A Not-So-Routine, Illustrated Sermon.

When life is filled with the likes of a socially distant existence, taking a Sunday morning bike ride off the beaten path, offers the best kind of illustrated sermon.

The sunshine and spring time beauty brings a welcome change to the normal routine, that is anything but normal and routine these days.

Our world is facing a crisis of great proportion! Yet seemingly out of nowhere, I sense a stirring, a profound sense of hope. It comes to me (on my bike), thru beautiful countryside illustrations and the words of the Psalmist,

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows;

he leads me beside peaceful streams.

He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.

Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil.

My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,

and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” PSALM 23 NLT

I remember with great fondness the day my children could recite this portion of scripture from memory. But today, it filled my soul in a way it hasn’t ever before.

Tomorrow I will resume my duties alongside an incredible team of healthcare professionals. I will choose calm, over chaos. I will choose peace over panic. As I adjust and re-deploy, as I pivot and realign at a moments notice, may it be this message of hope, awakened during a bike ride mission and a not so routine illustrated sermon , that becomes my message and my mission to a world in need.

Crystal

Count It All Joy

Do you ever find yourself in a season or a trial that requires more of you than you think possible?

I recently completed a rigorous 17 weeks of physical therapy following a rotator-cuff repair to my right shoulder (dominant hand side), complicated by months of “frozen shoulder” prior to the surgery.

Recovery was a S L O W process. Some days demanded more than I thought possible…..incredible amounts of patience (not one of my strongest qualities), endurance, pain, hard work, humility, persistence, an occasional tear… and oh, did I mention patience? Many people told me it would be so, but no amount of forewarning could have prepared me for the day to day grind of walking it out.

James 1:2-4 says this: Count it all joy, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Perfect! Complete! Lacking nothing! Sounds like a pretty good deal. But could I? Would I count it all joy?

In the early weeks following surgery: *sitting in the recliner to sleep, for weeks. *a friend taking me to lunch and having to cut up my food. *my daughter coming for a visit and doing my hair (because I couldn’t) *my husband being there for better and for worse (helping me get dressed, opening jars, putting my seat belt on, enduring my occasional frustrated temper tantrums) Then as the weeks wore on: *working through persistent pain, that I thought would NEVER subside. *physical therapy sessions 3 times a week that were no joke. (eventually 2 times then 1 time before reaching my goals and being discharged) *feeling like my arm would never “work” normal again. *always two steps forward and one step back. *recovery felt daunting and insurmountable. *making the DAILY choice, both physically and mentally to work hard, to stay the course, and yes, to count it all joy (even when I had to dig deep, or rely on those around me, to count it).

I wrote a blog just days before my surgery about getting my mind right. Little did I know I would face that challenge time and time again on the road to recovery. At 51, I believed I had the mental strength to count it all joy, but could I endure the physical strength & movement limitations (again, not one of my strongest qualities) ?

I’m the first to admit, it wasn’t always easy, not even close. But, this is the first week in 5 months where my days off weren’t spent going to therapy. (I’m celebrating by painting a glider for my porch and it feels so good (and productive). Counting it ALL JOY does come with a price, but with the help of an incredible family, amazing friends and the greatest group of physical therapists on the planet, the dividends are far reaching and beyond compare.

Counting down the days to porch sittin’ on my newly painted glider with Haddie Lou (my granddaughter)

It’s not a road I would choose to walk again anytime soon, if ever! But, at the end of the day, my life is richer because of it….(one step closer to perfect, complete, and lacking nothing). As for my physical progress, I am happy to report I am about 90% to my goal. January 31, 2020 will mark the one year anniversary and I am believing for 100% by then….. on the way to that goal, I AM COUNTING IT ALL JOY.

The amazing PT Team @ Nova Care Rehabilitation Center

My hope and prayer for you is this: perfection, completeness, lacking nothing (in context)! When trials come (because they will), may you find it in you to count it all joy.

Crystal

Love Like There Is No Tomorrow

Quote by Max Lucado

I remember like it was yesterday, our first Valentines Day together, tokens of love and endearment exchanged under a cold, midnight, moonlit sky. It marked the beginning of you and me… loving like there was no tomorrow. And as life would have it, the tomorrow’s would keep coming, and we would keep loving, again and again, and again.

29 years of Valentines Days and you’ve shown me that sometimes love looks romantic and elegant and lavish. But more often than not, it looks simplistic and practical and routine. 2 weeks into recovery from this dreadful shoulder surgery and the way you have put my needs before yours has shown me the deepest kind of love in the most practical of ways, by caring for me, prepare amazing meals, and most of all, exchanging the comfort of our bed for a makeshift one to be alongside me on the reclining sofa.

