Pass the Salt, Please!

How often do you hear, “Pass the salt, please?” as you sit around your dinner table. It’s a daily occurrence in my family. When it comes to food, we’re a well-seasoned family.

But are we well-seasoned in our faith?

Recently a verse piqued my interest as I studied the book of Leviticus:

Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.” Leviticus 2:13

God covenants with Abraham, “You will be father of many nations and kings will come from you.” God establishes an everlasting covenant to be the God of Abraham and his descendants. God promises them possession of the whole land of Canaan, the land of milk and honey. God covenants, “I will be your God.”

After almost 400 years of slavery, God freed the Israelites and led them safely out of Egypt. At the foot of Mount Sinai, that covenant between God and the Israelites was confirmed.

In the wilderness, as the Israelites journeyed to the promised land, God perpetually gave Aaron all the holy offerings presented to the Lord. “It is a covenant of salt forever before the Lord for you and your descendants as well.” Numbers 18:19

God promises to provide. Yet, the Israelites failed to keep God’s covenant.

They failed to pass the salt. We do, too.

Fortunately for us, God loves us despite our failures and pursues us in spite of them. He offers Jesus Christ as “the mediator of the new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.” Hebrews 9:15

God knew that it was impossible for us to fulfill the law of the covenant. In His steadfast love, He sent Jesus Christ to fulfill the law, once and for all.

God covenants. He promises. But, are we well-seasoned in our faith to trust His promises?

Do we leave out the salt?

I don’t know about you, but I need visual reminders to keep up with important things. I’m the queen of post-it notes. They’re plastered all around my desk. Framed scripture verses and inspirational quotes adorn my desk at work and home. A crystal cross sits on my Bible study desk reminding me daily that Jesus took my sins to the cross. I wear my Emmaus bracelet made of brass fishing lures dotted with rainbow colored beads continually–twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I never take it off. Why? It reminds me of something important. God is always with me.

My Creator knows this about me. After all, He created me. He knows we need visual reminders. Maybe that’s partly why He commands, “Add salt to all your offerings.”

Why salt? Besides being a valuable commodity in Biblical times, it’s an excellent preservative. It cures.

It’s also an excellent seasoning; a favorite, in fact.

The next time we pass the salt around our dinner table, I’ll season my faith and remember:

  • Just as salt preserves, God’s love is perpetual.
  • Just as salt cures, God heals.
  • Just as salt seasons, I will taste and see that the Lord is good!

Together, let’s pass the salt.

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How God Turns Never into Now

My cell phone rings and caller ID shows it’s my college-aged daughter. The conversation goes like this.

Meredith: Hey Mom! I’m thinking about going on a mission trip to Haiti.

Me: “Meredith, is it safe there? Why do you want to go there? Why do you think you need to go there? I’ll have to get more information and then we’ll have to talk about this with your dad.”

Meredith happily gave me the telephone number for the mission trip coordinator. I called the next day, my interrogation skills primed.

Me: What about safety? Is it safe to travel from Port-au-Prince to your location? What about safety at your location?

Coordinator: Yes, ma’am! We have our own buses to transport mission trip participants from the airport to our campus and our entire premises are enclosed by high fence. Plus, it’s patrolled twenty-four hours a day by security guards with guns.

Me: Thank you for the information. You’ve been extremely helpful. God bless.

As I hung up the phone, I uttered under my breath, “Meredith is never going there.”

She didn’t in 2012.

She did in 2013.

She returned from a week in Haiti with eyes sparkling and heart bursting with love for the people there. She met and sponsored a little six-year boy named Junior at the mission school. She cried as she spoke about him. Every time.

I expected her glow and enthusiasm to wear off as spring turned to summer. It didn’t. She spoke incessantly about Junior, her mission trip team members, the Haitian people, and every single occurrence on the trip. She often mentioned leaving a piece of her heart in Haiti and I sensed her deep longing to return. Even while she was home for the Christmas holidays, a piece of her heart remained in Haiti.

