NOT BAD!

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How was your day?

How often are we asked this question and how many times do we pose the same question to others? It’s often an inconsequential but, nonetheless, obligatory ice-breaker start to an awkward conversation. What customarily follows is the non-answer, “I’m fine. And you?”

When my husband is asked this question, he regularly pipes out, “I’m super-duper, totally awesome, fantastic, great, better than I deserve, and blessed beyond all measure!” Most people find themselves without a reply to his answer. The other day, however, he told the young man at the drive-through how he was doing. Then the fellow handed him the chocolate milkshake, immediately whereupon, the lid fell off and the entire shake dumped down into our car. While we were sopping the mess up, I braved asking him if he was still “blessed beyond measure.” He replied, under his breath, “Well, I’m blessed, but I’m not happy.” 😆

Once in awhile, we get more of a reply than we bargained for. Ten minutes later, we walk away knowing every sad detail. And sometimes massively depressed with what we found out!

I used to regularly query my kids after school. One or the other of them would commonly offer a one-word answer to my question of how was your day: “Bad!” So then, we’d talk.

Me: Oh, no! Really? I’m so sorry. What happened?

Child: So-n-So was mean to me.

Me: Wow! For the whole day??!

Child: No. At recess.

Me: But you said you had a bad day. Was it ALL bad?

Child: No. Just at recess.

Me: Oh, I see. Did spelling go ok? And science, and art, and lunch?

Child: Well, yeah.

Me: So, actually, you mean you had a pretty good day with a few bad minutes in it?

Child: Ummm, I guess so. (Tries to hide a grin. Doesn’t work.) 😉

That, folks, is human nature. Perspective often flees the scene. Why is it that one lousy interaction with someone or one small slip-up tends to cloud the entire event? Or even the entire day?

Life itself can follow the same pattern. Woe is me. Life’s not fair. “Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me. Guess I’ll eat some worms.” (Remember that old ditty? Haha!)

Well, guess what. Life isn’t fair. Just ask Jesus!

This life isn’t meant to be fair or easy. This life should create a yearning in our hearts for Heaven! The circumstances allowed into our lives should cause us to see our constant and increasing need for the Lord. Hard times reveal our character to us. (God already knows our character, but He allows trials to give us insight into ourselves.)

When my daddy was quite deep into his dementia journey, he would get disgusted when he couldn’t use his fork correctly, would get lost in the house, couldn’t remember names or find the words to express his thoughts. But I’ll never forget his prayer at dinner one night. He was stumbling through, and then, very clearly, came these words: “Lord, thank you for our difficulties, for they remind us how much we really need You.”

He got it. I mean, he really got it!!

I’m so thankful for that memory. It comes to mind at unexpected times, like when I break a glass or lose something important. Honestly, I used to ask the Lord why He’d allow something so frustrating to happen. The knowledge He could have prevented it occasionally flew through my mind with some mild annoyance. I know – shame on me. But since that prayer of daddy’s and after some further research into it, I’ve changed my attitude. When those situations arise now, I usually find myself speaking to the Lord, thanking Him for reminding me I live in an imperfect world that will increase my longing for Heaven.

But I’m not naive enough to forget those who live with constant, heavy, urgent difficulties. Sure, it’s easy for me to get over spilled milk (or milkshakes!). But what about Christian friends who are dealing with terminal illness, abuse, impoverishment, and other serious situations? What about those who cannot wipe up their problems?

Certainly, for some, life is unquestionably difficult.

But here’s the bigger question. Is life bad?

With assurance from God’s Word, we can answer with a resounding no. But are there bad times? A resounding yes.

According to Romans 8:28, “All things work together for GOOD to them that love God.” This verse does not say nothing bad ever happens. But it does assure us that God allows those times for a good purpose.

Notice also in I Thessalonians 5:18, we are to give thanks IN all things, and not FOR all things. Sometimes we are called on to deal with intense burdens. We may find it nearly impossible to thank the Lord for the burden, but we can thank Him that He carries it with us and intends to use it for a good purpose. We can gratefully acknowledge our need of Him. We can trust according to Jeremiah 29:11 He is working His good plan in our lives to bring us to an expected end. We can thank Him that our afflictions keep us from straying too far from His truth. (Psalm 119:67-68)

But, wow! It sure requires faith! A whole lot of Bible-based faith!

