Graze: To feed on growing grasses.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

-Ps. 23:1-6

Growing up on a farm, I used to watch the cows, sheep & horses graze in the pasture. Each morning we would open the gate to the barnyard and they knew there was freedom from that small pen they were in. They also knew there was nice green grass beyond the barnyard. Once the gate was open, look out because those animals wanted to get where the tall, green grass grew – the pasture! They would take off sometimes even running up the old fenced lane that went up over the hill through the cornfield to the lush green pasture on the other side of the farm. There they would graze for a while then lay down and rest for a while then graze some more. They did this all day long. Come evening we would go over to the pasture’s edge and call the cows – 'come boss, 'come boss. They would gather at the pasture gate. Sometimes we would have to go round up a few stragglers and when all were accounted for, we’d open the lane gate and back over the hill they would go to the barnyard for the night. The next morning was the same routine, day after day.
What a life, huh?!

Oh that we could just graze and rest in shady green pastures all day long! But we can rest and graze in God’s green pastures and restore our souls . . . The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. (Ps. 23:1) I believe God wants us to slow down and “rest” and “graze” and “feed” on His Word. Life throws so many things our way and we are so busy – busy doing good things. But are we running on empty a good share of the time? Are we feeling stretched to extreme? Are we content with who we are in God’s divine providence? Slow down and take some time to just leisurely graze, rest a while, then graze and feed on the good things God has provided for you. Graze, rest, and enjoy the “shady green pastures” of God’s abundant love, grace, and mercy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Eight Qualities of a Successful Life

Qualities of Success

We all want to be successful deep down in our "heart of hearts" - but how do we accomplish this task?  Here are some things Suze Orman has observed as she talks to people.  She states 
. . .  It's about making the most of the life you have.  And that comes down to embracing the eight qualities that allow you to take control of your destiny. 
  • Harmony is when there is complete agreement between what you think, say and do.
  • Balance is the reward of harmony; it is when you are most calm and content because there is no disconnect between your thoughts, words and actions.
  • Courage. Is the ability to make choices that bring harmony and balance. Courage is not always about action. It takes courage to do nothing, rather than do something that you do not believe in or understand.
  • Generosity. True generosity is an offering; given freely and out of pure love. No strings attached. No expectations. Time and love are the most valuable possession you can share.
  • Happiness: bubbles up when the first four qualities are in abundance. Happiness is not a luxury. It is a necessity. When we are happy we are in the best possible place to be good to ourselves and those we love.
  • Wisdom: is the ability to make the right decisions at the right time. Wisdom alerts you when you are out of balance or having trouble summoning courage. It is your inner voice guiding you through and past the noise.
  • Cleanliness: When there is clarity and organization in your thoughts and your physical space you can more easily access the inner wisdom and courage that makes harmony and balance achievable.
  • Beauty is what you possess when you incorporate the seven preceding qualities into your life.
Suse shares some pretty basic qualities:  harmony, balance, courage, generosity, happiness, wisdom, cleanliness, and beauty. But look at how they impact each of our lives as we follow God's leading and direction.  These qualities plus God equals AWESOME!!!! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

My Faith Journey (Dec. 7, 2012-Dec. 7, 2014)

The Mowery Four

Little did I know some 39 years ago that the title song to our record album - (I've Come This Far By Faith) would become my "theme song" for these past two years!!  2013/14 has truly been a "faith-journey" for me. I am a little slow in getting all of my thoughts, feelings, and actions together for this little December 2014 blog - it is really hard to put "everything" I have experienced and felt over the last two years into words!! But I will try . . .
A MRI on December 7, 2012, revealed a 
"large, fast-growing, malignant tumor embedding in my brain" resulting in immediate admittance into the hospital and surgery scheduled.  Looking back, it kind of remindes me of the phrase in Monopoly   . . . "go directly to hospital from the doctor's office - do not pass go - do not collect $200"!!   I need not say that my whole world changed! My whole "outlook" on life, laughter, love, and legacy took on a different point of view! Things that were so important to me before discovering I had the brain tumors seemed somewhat insignificant since then and other things gained much more attention and significance!!  Isn't it strange how we get so wrapped up in "living" until we face something like this and have to turn "everything" . . . life, living, hopes, plans, dreams, yes EVERYTHING over to God and place our total being by faith in HIS HANDS and trust that He knows our future and what is ahead?!
For me, it was surgery on December 12, 2012 (12-12-12 - easy to remember, huh?), surgery, recovery, recuperation, and 5 1/2 months of intense speech therapy, new beginnings, first times once again - tackling things I had done before, without a thought, but now had to overcome those 1st's times. Every day, week, month, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and finally each year - were stepping stones in my recovery! Yes, there were times I had my set-backs but my "forward steps" led me down "new paths" nearly "daily".  When I think back two years ago - I was recuperating at my parents house - I went there when released from the hospital just in time for Christmas.  I was not working during my recover time but was going to speech therapy 3 times a week, learning 1,000's upon 1,000's of words, synonyms, antonyms, opposites, etc. I felt like I was back in school. All of that seems almost like yesterday!