We flipped the calendar to a new year and Meredith returned to college. Her life was busy with college volleyball and classes. I was busy with year end accounting and tax deadlines at work, exhausted, and sleeping soundly every night. Until late January.

I jumped and woke from a deep sleep with the remnants of a dream playing on my mind and one thought, “You should go to Haiti with Meredith.”

Never.

I shoved the thought from my mind and fell back asleep.

Over the next month, I regularly woke in the middle of the night with the same dream and same message, “You and Meredith should go to Haiti.”

I could never do that.

I dared not tell anyone, especially Meredith. I knew if I did, I’d never get out of going.

Finally, after six weeks of those middle-of-the-night wake up calls, I confided in my best friend, Jackie. Instead of my never, she said, “Why not? Let’s do it!”

After that conversation, I still woke with that same dream, at least once a week, but now my never turned into long nights of lying awake pondering “Could I ever do that?”

Yes, I could. And yes I did.

That summer my daughter returned to Haiti with one of her best friends, Amanda, Jackie, and me alongside. The four of us boarded a plane to Haiti, my first international trip, and served together for eight glorious days. I never dreamed I could do such a thing, but God did. I never imagined what God did. I never hoped as big as God did. I never saw the possibilities in me that God did.

When I thought I could never endure a whole week of planting trees in Haiti, God planted precious little girls on my lap every morning for Vacation Bible School instead. God turned my never into now–now was the time to love, hug, and sing “Jezi loves you” to those beautiful, brown-eyed little girls while sitting in the shade of an open-aired church, cooled by the gentle island breeze.  

When the physical limitations of my weak back told me, “You could never do that; you’ll be a liability to the rest of the team,” my loving team, affectionately named “Team Awesome,” found ways to use my strengths to be a productive participant. I sat to shovel rocks from the deep hole the others dug for the coconut tree we planted and I stood for bearable periods of time using my 6-foot height and long arms to paint the walls and trim inside the house that others couldn’t reach.

God does indeed turn never into now.

On our last morning in Haiti, I cried as members of Team Awesome, the “Georgia group,” boarded the first bus to depart. I turned away so others didn’t see, but my ever-watchful Meredith did. She came over to hug me and whispered, “Why are you crying?” I don’t know was my honest answer as I wept unexplainably. She squeezed me tighter and softly said, “I understand, mom.”   She did. And now I did, too. As each group left that morning, more tears fell.

These people were a part of helping me accomplish something I never thought I could do.

These people loved me even though I was weak and had limitations.

These people helped me conquer fears.

Serenading us in song as we washed stacks of dishes, offering a helping hand as I conquered the giant rope swing to get off and on the cantor truck, and knowing just when to encourage me throughout the week, every member of Team Awesome was part of God’s plan.

He turned my never into now.  

“With God all things are possible.” Mathew 19:26

 

Celebrating My “Redreamer”

Yesterday I celebrated my 54th birthday. As I spent the day with my precious family, the three of us road-tripped thirty miles to a nearby vineyard. With no set plans for the day, it was simply a day to relax and spend time together. We taste-tested assorted offerings at the vineyard and peppered them with our family brand of “nerdy” questions.

Just how many grapes does it take to make a bottle of wine?

With some exerted effort to recall our math and a few laughs, we solved that question. One gallon of grapes makes five bottles of wine. Trust me, it took much less effort to select our favorite wine—a crisp, cool, white wine with hints of peach. With our favorite selected, we made our way to the patio outside for an impromptu picnic of assorted cheese and crackers. There was no fanfare; plastic knives to slice the cheese and white napkins served as our plates. But, I was surrounded by my husband, our beloved daughter, and my dearest friend. My blessings from God.

Have you ever pinched yourself, just to be sure something was real? I’ve had several of those moments recently and they remind me of the wonder and awe of our majestic, loving God.