So, you see, life isn’t “BAD.” Oh, yes! It’s hard! Though “bad” things happen (actually, they don’t just “happen” – they’re allowed by God), life’s not bad when we live by faith in God’s design. I’m trying to erase that word “BAD” out of my vocabulary. I’m not quite there, as you can see above, but I’m working on it. Now, if you ask me how my day was, I might briefly tell you it was tough, but I’ll try not to say it was a bad day. Okay?

And, one final reminder . . . each day, easy or tough, brings us closer to that GREAT DAY when Jesus comes for those who are His children!

Amen!


Seashells Speak

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I’m on vacation for a long-awaited and glorious week with my husband. This morning, I donned flip-flops and sun visor, and headed to do shelling on the beach. Goals? Enjoy the sand between my toes, find beautiful shells, and relax my mind.

I accomplished two of my goals. Soft, warm sand. ✅ Tons of pretty shells. ✅ But my writer’s brain was shouting at me the entire time. “That’s a blog! Look at all you’re learning here on the beach.”

And, yes. What a myriad of lessons the seashells speak! I’m going to simply list some lessons I learned in random order. Maybe one of them will start a wave of thought in your heart like several did to mine.

🐳 God seems to spend a lot of effort to make seemingly insignificant creatures into extraordinarily beautiful creations!

🐳 Dig deeper. Some of the most glorious finds lay just beneath the surface!

🐳 Sometimes pretty things slip right through our fingers. It’s ok. There’s plenty more . . . often bigger and better.

🐳 Life can take you to unexpected shores, but God controls each wave.

🐳 Grab now or lose the opportunity altogether!

🐳 Keep an eye on your friends in their shells: some of them are shattering under a rough tide.

🐳 Things aren’t always what they appear to be.

🐳 Beauty comes in many colors, shapes, and sizes!

🐳 There’s a price to pay for the good stuff. (Shelling is hard on the fingernails 😬 and the back.)

🐳 Sometimes the “little guys” finish the strongest. (The big shells often arrive on shore in fragments.)

🐳 We have to set other things aside to hold onto the best.

🐳 Timing is everything!

🐳 Life is more fun with a friend!

🐳 Pretty things can become an addiction if you’re not careful.

🐳 Lessons for life are EverYWhERe.

🐳 And, oh yes . . . watch for that big wave! It took two men to rescue me and get my feet under me again. 🤦🏼‍♀️ I sure was spinning there for awhile! All’s well that ends well. Right?

Any of these an anchor you? I’d love to hear your responses.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1

ENOUGH!

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Funny how this lesson came while I was literally “ironing the preacher’s shirts”! I’m aware many of you don’t do much ironing. That’s perfectly acceptable. But in our family, ironing is a thing. Dress shirts get ironed. All of them. Creases are evident on all slacks and sleeves. Quite honestly, the basket of wrinkled clothing looms as a fixture in our house. I’m seldom caught up.
But for now, I am finished. Almost seems party-worthy! 🎉 And I’ll be sure to invite all my readers!

But here’s the story. I love the crispness spray starch adds to the clothes. It also reduces the work significantly. I don’t use it on all the clothes, but I use it regularly on handkerchiefs, pillowcases, and stubbornly wrinkled items. I always have it on hand. As I was nearing the end of the stack, I noticed I was almost out of spray. I shook the bottle and was not at all reassured I’d have enough to finish the last article of clothing.


But, wouldn’t you know it, I made it. The bottle quit spraying on the last panel of the last shirt! Success! I was ridiculously giddy with relief. It wasn’t even a big deal, but it made my day.

Then, BOOM! The application immediately popped into my heart. (Side note: that’s how ALL my blog posts “happen.” I never sit around contemplating what I’m going to share. The lessons appear spontaneously. Often, I find myself thinking, “Hmmmm, that’d be a good post.” If the thought lingers for a day or two, I write it. If not, oh, well. It wasn’t meant to be.)

