Just A Word

Can you name one word- a word which will cause you to reflect, to inspire, to encourage you and others for the year ahead? This was the challenge presented to our group last night.  We were invited to contemplate beloved items from our past and present, to recall and perhaps reminisce over places and times which had significant meaning to us. Our last assignment was to consider acts which helped us spiritually or to select acts which allowed us to enjoy our time with the Lord.

Each of these assignments was timed for three minutes. When you recollect objects, times, events and places in your life can you grasp just one word which will motivate you for the duration of the year? The speaker for our program began this undertaking several years ago. As a result she has designed her chosen “word of the year” as inscribed tokens. She is reminded daily of her words and the impact they have on herself and others.

If each of you readers stopped for a moment and thought about your life and circumstances, can you think of just one word which you can use daily for the remainder of the year? Can you envision how you might be able to not only motivate your own actions, but those of others if you chose a word which could bring comfort every day of the year?

As our speaker noted, our words change depending upon the circumstances of our lives. There are times we are ecstatic with the status of our lives. Yet other times our lives cause us to be more melancholy. Our word needs to embolden us for the duration of our year and the changes each week may bring.

Jon Foreman noted, “Words have incredible power. Words create worlds. The words we use define ourselves and the world around us. They shape our reality. Our words determine our ideologies.”

I was a youngster when I first heard the English-language children’s rhyme, “sticks and stones may break my bones, But words shall never hurt me.” Even though the rhyme is intended as a defense against name-calling and verbal bullying, intended to increase resiliency, avoid physical retaliation and to remain calm,” it would be almost impossible to find a person whom has never been deeply wounded by words.

Words can cause deep and permanent scars on person’s hearts and emotions. And so it was during our group presentation last evening, it was important our words would bring joy, peace, support and assurance no matter what the status of our lives.

Our chosen “word” for the year should be like God’s in Isaiah 55:10-11 KJV, “As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven…so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void.” God is reminding us His word will accomplish what He desires and achieves the purpose for which He sent it. As precipitation comes upon the earth, it benefits the growth of crops and sustaining life. His word always fulfills His good purposes.

God’s Calendar or Mine

How often do we read, “this is going to be your year”, or “great things await you.” No one knows what is  in our future except God. We can plan and prepare, but we all know plans can be changed without any warning. I also have never believed in such quotes of “being my year” or “great things are going to happen.” For when we open our hearts and minds every day is “our day” and abundant blessings are ours if we unlock our eyes and hearts to what God has done for us.

My calendar for the new year was void of appointments and events. As I began filling the pages with upcoming events,  I thought of this past year and the unexpected occurrences which were not on my calendar. Early in the year, there were insurance claims on my home and automobile which caused inconvenience and financial losses, unplanned illness which canceled all my engagements and festivities. And then-I reflected on the “unexpected “God winks” of the year.

I thought of  the people I had hoped to meet during the year, but as quickly as I thought of the ones I didn’t meet, I recalled the people I  met which were not expected.  I thought of the joys of trips which allowed me to experience new cultures and locations. I thought of being a part of a family commemoration when a young couple began a new life together as “one.”

 I thought of the memories of being with my daughter and her family during spontaneous moments throughout the year. I thought of the joy of having my daughter share in a family outing which has enlarged not only her memory album, but also her knowledge of family she had seldom been with. My heart fluttered when I thought of the impromptu moment when I could be a part of my granddaughter’s reminiscences during a monumental birthday.

We need not “plan” or “schedule” to experience exultations beyond measure. Too often people fill their lives with so much of what they desire, they have no time to experience God’s surprises  I had a conversation recently with a person I had never met, but were merely conversing via telephone. He queried if I am an informed person. When I replied “yes”, he pushed further, asking if I know what lies ahead. I reminded him no one, but God knows that. He desired to be argumentative and attempted to persuade me that if I were informed, then I would know the outcome of our future. Such persons are to be pitied. For if they live their lives believing they know what the future holds, they will someday be caught off guard.

I’m grateful for the happenings which are not on my calendar. These will be the unexpected “gifts from God”. Yes, we are beginning a new year and I will embrace what lies ahead. As we read in Ecclesiastes, whether on our calendar or not, God’s timing will prevail. Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV, “there is a time for everything…”

The Rearview Mirror

Another Christmas-another year coming to an end, but how do we celebrate this special day? With friends and/or family? Or like thousands of people throughout the world?-some are alone, as was I.

 It was time to go to the closet and grab those boots so I could pull myself up by the straps and say, “God today is your day and there is no need to sit alone. As noted in my recent blog, because I have been home bound for five full weeks with an illness that just wouldn’t “move on”, then I was unable to open my home to others that might also be alone. Yet, also realizing there are often blessings when we seek adventures, I chose to experience something I had never done before.

 My local nextdoor.com posted a “free Christmas meal” at a VFW hall in a neighboring community. This “Buckeye, Okie, Texan” gal had never patronized a local VFW hall, so was unaware of what to expect. Like many others, I had my own conceptions of this unfamiliar experience. As I opened the doors and stepped inside, to my amazement, I was obviously the eldest person in attendance. I quickly surmised this was the “local” bar for friends, many younger than my own children.