Yesterday was one of my “pinch myself” moments. That best friend laughing with us–she’s been my shoulder through some really difficult, dark times. She’s seen me at my worst. She’s held my hand when I felt lost and lonely, prayed for me when I couldn’t pray for myself, and lovingly nudged me to re-focus on our merciful God, the Provider of all things, the Healer of all pains. Yesterday, she and my little family of three basked in His sunshine and provision, laughing at the good times we’ve had and the good times to come. The healing touch of God revealed in my family overwhelms my heart with joy. And I just have to pinch myself as I count my blessings.

Five years ago, I submitted my hurt to God on a Walk to Emmaus and He began replacing that pain with joy. He continues to replace pain with joy, healing hearts one day at a time as our family, all three of us, focus on the goodness and wonder of our Savior. He is our Redeemer and He is my “Redreamer.” Not only has He replaced pain with joy, He restored my dreams. I had given up and buried them for years. They weren’t worth it.

But, in God’s restorative powers, I believe in my dreams again, my family believes in them, and I believe in God’s purpose for them.

 “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me, I will hear you. Jeremiah 29:11-12

So yesterday, I thanked my “Redreamer” and pinched myself again as I celebrated 54 years on earth, five years of God-inspired faith-filled joy, and one year of believing in God’s dreams for me.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C.S. Lewis

Trading Fear for Adventure

God's majestic Grand Canyon

I woke up, stretched, and then reached for my phone. Out of habit, I opened my Instagram account. This picture stared back at me. The sleepy Saturday morning brain fog instantly swept away as I sprang up in bed thinking, “Wow! There’s a reason I have gray hair,” and I grinned from ear to ear. My next thought was coated with a little envy, “Will that ever be me?”

That picture? It’s my daughter Meredith, my only child, standing on a precipice gazing over the Grand Canyon during her most recent adventure to Arizona. As I scour every layer of color, every shadow, and every peak in the picture, I sense courage and confidence oozing from it. I wonder, “How does it feel to hike that trail, climb that precipice, and gaze out over the majestic canyon created by our Maker?”

Then I thank God for Meredith’s confidence and courage that feeds her sense of adventure.

Sadly, I’ve spent a great deal of my life living with fear and worry. I worried about putting myself through college, paying off my student loans, paying monthly bills, paying medical bills after my lengthy illness, and being a good mom. I worried about letting other people down, not living up to other’s expectations. As life events piled up, fear and worry strangled my sense of adventure.

When I became a mom, I had a choice. Strangle my precious daughter with those same fears or purposefully work to encourage her confidence to live fearlessly and courageously. I chose the latter, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone.

As Meredith approached those difficult middle school years, I fell to my knees begging God to help me raise her to become a strong, courageous, faithful child of God. The morning I woke to that picture of her peering out over the Grand Canyon, I thanked God for answering my prayers.

But, will I ever have that courage, that confidence?

Day by day God is strengthening me for His purpose, for His call on my life. When I stepped on a plane bound for Haiti last year, I experienced a freedom as never before. I learned, and experienced, courage and confidence in Christ that gives you freedom. Freedom from that choking noose of worry and fear. Freedom that can’t be bought with money and material things. When I gave up the comforts of hot showers and my air-conditioned home to love those four-year old little girls crawling into my lap, hugging my neck, looking up at me with their soulful, haunting dark eyes, I experienced that freedom.

And that noose of fear and worry lost its grip.

I’m a work in process, but studying God’s word calms my fears and subdues my worries on a daily basis. The rebirth of an adventurous spirit challenges my heart and mind these days. And I love it.

I took a second look at this picture that morning and I knew the answer, “Yes!” God is molding and creating a new me, a woman choosing adventure instead of fear and worry. A woman standing confident in Christ experiencing a freedom that can only be found in Christ. One day at a time.

Does that same noose of fear and worry have a stronghold on your life? Is your sense of adventure strangled?

When that noose tightens its grip around our neck, God reminds us–

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 hand.” Isaiah 41:10

And our loving Savior, the One who carried our sins to the cross reminds us, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

With God on our side, let’s trade fear for adventure.