Well, this one was has lingered large! To put the application succinctly, though I was sure I’d run out, I had what I needed.

Do you get it? Have you been there? Of course I’m not talking about running out of spray starch. I’m referring to finding yourself in a situation which causes you to doubt the sustainability of your resources. Do you question the sufficiency of your physical, emotional, and financial means?

Can I make it through this week? This day?

Can my heart endure this trial without shattering?

Where will I find the energy to fulfill my duties?

How will I survive facing these people who have hurt me?

Will my finances provide enough for us to eat?

Can I get through this without having a mental breakdown?

How much longer do I have to go?

Yikes!! Exactly how close am I to the “end of the rope”?!! Sometimes it feels awfully close, doesn’t it? It’s not a good feeling. It can destroy a good night’s sleep, drive up the blood pressure, and affect eating habits. It paralyzes thoughts and actions.

It’s also a form of worry.

And I’m guilty. The caregiving journey with our parents these past several years has highlighted the poignancy of this weakness for me. I’ve often looked too far down the road, wondering how I’ll be able to make it. I’ve worried my strength would fail, my patience would wane, and my heart would break. But, guess what? God has never failed me! He’s gotten me through each day. When He knows the task would indeed be too much for me, He’s stepped in and taken over, often in the most unexpected ways.

I received a bangle bracelet from my kids for Christmas. It says, “One day at a time.” I’ve never taken it off since I received it. I need the constant reminder. God gives me a daily scoop of what I need. He tells me to ask of Him my DAILY bread, not my monthly or even weekly allowance.

The next time I iron, I will use a new bottle of starch. I had what I needed for yesterday’s load; I will start with a fresh supply tomorrow. When that runs out, I will get more. Likewise, my Heavenly Father will constantly replenish my supply of grace. I’ll have enough. I’ll make it!

Now, this is not a sales pitch, but I could not help but notice the brand name on this bottle. Faultless. Yes, my Lord is faultless. He is constantly aware of what I need and will mete out the perfect supply to get me through each day.


What a relief!

Thank you, dear Lord. Please help me to remember this truth before I go into panic mode next time.

”And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’” II Corinthians 12:9

I SEE YOU!

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Where’s Tatum? Little “Sweet Tater” loves to play Peek-a-Boo! And I love this picture because I know he’s hiding a big grin and little giggles. Nothing warms this Mimi’s heart more!

Was figuring out who was “hiding” behind the hat difficult for me? Of course not! This 18-month old child believes if he cannot see me then I cannot see him. But as adults, we know better. My husband also loves playing Hide and Seek with our grandkids. Most of them are still young enough to answer the questions he asks while he’s “hunting” for them.


“Miles, are you hiding downstairs?”
“No.” 🤦🏼‍♀️🤣


It cracks us up! We love to hear the snickers from behind the recliner while we look behind the door. They think they really have us stumped. Someday we know they will be harder to find, but for now, we play the game just for the giggles.

Do adults ever play Hide and Seek? Sure! When our kids were older, we played the game in our house. I had a special hiding place my kids never found. I would hide in the shower under a big, white towel. When the kids looked through the shower door, they saw only white and assumed the shower was empty. I was camouflaged and remained safely hidden until the game was over. I never revealed my secret. (But if they read my blog, I’ll have to find a new spot!)

But as adults, we often play another version of the old game – the spiritual version. Have you played it? I have. Sad thing is this: I play with the mentality of a toddler. I find myself forgetting that just because I cannot see God doesn’t mean He cannot see me. But God is omnipresent. He’s EVERYWHERE! He knows and sees it all. No big white towel exists to cover me from His view.

Forgetting that God never takes His eyes off me brings two vastly different emotions to my spirit. First, I feel shame in knowing that the sinful actions of my hands, words of my tongue, and thoughts in my mind never go unnoticed by Him. The fact no one else knows what I’m doing doesn’t negate my sin. Jesus had to die for that sin to be forgiven. Oh, how sorry I am for my sinfulness, yet how I praise Him for His merciful forgiveness. Precious Lord, please keep me aware of what my sin cost you, even the sins I commit “covertly.” You know all of them.

