Joy Misplaced
Last week I began a new experience. This new venture comes out of necessity not want.   I got a job with the promise of a paycheck after eight years of being pleasantly unemployed.  I have not been sitting idle all these years. I have worked a lot, but working and being employed are different.  One comes with simply the satisfaction of knowing you have done a job well that you chose to do, and in some cases know that you are called to do.   The other comes with doing a job that you don't always know how to do well, that you don't necessarily want to do and that you pray you aren't called to do.   I have cried and questioned and dreaded and contemplated and cried some more.  The job is not anything I ever planned to be doing at this time in my life, but our lives are not anything that we can plan step by step, day by day, year by year.  Life happens and things change, things such as starting work at a convenience store/truck stop/ gas station at a very inconvenient time in life.
After only three long days of employment, I have learned a lot.  I have learned you can hold drivers licenses, credit cards, hundred dollar bills, but never an engagement ring for a fill-up.   I have learned nobody knows out of eighteen possible choices what their pump number is.  It is always that car way out yonder, over there, or behind the blue one that belongs to them.  I have learned only smokers get breaks.  I have learned men do not understand when the men's room door is blocked with a mop bucket and a wet floor sign  and a woman is inside cleaning  (that would be me) that they are supposed to stay out.  I have learned that truck drivers drink a lot of coffee,  and enjoy eating overpriced, overcooked, greasy chicken strips, corn dogs, pizza sticks, and egg rolls which by the way, I have the pleasure of overcooking.   I have learned that beer must taste better
when sold in super-duper economy-sized wooden crates decorated with Christmas trees which must be lifted, and turned over several times to locate the bar code. I have learned beer buyers complain when their super-duper economy-sized crates of beer are turned over because the beer inside gets shaken which obviously does something to detract from the quality and taste.
Yes, much can be learned in a small amount of time even when you have a fifty-year-old brain, which by the way the younger brains of this establishment of which I speak seem to think not.
If this all sounds negative, cheer up, there is light at the end of the tunnel and at the end of this writing. On my third night of my agony, three hours from clock out time, a lady came in with her daughter and granddaughter.
The daughter, I would say about thirty, couldn't walk, or stand-alone. The older lady and the young girl walked on either side of her, guiding her, almost carrying her.  As they went by my counter. I smiled and spoke and began to pray. It was one of those moments when you are overcome with sadness and try to hide it behind a smile.  The lady said, "That wheelchair is just too much trouble to get out every time we have to stop."   The daughter was beautiful but obviously had severe health problems. They came to my counter to pay for chips. While the older lady paid, the little girl was trying to hold up, the younger lady. She almost fell over. The older woman never raised her voice but kindly told the little girl to be careful  and propped her daughter up by my counter till she had finished paying. All the time I was waiting on them God was prompting me to pray for them. I thought how could I do that here at this place where I was already in trouble for questioning some of the questionable practices I had been exposed to in my brief time of employment.  I asked where they were from. They said they were from Memphis on their way to Florida to a wedding. I told them to be careful and said: "God bless you."  At that point, I felt God speak to me clearly, "Nope that's not it."  I went on to wait on the next customer and the next and the next. When I looked up the little girl came back in the door.  She said her grandma had lost her cigarette case. She went around the store and in the restroom. I told her I would help her look, but we didn't find it.  I followed her to the door and saw the lady I was supposed to pray for standing beside her car.  I prayed some more and headed back to my post, but couldn't do it. I turned went out the door to the car and spoke to the lady. I asked her did she find her case.  She did.  I told her I felt I was supposed to pray for her daughter and asked her if she minded. She said no they needed all the prayers they could get.  And at that point, right there in the parking lot of this convenience store/truck stop/gas station, amidst the eighteen unidentifiable gas pumps,  I prayed for these three that God had placed in my path.  I then happily returned to my register with a joy I knew wasn't gone, but which had been simply misplaced by me these last few days.   I knew I could face the rest of the night and the next day and the next at this job I took out of necessity not want. 
