Selfies – me and…

I am never satisfied with the pictures I take of myself.  Perhaps because my ‘selfies’ reveal too much physical truth.

I should be more concerned whether they reveal the real truth.

What is my real truth?  It is my spiritual selfie –Me and the Spirit – Who God says I am, not who I think I am, not just what I think I see, not dependent on what I feel, and no matter what those condemning thoughts try to reduce me to.

I am

Who and what

God says I am.

I found this documentation I completed years ago. I was dismayed at first to realize on one hand, I apparently needed to learn these lessons again, and then realized how Biblical and comforting cycles are.

The foundation of this Spiritual Selfie is John 15:5 – I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;

Three points of John 15:5

  1. Christ IS life. That life is in me according to His promise
  2. I am His fruit-bearing branch, dependent on Christ
  3. It is my choice to remain in him (focus – my one thing) and He will remain in me as much as I allow Him

I am learning to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs.  The growth and development of the main portion of the plant, sustains the branches and the health of the branches supports the development of fruit on them. But before I see the growth I have to prepare the soil to accept the plant, place guards and protection against invaders (critters, pests, storms), and lovingly tend the branches.

That compares to both my physical life (health giving food, water and exercise [pruning] sustaining the core so I can be healthful and productive) and my spiritual (eternal me) life being fed, watered and pruned to produce.

I have tried to help branches survive off the vine. Not only have they not borne fruit, they withered and died. I’ve also overworked myself and seen vines over-pruned so they collapsed. This lesson teaches me that I must look for strength (not within the branch of self) but within the vine.

I struggle to be a clean conduit (branch from the vine to the fruit), yet according to the Word Jesus has spoken I am clean already. Why do I waste so much time and effort maintaining an untruth?  Instead, I must abide (live, rest, consistently trust) in Him so I can bear healthy fruit. I must remember, the more I withdraw from the vine the harder it is to reconnect.

Changes in my life from this passage –

One — I used to struggle whether I was worthy of living- or rather that by living I would do more harm than good, and the enemy had convinced me that Verse 13 (to lay down ones life for another) was actually encouraging suicide. That victory was won years ago when I heard a man explain that truly laying down ones life could perhaps be harder than giving up ones life, because it means to keep on living while giving up ones “rights”.

Two – it is my choice to accept offenses or to remove the “suckers” that would drain my strength and not allow His life to flow through me.  Some of those could be of my own making – not tending to myself (physically and spiritually) as I should: (water, food 3x a day, rest, fellowship and pruning).

Three – It is also my choice whether I respond to feelings or to truth. But even if I make the wrong choice, that does not change the real truth of who and what I am in Christ.

What is your real truth? 

Who does God and others say you are?

Marriage and Men-O-pause

When things happen in the haze of early morning awakening there is no evidence of reason – it’s simply panic – especially if the wife is in menopausal fog.

The evening before I’d been restless, out of sorts hormonally, and as my easy-going hubby had learned from experience, was best left alone to beat “it” into submission through a fit of cleaning.  Rearranging the basement pantry at the bottom of the stairs, including moving the freezer by hip-sliding it back and forth had effectively exhausted the jittery nerves.  I sighed and turned around, tripping on the blue laundry basket – my original reason for a basement trek.   Shaking my head at the mysteries of menopause, I popped the clothes into the washer and headed upstairs to bed totally unaware of what would hit us in the morning.

Late hours dragging a loaded freezer had taken its toll, and the alarm startled me. Shaking off the drugged feeling, I headed for the basement to move my work clothes to the dryer. Padding down the stairs, I admired the neat pantry shelves, then turned to the freezer’s new location and stared in horror at the puddle of water eddying out beneath the freezer.  What on earth?   Had the old freezer I’d bought from my dad ‘given up the ghost’ during the night?  Could I have broken something sliding it across the cement floor? I opened the door and stared in confusion. The light came on. I could hear the motor humming. Clumps of ice and frost I should have removed weeks ago were still frozen, but large drips of water were falling from shelf edges and pooling at the freezer’s base.  It must have just started thawing.   My screech “Ken, hellllllp!” brought my dear retired hubby tearing down the stairs, bleary, but wide-eyed and ready to rescue his woman.  I sheepishly reported that it was the freezer that needed rescuing.  It seemed to be thawing but was still running. 