But secondly, knowing He constantly watches me also brings incredible comfort. Just as God sees every sin I commit, He also sees every good act of service I strive to perform. Not one escapes His gaze. As parents, children, employees, employers, neighbors, and church members, we each have countless minuscule jobs which no one seems to notice unless we fail to do them. But God sees! I love The old hymn “Little Is Much When God Is in It.” My little chores are a big deal to God. And being appreciated motivates me to do a bit more, to work a little harder because He’s watching.

His all-seeing gaze also cheers me when I feel alone. I will reluctantly admit to feeling quite “out of it” in the public eye in my caregiving journey. My mind pictures it in a funny way. It’s the feeling of a little person who’s fallen into a sidewalk groove. He remains unhurt down in there, but he goes unnoticed by passers-by. Big footsteps may straddle the crack and cast a fleeting shadow below, but the occupant of the gulley remains hidden. Forgotten. Have you been in that sidewalk crack state of mind before? Most of us have at one time or another. It’s entirely possible to feel hauntingly alone in a crowded room (or even in a church sanctuary), feeling unnoticed.

But the good news is God is watching. He’s listening. He cares. He’s aware of my existence. In spite of the bigness of the universe in comparison to my smallness, I matter a great deal to God. And so do you. What a comforting realization!

I cannot play hiding games with Him. And I don’t want to. His ever-watchful eye improves my quality of life exponentially. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

“Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill Heaven and earth? saith the LORD.”
Jeremiah 23:24

“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”
Proverbs 15:3

GLOWING

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As I hurried out the door toward the car last night, I admired the stunning sunset. The whole sky glowed. Gold and orange touched everything!

But then, something unusual happened. As I turned to get into the car, I saw the sunset again! How could that be? I was looking in the opposite direction!?

From the picture above, I’ll bet you’ve already figured it out. I was seeing the beauty reflected in our front picture window. Of course, you can see a bit inside our house. You can see the Christmas tree, a window in the sunroom, a couple walls, and a light on in the front room. But what you notice first, and overwhelming so, is the sunset.

When people look at us, what do they notice first? Let me ask another question. What SHOULD people notice first? Yes. Jesus! The most prominent attraction in my life should not be me, but Him.

I’m not writing anything new. I’m not sure I ever do. My purpose is not so much to present new material, but rather to draw into specific focus those truths we already know. To make their application clear. And to get into the nitty-gritty of practicing these basic principles in our everyday lives.

That being said, how do we display a proper reflection of our Savior?

We must set our full attention on Him. The hardest part for most will prove to be getting eyes off of self. We often spend an inordinate amount of time staring into the mirror – admittedly, often more time for girls than guys, but not always. We become preoccupied at times by how we want others to view us. And there’s nothing wrong with fashion sense and style, fitness and eating right, health and cleanliness. The Lord expects us to care for our bodies and to make ourselves acceptable representatives of His creation.

However, when the desire to look and feel great commands more of our time and energy than does our effort to correctly reflect Christ, we have a faulty balance. Christ must be the hub of our lives, not merely a spoke we add in as we have opportunity. Portraying Him doesn’t happen by accident. We don’t put it on or take it off on a whim. It’s not simply spiritual catch phrases we drop into our conversations. It’s a way of living.

How can we make that happen? We must spend time cultivating our relationship with Him to the point that it’s Him Who shines from every expression. We must intentionally fill every facet of our lives with His Word, with meditations of His character, and with purposeful practicing of His truth. We must consciously work at it. Haven’t you heard it said that we begin to look and act like the one with whom we spend the most time? It’s true! To be like Jesus, we need to spend quality time with Him.

It’s also fascinating to me that when God created us, He made us each different with the obvious intention of using our individuality to portray Him. You and I will each present the Savior to others through our own circumstances. Our unique personalities will come through in our ministries. As mentioned, you can see a few characteristics of our house in the picture above. That’s how you can tell it’s our house. But you have to see most of what’s within through the sunset reflection. Our circumstances in no way limit our responsibility to be His ambassadors. No, rather they are the tools He’s given us to use in this most worthy endeavor. Each one of us is personally and perfectly equipped by Him.

