Time to Get Away

If you’re like me, vacations seem to get stacked in a corner, and banished into the maybe someday pile, or stashed on my idea shelf. So, when my husband Jeff and I decided to get out of town for our 18th wedding anniversary, it felt like moving out of our comfort zone. I knew we had to get intentional about resting when I felt that stifled feeling similar to writer’s block, yet applied to all of life. I felt like my creative juices had dried up. And, Jeff a very routine-driven individual, had a sense of just getting by with not much joie de vi•vre.
A week before, I did a Google look up on my computer for the area we would be visiting for ideas of fun activities. I also researched the weather to see what days would be best for these activities and made a tentative plan.
When the day we were to leave finally arrived, Jeff wasn’t feeling the best, so we decided to leave the next day. When we finally arrived at our destination and drove into the woods, at the camp in Port Huron, dusk was just starting to settle in.

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The green trees, with their lacy canopy swayed in the breeze as if beckoning us to come and rest awhile. We had leftover pizza we grilled. We settled in to the cottage and then drove to the Break water or pier at Lexington Harbor to watch the sunset.

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Sunday morning dawned fresh and beautiful. We had a leisurely breakfast from the grill, went to church, and returned to the cottage for steaks, potatoes, and corn on the cob (you can find some inexpensive steak at the store if you look for it). That evening we decided we would venture to Sarnia, Ontario for fish and chips.

Going over the Blue Water Bridge stirred excitement, as I watched the gorgeous aqua water below and looked out over the point to the Ft. Gratiot Lighthouse.

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We checked out some expensive sit down restaurants, and then decided we would go back to a fish and chips wagon by the St. Clair River Warf, right below the Blue Water Bridge. We got our food, a double portion of what we expected, and sat in the car at our river side restaurant table for two.

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A wind surfer entertained all us cars lined up on the wharf as we sat watching fierce storm clouds gather over the Great Lake Huron.

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Wind whipped across the water from the lake, the surfer rose sometimes 10 to 15 feet above the water. Finally, when the storm came close lightning and thunder forced the young man to shore. Jeff and I ate half of our meals and decided we needed to go back to the cottage…even though the storm was raging… we had to cross that 233 high bridge to get back to the cottage. The wait on the bridge took over half an hour. Wind howled. Rains pelted the wind shield; lightning slashed streaks through the sky. We sat suspended over angry rapids of the St. Clair river channel.

Over the radio we heard songs about God seeing us through the storm. Hale beat against the car as we crossed through customs and back into Michigan. Arriving safely called for celebration. We decided to stop at the Double Tree Inn restaurant called Steamers. Since it was the hotel we stayed in on the first night of our honeymoon, it felt extra special, to sit in the restaurant and split a humongous desert and reminisce a little. Did I mention we had a window seat and could see the St. Clair River and watch the traffic on the Blue Water Bridge and watch for any river freighters?

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We lingered in the restaurant for some time, celebrating our safe passage over the stormy bridge while we enjoyed our peanut butter and jelly tiramisu.

Arriving back at the cabin, we discovered we had no electricity. We spent the rest of the evening driving to a store for ice and packing the food into the freezer. The next day we had hoped to spend on the beach. Some of the beaches were closed. We looked at one of the park beach entrances and huge trees had been uprooted, as if a tornado had passed through. We also realized we had left Jeff’s swim shorts at home. Plus, it was cloudy and rainy. We decided to eat our picnic lunch we had hoped to eat on the beach, by the Lexington Pier. Biting flies and rain hurried us along. Later we looked through the charming shops in Lexington hoping to find a deal on a swimsuit for Jeff, but after we had enjoyed ourselves shopping with no swimsuit deal, we went to Meijer’s and found Jeff new swim shorts (on sale). Since we hadn’t showered that day, we stopped at a nearby beach and swam. As the sun set over the horizon, we washed our hair in the lake (using biodegradable camp soap).

Tuesday we bungeed the bikes to the car rack and drove over to Lexington for the start of a 10 mile bike ride (Thank you Schwartzs). The ride proved gorgeous as we peddled up a slowly rising incline.