Mystified, my fix-anything man seemed flummoxed and we agreed I should call in late to work and request a house call from a 24-hour appliance repairman.  He was already out on another call, so I left a message. While waiting for him to come, we decided to empty the freezer in case we had to repair or replace it.  Our neighbors, who also left for work early, loaned us several coolers for the freezer contents and delivered them minutes later. They turned to leave with a warning not to stand in any water if I was going to use a hair dryer to melt the ice.

I’d never tried that, so as soon as our mini assembly line transferred the freezer’s contents to the coolers and the floor was mopped up, Ken plugged the hair dryer in the socket above the freezer and I became Annie Oakley with an “ice-gun”.  Large chunks of  ice soon began to melt when whoosh!  Flames shot out from the hair dryer.  “Hot flash!” Ken yelled, pulling the plug, and teasing me because just yesterday I’d opened the freezer to cool down from a flash of my own.  Sleepy chuckles grew to laughter as he ducked into the workroom area of the basement blowing at the still smoking hairdryer like a cowboy with his six-shooter.  

“Coward,” I chuckled, returning to the freezer.  Figuring that Ken was retreating from my menopausal tidal wave, I developed a plan, setting a bucket behind me and to the right to catch chunks of ice as they loosened, then ran to the kitchen and put a few pans of water on to boil.   I didn’t know that Ken, intending to help me, had gone upstairs to put on jeans and slippers.

Back in the basement I slid the steaming pans on the shelves and was soon chipping at the loosened ice, so I did not hear Ken come up behind me and move the bucket to the left so he could take over for me.  I heard his yelp though because it was at that moment I grabbed the first huge fistfuls of dripping ice and tossed them over my shoulder to where I’d placed the bucket, hitting his bare chest instead.    “Where were you,” he gasped, “when the curling iron had a hot flash?” 

We burst into gales of laughter again and were laughing so hard we did not hear the doorbell ring.  The sound of chimes in the background finally registered and Ken ran up to answer the door, automatically flipping the light switch as he bounded up the stairs. “Hey!” I yelled, and he stopped and turned the light back on with a groan and a loud  “Oh, no” as his steps paused, then continued up to answer the door.  Curious about Ken’s moaning, I joined the men in the foyer, just in time to hear Ken explain to the youthful repairman that he’d figured out the problem on the way up from the basement. 

When he turned the light off, he’d remembered seeing a second plug in the outlet when we’d used the hair dryer.  He realized that I’d plugged the freezer into the outlet on the light socket.  When I turned the light off the night before as I went upstairs, I’d actually turned off the freezer too, and then turned it back on when I went down this morning.   We looked at each other and burst out laughing again. 

The repairman sheepishly watched us a moment, and, as though afraid of our reaction, slowly said, “I hate to tell you but you’ll still have to pay $40 for a house call.”  We chuckled again and told him it was still better than we’d hoped as we’d expected to have to replace the freezer.

We invited him into the kitchen and while Ken was writing out the check the repairman turned to me and said, “Well, as long as the freezer has been off during the night you might want to clean it out. “  Before I could tell him that we’d already started, he continued, advising,  “You could speed up the thaw with a hair dryer…” Ken’s twinkling eyes met mine and we couldn’t stop the giggles that welled up.  Our laughter grew and when we finally paused for air, Ken hiked up his shoulders in a manly survival pose “Already tried that he gasped, adding sometimes“you’ve just got to laugh.”

Ken of course offered shared the gospel when he handed over the payment for a non-service call. The bemused young man smiled, seemed to study us a moment longer, then shook his head and confirmed that he’d never met a couple quite like us. (Living examples of I Peter 2:9 – a peculiar people )

We were smart enough not to ask him what he meant.

Suicide – You’re Nobodies Friend

No Night Is Forever

Suicide, my friend, you’re calling me again.  So began a poem I wrote at 15.  The escape of abuse and what sounded like an ultimate revenge on my abusers, was often on my mind. I think subconsciously I knew those thoughts came from the enemy, because I was always trying to escape them.  The only safe place after school was the roof of the house, and I’d often slip through my second story window to sit out there and wonder if there was any other way. 

It wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to be accepted, loved, treated with the tender care I saw other teens receive when I visited their homes.  Daddy treated me with respect when we worked in the woods together, and when he was home – which was as little as possible.  I couldn’t blame him.  He was away again on a work trip when I finally tried it.  I took lots of pills and went up to the room I shared with my sister.  The middle of that memory is missing. I only recall getting sleepy, then screamed at, slapped, and pushed into a chair with my head held back. Warm butter poured down my throat and gagged me.  It was a very effective purgative, and an immediate neutralizer of thoughts to try that again – at least until the dereliction of some ‘friends’ made me wish the attempt had been successful.  I hated to go home to the mocking derision that I couldn’t even do that right. I felt like the darkness would last forever. Those words were a small thing, though, compared to the looks, whispers, and cold shoulder treatment of some of my classmates – that was the hardest part…Not being understood by most of my peers. 

I couldn’t tell anyone why I did crazy things like spend half the night on the roof, because I’d get beaten again.  Especially if Daddy was gone. Daddy only learned of the suicide attempt ten years later when he drove me to visit one of my sisters.  We hugged her and she and I immediately began sharing our thankfulness to be away from home, and remembering various abuses and escapes, totally forgetting Daddy’s presence.  He’d slipped into a chair in the corner, and not until hours later, when his chair scraped as he stood, did we remember that Daddy had drove me there. Turning in shocked acknowledgement, his tears told us what words had not.  He hadn’t known.

I’d never seen a man cry, and this was not just any man, this was our hero.  He wept and begged our forgiveness, and once again called us girls his “Honey Bunnies” like he had before sickness and violence had overtaken our lives. 

The tables had turned and we were now comforting him.  What had we done!  We’d only focused on the bad of our lives. Quickly we sat Daddy down and shared how our faith had grown through different people and circumstances, and amazingly, the same book – the allegory of Hinds Feet in High Places.  I’d received a copy from a church friend, and my sister, from someone at the hospital. Like the main character, Much-Afraid, we were encouraged on the way by the Chief Shepherd, who came to our rescue, surprisingly accompanied by the companions Sorrow and Suffering.

The ironic theme of Much Afraid’s journey was being saved from the treatment of relatives named “Fearing.” Like her, we assured him, though Sorrow and Suffering tried to lead us down instead of up, the Shepherd made a covenant that He would never leave us, and we only had to trust His word. 

Daddy knew we trusted his apologies that he had not meant we be harmed in any way and he joyfully listened to the story of Much Afraid. He nodded when we told how we feared that the Shepherd would make us go up to the high cliff alone, and smiled when we shared evidences that He never left us, and taught us to climb the heights.

Daddy had felt overwhelmed with grief as he heard us sharing through tears the struggles of our valleys, and the loss from carrying our loads of bitterness, but he was thrilled to learn how much the rest of our story matched the book, as we finished sharing the journey of Much-Afraid being transformed with a new name.

Years later Daddy had heart surgery, but in his pain and despair, remembered my story and called to tell me, that was what got him through.  A few years later, I got to share another story with Daddy that gave special meaning to the suicide attempt.  Because of my experience, I was able to recognize the signs in a new co-worker. It was with much fear and trembling that I called and told a stranger Daddy’s story, and mine. That friend recognized his symptoms and agreed to join a family vacation and then see a doctor when they got home.  When his daughter sent a note saying ‘we have our daddy back’ I felt like my nightmare life had purpose.

Suicide?  You’re nobodies’ friend.   I am free of your taunting whispers. I’ve forgiven my abusers and I do not answer to you any more. You see, my name is no longer Much-Afraid.  My sisters have a new name too, and others who joined us. The night is over.  Your lies have been exposed. No night is forever.

Revelation – It is NOT what you thought!

At least it is NOT what I thought it was about…

It’s the UNEXPECTED purpose for these words that hit me when I read it differently:

Rev. 1:3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

The purpose for us who READ the book of Revelation

and

The purpose for those who HEAR the words of prophecy in Revelation

And

The purpose for those who HEED the things which are written in Revelation is the same:

Not to frighten me into obedience

Not to keep me awake at night wondering when these things will take place

But to BLESS me!

I may sound greedy, but I want every blessing I can get.  Whoa – did this change my perspective.