I’ve not shared this before because I fear being misunderstood. But I’ll share it now because it just fits. Following a rugged weekend of working among mainly strangers (many of whom were not Christians), my husband and I unexpectedly received a thank you note and gift card from folks we’d met at the event. I don’t remember much about the gift card, but I’ll never forget the comment in the note: “Jesus looks so beautiful in you.” Folks, we have never been more honored. We held in our hands right then the best compliment we could ever have received! It humbled us.

We each have daily opportunities to mirror Christ. Do family members see Christ in our words and actions? How about co-workers? People at the grocery? The goal is to magnify (enlarge) Christ to all those with whom we have even casual contact. We are to present Him as lovely to the world. Yes, they will know it’s us. They will notice our face, smile, and personality, and perhaps our outfit, but those qualities should be viewed only through Christ’s reflection. We should be glowing with His beauty for all to see. Always.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!
Let it shine ‘til Jesus comes, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

“For God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
II Corinthians 4:6


REFLECTIONS

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See the window? No, of course you don’t. Not really. At the time I took this picture several mornings ago, I wasn’t in a position to see the actual sun rising and shining through the curtains. But when I saw this image, I knew exactly what was happening. And as the sun cast it’s lovely reflection onto my bedroom wall, I paused for some reflection of my own.

I started thinking about the Word of God.

Have you ever considered what life would be like without the Word? How often as a Christian have you run to your Bible for comfort, for understanding, for encouragement, for renewal? If you’re like me, you’re claiming the promises found within those precious pages more and more in recent days. Too much around us is changing! But as I study my Bible, I am able to make sense of it all and gain an understanding of what is really taking place. I’m so grateful for the peace it brings to my heart!

You know, God could have created us and been carrying on His plan for the universe without writing it all down. No one obligated Him to lay it all out in writing for us. He could have remained an anonymous Orchestrator, not allowing us to be privy to His purposes. He could have kept us guessing what it is all about and how it would end. But, He, in His great compassion for us, understood what a comfort it would be for us to have an understanding of what He has accomplished in the past and the great plans He’s working on for eternity itself.

He knew I’d need the example of Daniel to help me resolve to do right regardless of the consequences. He knew I’d be challenged by Noah’s wife to be an encouragement to her family even while the rest of the world mocked them. He understood how I’d be motivated by Joseph’s faithfulness through many occasions of unfair treatment, and that I’d be excited to know God had a great ending in store for Joseph’s life. He has used Job’s trials to increase my awareness that God has a plan to bless me and bring me forth as gold in the end even when everything else has been stripped away. He recorded it all for my benefit. I can see it in writing!

The promises of Scripture have never held more importance in my life than they do right now. As I’ve contemplated the challenges we’ve all faced this past year, I’ve come to understand to a much greater degree that the ONLY confidence we have comes through the truth of the Word He’s given to us.

You see, I wasn’t there when God spoke creation into existence out of nothing by the power of His Voice alone. But He’s told me about it.

I wasn’t there when He parted the Red Sea to deliver His people from their fierce enemies. But I can read all about the exciting victory in the book of Exodus.

I didn’t witness David’s conquest of the mean giant Goliath, but the record of it in my Bible challenges me to tackle seemingly impossible tasks with faith in God’s promises of help.

And on the other end of the spectrum, I haven’t beheld the glories of Heaven yet, though I have dear ones who have. But I see reflected in the pages of my Bible some of the splendor that awaits the children of God. I’ve learned about the mansions, the streets of gold, the jeweled gates. I’ve been told about seeing Jesus face to face some day. I’ve been promised a victorious end. I cannot view it all now, but I see enough to keep me running the race of faith until I get there some day.

I haven’t seen God. But I’ve learned of Him through His Word. Today, I see through a dark glass. But some day it will all be perfectly clear! For now, I’m just thankful for the reflections He’s allowed through Scripture. He’s given me understanding, a sure hope, and peace of mind because He’s given me His precious Word.