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Scenery came slowly, so we could enjoy it all. We passed by apple trees, a golf course, farms, a vineyard, old stately homes, and lovely vistas full of wildflowers and flitting birds.

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When we finally arrived at our destination, The Swinging Bridge, we felt a real sense of accomplishment. We met a group of young men who had also seen a dream of theirs come true. They were playing for the first time on a Frisbee golf course for which they had petitioned the city. It was fun to see their excitement.

We rolled back into Lexington a little later than we had planned, but all was well and we had had a great bike ride.

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Wednesday we enjoyed a full day at the beach, jumping in the waves, and flying the kite Jeff and I bought on our honeymoon (we had flown it at the Marquette Beach at that time). People sat smiling at it, those bright colors, the long flowing tail… just as they had 18 years ago. It made me think about the way Christ centered marriage can be a testimony to the world. Our marriage has come through some rough times, but with God’s help, we have learned a lot, like the power of humility, the need to continue to depend on God every day, and… the need to share God’s grace and mercy with one another.

One last stop at the Blue Water Bridge before going home, we took our dog, Kia-Jane for a walk along the side of the river and got to talk to a lot of people. We saw two freighters come through the river. One was so huge, it looked like it was the shore…and I had to do a double take. It appeared seemingly out of nowhere due to a fog.

Even though taking a little time off meant we had to break ourselves away from the routine, it was worth it.

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A Long Pathway

long pathwayAt first this article may not look like something belonging on my blog, but wait, what about when you feel called and you’re very fervent about it? Those feelings of frustration can have a huge effect on a marriage, especially when you have endured a long season of preparation and faced struggles you thought you would never overcome.
Patient Preparation
It feels like fire in your heart. It’s hard to contain that holy hunger of being called by God. Yet when God says be patient, there are things he wants us to learn. That is hard to accept. Yet if we got there too soon, we might not be prepared. God is preparing us through the very tug on our hearts that hurts so much. I don’t know how often I’ve fallen to my knees in prayerful tears, weeping for God to help me fulfill his purposes for my life, but learning dependence upon God seems a necessary part of preparation. Dependence upon God and Patience and faith go hand in hand. Faith helps ease the feeling of frustration when the ministry opportunities we long for are still further down the pathway, and our mission seems impossible.
Humble Honesty
How do you respond when you see someone already moving into their ministry when you are still developing yours? I have had to work at removing the thorn of jealousy from my heart. When I see someone who is already serving the LORD in the way I had hoped to, I still sometimes twinge a little at first. Then I admit what’s going on in the heart. A few years ago, I attended an out of state conference where people way younger than me, (who had incidentally been on the preparation road longer), received favor and rewards. I wanted that kind of encouragement and yearned for the ability to serve God like this. As I wrote in my prayer journal about it, God opened my eyes to see these young folks needed godly encouragement and maybe that’s one reason God placed me there. God didn’t place me there to torment me, but to learn more about my ministry and to learn how to rejoice in seeing someone else receiving their ministry. God is at work all over the place. As we praise him for the work he is doing in other people, it helps us keep our eyes where we need to be focusing.
Biblical Balance
Ephesians 2:10 says “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” It’s such a relief to know it’s up to God. He has it all planned out. Psalm 138:8a continues to encourage my heart as I prepare for ministry. It says “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me”. What joy this verse brings to a heart in the midst of trying and training. Philippians 1:6 is another verse to lean on. It says, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work…will carry it on to completion”. This verse reminds a passionate heart that God is faithful. We can look at God’s steadiness in the cycle of days and nights and seasons. He created the world completely. We are still discovering his creation in the universe. It helps me to look up into the starry heavens sometimes and realize how big God is. He is capable and competent and not in the practice of quitting before the project is done— ever. God says to be still and know that he is God (Psalm 46:10).
God doesn’t ask us to walk alone. God goes before us leading us. He will prepare each step for us, even if it is a long rocky uphill path, my job is to follow and believe that he can and will fill and use this earthen vessel for his glory. The truth of 2 Corinthians 4:7 keeps my heart balanced. It says, “… we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” On days when I’m feeling entirely inadequate I focus on the fact its God’s power which equips me. And some day, when God leads me into places I’ve always hoped for and dreamed of, I will remember, I’m an earthen vessel which God formed out of the dust of the earth. Yet, somehow, he gives us the awesome privilege of serving him.