I love doing word studies, and looking up cross references to get the whole picture of something in the scriptures, and soon found another reminder to hear the Word of God:

Luke 11:28 But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it.”

 I also found the end of Revelation giving a similar challenge as the beginning – Rev. 22:7 “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”

It’s like digging for gold!  The map says the gold is here!  So I look up the original language meaning of action words in these verses

Blessed (God’s action) – meaning happy, spoken well of-praised and bountifully esteemed or considered fortunate. (some call this favored)

God wants to favor us, make us bountifully fortunate and, thus, happy.

Who can get that blessing?  My action (actually Each one who will):

Readto know again (looking at detail), know certainly, recognize/comprehend

Hear – Listen attentively and understand –receive

Heed – To take thought of (ponder and pay attention to) to exercise the mind (observe), to comprehend, to heed or conform to a command or authority: — hearken, be obedient to, obey.

Likely because of my own lack in listening skills, I seldom feel that others are truly listening (but are like myself formulating an answer while the other party converses).

When I read with the new perspective, I see this book is not so much about what is going to happen, or how I react to what might happen, it is a revelation – an unveiling for me – of Jesus!

I am challenging myself and others to re-read Revelation looking for Jesus – Note passages that reveal who he is and what he is doing and will do for you.

Revelation is a book of revealing or unveiling Divine mysteries: If you feel you need help to see this new perspective, like I did – I recommend – How to Survive the End of the World by Bob Hostetler.

Eugene Peterson calls it “A book of great hope and joy and blessing.”

That is what Revelation was and is meant to be.  Will you read it again?

According to the Pattern

According to the Pattern

I was pregnant!  The bubbling joy I felt and the love already growing for the little unseen person in my womb was difficult to resolve with what I had been told about my own unwanted coming into the world. This child, I silently promised, was going to have a different life, to receive all I’d longed for – to know she was wanted – loved – and planned for.  But how could I teach, or show, something I hadn’t experienced or been taught?  What made me think I could be any different?

Too often my mind raced back to childhood feelings of inferiority. Like now, when I knew a visit home was near. I was married, for goodness sake, and for today I needed to forget the things that happened when Daddy was away at work. I had to find a way to celebrate.  I wanted to get on a hilltop and announce my pregnancy, to rent a billboard and to show that with God’s help I was creating a new someone.

A hurried walk to a nearby department store sadly revealed that there were not patterns for 85# women who still wore pre-teen clothing, so I bought the only maternity outfit sale-priced – a size 18.  I lay the jacket and open-holed tie-in-front skirt on the dining room table to cut off the side and back seams. Next I trimmed and shaped each piece until the shoulders and hips matched those on a favorite pattern, and then I sewed it all back together. 

Ken, the hero I’d met the previous September, was wide-eyed when he returned home after third shift, to see his still awake wife parading in the remodeled maternity outfit, and excited to share every detail of it’s transformation.  By the time I’d talked him to sleep he’d also agreed that even though I wasn’t ‘showing’ I could share our good news by wearing the outfit that weekend as we headed to my childhood home for a wedding and a county fair. I could hardly wait to tell my Dad, but he was at work in the woods and it was Mom who trotted toward us, madder than a hornet, as we entered the fairgrounds.

What on earth are you wearing? She shouted, pulling out the front of the maternity top – How dare you. There’s nothing under there yet. Or is there . . . she insinuated. 

I’m pregnant, I acknowledged proudly, and stubbornly.  I’m due in January, I added, knowing she’d already calculated the 9th month from our wedding.

Red-faced, she dragged me from woman to woman, announcing, She’s so excited, she wore this before she even began to show.  I barely heard others kind words and quickly made an escape, the warning that I had better wear different clothes to the wedding or ruin my sister’s special day ringing in my ears. Suddenly I felt eleven again, reliving constant cruel accusations that drove me to attempt suicide, and being reminded for years after that I couldn’t even do that right.

It was dark and Ken was already asleep when Dad drove in from work and spotted me on the porch.  We wandered in the big yard while he gave me a chance to unload my frustration, and to admit that I was too quick to believe the worst, to react instead of respond, and to worry how I would raise my child.

Tell me about the outfit you made, he requested. Surprised, I gave a one-minute overview, while he looked up at the stars, his cigarette glowing in the darkness.  So you knew what it would be before you started, right? And then you took it all apart?