During these tempestuous and uncertain days, I have come to cherish my Bible as my most valuable treasure. The power it has in my life is palpable. I’m deeply saddened when I realize there are many who do not place any confidence in the Word of God. How unsettled and confused they must be! I cannot believe for anyone else, but I can keep sharing the Truth.

So as I reflect on the eternal truths of Scripture, I know I can cast my cares confidently upon Him today. I’ve come to understand God has a Master Plan. He’s been working on it for forever! I know. He’s told me all about it!

Thank you, dear Lord, for giving me your Word in writing!

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

I Corinthians 13:12

Question for thought: What promises are you clinging to today? I’d love to know.

I HEAR YOU!

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BANG! I woke this morning to the sound of a load of lumber being dropped at the house directly behind us.

The surrounding neighbors were probably awakened shortly thereafter by the pounding of my heart!! 😳 Oh, my! For someone who has grown acutely aware of every noise in our home, THAT was rough!

So, today, I’m thinking about sounds. With three elders living with us, I’ve become attuned to an amazing variety of audio signals. For your understanding, and perhaps, for your enjoyment, use only your audio imagination as I describe a short list of sounds you would hear every day in our home. (It’s okay to chuckle. ☺️)

Both dads use walkers. I can differentiate them by how they are used, the time of day, and the direction they are headed. My dad’s gait is painstakingly slow and halting; he’s rather stealth. My father-in-law’s walk is noisy and reckless and includes the scuff of slippers against the hardwood flooring.

Then there are the phones. My father-in-law dislikes cellphones, so we transferred his landline to our address. The problem is he can hear nothing. The audio amplifier (pictured above) really helps . . . when we can get him to wear it. When he does hear and answer, he tends to tell whoever is calling he can’t hear, and he hangs up. My dad, however, tends to think every phone that rings is his phone. He will “answer” every time, very disappointed when he gets no one to reply. His own phone, on the rare occasion it rings, plays the theme song from “The Andy Griffith Show.” VERY loudly. My mother’s phone tends to ring it’s harp music wherever she is not. Lol!

But phones also sound out numerous notifications, each with its distinct tone: texts, messages, warnings, news, dying battery. Keeping up with all those different sounds from all the phones can be challenging. And sometimes, humorous!

My father-in-law uses an oxygen machine 24/7. The big tank downstairs swishes day and night. The portable tank on the main level doesn’t make too much noise unless he is sleeping on the couch. If he doesn’t take oxygen in through his nose, the machine beeps continually.

Nighttime noises provide angst. When a thump in the night wakens me, I first have to determine if the noise was in my dream or if it actually happened in the house. Haha! Then I need to evaluate whether it requires attention. THEN, I have to get back to sleep.

The stairlift also makes some unique sounds. I hear the arm rest clank down when a trip up or down commences. I hear the beep when the chair reaches a new level. It chirps incessantly if it’s not locked into the correct position after each trip. The other day it made a new, rather alarming sound. I finally discovered the battery was low and repair was necessary.

My father-in-law’s sound amplifier squeals horribly (insert horrid feedback sound here!) if the headset gets too close to the main unit. My father-in-law tends to place them together on the table when he walks away for a few minutes. Bless his heart . . . He cannot hear the piercing sound. The rest of us clamp our ears until one of us separates the unit or turns it off. Haha.

Since my dad has grown increasingly weak, we have an “intercom” (baby monitor) in his room. We have receptor units in the sunroom and our upstairs bedroom. We hear dad when he gets up, snores, calls for help, and talks in his sleep. We hear EVeRyTHinG! Day. And night.

My mother loves ice! She has received endless ribbing about her “ice addiction” since we were children living at home. We know she is up for the day when we hear her ice filling her cup for the day, and we know she is settling in for the night when we hear the ice clinking into her glass for her bedside table. And when I hear the refrigerator door open, I know that will be my mother, too. The gentlemen never rummage around in the kitchen.

