Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Hope Chest




The Hope Chest
Carol Condon

The hope chest that once stood empty was now lovingly packed full of memories, dreams, and hope for the future. For years all types of “favorite things” had been collected and placed in the chest in expectation for when hope became reality. Each item had been lovingly folded for that special day when the “hopeful” items could be retrieved and put into use.

In one corner so many memories had gathered throughout the years. There were the love notes scribbled and barely legible with “do you like me? yes or no” along with yearbooks, the first Barbie, dried flowers from that special occasion, many cards and letters that held countless memories along with hundreds of photographs representing years of special moments. As I picked up the pictures I was quickly taken back in time to relive the events that were bringing on so many nostalgic feelings.

Adjacent to the stack of memories were the folded hopeful items lovingly placed in waiting for the future. There was the quilt that Grandmother made along with vintage clothes that were now heirlooms from generations past. The teacup and saucer lovingly wrapped to preserve its appearance and future use was stacked next to the oblong package that was a mystery to me.

As the layers of tightly bound cloth were removed the valuable item was revealed, The Family Bible. The births and deaths had been entered with a shaky hand. As the pages were turned toward the Inspired Words I saw that verse after verse had been underlined with an arrow pointing toward a small note lovingly written in the margins where interpretations and personal experiences were documented.

This Priceless Book holds so much hope within its pages. Can you imagine how enriched our lives would be if we visited this Hope daily with an eagerness to use each “item” stored there? Our Lord placed His Words throughout the pages to help us set up our home and family. Tucked within its pages are promises along with examples to live by. Experiences have been documented to guide us through similar circumstances that we all find ourselves facing from time to time.

This “Hope Chest” will do us no good if it stays packed away in some corner of our room. We need to lift the cover and go for a treasure hunt of all the many hidden goodies that have been placed there so lovingly to enrich our daily lives. Let us take out His Word daily and rejoice in the hope that He has given to us all.
Romans 15:4 (KJV)
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Restrictions Apply

 Restrictions Apply
Carol Condon

The discharge papers were stacking up as I patiently waited for the final dismissal granting me permission to bring Mark back to our home. The instructions were being repeated for his prescriptions, level of activity, nutritional diet guidelines, scheduling of doctor’s visits and so much more. Our minds were slightly overwhelmed. Just 4 four days earlier life seemed so much more carefree. Once dismissed we headed home on a mission to become “heart smart.”

The questions kept coming at me. Why Mark? He was always busy, on the go and when he did have a few minutes he would be biking, running, or walking our neighborhood. Mark was too young and active for this. However, it had happened and now there was this invisible sign following him stating, “restrictions apply.” How much was too much? How much was too little? Where were the answers?

I began taking his restrictions and started substituting them into our family’s lifestyle. Vegetable oil replaced olive oil, Mrs. Dash replaced salt, whole-wheat flour replaced the all-purpose flour and so the substitution process continued throughout our pantry and refrigerator. We didn’t just claim it as Dad’s/Mark’s new restrictions but ours as well.

So many are willing to accept restrictions leading to a healthier lifestyle. Gym memberships are purchased. Soda cans are discarded for the water bottle. Stairs are chosen over the elevator. The menu has grilled instead of fried as the only available option.

All this concentration on the heart brought me to my own spiritual heart and the restrictions that apply in order for me to live a long and prosperous spiritual life. I began to think of the substitutions that are needed in order to have a spiritual healthy lifestyle. Why does it seem that so many heart smart pursuers of a healthy lifestyle are trying to ignore the restrictions that apply to be spiritually heart smart?

As a family we have joined with Mark to conform to this new lifestyle and we eagerly await his doctor’s appointments to eventually hear the doctor tell us that he is winning this race on heart disease. It is not a race that we can afford to give up on. We must continue on each and every day.

We are all in a spiritual race. It is one we cannot afford to give up on. We are waiting for that appointment when we hear Him say that we have fought the fight and finished our race.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NLT)
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Gift of Life


The Gift of Life
Carol Condon

I am sitting next to you watching each of your heartbeats being measured on the screen.  The fragile motion of the rise and fall of each breath you take is a reminder of how precious life really is. The IV machines hum as clear drops fall into your bloodstream strengthening you for the day that will soon dawn.

Just 12 hours earlier my life jolted to a stop as I heard the doctor say the dreaded words, "Your husband has had a heart attack and there are signs of heart damage."   How could this be? Isn't life just like a light switch? We turn it on for desired light and flip it off when welcoming darkness just as we lie down to sleep when weary and rise when rested. Isn't life just that simple?