I came out of surgery with some "communicative aphasia" because the tumors affected the communicative part of my brain.  I knew what I was trying to say and many times the "word" was right on the tip of my tongue but I just could not express the word.  Thus, the reason for my re-learning synonyms, antonyms, opposites, etc.  When I would not be able to speak and get the word I wanted out, I would have to train myself to quickly think of another word that had the same meaning that I was trying to express to take the place of the "blocked word".  It was a very interesting time and a time of renewal for me. I am now somewhat intrigued with "words", meanings, etc.  It took me a while before I felt capable to communicate with people. In the beginning I said things that really were not exactly what I meant.  A good example was when my cousin came to see me and he was saying "good-bye" - I knew I needed to acknowledge his "good-bye" and I knew there was an appropriate phrase for me to respond with - so I said . . . "congratulations"!!  My speech therapist was so good about explaining how intricate God made our brains, how they work and shared that my brain was searching for greeting/good-bye type phrases to use. And congratulations fits in that greeting/good-bye category!  That made me feel better as to why I responded with that particular word - but I know my cousin probably thought it a little strange!!!  LOL!!  It seemed that the minute I would say a strange word or phase like that, I would realize . . . NOT the right word!!   Actually, many times it was quite funny and we all had a good laugh over some of my speech ventures. But it seemed to get better every week!  Of which I am so thankful for. I now only experience a little of the the aphasia - especially when I am tired!!  God was with me every step of the way - miracle after miracle!!  I came home from the hospital right before Christmas so I call this 
"My Christmas Miracle" and the journey that has followed these past two years has been a journey filled with many, many miracles, blessings, much thankfulness and many thoughts and feelings that I cannot begin to express in just a few word.  My "faith" was stretched beyond what I thought it could be stretched and I can once again sing our theme song "I've Come This Far By Faith" leaning on the Lord!!  And I'm guessing today I sing that song with much more understanding and a whole lot more meaning than what I sang it 39 years ago!!  

(The days following my surgery were long days for my family and myself, as you can see from this little video, as I tried to communicate my thoughts and my family tried to decipher what I was trying to tell them!  It is a reminder of where I have been and how far I have come with the help of God!)  A GREAT BIG THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU!!!

As I look back to where I started since the removal of the tumors I am amazed. And I can honestly say I have only minimal recollection of the months leading up to the first MRI and the discovery of the tumors.  I was in "survivor mode" only remembering what was absolutely necessary to get me by, from day to day. Everything "non-essential" is a blur or I can hardly recollect it. The doctor later explained how totally unique the brain is. It knows just what we need to survive. Because of the size the two tumors (each one the size of a tangerine), they were pressing against my brain squeezing and putting pressure on it as they grew, causing me to only remember the important things I needed to remember to survive each day.  The rest, I either did not remember at all or remember only faintly and many things are very vague. In other words, my brain was operating in "survival mode".

My last week to work before the surgery I only remember calling in sick to work on Wednesday. I didn't feel good. I couldn't tell you what was wrong - just did not feel right - not myself!  I had left a message on the answering machine but the pastor had trouble making it out. What I thought I said was, "Pastor, I am not feeling well.  I won't be coming in to work today. I will see you tomorrow!" What he heard was something slurred like . . . "IIIII  waaanntt toooo leaaave aaa messssssaaageeee"!!!!  A little alarmed, he came to my house to check on me. He immediately talked to one of my daughters who then stopped by on her lunch hour for a while and then both daughters stopped by the house as soon as they got off work. They set a doctors appointment for me the next morning, Thursday. My younger daughter took me to work and she later told me she was afraid to leave me alone but I insisted on going to work before the doctor's appointment.  She left and decided to stop and get us both  cappuccino, brought it back, and sat in the office with me until it was time for the appointment. 