#LIVEFREETHURSDAY

 

Together we are better in Christ

Her son caught my daughter’s eye and my daughter caught his. As the courtship began and my daughter spent time in her home, she came to know my daughter. And me. As her son dated my daughter, I got to know him. And her.

High school football, volleyball, basketball, FCA, swimming, prom and graduation…our childrens’ high school romance gave insight to the inner thoughts and beliefs of our families. I quickly loved her son, but in those two years, I also realized I loved her and the family she loved. We were two mothers whose love for our children forged a bond that became inseparable friendship.

Jackie soon became the best friend I’d never had—the one I trust with everything, my innermost thoughts, my deepest fears, the one who is compassionate, understanding, and always loving, no matter the situation. She is a devout believer in Jesus Christ who cares for me despite my faults, who loves me in my weaknesses and, most of all, inspires me to live out my faith publicly. Her friendship allows me to reveal my vulnerabilities; her model of faith gives me the courage to overcome them.

The high school romance between our children ended after two years. Though it was emotional, and sometimes awkward, Jackie loves my daughter and I love her son. Our friendship was bound by a deep commitment to parent our children through the experience as Christ would. Instead of bitterness and hate, we encouraged forgiveness and love. Instead of talking about each other; we talked with each other. Believing that nothing is impossible with God, we crossed the bridge from hurt to healing through communication, compassion and genuine love for each other and each other’s family. Our families, and our friendship, are woven together and founded on the strength of God.

Together Jackie and I dig deeper into God’s Word and affirm our trust that God does provide. God does protect. Through the trials of college years, the triumph of college graduations, first jobs, new love, marital difficulties, job promotions, death, and so much more, God is the glue to our friendship. As our children move onward, pursuing their faith, independence, and finding their calls to serve God, we support them and pray over them together. We share highs, we share lows. When one ebbs, the other lifts. When one weeps, the other consoles.

Jackie and I realize this about the past seven years–together we are better.

A year ago, she encouraged me to answer God’s call, say yes to something I thought only a dream. Together we prepped and prayed, then stepped onto a plane. Jackie and I, my daughter and a friend headed for Haiti. For eight glorious days, we served the people of Haiti and shared God’s love with His children. Together, we shed the comforts of home to feed, to serve, to paint, to plant. Together, we experienced God’s lavish love, His miraculous beauty, and reveled in the freedom found living a life solely for Christ.

This year we celebrate another milestone…the marriage of Jackie’s son to his beloved bride, a beautiful young woman filled with God’s love and committed to Christ. My family watched this love blossom. We’re honored to witness their vows before God, celebrate, and support them in their Christian life together as husband and wife.

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Matthew 19:5

Jackie and I steadfastly believe our role as mothers take the back seat in priority when our children begin the road trip of marriage. Is it God’s word? Yes. Is it easy? Not always. And that’s where friends come in. As Jackie maneuvers through this year of firsts, I’ll be there ready to listen in those moments when this new seating arrangement leaves her heart melancholy, longing for those precious childhood times. And when it’s time for me to take the back seat, Jackie will do the same for me. That’s what BFF’s do. That’s what Christ calls us to do.

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

I honestly never prayed for a BFF, but God knew I needed one. With Jackie’s friendship, there’s road trips, cruises, football games, challenging Biblical discussions, laughter, tears, and prayer. My life is full and adventurous, my heart is joyful, and I fully understand the importance, the need for community in Christ.

Jackie and I acknowledge this…God brought our children together for a season, He brought our families together for a reason, and He brought us together for a lifetime. God already knew what we know now…

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Together we are better in Christ.

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Christ and Crepes? Yes!

A burst of laughter rang out. I spun to witness a crepe in mid-air landing perfectly on Meredith’s crepe pan. Meredith and Steve broke out in a touchdown-like celebration filled with high fives and fist pumps. They laughed uncontrollably and cheered. I chuckled to myself and thought, “even in learning to make crepes, there’s competition!” I returned to my task…sautéing mushrooms, onions, chicken and mastering a mornay sauce to fill those flying crepes.