Well, yes, I just, you know, cut each piece down to fit me.

How’d you know to do that?

Well, I learned in Home Ec how to tear out and put things back together. And I learned how to make a pattern for something.

Yes, the pattern, he answered thoughtfully, and then gestured over his shoulder at the truck heaped with logs.

Do you remember when you were little – talking about the load of logs?

You mean when I wondered how you could get them so high?

Um hmm.  And why did that surprise you?
Well, because of all the knots and bumps on the logs…when I tried to stack them it seemed impossible.

Remembering the picture of Daddy on the top of the truck instructing my brothers with the pick to move or flip this or that log until they slid into place one atop the other, I gasped.

You remember? He’d asked, already knowing the answer.

Yes.  You said you saw a pattern and you knew which ones to move to make it come together.

Silently he continued to gaze up into the night sky, and then pointed. And do you think there was a pattern for those?

Startled, I looked up. 

I don’t know.  I’m not sure if God just said let it be and there it was.

And?

And…. I stammered, while connecting the dots in my mind. And… He saw a pattern before He made the stars?

Very good, and what about you? he pushed.

Me? What about me?

Who made your pattern?

My pattern?  Why, uh, God I guess.

I guess, he responded sardonically. So. Let’s see – the logs on the truck.  That pattern was…

Good, I supplied, seeing where he was going.

And the stars?

Good

And you?

Good, I whispered as a tear made its way down my face. 

Better than good, he said – dragging out the syllables like Andy of Mayberry – go-oo-d!

I smiled at the imitation. Then his cigarette arced as he tossed it to the dirt.  He wrapped me in his arms, kissed my hair and whispered, no matter what happens, no matter what anybody says, it may hurt, and it may take awhile, but know this, if it’s His pattern, it’s gonna be good.

Thanks, Daddy I whispered as we headed back into the house.

Looking over his shoulder, he opened the porch door for me. He seemed to be inhaling strength as he glanced upward again and then gave me a side-hug. Keep looking up, he whispered conspiratorially, it’s gonna be good.

Psalm 139 -Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;

you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!  You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body. You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,

how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you; the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

Daddy was right. Life is good. It’s especially good when you can finally see the pattern.

Psalm 23 – Because

(Because) He is MY shepherd

I lack nothing as His divine power provides everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him

Because He is MY shepherd

In the midst of worldly turmoil, He lifts off my stress and provides peace-filled rest

Because He is MY shepherd

My soul is restored

Because He is MY shepherd

He goes before me, clearing my path and guiding me to do what is right for His name’s sake

Because He is MY shepherd

I don’t fear the evil in the shadows and valleys because I do not walk alone -He is with me

Because He is MY shepherd

I am comforted knowing His rod will defend and protect me and I am confident His staff will rescue me back onto the right path when I slip

Because He is MY shepherd

I rejoice -even in the presence of enemies, because He prepares a luxurious spread before me that satisfies like no earthly treat ever has, and I rejoice as He places a holy calling on me to tell others about Him.

Because He is my shepherd my cup is not half full or half empty – it is overflowing!

Because He is MY shepherd

He who is goodness and lovingkindness will pursue me ALL the days of my life in this world and the next where I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever

Is the Lord Jesus YOUR shepherd?

He wants to be.

Christmas – A Gift of Sacrifice

  • An excerpt of a 2015 post (after the loss of a child) that feels even more relevant today

Christmas is really about celebrating Christ – the gift that came to conquer the grave for us. A gift of sacrifice.

We don’t often think of Christmas that way do we – as a celebration of a gift of sacrifice!

And now we are faced with a new thing. A Christmas focused on the future. My emotions tempt me to say no to Christmas because it will not be the same.  It. I pause to think of that little word, so important. But what is the “it”?  The message – the true sacrifice of Christmas has not changed. The IT that is changed is expectations based on the past.

Many of you have also lost a loved one. A child, a grandchild, a parent, a friend. And now a part of us is physically absent.  Our David’s determined faith and our Laurie’s joy and positivity will be remembered and honored. That is what they would have done for me.

The first time we chose to give sacrificially was a gift to us as well as it restored Christmas for us, and taught the children the real meaning of Christmas – a selfless gift – for others.