I sat “doe eyed” at a table until a lady at the bar said, “the food is ready. Please help yourself.” The meal was meager and modest, but I also knew prepared with love. As I sat alone at the table, I thanked God for the persons who had thought of others that might be alone today.  From my time of arrival to departure it was a total of ten minutes. As young couples arrived, they took a seat at the bar. This was clearly a “home away from home” to be with their friends.

 I walked to the bar as I departed thanking those in attendance for their kindness; strolling to my car with yet one more Christmas in the rearview mirror; one more experience I would never have imagined. Year after year, as I spent days baking and cooking for family and friends, I never predicted I would find myself alone Christmas upon Christmas seeking out new explorations.

 As my Christmas adventure had been concluded in less than fifteen minutes, I thought I would expand my memories of 2022 by becoming “one of the throng”at Buc-ee’s. It didn’t disappoint! The fashion parade would rival the best of London. As I pulled into a parking space, the first ensemble was a man in a Christmas “onesie”, wearing a Santa hat. Many others followed in pajamas and slippers, along with those in festive Christmas sweaters and shirts. There was a young lady in her full-length white lace gown; a wedding I wondered or just attire for the holiday? Buc-ee’s was certain to put a smile on anyone’s face.

 Each Christmas, I’m hopeful for different memories the following year. Yet, no matter what lies ahead, I know without a doubt that “Jesus is truly the reason for the season.” Isaiah 9:6, NIV, “for to us a child is born, to us a son is given…And He will be called Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The Bridge Is Out

What most people consider the most wonderful time of the year can also be the most hectic and stressful. Yet for many, they still grasp every moment of the holiday season, knowing these are priceless memories. I like many of you readers, was eagerly anticipating this Christmas. It had been eight years since I’d been able to host neighbors, family and friends into my home for the holiday season. This year was going to be special.

And then-suddenly and without warning, my life was brought to an abrupt stop. As we have so often heard, we can’t stop God’s plans when they are set in motion. Nor can we always understand His ways. A routine day with chores and errands, changed the schedule of my life for the next thirty three days.

What began as intense abdominal cramping escalated to intense pain with two hospital visits and the second requiring a four-day hospital admission. Christmas shopping was immediately ceased. Visions of “sugar plums” and all other holiday baking and cooking were merely dreams. Containers of Christmas decorations were strewn around; only partially adorning my house.

I was too ill and in too much pain to even cry. I prayed daily, seeking God’s direction in this enormous road block. It was not merely a detour in my holiday plans, but the “bridge was out.” The path was impassable. As I have done during such situations in my life, all I could do was ask God for His peace and direction. I was confused and perplexed as to what He was telling me.

When I relocated to TX last year, I sought God’s direction in every aspect of my life; the home I purchased, the church and organizations I joined. Now as I watched the days click by on the calendar, one event after the other was being canceled. Perhaps the greatest disappointment of all, was that I was unable to participate in the Christmas church events; always the highlight of my holiday schedule.

Day after day as I was lying in bed or in the hospital, I clutched my memories of Christmases past; the parties which I not only hosted, but also those I attended. I thought of the many years when my sewing machine ran for hours while completing special gifts for family and friends. One of the greatest joys of my holidays was baking and candy making. This would be the first year in over fifty-three years that I would not be making even one batch of a “sweet treat.”

I may never know nor understand God’s plan for this holiday season. However, I will always reflect back on this year that no matter how alone I feel, I will be grateful for the opportunities God has given me. Each event will be cherished. When I can stand in the kitchen baking and cooking, I will “give thanks” for the ability to do so. Next Christmas the music will be more beautiful, the food more delectable and the love of friends and family more dear. We can’t always appreciate what we do have until we no longer have it. I Thess. 5:18 NKJ, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Just One of The Family

Our plates were piled high with the traditional Thanksgiving fare; turkey, ham, two varieties of dressing, three salads, assorted vegetables and a table of beautiful, assorted desserts.  We were six people from different areas of the large metropolitan city- different ages,  backgrounds and certainly different paths in life, but one commonality-we were each alone for Thanksgiving.

 For me, it was a time of reflection, but also of gratefulness. For years, I had been the cook; the hostess for family holiday meals. As the family grew smaller, our table often hosted friends whom found themselves alone on the holiday.

Now I was one of those sitting in solitary and appreciating the love and thoughtfulness which went into the food preparation. The owner of this bakery cared enough about those at an empty table to open her heart to others like me.  I was saddened to learn she had prepared for twenty (whom had RSVP’ed), but only six of us fulfilled our commitment.  God is always in the details. Because the dining room was not filled with the pledged guests, the hostess/bakery owner, along with her family  joined the six of us in food and fellowship.