Then, of course, the microwave beeps, the oven timer chirps, the doorbell rings, and the television drones on. I evaluate every cough and sneeze I hear. Several times I’ve had to listen for the sound of  fire truck and ambulance when we’ve needed help. I listen for water to run (and to be turned off, because that gets forgotten here these days.) The dog whines to go out. He scratches at the door (bad, doggy!) to come in.  Two of our folks wear medical alerts. We have “fun” with those alarms any time of day . . . or night! And I won’t even attempt to describe the many other sounds I hear!

Sounds! So many sounds. And I count on my ears to differentiate each one.

So what? Is there a lesson in there? Yes. For me, there are two.

First, I’ve become increasingly grateful for good hearing. I know I don’t hear as well as I did forty years ago. But my ears work plenty well enough to keep my loved ones safe. And I praise God for that!

Secondly, I pray my spiritual ears are as sensitive to the voice of the Lord as my physical ears are to my earthly environment. Not all the sounds I hear are loud. Some are little more than stirrings. Sometimes, I’m alerted by an absence of sound. But I’m constantly alert and listening. Now, I must ask myself, am I spiritually alert to the stirring of the Holy Spirit in my heart? The proddings and urgings He sends to get me to obey.  Do I hear them? Do they move me to action? The warning He speaks to my heart when I’m tempted to make an unwise decision? The encouragement He whispers to cheer me when I’m discouraged. When I fail to hear Him, am I drawn to check out what’s going on in my heart?

Well, I’m going to be working on amplifying my spiritual awareness. I pray I will always listen for the Lord’s voice. May I never let His most important voice be drowned out by the temporal cares of this life!

Speak, Lord! Thy servant heareth! I Samuel 3:10

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”    John 10:27

QUARANTINED!

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Gonna admit it: I’ve had some fear. I’ve done some wallowing in self-pity. I mean, the entire world has erupted into a place I don’t recognize. Simply getting groceries proves challenging. Germs lurk everywhere. I’m in a situation from which I find no relief. My big plans for a dream vacation emptied like dirty dishwater down the drain.

Yet, when I look at the situations others find themselves in, I realize I haven’t been truly hurt as a result of this horrid situation. At this point, all my loved ones are virus-free.  I’ve been only moderately inconvenienced. Although I’m exhausted, the personal damage effected by this horrid virus has only been to my mind.

I’ll confess, calling to cancel our flight two days before leaving bummed me out. But certainty we’d made the right decision ultimately replaced our disappointment.

We are closing in on two years in our caregiving journey for my parents and my father-in-law. Although we have no regrets in taking on this responsibility, I concede it is the heaviest load I’ve ever carried. It’s often 24/7 now. The weight physically, and, more so, emotionally is utterly staggering.

My siblings have been gems to give us breaks for church and special events. They’ve also allowed us to get away every four months or so for a week of respite. But our last real break happened late last summer. Burn-out has stalked us. I’d, naturally,  been allowing my heart to soar as I loaded my suitcase for our big trip.

But then . . . pandemic landed in place of our flight.

As I unpacked, I began to panic, wondering if I could mentally handle the imposed restrictions. Alone. No help. No relief. No known end. I started to erase my fridge calendar (above), but I just couldn’t do it right away. I wanted to continue dreaming rather than face reality.

We have guarded the health of our loved ones with every ounce of our beings. No one in. Only my husband out, and that being very limited. We sanitize groceries, mail, and packages. We miss our family and our support system, . . . but we are doing fine and are grateful.

It took a while to get to that point of gratitude.

It finally came when I received a spiritual vaccination! Are you interested in receiving what I found to protect against fear, depression, and uncertainty?

It’s administered in Psalm 46. This Psalm was written when King Jehoshaphat faced war with multiple kings. His heart was fearful. (I urge you to read of his circumstances in 2 Chronicles 20:1-32. Notice, in particular, verse 9. Also notice the resolution of the situation.)

In his consternation, he sought God. He took notice of God’s character. He took time time to praise Him as he pleaded for new help. The problem we currently face is as real as what he faced. And our answer mirrors his exactly.

So how can Psalm 46 help?