In a matter of a crushed heartbeat our life has changed. The schedule that was finalized is now tentative, our daily lunch dates are on hold, and we are now just taking life one moment at a time. The precious gift of love that we share will never again be taken for granted.  As I watch you finally drift asleep after hours of agony, fear, and disappointment, I begin to hear the rumbling snores of your slumber and it is music to my ears.

I overheard you today as you spoke with the imaging specialist while pictures of your heart were being filmed. When a close up of your heart entered the screen your voice quietly asked, "Does my love for Carol show up on there?"  I believe my own heart skipped a beat.

Life is a gift and one that is so often taken for granted instead of embraced with a passion. Thank you, Mark, for loving me, our children, our ministry, our church, and most of all our Savior who spared your life today. I am forever grateful.

II Corinthians 1:20
For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Updated or Outdated

Updated or Outdated
Carol Condon

It seemed as if my to do list was growing by the minute.  As I remembered something I needed to do, I would write myself a note so that I could complete one thing before beginning the next.  Finally, I was ready to get to my desk and begin all my computer work. The notice to update my software kept popping up every time I was deep into a project I was working on.  Since I didn’t want to be interrupted I just clicked on the “remind me later” button and kept right on working.  I didn’t want to stop what I was doing, close out of my programs, update and reboot.  I was “too busy” for that.

The need to update my software was forgotten.  Weeks had gone by and Miquel came up to me and asked me how I like the updated software.  I explained that it had been a while since I updated but when I saw how pleased she was with the improvements I went in search of my iPad and clicked on the app store.  I was shocked at how many apps were listed as needing updated.  Did I really ignore that many reminders?

I put in my password and all the apps began updating.  So many improvements were being added.  These great additions had already been paid for all I had to do was take the initiative and time to put them into action.

Our salvation has already been purchased for each one of us.  We just need to daily renew ourselves in Him.  We need to update our life “app.” We get so busy making life happen that we sit during a sermon when we plainly see the alert of a needed update but we just mentally click on “remind me later.”  We are too busy doing “our programs” that we do not want to stop, update and reboot.  Our life’s journey would be much improved if we daily looked for our needed updates and took the time and initiative to apply them to our lives.  His perfect will awaits us.  Are we renewed enough to recognize it?

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Romans 12:2

Friday, July 6, 2012

Their Eyes

Their Eyes
Carol Condon

The news spread so quickly. The grills were lit. Bags of ice unleashed surrounding the mounds of bottled water. Tents were erected and tables lined up for the food that had been lovingly prepared. The stage was built and the portable sound system was patiently waiting for the music that would soon be broadcasted for many blocks around. There wasn’t a sign announcing free food. It was not needed. Soon the aroma of grilled hamburgers and hotdogs was floating up and down the streets adjacent to the shelter. This coupled with the music pounding from the speakers began to draw all of those without a home to us.

Over 200 hundred people began to line up and take a plate. The heat was not nearly as noticeable now that the smell of food had overtaken their senses. As the music filled the air and the food gathered on their plate smiles began to replace the blank stare that had just moments before occupied their face.

My heart became heavier by the moment. How could so many hurting people be so close to us yet so far away? It was as I place sliced tomatoes onto their plates that the first person looked directly into my eyes and said ever so quietly, “Thank you so much for doing this.” As my eyes connected with theirs I was startled by what I saw. Their eyes held so many stories. I kept telling my mind to quit thinking of what those stories could be, but I was unsuccessful. My heart tore a little with each glance into their eyes.

The block party was now in full swing. With their hunger pangs taken care of, the music began to entertain them and draw them all close to the stage preparing their hearts for the short message that was given offering them the best treat of the night, Jesus.

Lives were forever changed; however, it was not just the hearts of those without a home, but mine as well. It wasn’t their clothes or their lack of clothes that stayed with me. It was their eyes and what they spoke to me that stayed with me.

How often are we so consumed with our daily “to-dos” that we miss those that are so very close by? They will forever be with us. Their eyes speak volumes.  Are we listening?

For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.
Deuteronomy 5:11

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Expiration Date

The Expiration Date
Carol Condon

It is an overwhelming task to maintain the inventory of our home. The shopping list is added to weekly. Although I try very hard, many times I forget to buy a needed item and accidentally purchase something I already have. The extras are stored for whenever they will be needed.

One day I found myself in need of a bottle of Italian salad dressing. I knew I had some stored in the pantry. As I opened it, I noticed a strong, strange odor. I turned the bottle over and was shocked when I saw the expiration date. How could I have had this for so long and not used it? I got to thinking of all the other items in the pantry. How many more were expired? So, I took a few days and made it my mission to conduct an expiration date inspection. Was I ever shocked! I had a countertop full of expired items ranging from pain relievers and vitamins to canned goods and crackers.