I encourage you all to remember the sacrificial gift of Christmas by joining me to give two sacrificial gifts – in honor of Christ and in honor of a loved one. It could be a gift of finances or a gift of time.  It could be grocery shopping for someone, rounding up all the carts in a store lot, making extra soup and sharing a bowl with someone who lives alone, or spending an hour listening to stories you’ve been told a dozen times before or a gift card.

It could be getting eye-ball to eye-ball with a toddler, and entertaining them to give their mom or dad a break, or it could be the privilege to help a single parent low on funds to find a gift for their child, or a book to help them through a lonely Christmas. It can even be anonymous.

I am sure you can think of many other ways you can honor the memory of your loved one and bless someone else’s Christmas by remembering the true meaning of Christmas – that Christ came to give us a sacrificial gift – a gift of hope and a future.

A Basket of Hope

I’d hidden the car a few blocks away. With finger-over-lips silently motioning, our three kids, ages 4, 6 and 7, climbed out of the station wagon, heading toward a softly-lit small weathered house set back from the highway. I felt like a cat burglar, with family-in-training, skulking along the bushes that separated the street and snow-filled ditch.

I paused to belatedly reassure myself that we hadn’t forgotten anything. Yep — the girls and I each had our assigned bags, and our little guy alternately carried and dragged a brightly painted red empty bushel basket.

Another car whizzed by and our little tow-headed son was amazingly solemn when I gently placed my flattened hand on his hat –our silent signal to scrunch down out of sight from the headlight glare. The girls also quietly ducked until the white light rode over us, the yard, and then finally slid over the snowbank by the road.

It was their idea after all. Laurie’s memorization of Luke 2: 8-14 for the Christmas play and multiple practices of its story of the babe with no place to lay his head had profoundly affected her and her siblings. Cheri in particular always wanted to help anyone in need, so one Sunday our eyes met in understanding when she’d climbed into the car without her mittens, then shrugged her shoulders in response to her daddy’s inquiry, pointing to a red-mittened little girl plowing across the snow-covered field with her mom to the same weather-beaten house that now stood before us.

The idea began then, but I love to read a different Christmas story each night of the entire month of December and the reading of The Gift of the Magi where both husband and wife gave their precious possessions to purchase a gift for the other had cemented it. All three insisted they could give up one or more of their gifts for someone who probably would not get anything otherwise, and thus the plan was born. What parent could refuse such a selfless act?

Pajamas, cocoa and gloves for everyone, a doll for the little girl and a truck for her brother, the makings of a simple Christmas meal wer gathered and here we were, whispering and darting from one bush to the other. Quietly the children circled the trees that flanked the sloping porch, Kevin placing the basket. I added plastic bags of food and raced with him behind the biggest bush at the edge of the yard while the girls quietly topped the basket with the wrapped gifts, knocked hard twice and raced back to join us collectively holding our breath as the door opened. It was the dad — he stood on crutches, looking around to the left — to the right — then called his wife. She stepped out and also scanned the yard, then bent to pick up the basket. Two little faces appeared stair-stepped in the lighted doorway and excited squeals sounded as eager hands helped to lift and carry the packages in. Then the door closed off their wondering chatter. That was our signal and we ran like the wind, our mitten-clasped hands joining reverently this time for a dash across the field to the waiting, and by now, cold car. There was none of the usual clamoring for front seat, and no murmuring about the car’s chill as we each privately recalled the faces outlined in the doorway’s glow.

That Christmas was especially meaningful; but a few months later following an announcement at church that the father’s leg had healed, and he’d gotten a new job out of town, our hearts were unexpectedly touched again.

As Cheri and I were about to exit behind our family, the mom stepped up behind me and slipped a plastic bag into my hand, which I could feel contained a frame. Don’t open it until you get home,” she admonished, “and,” she paused and whispered, “Merry Christmas.” I looked up in shocked dismay, wondering if she’d discovered our secret, but she shyly smiled and touching Cheri’s hair explained, “I’ve been working on this since your little one gave Edna the red mittens last December, so now it still seems kind of Christmassy. Hope you don’t mind, but those mittens were the start of our Christmas hope.”