And above all else put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:14 ESV

Another February 14 is drawing to a close, but tomorrow is another day, Loving like there is no tomorrow and being bound together in perfect harmony.

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY MY LOVE ❤

Crystal

“Get UR Mind Right”

“Get UR mind right” is a popular slogan used by best selling author, personal trainer and master motivator, Todd Durkin. His goal is to IMPACT and inspire the WORLD to greatness (thru physical, emotional and spiritual avenues)! Recently my adult son (who is in the early stages of his career as a fitness professional and personal trainer) had the privilege of attending one of his live conferences. When he returned home, he presented me with a small gift that he purchased while at the conference.

To understand the significance of this gift, it’s important to know that for the better part of 15 months I have been living with some physical limitations brought about by chronic shoulder pain. Having exhausted all treatment efforts and now facing surgery, (one that will grossly limit the use of my dominant hand for quite some time) had me feeling fretful and fearful and defeated.

That small gift…..

a bracelet with the slogan “Get UR mind right”. He said, “mom wear it as a reminder as you prepare for your upcoming surgery.” I could go on and on about what a great young man my son is, but the point is this: having a “right mind” is vital to “facing the giants” in life. And, every one of us can benefit from that reminder every now and again.

For me, getting my mind right starts at the foundation….in the WORD, anchoring into that shelter, that secret place of His Presence. A place where I take thoughts of fear and worry captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) because God has not given me a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Rather than worry; I fix my thoughts on what is true and honorable and right, thinking about (a myriad) of things that are worthy and excellent of praise (Philippians 4:8).

He is my healer. He goes before me. He has surrounded me with amazing caretakers, friends, family and prayer warriors–I am not in this alone. When I am weak, He is strong. He holds me ever in the palm of his hands. He is my comforter. He is my shield. I take refuge in Him!

In T-24 hours I will finally be on the road to physical recovery! The journey may be long, but I’m taking the step. When my thoughts waver or my physical body grows weary, I just have to look down at my bracelet and be reminded…”GET UR MIND RIGHT!”

Crystal

Never Once, Did We Ever Walk Alone

It was Christmas socks that would make a “favorite photo”, and it was that “favorite photo” that would set the tone for my New Year’s Eve reflections.   
I could spend hours writing stories about the places these feet have walked in 2018 (and in some cases I have).  These feet belong to those nearest and dearest to me.  
In our walking, we love deeply and laugh heartily.  In our walking, we face challenges and endure, together. 
The places we walk always lead us to friends, sometimes new and sometimes old.  And almost always, we walk with purpose and a mission greater than ourselves.  Some of my greatest joys and fears have come while walking “in step” and “alongside” of them. 
There are moments where we take giant leaps, but most days we plod along, one small step at a time. From the smallest feet (my sweet Haddie Lou) to the biggest feet, from the fastest feet to the slowest feet, we are…

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come

Knowing that for every step

You were with us
Kneeling on this battleground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us
Scars and struggles on the way

But with joy our hearts can say

Yes, our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone
Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful!
Matt Redman Lyrics – Never Once
Christmas socks and all, we are walking into 2019 together, and never alone!
Happy New Year,
Crystal


COME TO THE TABLE



The evergreens and lanterns lining the walk-way offered a warm-glow welcome to all who entered.  Once inside, A beautiful winter-wonderland beckoned us all…
COME TO THE TABLE and Celebrate….


Friendship
Family
Joy
Sharing
Merriment
Peace
Dreams
Tradition
Giving
Creation 
Stillness 
To the wife and mother who is really gifted at creating beautiful things, but struggles at the thought of a large gathering and people she doesn’t know,  she “just happens” to sit next to the woman who makes her feel at ease and joyful.  When the night is over, a kindred spirit has been found.  


To the young professional who thanks us for including her — she also “just happens” to sit next to the woman who offers her just what she needs.  Kindness and Passion for her profession!  She later sent me a note expressing, “it was incredible to sit at a table filled with such confident, inspiring women”.  

To the woman and friend who saw fit to fill a tin with cookies, and deliver it to a friend who couldn’t be there because she is often just physically unable to get out. 