My favorite weekends are mom and daughter weekends spent with Meredith. On a recent trip to Dallas to see her, we signed up for a cooking class. Sweet and savory crepes were the challenge. I had no doubt we were in store for a treat and more treasured memories, but that day I mastered crepes and learned so much more.

Steve and his wife had also registered for the class. Steve had a little competitive streak, just like my Meredith. As the class progressed, Meredith and Steve teamed up over the range to flip crepe after crepe. Steve was around my age, old enough to be Meredith’s dad, but their conversation never lulled. As Steve’s wife and I prepared fillings for our sweet and savory crepes, I overheard their conversation. They talked jobs and travel, the usual stuff, and then the conversation segued to Christ. In the middle of flipping crepes, Meredith shared her belief in Jesus Christ and tales of her recent mission trip to the “Island of Old Cars.” Steve listened intently, respecting and absorbing every word.

“How does she do that,” I wondered.

If you’re like me, I’m not that comfortable talking about my faith. For years, I’ve felt inadequate in knowledge and feared being tested so I lived my faith under the radar, in my home and in my church. Comfortable and untested. Neatly compartmentalized. But that’s not what Jesus calls us to do.

Go into the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:15-16

As I eavesdropped on Meredith and Steve’s conversation, I realized that Jesus Christ fits in every conversation, even while flipping crepes in a cooking class. As Christ-followers, our belief in Jesus Christ should be so comfortable and natural to us that we inject His story in every conversation, discuss His word in every situation. Can you imagine our world if we did that?

Maybe it’s time that Christians make talking about Christ as common as talking about the weather.

But what if you’re like me, uncomfortable?

Faith is like a child, growing from infant to adult, each child masters milestones at different paces until adulthood is achieved. If you’re an infant in your faith, pick one book of the Bible and read it slowly. Study it. Pray about it. Then read another one. As you spend time reading the Bible, knowledge and confidence replace those feelings of inadequacy.

When those feelings of inadequacy are erased, choose a trusted friend and intentionally make conversation about Jesus Christ a central part of your conversation. Just as it takes practice for a toddler to master walking, it takes practice becoming comfortable expressing your faith. Share your faith story with your trusted friend, a bit at a time, and ask her to share her faith story with you. Let your faith journey unfold in the comfort of that trusted friend. Together your faith will multiply.

I’m somewhere in between that toddler and pre-teen stage and Jackie is my chosen, trusted friend. For several years now, we talk about the Bible, talk about our faith, our strengths and where we fail. We read parts of the Bible and then question each other, fleshing out God’s truth and guidance as we tackle the daily issues of life. Whether discussing football or political candidates, most of our conversations naturally center on Christ and that’s comfortable. With each conversation and each passing day, I’m becoming more confident and bold in my faith. I’m growing into an adult–that mature Christ-follower God seeks–naturally sharing my faith in conversations with friends and strangers, just like the weather. Even if they’re flipping crepes.

As we give our time to God, we’ll feel His presence and His comfort. He’ll guide us to include Jesus Christ in our everyday conversations, first with friends, then with strangers. Together we will preach the gospel to all creation.

Just like crepes, conversations about Jesus Christ are sweet and meant to be savored!

Faith Notes

I started piano lessons in the first grade. According to my mom, I banged rhythms on pots, pans and everything in sight so she signed me up for piano. My first teacher was our church’s organist. After I learned the basics, church hymns quickly became my practice material.

Trust me, I was no child prodigy. But to my Grandma Tegeler, I was…at least she made me feel that way!