Sometimes we are called to things we don't think we are called to. A lot of times we are called to do things we pray that we aren't called to do.  We can cry and complain and contemplate and dread and feel sorry for ourselves,  completely misplace our joy, or we can make the best of things and know everything is for a season. Some are short seasons, some long seasons, but nothing lasts forever. God gives and takes away. God knows where He wants us when He wants us, and why He wants us at certain places.  God has a plan and purpose for everything.  His plans are to prosper us, not harm us, and sometimes His plans are to prosper others through us when we are obedient to His voice.
So today if you feel you are a million miles from where you are supposed to be at this point in your life, check your surroundings carefully.  You never know who will come in that God plans to prosper through you.
Always be obedient to the voice of God.
Don't misplace your joy!
And one more thing, that will take you far in life and bring joy to others; check the number on your gas pump before you go into pay.
Rock On
On a shelf by the front door, in a jewelry box in my room, tucked away in a dresser drawer, in a storage box in the closet, inside of a little glass blue shoe,  in a trunk of old things in the shed what did I find?  Rocks-Rocks of all shapes and sizes, of many different colors and textures.  Through the years kids and grandkids have found "pretty" rocks"  and given them to me.  I have tucked them away here and there.  My oldest son gave me one shaped like a heart about 25 or so years ago. I guess that was probably the first rock  I saved.  His oldest son, my oldest grandson, gave me one that shines when it is broken in half... the way we know that... he broke it in half about eight years ago.  I have both shiny pieces.   There is one rock shaped like a castle with a tower that my youngest son picked up for me as we walked down a long gravel drive about fifteen years ago.  There are rocks from places that once were that are no more. I have a small piece of red brick from the house we lived in when the kids were all young.  I picked it out of a pile of rubble after the house was destroyed.  There is a piece of brick from a building at the old elementary school I attended when I was young.  I used to sit all alone by the building during recess and write while everyone else played.  My grandsons and I walked around the school one summer day a few years ago and I picked up the piece of brick.  They played on the swings and I told them stories of my schooldays there. 
Why do I tell you of all these rocks?  I guess it may sound as if I have a few rocks in my head to not only save rocks but to also be able to tell you a story about each one. 
In this life, we collect a lot of things.  Most things we collect are associated with some special memory. Many things that we save to remember trips or experiences cost a good bit of money.  How many souvenirs have you bought that you didn't really need, that you really couldn't afford, just because you wanted to remember a special place?  Hey, you could have just picked up a rock,   It would have been cheaper and served the same purpose. 
Let's just hope no one out there paid money for a souvenir that was really just a plain ole rock.  What made me think of something that strange?   I did it. I am guilty. On another shelf in my house, I have some rocks in little glass cases that say "Thanks for visiting."
In my defense, the rocks are really pretty. They are nice and smooth and shiny.
The Bible speaks a lot of rocks and stones.
If we don't praise Him rocks will cry out. 
Matthew 19:37 And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; 38 Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. 39 And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. 40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.  
Remember this...
God is called the Rock.
Deuteronomy 32:4
The Rock: His works are perfect, and the way he works is fair and just; A God you can depend upon, no exceptions, a straight-arrow God
And this...
There is no rock like THE ROCK
I Samuel 2:2
There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.
Jacob used a rock to remember God's (THE ROCK'S) messenger.
Genesis 28:18
Jacob was up first thing in the morning. He took the stone he had used for his pillow and stood it up as a memorial pillar and poured oil over it.
So as for all those rocks, I have kept through the years that help me remember special places, special people and special days maybe aren't really all that strange. 
The first saved rock shaped like a heart can serve as a reminder to love God with all my heart.   The rock that shines when broken in half reminds me broken is beautiful in the eyes of God.  We are the light of the world and should always shine for Him, even when we feel broken.  The castle with the tower reminds me God is a strong tower, a very present help in times of trouble.  The piece of a rock from a destroyed house reminds me He is my habitation that cannot be destroyed.  The brick from the place I once sat all alone and wrote years ago reminds me I am never alone. And those shiny rocks sealed in cases that say "Thanks for visiting" remind me even though things here are kind of nice, this isn't my home, I am just passing through on the way to a home where walls are made of precious stones.
Revelations 21:19 
And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
And the next time you buy something that really costs too much to help you remember something or someone special; think about The Rock. 
Remember the cost. 
He paid a very high price for you and for me when He visited this earth. 
He died for us. 
Make sure you pick Him up.
The Rock once said this...