*verses taken from the NIV

The Story Behind our Blue Chair

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Our blue chair has a story behind it. I still remember the day we selected it. It didn’t come from a furniture store. Rather we saw it on the way home from a speaking contest. I was dressed like a princess (because I was speaking about my fairytale marriage, and how letting go of the things I thought I wanted (temporal things) enabled me to hold on to the things that really mattered most). I wore a dark blue flowing silk gown, high heels. I even had a tiara.
As we neared our home stretch, I saw this blue chair, sitting by the road. “Oh Jeff, look! A chair just like I was praying for, for our family room.” With little money, we couldn’t just go out and purchase furniture.
Jeff rolled his eyes and giggled at me as I hopped out of the car, in my blue flowing dress and high heels. “Do you want your tiara princess?” He joked, extending his hand my way with the crown.
I glanced back at him and smiled, dodging mud puddles, and keeping my eye on the chair. As I neared it, I noticed a rip in the fabric, down from one of the decorative front buttons. But I could fix it. I glanced at the legs of the chair. The fabric had come unhemmed. But a needle and thread could do that up nice. There was some obvious soiling beneath the arm rests, but I had faith that with some scrubbing and old fashioned elbow grease, it would come clean.
“What do you think?” Jeff hollered out the car window.
I glanced at Jeff. “I think we can fix it up. Let’s take it home.”
I grabbed one side of the chair, Jeff grabbed the other. Together we placed the chair in the trunk.
He skillfully managed the car down the streets and to our driveway. We scurried out and lifted the chair from the trunk, and walked it back to the patio. Jeff drove off to work. I went to task.
First I sprayed the chair down with disinfectant. Then I lathered it with antibacterial soap, scrubbing off all the layers of soiling. I rinsed off the suds and let the chair dry in the sunlight. I soaked and scrubbed the cushion. I laundered the cushion cover and then dried it on the clothesline. After the chair had dried, I threaded a needle and carefully mended the upholstery.
That night, when Jeff arrived home, we added our “new” chair to the family room. It not only worked, it matched our decor perfectly. It has become one our favorite comfy spots to enjoy.
My chair story reminds me of my marriage story. As a woman whose husband experienced job loss and depression, I know marriage is not easy. But I want to offer hope. Christian marriage is a cleansing process. With a lot of prayer, and following the Bible’s principles, God’s mending and scrubbing at the stains of the hearts of imperfect humans, marriage can be a treasure and a comfort. Maybe we’ll think of the little blue chair next time our marriages challenge us.

Happily Ever After, One Choice at a Time

cropped-wedding-groom-and-bride2.jpgWith the words, “I do” we make a choice. And then we make a zillion choices in the ever-after which will determine our happiness or our not-so happiness.

Viktor Frankl said that “between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” Each day is full of those spaces to choose.

I wonder, when I married my husband, if you would have shown me a movie of the coming years of his job-loss related debilitating depression and the downward spiral of 10 years coming after, during which Jeff tried to help start a business, how I would have responded. Maybe I would have passed out cold. I am thankful life it has been one day at a time.

The other day, I looked through some of my prayer journals from these 12 1/2 years. I saw how God had helped me through each crisis of faith. Many times, when I needed wisdom to make wise choices, I asked God. God gave it.

It is God’s wisdom that helps a despairing wife hold on to her commitment and stay by her struggling husband when the world shouts the easy answer, to run away. It is God’s wisdom which helps her see that often the pain she is experiencing is not caused from outside her, but inside her.

You cannot run away far enough, when the problem is inside of you. So much of what we wrestle with as wives has to do with not being fully filled with God. It’s as if our hearts are empty vacuums. This sucks the life out of our marriages.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit a hurting wife can choose to go so deep in her love relationship with God that her marriage relationship to her husband is not a vacuum of expectation but a wellspring of deep joy.