Growing up in my little hometown with only one stop light, I’d ride my bike across town to Grandma’s house. In her sitting room sat a small Spinet organ, out of tune but with just enough octaves to practice. No matter what she was doing, we always ended up in that sitting room. I sat at that organ; she sat next to me in her rocking chair. Grandma would pick up her hymnal, call out one of her favorite hymns, and I’d do my best to play the hymn. I missed plenty of notes, but it didn’t matter to Grandma. If I struggled with a hymn, she simply encouraged me and read her Bible as I worked on the rough spots. When I learned a hymn so that the notes at least resembled the tune, we sang it together, over and over. Those hymns represented a repertoire of Grandma’s life in the church. Before we finished one hymn, Grandma had the next one picked. As the time came for me to bike back home, she always requested one last hymn–her favorite, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” The first hymn I learned. Despite fumbling through most of the other hymns, I knew every note and every word of that hymn.

As a young girl, my Grandma Tegeler influenced my faith more than anyone else. Those singing sessions on her Spinet were more than piano practices, they were faith lessons. Just as I learned the notes of piano, she taught me the notes of faith found in the Bible. During those sessions, I soaked up her steadfast faith in Jesus Christ. Grandma not only taught me every single word of “What a Friend I Have in Jesus,” she lived her life modeling every single verse.

Have we trials and temptations? Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden? Take it to the Lord in prayer.

As I’ve traveled the road of my adult life, my Grandma has been gone for a number of years, but those precious hymn sessions stuck with me. As I struggle through a situation, I remember those faith notes.

I do have a friend in Jesus Christ. You do too. Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Blessings,
Monica

P.S. In homage to my Grandma, I’ve posted her coffee cake recipe on my page titled “Recipes…made with love!” Between her jelly roll and coffee cake, she was always ready for visitors:)

Rolled in Faith, Sprinkled in Love!

Simpler times. I find myself wishing for them.

As a young girl, I spent a lot of time in my Grandma Tegeler’s kitchen. She always had fresh baked goodies ready just in case someone stopped by to visit. Someone always did. Ladies from the church, the pastor, neighbors, family. Grandma was always ready to pour a cup of coffee and offer a slice of her fresh baked jelly roll. That was the neighborly thing to do.

I miss those days. Today’s rigid schedules of play dates and meetings seem to lack the spontaneity and authenticity of yesteryear’s drop in visits. I have fond memories of unplanned, last minute visits on many Saturday nights growing up. My parents had a circle of close friends–Shorty & Lucy, Georgia & Alvin–with children similar in age to me and my siblings. After a day of chores, with just a quick phone call, we were loaded in the car and headed over to one of their houses for an evening of fun. Dominoes for the adults, catching lightening bugs, playing in the creek, climbing trees, and hide and seek for the kids.

My Grandma and my parents made time for family and friends. They were always ready just in case someone called or dropped by to visit. For those who know me personally, you know I’m not ready.

To do lists overwhelm. Schedules overlap. Obligations siphon precious time out of my day. But even Jesus made time for rest commanding his apostles, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31. Jesus also taught usto love our neighbors as ourselves.” Matthew 19:19.

Those impromptu visits of my childhood were opportunities to rest from the chores of the day while loving our neighbors at the same time. From pre-teens then to adults now, our paths have taken us on many different journeys, but we pick right back up as if time stood still when our hurried paths cross. Exchanging hugs, bonds created more than forty years ago still remain. In those moments, love resurfaces.

I want to get ready, just in case. I yearn to rest in the company of a long-time friend. I long to live my life in a way that I’ll be ready for a spontaneous visit, a cup of coffee, and time together with Jesus. With the hurried pace of this world, undoubtedly I will fail, but when I take time for one friend, one family member, just one person, love wins.

Christ wins.

Craving those simpler times, I’ve been determined to find Grandma’s recipe. I found it, along with several others! Just a few weeks ago, I baked my first jelly roll in more than twenty-five years.  I’ll bake more.  Just like Grandma, I’m getting ready to serve a cup of coffee and a slice of jelly roll…rolled in faith and sprinkled with Christ’s love!

Together in Christ,
Monica

As a bonus, you can find Grandma Tegeler’s jelly roll recipe on my “Recipes…made with love” page. Enjoy!