It is totally "mind-boggling" to hear them share now, what they saw in me during those days - those weeks and months - preceding the surgery.  We went to the doctor that afternoon and he scheduled a MRI for the next day, Friday at 1:00 pm.  We all went to work and then the girls picked me up and we went to get the MRI and then we were all going to go back work.  But they sent us back to my regular doctor following the MRI and we waited in his office until he had no more patients.  He then came in and began to explain the MRI.  My girls started crying. They told me I just sat emotionless and very calmly asked, "how long do I have?" I was to go to the hospital and be admitted by 7:00 pm that same evening after the doctor's appointment.  

None of us had eaten lunch so Liz and I were going to make the necessary phone calls to break the news to family and Hannah was going home to get Noah and we were going to meet at Burger King and get a bite to eat and discuss the situation between the four of us.  I told Liz I should call mom so she dialed and I told mom and I just remember handing the phone to Liz after I told mom and she talked to mom for a little bit.  Liz tells me that I then called my brothers, John and Dennis - but I do not remember talking to either of them at all.  I do remember telling Liz as we headed for Burger King (5:30 pm) that I had to go back to work.  I had to finish the bulletin for Sunday. She got upset with me and told me in a FIRM voice that, "I wasn't going back to work I was going to the hospital and that was it"!!!!!  What I must have put my three children, my family, and my friends through during these months, must have been unimaginable!!  (Maybe it is better that I don't remember!!)

These two years have been an "unforgettable journey" for me and my family. We have crossed many bridges I never thought possible.  But I am reminded of Moses leading the Israelites . . . not "across" the Red Sea . . . but "thru" the Red Sea! I imagine they thought THAT was impossible also. But I have learned that with God, nothing is really impossible!  My hope, trust, and faith have grown since the tumors were discovered. I have had to lean on those close to me for support and encouragement but I have learned "anew" to put my hand in the "Hand of God" and let "Him" support and hold me up even when I could not get up by myself!! Knowing, when I couldn't even pray for myself . . . He was interceding on my behalf!  What an awesome experience that is! What an "awesome God" we serve!

I look back at the obstacles I have crossed these past couple of years in so many different areas of my life and I can truly say, "I've Come This Far By Faith". I am NOT the same person I was before. I have a new "lease on life!" I have a heart overflowing with a "new" sense of peace, love, and joy unspeakable!  Life is so very, very good!

(My faith-journey song) . . .

I've come this far by faith,

leaning on the Lord;
trusting in his holy word.
He's never failed me yet.
Oh! I can't turn back,
I've come this far by faith.

1) Don't be discouraged 
with trouble in your life;
he'll bear your burdens 
and move all discord and strife. Oh!

2) Just remember the good things he has done;
things that seemed impossible,
oh, praise him for the vict'ries he has won. Oh!

So, like that second verse . . . "I'm remembering the good things He has done - things that seemed impossible and praising him for the victories won!" 

I recently went to a Jeff and Sheri Easter Concert and Sheri (a cancer survivor herself) wrote a song that spoke to my heart. It touched me and the title says it all . . . "I Know How it Feels to Survive".
I've been afraid / Been confused  /  Doubted everything I thought that I knew / But I've felt peace / And I've been loved / Got back on my feet, thanking God above.

And I know how it feels to walk out of a valley / And how it feels to breathe the air that gives me life / I know the silence that comes with trusting and believing / And the darkness when the shadows hide the light / Yeah, I know how it feels to survive.

I've been alone / Felt betrayed / Didn't know if I could stand another day / But I found joy / And I've had faith / I've known the strength that gets me through one more day.
Now I live with eyes wide open / And my heart is filled with gratitude / I know everything I have is only borrowed / And by the grace of God I know I'll make it through.
. . . I'd like to think that these past two years have taught me to live with "my eyes wide open", with a heart filled up and overflowing with faith,  gratitude, and love knowing that everyday is a borrowed blessing. And that, by the grace and mercy of my all-knowing,  all-faithful God . . . I will make it through - come what may!

Thank you, God, for this little "bump" in the road along my "faith-journey"!