Here are some power verses which have helped me. Personalize and turn these into prayers, especially during feelings of hopelessness.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” *

“We … exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope”. **

Through God’s wisdom, I’ve been empowered to choose to let go what doesn’t really matter, and hold on to what does. It’s been my experience that growth and freedom are sure to follow!

*Romans 5:3-4 **Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

Persevering in the Wilderness of Time…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHave you ever said this – “I can’t wait until…”? What I’ve learned through heart wrenching times of persevering is – I can wait and as I wait, God teaches me how to trust. Here’s part of what I mean by trust.

T ake God at His Word
R ealize God is in no hurry, and rules over time
U nderstand God is with you and often uses time as a tool to shape you
S aturate yourself in God’s Word
T urn the situation completely over to God and take the steps He asks

Take God at His Word. The Bible is full of promises such as God’s love will last forever (Psalm 136), God will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:36), and the fact that God is at work in all things using them to work together for our good and spiritual maturity, and making us more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29).

Realize God is in no hurry and He is sovereign over time. The Old Testament Joshua-story found in chapter 10 of that book finds Joshua fighting a war. Joshua was so desperate he asked God to make the sun stand still. And God did it. Is there anything God can’t do? God is the same God today as He was then, thou He works in different ways; He is capable of helping you and me in ways we cannot even imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Understand God is with you and often uses time as a tool to shape you. Clock watching gets us nowhere, God-watching does. Watch for what God is up to in the processes. The great Old Testament God-follower Moses learned how God shapes us through time. Moses’ life is divided into three forty year periods where he waited for God. I do not think Moses would have been ready to progress to the next place with God, without the lessons he learned while waiting. When you’re waiting remember the Psalm that says God will fulfill his purpose for us (Psalm 138:8).

Saturate yourself in God’s Word. A sponge soaks up whatever it is in. We are a bit like sponges. We can saturate ourselves in worry. We can saturate ourselves in frustration. We can even saturate ourselves in bitterness. It doesn’t always feel like we have a choice but really we do … it is a choice what we choose to do as we persevere. Sometimes the discipline of getting into God’s Word and studying feels as if it’s the last thing we want to do when we want something to happen. But I’ve found perseverance pays, and studying God’s Word can yield the richest learning… because God really does want to communicate with me and you.

Turn the situation completely over to him and take the steps He asks. Worry is one of the most destructive tendencies we have but worry can teach us how to meditate. Worry trains our minds to mull over OUR problems. When we meditate, we can choose to train our minds to mull over Scriptures and to let go, making it GOD’s problem. Trust is a choice but in the process the choice makes us… if we don’t give up.??????????????????????????????????????????

Jump into Fall

 

jumping with sun 2I confess, this is the time of year when I struggle a little. It’s not that I’m not in touch with Jesus. It’s just that season… leaves fall, the wind blows, temperatures get colder (unless you’re blessed enough to live in a warm climate year round). So what can you do?

