first the comments were, “We sure miss you in choir.” At the end, I was interpreting music during worship on “Join the Choir” Sunday. During the service, each choir member was supposed to go down into the congregation and bring someone back up to the choir loft for the rest of the service. Two people came to get me. I was the assigned interpreter for music that day and the choir members wanted me to abandon that responsibility because they had decided my gifts were better used in the choir. I began looking for a new church soon after that day. I needed a church where my service could expand and not be limited to areas that others expected.

Recently, after singing a solo in my current church I was encouraged to join the choir by a few different members. When responding to the first person, I forgot my rule. I started to explain. I was quickly reminded when the person asking began offering suggestions as to how I might overcome the “obstacles.” So this is my answer. “I’ve sung in choir before, and I’m sure I will again, but now isn’t the right time for me. I’m sorry.” I won’t explain about my husband’s travel, the overlap of rehearsal and my daughter’s bedtime, my preference to worship with my family in the congregation on Sunday or any of the other reasons which lead me to say “no” to choir at this time in my life. I don’t see them as obstacles. They are priorities.

And that is the key. Priorities. Priorities help you determine which requests get a “yes” and which ones get a “no.” We are so busy that we often lose sight of our priorities - if we’ve even taken the time to think them through in the first place. We are so busy we start going through the motions, doing things we’ve said we would do, without even realizing some of these things are actually counter-productive to our priorities.

STOP!

Can’t quit cold turkey? Make a list of your priorities today. Say no (and I’m sorry) to everything that doesn’t support those priorities. Give someone else an opportunity to serve. They may have been waiting for you to stop hogging all the work.

Need an extreme make over? Don’t take on any responsibilities which will require additional time and effort from you in the month of November and December. It will be the most amazing holiday season you’ve had in years.

Stop waking up the same day you went to bed and start going to bed the same day you wake up.
Julie Stiles Mills

adolescence and menopause in the same house

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.
Proverbs 15:18 NIV

Adolescence and menopause in the same house? I PRAY that doesn't happen. I can't imagine how things would be if I had a reduced capacity for patience, understanding and giving grace when faced with an unreasonable, prolonged outburst from a cranky person who has decided to use me as a scape goat for . . . everything. Seriously. EVERYTHING. Here's a sampling from this week:

If someone is hungry, it's my fault.
(why didn't I bring them a snack?).
If someone gets a haircut when they don't feel like it, my fault.
(when exactly WOULD be a good time?)
If someone has tangles in their hair, my fault.
(why didn't I braid it for sleeping?)
If American Idol gets erased from the DVR, my fault.
(why do I have so many shows set for "keep" anyway?)
If someone didn't finish a drawing in after school care, my fault.
(why did I come to pick up so early?)
If someone doesn't finish homework, my fault.
(I made them go to church on Wednesday night!)
If someone even HAS homework, it's my fault.
(not sure why, but I still get the grief)
If something is confiscated, my fault again.
(when you throw something, you lose it. The length of time lost is directly proportional to the force with which it was heaved and how heavy it is. Targets are irrelevent: people, cats, floor or air - it's all throwing.)

It seems like no matter what it is, I'm doin' it wrong. Oddly, I'm okay with that most of the time. Only by God's grace. There's no other answer for it. I'm certainly not able to do this on my own. Yesterday, I was tired. When I'm tired, I go straight for, "Nobody talk. Look out your (car) windows." Then it's either mumbling (the 11 year old big brother) or "but . . . " (the 6 year old little sister). "AAhhh! NOBODY talk."

I just have to make sure I'm never tired and I should be able to tap into that patience and understanding God is trying to equip me with. If I lose sight of my conscious objective of trying to model acceptable behavior and teach them to give each other grace, my attitude deteriorates. When that happens, bickering triumphs and my stated goals for raising my family are derailed. With so little time to implant and cement these fundamental concepts in my children's subconcious, I need excercise patience when they are behaving . . . like children. Today? So far, so good. But it is only 8:23 a.m. And it's Wednesday.

Adolescence and menopause in the house at the same time? As Oprah so frequently says: "I'm asceard."