Touched, I tearfully assured her we’d surely love whatever it was, and after last farewell hugs we rushed to the rest of the waiting family in the car. For once dinner could wait, and the moment we were in the door everyone hovered around the package as I drew out a simple cross-stitched picture of Mary and a contented baby Jesus, their hearts close.

It seemed to remind us that there was the place of Hope — close to the heart of Jesus. That picture still speaks the Christmas message in our home year-round and I wondered too if Cheri was treasuring the memory years later when she told me what she’d named her first little girl — Kristin Hope.

I Quit!

I quit.

I’ve heard that multiple times this week.

A widow whose appliances and home construction is failing day by day and she has no idea how to get them fixed or replaced.

An empty nester mom trying to make it on a smaller income and several of her children lost their jobs during 2020 and came home until they could find a new job/apartment/life.  They are trying to help out as they can, doing laundry, cooking, etc. but no one is handy and no one seems to understand her concern of escalating utility bills.

A young woman, who, due to job loss, (another 2020 casualty) had to declare bankruptcy and is having trouble getting an apartment application approved.

A woman with a mother beginning dementia and resistant to needed caregiving.

A senior whose assisted living complex has been placed under quarantine – again.  Lonely and tired of watching television, she is losing her purpose.

I repeat to them what God has told me over and over.  The multitude of times I felt like giving up. It is no sin to feel overwhelmed and wanting to quit. But it is an opportunity to trust. A dear friend calls such situations her patience builders.

Prov. 19:27 If you quit listening, dear child, and strike off on your own,

                  you’ll soon be out of your depth.

(Admit I’ve been trying to solve this by myself and I “feel” overwhelmed and want to quit)

1Pet. 4:12  Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job.

 (Listen to the voice of God’s Word first)

Psa. 145:14  GOD gives a hand to those down on their luck,

                  gives a fresh start to those ready to quit.

(Give thanks for many things God has already done for me)

Psa. 37:27 Turn your back on evil,   work for the good and don’t quit.

(Make the choice as Jesus did in the garden – I’d rather not go through this but believing you can and will bring glory to it, I submit to your will)

Feel like quitting?  Don’t.  Instead, ask God for help and ask us, and others around you for prayer. Next make the decision to do the next right thing, and watch God work.

Then come back and tell us how it all worked out.  I can hardly wait to hear the rest of the story!

What Can an Individual Do? This.

I’ve been writing legislators and asking them with all that is going on pointing toward a rapid decline for America, etc. what an individual (without a lot of money) can do. I asked what can an individual do besides vote for the most righteous, constitutional, godly legislators we can find.  I got one personal response with an indirect answer of what he was doing on our behalf, and the rest sent canned form letters.

Meme thanks to Wendy Speake

I felt frustrated and sad. As I was writing this I got the above verse meme from a friend. Obviously she and others are feeling this sadness too. It was perfect timing because earlier today I was doing errands and pondering multiple crises. I dashed in a department store to do a quick return, and on the way out sitting in the entry foyer on a bench was an attractive senior lady.  Someone (from the store it appeared) was talking to her so I walked by them and out of the store. I felt a tug in my spirit to go back and talk to her, so I turned around and saw she was alone now. I opened the door near her and asked if she needed anything, or if there was anything I could do for her.  She said she was fine, just frustrated as everytime her friend ‘takes her shopping’ the friend has to look at every little thing and takes so long.  “And I’m the one from the assisted living home!” she laughed.

I  unzipped my purse to see if I had any of the little booklets I often stash to read or to share Yes! A bright blue one. I told her I keep little booklets in my purse for just such times, and showed her, asking if she would like something to read while she waits.   She was very touched and said some kind and complimentary things and as I left asked my first name and responded, Delores, I will read it.  I did not ask her name. The booklet was Fearless – Imagine Your Life Without Fear by Max Lucado.  

Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear

When I got outside the store, I felt God telling me – THIS. This is what you need to keep doing.  You don’t need to ask any more politicians  – you already have your answer. 

I thanked God for the opportunity and prayed for the lady – that she would find comfort – and Christ if she didn’t already know Him.

Do you also feel like the world is crumbling? Perhaps my reminder is for you also – that we would remember we are here for such a time as this.

Where will you bring Christ tomorrow? (As Christ-bearers, where we go, we bring Christ—we bring Him into the situation.)

Bring Hope

Bring Compassion

Bring Peace

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