To the coordinators of the event itself,  hard work is always rewarding when you get to see first hand so many expressions of awe and joy and wonder.  As a point person for the event, I received a lot of compliments and thanks.  BUT, I learned a long time ago, it isn’t about how good “I” can be, rather, it is about the amazingly good people surrounding me.  I am grateful for the love and thanks offered towards such a fine affair, but I am beyond grateful for all the ladies who collectively and sacrificially gave of their time, their resources and their talents.  To the hostess and the table setters, to the decorators and silver polishers, to the soup makers and the bread buyers, and ALL  who expressed their joy of the season thru making invitations and baking cookies to share…YOU are the amazingly good people around me.   

 As fulfilling as it is to create fun, festive, beautiful and delicious Christmas Cookies, it is really so much more than a cookie exchange.   In the celebration, whether simple or elaborate, in our own unique styles, we find community and connection, we inspire other women, and most importantly, those places in all of us that feel void or uncertain, are encouraged.  Something very special happens when we COME TO THE TABLE with an open and willing heart, ready to celebrate.    


This Christmas Season may you savor the goodness of all those cookies, but more importantly, may you savor the gifts in COMING TO THE TABLE.  


Merry Christmas
Crystal 

THE PARABLE OF THE SQUIRREL AND A PUMPKIN

My day off began with the usual domestic duties….cooking, laundry, cleaning, tidying. 

Because nothing takes the place of fresh pumpkin I decided to cook one in preparation for all of the upcoming holiday goodies…pumpkin scones, pumpkin pie and pumpkin-squash soup.  


Feeling both resourceful and generous towards the animal kingdom this cold snowy morning, I took the butt of the pumpkin with all of the seeds and other stuff not really conducive to human consumption, and placed the two halves face up in the back yard.

It wasn’t long until the unfolding drama caught my attention. A very plump squirrel was happily marking his territory—those two pumpkin halves. He feasted like it was the finest! Curiosity got the better of me and in my attempts at capturing him on camera, I was taken with his persistence, not to mention his selfishness. Just as keenly as he guarded himself from “human” scent, he also with a vigilance and aggression, guarded his provision. Each time another squirrel would attempt to close in to partake in the feast of goodness, he would lunge as if to say, “back off, this is mine, all mine”.  Feasting like royalty, he had no intentions on sharing the bounty.

I found myself both entertained and somewhat saddened by this little exchange.  In a strange sort of way I saw a picture of the church and God’s goodness. What is the correlation you ask? 


So often as Christians we partake in the feast set before us….through blessings and circumstance, through great teaching that is right and true, through favor poured out, peace and joy unspeakable….we guard it and mark it as our very own.
The world watches, and in their attempts to get close, we push them away. We guard “our turf” because it’s safe and good and right.  Sharing might leave us lacking or doing without.

Luke 6:38 says, Give away your life, you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. (The Message Translation).

Going about my day, I soon forgot about the squirrel and his pumpkin, only to later discover an even greater act of drama. Mr. Squirrel had finally succeeded in getting rid of the “other” squirrels only to take on 2 new and bigger opponents. Not for one minute did he drop his guard. He scurried and lunged back and forth between 2 very large crows, and never once did he relent. The

battle got intense but finally, the crows were gone and he had succeeded in guarding his turf and keeping it all to himself. 


Yes, I am fully aware that God created animals with survival and protective instincts.  But, as I witnessed what seemed a trivial animal kingdom drama on this wintry morning, I couldn’t help but reflect on the goodness of God, all that I have to be thankful for, and how I can become better at sharing His Goodness with others.
I was never really able to capture the full extent of the drama on camera, but to see 2 squirrels and 2 crows feasting together on a pumpkin in my yard on a cold snowy November morning, would have been a “Kodak Moment” for sure. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the moments in my life that are “Kodak” worthy (and yes, even the ones that aren’t).  May I strive to spread the wealth, share the feast, and indeed, be generous with life and all of its goodness. 

Crystal 

Galleries, Museums, And Other Valuable Treasures


As I walked thru the exhibits of one of the newest and finest galleries in Washington DC,

I was solemnly REMINDED, and warmly invited to REDISCOVER:
It’s presence is all around us! 
It’s truths are hidden in plain sight and even found in the most unexpected places! 
No other book in history has had a greater impact!
The most widely published book ever!
Read by people in thousands of languages all over the world!
IT.  IS.  THE.  BIBLE! 