  1. Try on a new attitude-spring doesn’t have to be the only time you get a fresh start. Fall can be a starting point instead of the ending just as the Jewish tradition has looked at the night as the start of the new day. We can choose to look at fall as a sort of beginning, a prologue, or an introduction to all things new! By the way, that’s one of my favorite verses “therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone” (NIRV).
  2. Re-arrange the furniture-I once met someone who admitted, “this is the only way I can arrange my family room.” Okay so to some this may sound radical… but what would it hurt if you moved that armchair into another corner and placed a cabinet in its place? Sometimes rearranging furniture can really add zip to a room. Check out some fun ideas at Better Homes and Gardens. Just remember where you put things so you don’t do a Dick Van Dyke over the ottoman!
  1. Add a little paint- (paint you may already have just waiting in a can, around the house)… There are new methods to paint like these vertical striped walls which place your seal of style on any room.
  2. Thoroughly clean everything- from the walls to the curtains to the carpets … who says spring is the only time to clean? Check out Real Simple for ideas. It just makes sense to get your house ship shape for the holidays now before the rush. Cleaning can be a lot of fun, put on a favorite Christian Praise CD and pump up the volume! Although many verses in the Bible talk about cleanliness, the phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness isn’t in the Bible, rather it was a phrase apparently coined by the founder of Methodism. But surely our God is a God of order. As we look at the changing of seasons, and the intricate systems he has designed within plant and animal life, we see his beautiful orderly mind. God is not a God of chaos, but of order.
  3. Set some goals before the new year approaches-weight loss and exercise can lower risks of diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Walking, an aerobics video, or even dancing to the songs on Christian radio stations like Family Life Radio and K-Love for 30 minutes can really add uplift to your day (your family can even join you).
  4. Join a Bible study-chances are you may have some Bible study groups in your area you didn’t even know about. I benefited greatly from Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). When my husband Jeff was going through long term debilitating depression, my friends at Bible Study Fellowship were my life-line of encouragement! God used my teaching leader Bonnie, to speak God’s words into the places of my life that needed it most, reassuring me and helping me know the joy of perseverance. I actually served as a BSF small group leader for a few seasons because I saw the benefits. If you are well-grounded in the Bible, you can also ask your pastor if you can start a Bible study at church. You don’t have to write it. Many Christian publishers specialize in Bible study material. Publishers such as Discovery House  and Lifeway have some great Bible centered book studies from which to choose. Think about this time as a gift to you and your group! When you grow close to friends through Bible study and praying it creates bonds that just may continue not just through the fall season, but for the rest of life.

This is by no means the entire list of things you and I can do to jump into Fall. I invite you to add your ideas to this blog so others can benefit.

From my heart to yours,

Tammy Bovee

Letting Go of the World to Hold on to God

man at sunrise“…the peace I (Jesus) give is a gift the world cannot give.” John 14:27 (NLT)

It’s better than a life insurance policy. It’s stronger than a Hefty garbage bag. It tastes better than your favorite dessert yet has no calories. It surrounds you like a fluffy down comforter. God’s peace. It cannot be bought or sold with the world’s currency. It can be yours even when you’re living on a shoestring, about to take a transcontinental flight, or facing a firing squad at work.

There have been moments… when you’ve felt peace. A seaside sunset washing over the water-smoothed sands, painting the sky with a hush of colors so vivid you couldn’t speak. Maybe for you it was walking through a garden at sunrise as the first daylight chased the mist and the dew clung to the flowers. Maybe you felt peace as you walked one night through the forest on a mountain roadway, and looked up through a clearing at the dark sky. You saw stars so brilliant it felt like you could grab them if you stood on your tiptoes and reached far enough. Or maybe it was holding that little baby, those tired eyes looking up at you, drinking love from your face– that tiny mouth suckling the bottle– those soft watery eyes slowly shutting– as that little precious baby bundle lay resting… in your arms.

Isaiah 40:11 snapshots God as he “gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.” This is the place of peace, near to God’s heart.

What is threatening to undo you? Name it right now. Speak it aloud. Whisper it… to Jesus. Psalm 34:18 says “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted…”

Have you ever focused the lens of a camera? What happens with a camera lens also happens with your heart. God gives you the ability to focus the lens of your heart. Though the problem seems enormous, is it bigger than God? Or does the problem look so big because your heart is focusing on it?

Right now, God is here—Comforter, Creator, eternal. He sees you. He knows your pain. He feels it. He also felt the blows of the nails that went into his Son Jesus’ hands. Yet he loved you so much that he gave his son so he could be close to you. James 4:8 says “come near to God and he will come near to you.” God longs to be closer to you than the trial you are facing. He desires to hold you, to gather you in his arms and comfort you with a peace so real that it blurs the problems into the background.

Peace comes from knowing the One who paints each brilliant sunrise and sunset, lights the starry skies, creates babies with the desire to rest in their parents’ arms. Yet peace is more than that. It is being held in a love relationship with God, the Creator, whose love is everlasting and whose hope is real.

Are you weary, bewildered? Do you wonder how long this trial will last? Are you hope-sick for answers that just won’t come?

God offers his peace, a peace the world cannot take away. Why? Because this kind of peace doesn’t come from the world, it comes directly from the Source, God himself. Today he says to your heart, “so do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NIV

Letting go of expectations to hold on to happily ever after.