"Remember Me"
Deuteronomy 33:12
And of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by him, and the LORD shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders.
With Us All Day Long
God is with us this day and every day.  He never takes a break, goes off duty, takes a nap, or says"What's the use?" He never tells us He forgot, lost our address, or is cutting off our service due to lack of funding.  He never puts up an Out to Lunch, Back in an Hour, or Closed sign. He never calls in sick, ask someone to cover His shift, or decides to take an early retirement.  He never kicks us out in the street, puts us up for adoption, or turns His back on us. He never aborts, abandons or abuses. He never fails to feed us, to comfort us, or to give us a hug.  He never fails to make the sun rise and set each day. God never fails to be ready to support worthy causes, battling on the front lines and bringing up the rear. He never fails to ask the right questions and have all the answers. God doesn't hang up on us,  tell us to call back later, slam the door in our face, or tell us He is too busy to listen. 
He hears and attends to our cry.
He showers us with blessings.
He shows us mercy and gives us favor.
He feeds us with His Word.
We find grace in His eyes.
He clothes us with salvation.
He covers us all day long.
He is the Alpha and Omega
He is The Beginning and The End.
God is with us all day long every day always.
For that I am thankful always.
Matthew 28:20
Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Spinning a Tale About  A Tail Spin
Wednesday before Thanksgiving I was driving down the road from my house that leads to town.  The road, Auburn Road, earned its very own exit off the interstate here.  Therefore, Auburn Road has a lot of traffic of which I am often apart. On the overpass are several crosses with flowers where people have lost their lives through the years.  This time of year they are usually adorned with poinsettias.  Wednesday I glanced at the crosses and felt sad to think of those who were no longer with their families for Thanksgiving.  However the thought was brief, I was on my way to get things done that needed to be done, which was mostly what I had on my mind as I drove down the Auburn Road the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  After the overpass, there is a slight curve and a road that turns to the right.  This is the place I  will always remember every time I pass it from now on.  On this day, driving at a normal speed,  my car started spinning out of control, at this place just passed the overpass, just passed the crosses, for no apparent reason.  I remember the spinning, three spiraling turns toward the other side. What was on the other side I had no idea.  I knew for sure I was going to crash into something. The car stopped going round and round and started sliding back end first very fast.  I closed my eyes and gripped the wheel. Then just as quickly as the tailspin had started it ended.  I can remember seeing some trees flashing by and I thought for sure the back end would hit one of them.   I remember when the spin first began knowing for sure the car would flip. I tried to remember what I should do... steer into the spin, hit the brakes, don't hit the brakes, what?
I didn't hit a tree. The car didn't flip. I didn't get killed. There is no cross marking the spot where I landed safe and sound in the grass, facing the opposite way from which I was traveling.  Two feet in front of me- a deep gully, a few feet behind me-trees, the ones I had seen flashing by when I was spinning I suppose.  Cars whizzed by; cars that could have been whizzing by as I crossed their lane seconds earlier.  I looked at myself and my car amazed, turned the car around, and headed back down the Auburn Road to town to do the things that I needed to get done. 
It is funny, but after all that I was calm. I just said, "Thank you God for taking care of me," about a hundred times as I continued to drive.
Later that day I passed the spot on my way back home. I saw the black tire marks across the road.   They make a perfect circle. My family went to look at the spot and said, "It's a wonder you didn't get killed'
I said, "No, it's God that I didn't get killed.    He was taking care of me."
On Thanksgiving Day I was very thankful to be here.  I thought of writing this tale about my tailspin. I thought of the song "Jesus Take The Wheel" and thought oh, yeah somebody else has already written a story about God taking over when things spin out of control. I wondered what could I say that the song didn't say.  I looked up the lyrics and read them. This story was about a car spinning on Christmas Eve in Cincinnati, not Thanksgiving Eve in Tupelo. I wasn't driving fast, no ice, no baby in the back seat. My life was already turned over to Jesus, but there is a revelation moment to tell of in my tailspin tale.  I have realized once again, in a very real way, how each day is a gift and how we should be thankful every single day. We should thank God for taking care of us always, not just after near misses or catastrophes. Every day is a miracle. Every day He holds us in His hands. He is control of all aspects of our lives: every ride we take, every breath we breathe. He is with us always.