PSALM 46

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. [Think about that!] There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most high. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. [Think about that!] Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations He hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will Be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. [Think about that!]

This Psalm assures us that, though the earth be utterly demolished, God is our refuge. God’s character never changes. He will hold us in His strong Hand throughout any calamity! And what does He expect of me through it all?

Be still and know He is God.

Be still? You mean, like, quarantine my mind with Who God is?

Yes! Exactly! Spend time saturating my thoughts with dwelling upon Who He is!

When my mind is unwaveringly fixed upon Him, I find it impossible to worry.  To be dismayed or discouraged. To want my circumstances to be any different from what He allows. There’s room for nothing short of praise! 

Praise works as both a vaccine (preventative) and a cure (treatment). That’s absolutely priceless! With that knowledge, I can bolster myself for both the present and future. And, my friend, so can you!

”Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.”

Isaiah 26:3

SUGAR CRAVINGS?

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Fair warning: this post differs from my “normal” post. Honestly, I’m an open book. I do goofy things and make dumb decisions, and I have no problem sharing those humbling situations if what I learn can be an encouragement.

This post, however, isn’t really about me. It’s about a precious loved one who lives with us. A dear one who is experiencing the ravages of a broken brain. Who, until these past few years was known for incredible wisdom and insight, but who has now lost common sense due to late stage dementia.

I hate dementia. It’s a heartless thief! It robs families of loved ones and replaces them with strangers.

My precious one is forgetting how to get dressed. Not recognizing common foods, dear family and friends, or familiar situations. Refuses to accept that a cure for all ailments has not been discovered, and, in turn, believes we are withholding the said panacea out of reach. 

I’m not particularly comfortable sharing the sadness of this disease with others. My goal is to protect the dignity of those I cherish. But as I looked at these three cans of cream soda, I realized a truth about myself. Perhaps you will relate as I share.

Growing up, we understood soda was a special treat. And when the rare opportunity to drink the sweet treat came along, I remember seeing water added to dilute it so we did not over-indulge in sugar. NEVER was it offered for breakfast!

Now, one of those who protected my health so diligently when I was young is requiring my vigilant eye in tending to the diet. I serve balanced meals every day. I make sure all our occupants are staying hydrated.

Recently, however, sweets are being craved. I mean, LOTS of sweets! At this stage of life, my goal is to make them happy, so, as long as healthy meals are also being eaten, I allow the extra indulgences. The weirdest part, though, is the craving of soda for breakfast!

😳

Rarely is more than half a can of carbonated beverage consumed at one sitting. But the old can, the current one, and a can in waiting are required to be lined up for the meal. Seriously, it’s odd. But it brings contentment, so I concede. I’ve been told repeatedly that it’s how we’ve always done it. (Of course, it’s not.) But that’s what the broken brain thinks. And the craving for sugar is calmly satiated.

But as I stared at the arrangement of cream soda cans last week, it dawned on me that I, at times, have a broken brain. Not a physically broken thinker, but a spiritually broken one.

I am guilty of craving the sugar of earthly pleasures. I’d often rather quench my desire for entertainment than my desire for valuable spiritual nutrition.

For example, why does it seem so much easier every morning for me to grab the television remote or my phone to check out the world according to Facebook than to grab my Bible? Why is my first inclination to “phone a friend” or post a prayer request than to bow my head and carry my concerns directly to the throne of grace?

Perhaps it’s the “sugar rush” of immediate gratification I’m craving. Maybe, the attention of the crowd thrills me more than the attention of One.

Regardless of the reason, it’s “broken brain” thinking! It’s silly to think anyone or anything can replace a well-balanced diet of spiritual discipline.  Clearly, television, social media, and earthly friendships are not inherently evil. When used wisely and in modicum, they serve a fine purpose.

But I truly long for the day when my mind is craving Jesus above ALL else. When He crowds out all other superficial desires. When Christ is ALL I want!

My loved one has an excuse for wrong thinking. But, as I’ve asked myself numerous times before, what’s my excuse?

Please, dear Lord, fix my thinking.

“O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land.”

Psalm 63:1