My biggest shock came from an odor that I traced to our basement. We have an ancient refrigerator that we use to keep our extra cartons of milk and drinks in. There was a gallon of chocolate milk that one of the boys put in the door instead of on the center shelf. This gallon of milk sat forgotten. The carton had been opened and with each slam of the door drops of soured milk escaped spilling over time and gathering on the floor. My chore turned into quite an undertaking; however, I was so thankful to rid our home of these expired items. Many of them looked harmless but were unusable. The medicine bottles were no longer effective, the milk had curdled, the oil had turned rancid, the crackers were stale and the canned goods were no longer safe to use.

I got to thinking about life. How many items have been stored away forgotten and expired in the deep recesses of our lives? Hurt feelings, broken hearts, dashed dreams, failed relationships coupled with offenses and bitterness over unanswered prayers take up valuable space way past their expiration date. When was the last time that you conducted an expiration date inspection? Let’s commit our ways to Him.  In other words, entrust them to Him. We do not want to lose our effectiveness and become harmful to those around us. Take inventory today!

Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
Psalm 37:5

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Yellow Paintbrush

The Yellow Paintbrush

I knew if I didn’t turn around I would be disappointed in myself.  I really am not fond of losing time by back tracking; however, I was only a mile from my home.  So, I slipped into the next driveway and turned around.  I ran into the house, grabbed the forgotten item, and hurried back to my van. Once again I was heading in the direction that my schedule requested of me.

This little turn around urged me to drive at a speed that would keep me on schedule.  Therefore, I was shocked to see a truck behind me in the passing lane going full steam ahead.  I became quite concerned because now the single yellow stripe on the road had become two signaling the restriction to pass.  The hill we were driving up had started out at a small incline and visibility seemed good; however, now it was null and this truck was heading into an area unsafe for himself and the person coming toward him.

I was driving by myself so I had some quiet time to think.  I had always thought it was my decision if I chose to disregard the double lines and I alone would have to pay the consequences.  As my eyes were off of myself and onto someone else I realized that this is not true.  My decision to slip outside of the yellow lines would be my decision but it would not only affect me.  It could affect many.  Authorities have worked for the safety of all concerned to pick up the yellow paintbrush and give us all a warning due to the conditions of the area.

How often has God picked up His paintbrush adding a double line to our road signaling us to stay behind an obstruction even though the horizon seems perfectly clear and safe to pass?  Why would we be forced to stay behind an obstacle instead of passing it to take us where we envisioned we “should” be?  We ask Him to order our steps, but do we ask Him to order our stops as well? Our ambition to be where we think we should be, will not only affect us, but it will also affect those traveling with us.  As He dips His paintbrush into the yellow paint, He begins to alter our schedule because He knows the path we take.  Trust His guidance.

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
Job 23:10 KJV

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Lost and Found

Lost and Found
Carol Condon

All the confusion and chaos may drive some to the brink of insanity but it brings a smile to my heart, which duplicates one to my face as well. When all six of us are together and are out celebrating some quality, family time it is loud, chaotic, and so satisfying. I sincerely love these moments in time.

Stories are being told with much passion and each storyteller gets louder and more passionate. Small breaths are taken so that there is not a big enough spot for an interruption by the next one with a story bursting to tell. These special moments are not about what type of restaurant we are at but the celebration is the fact that we are all together. Very seldom are we able to come in the same vehicle. So, following the meal complete mayhem takes place as everyone fights for who is riding with who and the mad dash to insure the front seat of the vehicle they chose.

It was following one of these precious outings that I followed my loud and lovely family to the car and headed home. The following day as I attempted to pay for my groceries I realized my credit card was never retrieved from the night before.

I made the call to the manager on duty and explained my dilemma. He asked me to meet him with my ID. I was shocked when I saw him bring a huge stack of unclaimed credit cards from the lost and found box. He went on to explain to me the variety of expensive items that he keeps locked in his office in case someone realizes where they lost their “valuables.”

I wonder how full the “Lost and Found” box is that our Lord keeps locked up with all the valuable items waiting to be claimed. We are given so many promises, answered prayers, callings, favor, and so much more but in the chaos of our own lives we set them down and they go unclaimed and in many cases are simply forgotten. He has gathered them up and is waiting on us to call Him and claim what is ours.

If we will begin a search of all that we lost, He will unlock the Lost and Found box and we will be reunited to our valuables. His gifts are with out repentance, in other words they are there waiting to be claimed. Begin your search today!