Yes, the impact of the bible still resonates throughout American culture.  It’s influence is deeply rooted in EVERY facet of our society as well as in the quiet habits of everyday life for many Americans.  How it has been written, preserved and translated thru the ages is powerfully sacred and awe-inspiring. 

stations of the cross
Equally fitting to this incredible experience:  https://www.museumofthebible.org/   is the fact I could share it with friends who have had incredible impact on my life and the life of my family. Their influence has deeply affected the habits of everyday life.  How our stories of friendship have been written, preserved and translated thru every distant mile and every changing season is a rare find, a precious jewel, but certainly no surprise… at the very center has been and still is, the sharing of God’s Word Together! 

standing by the Sea Of Galilee
sitting under an olive tree
The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true, they are righteous altogether;
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
JPS Tanakh 1917
Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 NASV

“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” – Proverbs 27:9



Today, I pray that your life exhibits a gallery filled with Treasured Friends, walking together in the beauty, the grace and the redemption of God’s Word.  There is nothing Greater!

Crystal 

The Value Of Today Is The Music In Tomorrow’s Song

Although this season of my life is no longer defined by one school year ending or another school year beginning,  I wrote this in 2006, during a season when it was.


*****
As the carefree days of summer fade, I look ahead with anticipation to the more structured schedules of school days.  There are preparations and plans to be carried out. There are hopes and dreams to be fulfilled!  I cherish this moment of solitude to ponder the value in a day.   
Thru all of the summertime amenities we’ve enjoyed this year, it is the sweet simplicity of two days in particular, that I especially hold dear.      

Today we’ve taken a road trip, visiting friends of yesteryear, celebrating newborn babies and having lunch with “the aunts and grandma”.  Driving down the road, my 13-year-old daughter and I exchange the quiet hum of the air-conditioned car and every hair in place for open windows, tousled hair, and loud music. Not many words exchanged, we occasionally chatted or laughed, but mostly we sang.  We enjoyed the music and were thankful in  “just being together”.

With our favorite teams and high fives, my 10-year-old son and I spent the day at the ballpark, complete with highlights and statistics. Not many words exchanged, we occasionally chatted and laughed, but mostly we cheered as the fans roared.  A different kind of song, a different kind of music today, yet so much the same… enjoying the game and thankful in “just being together”.

Sometimes the value in a day seems ordinary, even undefined for the moment.  It isn’t always ushered in with grand pomp and circumstance. Oft times it is quite the contrary.   As I settle in for a good nights sleep, (after both of these days) I am deeply assured, the simplicity and the value in these days extend thru all of life, and rest quietly in the music of tomorrow’s song.  



*****
In the blink of an eye 12 years have come and gone and 
 I am joyfully and with gratitude, living in the music of tomorrow’s song (as far as a raising a young family goes anyway).  The time, the investment, the “just being together”, teaching, admonishing, and that song in my heart is reaping dividends greater than I could’ve ever imagined. 
There is something for all of us in understanding the value of a day, everyday!  Maybe you aren’t living tomorrow’s song just yet, but be grateful for every moment! See the value in time spent together no matter how simple.  Even when the seasons look different or a day seems undefined, cherish it deeply.  

I love how Paul, the writer of Colossians admonishes us, 

 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. — Colossians 3:16 

Make today count! Spend time together! Let the fragrance of thankful worship surround you.  There’s always music waiting to be heard in tomorrows song.  


Crystal

WALKING IN FREEDOM

Getting up long before the heat of the day makes its presence known, I head out the door for an early morning walk.  It’s a walk I’ve taken a hundred times before, but today…Today is different!  There is no agenda, there are no fitness goals to reach and no schedule to keep.  It is simply a morning devoted to stepping away from the routine and the noise of a busy life, quieting my heart and remembering to give thanks for the FREEDOMS I have, both as an American and as a Believer.      

For you were called to freedom, brothers.   Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.   Galatians 5:13 ESV 
At the foundation of our great nation, I see Galatians 5:13 lived out. The men who signed the Declaration of Independence served with love by pledging their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to one another.

I am especially grateful today, to all the men and women in uniform who continue devoting their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to keeping our nation free.  It is thru that freedom, I can make the choice….to shut off life’s noise for this moment in time, to walk thru my neighborhood and see the goodness of humanity all around… free people, serving one another in love.
A young mother walking her sleeping baby, 
Two grown sons helping their ageing father with yard work,
A seasoned veteran, gently and without fear, sweeping his driveway,
An athletic dad jogging (in flag shorts) behind his toddler’s stroller,  
Two brothers working together, tearing out and rebuilding a cement porch,
A stranger watering her yard and taking time to greet me with joy,
and, lots of beautiful flowers and flags and porches at every turn, that beg, “come and sit awhile”, this is the land of the free.
Psalm 33:12 says Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage.  
My heart is filled up this July 4, 2018.  May we as a free people 
 always remember
to give thanks…
and cling to the one who offers freedom, everlasting.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36
WALKING IN FREEDOM