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 NIV

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Do You Need Bifocals

Do You Need Bifocals
By Carol Condon

Finally the day was winding to an end. My to do list was quite lengthy but with a bit of effort it slowly began to deplete. However, this was short lived as it once again began to grow as more and more things demanded my attention. I was more than ready to bid this day goodnight.

When the last dish was put away and the final load of laundry was tucked into the dryer I headed to say my goodnights to the children before crawling into bed myself. I picked up my book to get lost between the pages before settling into a peaceful night’s sleep. In confusion I kept moving my book back and forth looking for the right angle. Mark looked over at me and inquired as to what in the world I was doing. I handed him the book and asked him if he could read it. He looked at it and said, “Of course I can, why can’t you? After all, you are a teacher.” Why was I suddenly unable to read?

I had been too busy to read much lately, but why was every thing so blurry now and how did it happen so fast. Mark ineffectively tried to hold back his laughter as he asked, “Carol, do you need bifocals?” Surely not! My eyes were perfect, weren’t they? A quick visit to the eye doctor confirmed this as the doctor said, “Welcome to the 40’s club” in other words bifocal time.

Now a simple recipe could not be read and my own signature did not look legible. Everything seemed messed up. To my dismay, I headed to the local department store and purchased my first of many “reading glasses.” Suddenly, the unclear was replaced with clarity.

How often have we been caught in our regular activities of ministry and daily life only to find ourselves unable to read what was going on? Nothing seemed clear. Every situation took on a blurry appearance. Do we need “bifocals?” Is it time to schedule that Doctor’s visit to take all of our obscure situations and allow Him to define them for us? In other words, allow Him to prescribe what is needed to be able to see His path and walk in it with clarity and understanding.

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
I Corinthians 13:12 NIV

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Pantry

The Pantry
By Carol Condon

The list was filling up with all the “Hey, Mom, we need some more pop tarts” and “I’m out of shower gel.” Each one was taking their turn in filling up the shopping list, which eventually would fill up my shopping cart. As younger children their requests would be general. They would ask for fruit snacks, and I would pick up some for them. As the shopping bags were emptied and placed onto the proper shelves in the pantry they would become so excited when they saw the fruit snack box added to the weekly supplies. Presently, as growing teen-agers and young adults they will ask for fruit snacks, but not just any fruit snacks. They want the ones from Target. They quickly ask me if I know which ones they mean because they are their favorite. What is a Mom to do with that request? If I think hard enough I can come up with a reason to head to the local Target and fill this simple request.

The pantry is where our provisions are stored. When someone in our home is in need or in want of something they will go there and see what is available. Many times they do not know what they are looking for. All they do know is that they are looking for something and hopefully they will see something there that will fill their need or even their want.

How many times do we as Christian go to our Lord for a need or even a want? He has a “Pantry” stocked and ready for each one of us. All we have to do is go to His Word and anything and everything that we need is found there. If we need something specific then all we have to do is to simply ask and He will supply. As I pick up His Word I may not even know what I am looking for but as I enter His Pages I quickly find exactly what I need. Do you have time to search “His Pantry” today? He has already completed His shopping and is ready for you.

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:19

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room
Carol Condon

It seemed quite typical for me that I was rushing around in an attempt to be prompt for my upcoming appointment. It didn’t matter how early I started my day I managed to get caught up in a task that had me scurrying to make my scheduled meeting. I rushed into the building and signed in for my appointment feeling quite accomplished that I made it on time. As I glanced around the room for a place to sit, I noticed that the room was already full of people patiently and impatiently waiting. How could we all be there at the same time for the same thing? The chance of me being called upon at the time I was scheduled for was not looking possible. I pulled out a magazine in an attempt to relax and settled in for what looked to be quite a wait.

Children were crying, cell phones were vibrating begging to be answered, text messages were being sent to alert the caller that their call could not be answered at this time. Normal activities seemed to be forced to a stop during this waiting process that seemingly did not have a way to be hurried along. The impatient ones would approach the receptionist asking, “how much longer?” but they were not getting the answer they were looking for. They were asked to take a seat and to simply wait their turn.

How many times have we been ushered into “The Waiting Room” when we feel completely prepared to march straight into our destiny? We pray and ask Him to order our steps and our stops; however, when He puts up the stop sign and directs us to the waiting room we are not always happy with the unexpected delay. It is not long before we begin asking, “How much longer?” We receive silence in return signaling us that we are to wait.

Once we put our own agendas aside and trust in Him completely, the waiting is not so difficult. Take a moment today to stop and simply rest in Him. He will encourage and strengthen you before sending you back on your way.

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
Psalm 27:14