As we filled our plates, I recalled so vividly and humorously preparing my first Thanksgiving dinner for my then husband’s family. I set my alarm at 3 a.m. to place the turkey in the oven, not understanding turkeys don’t require a “work day” to roast. I had begun the baking, days prior with almost  enough assorted desserts to feed our entire small,  rural community.

I learned years prior that my God-given gift is the gift of hospitality, so I believed all the homemade rolls and bread must be accompanied with pats of “turkey” butter. Yes, I spent hours filling small turkey molds with softened butter, so that my Thanksgiving table would be not only laden with assorted traditional cuisine, but also the extra touches which say “I’m grateful you have joined us at our table this year.” As the years passed, the cooking and baking remained plentiful, but the butter was not always served in the shape of turkeys. I quickly learned the taste of the meal was not diminished with pats of butter.

 The chairs became fewer and reality was that life had changed. Finding myself alone over ten years ago, I looked for creative ways to spend Thanksgiving. I’ve volunteered for the homeless, spent the holiday in WI with my brother and his family and  offered to be the hostess for others like me. Having relocated to a new state last year, the opportunities to volunteer or help others in need is not as great as it was in Oklahoma.

Each of these factors now found me sitting at a table with a mom and her daughter, a grandfather and his grandson, another single lady and myself. With the bakery owner and her family, today we were a “family of thirteen.”  I could once again bow my head in gratitude, praising and thanking God for allowing me to be a part of this group on this Thanksgiving. I Thess. 5:18 NIV “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

The Fixer

I walked away as confused as when I received the request to meet  for coffee. A lady I will call Denise had been in a bible study with me over five months prior. I had joined the non-denominational bible study over thirty years ago. Each year,  women are assigned a group. They meet together for 45-50 minutes each week for eight months, then the following year, they are assigned a new group.  This is a highly structured and formal bible study with very little personal interaction.

Occasionally, a query will arise in the study asking the participants to parallel the teachings of the bible to their personal lives. Not all class members share their input weekly.  By the end of the eight months, we may know a little about each person in the group, but know none of them well.  Normally it takes years to truly know and understand someone. Certainly a few minutes each week negates this opportunity.

I had some trepidation about Denise’s intent, but understanding God is always in the details, I accepted the invitation eager to see what God was telling me. I was reminded recently that God  doesn’t always speak in shouts, but often in a whisper as He did to Elijah. I also recognize God can’t speak, if our ears are closed to Him. I knew certainly this meeting had to be of God for I didn’t know Denise well enough to otherwise join her for coffee.

 I prayed for peace and an understanding on whatever God wanted me to hear. Yet Denise’s words were confounding. She met me solely for the purpose of informing me that I wasn’t healing quickly enough from a challenging life.  I now understood these were not God’s words or actions, but merely a reminder from Him that often people believe they are wiser than God; that they need to “fix us.”

During my time of healing and awareness, God has placed me in ministries I would not have otherwise been involved with. I’ve met people I would never have met. I’ve experienced adventures I would never have experienced. Sometimes when God speaks we don’t understand. I remained bewildered. Why did Denise feel it so imperative to meet me for the singular purpose of criticism and negativity?

At times each of us look at another and think, “ I wonder why they are saying/doing that?. I would do things differently.” It is not our responsibility as Christians to tell anyone they are wrong when they are taking their direction from the Lord. God doesn’t lead anyone to do things which are not acceptable to Him.

My life is a series of circumstances God allowed and/or brought about; not to harm me, but to strengthen me. Now He is restoring my life in His time and His glory. No outside intervention is required. Perhaps the sole purpose of the coffee meeting was so that I could be reminded that God has not forgotten me. He remains steadfast with me, no matter what happens or where He leads.  Hosea 6:1 NKJ, Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He was torn, but will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.”

Essential Glue

Yesterday, while at church, there was a message to all the grandparents and those persons that stand in as “grandparents”, thanking us and reminding us for being the people we are; imperfect, but filled with love. We are grandparents that have prayed for and loved our children and ultimately the grandchildren God had blessed us with.

So it was, as I thought of my own children and grandchildren. I too am  flawed and at times felt inadequate to be a parent, but I always prayed and believed my love for them would override my inadequacies.

As I have so often shared, God is always in the details of situations which transpire in our lives. As I read my devotions today, it was on parenting. The timing was impeccable, having just received recognition yesterday as a grandparent. Certainly, we can’t be grandparents if we aren’t parents.

It is most often our children that see our inadequate personalities and traits. Our grandchildren may receive only the “best.” The years of sacrificing and conflicts while parenting have been replaced with sweet words, hundreds of hugs and countless treats. Most often, as grandparents we no longer have the burden of rearing these children, but only showering them with our love and devotion.

 As the  father in the devotion wrote of kneeling beside his young son’s bed, sorrowful over the attitude he had toward his son’s actions. God reminded him that as a father he expected his son to act as an adult. How often, I too kneeled alongside my sleeping child or sat with them as I hugged them tenderly pleading for their forgiveness of my flaws and frailties.

As parents we see and understand  words and actions of our children can cause them to be remorseful later in their lives if they cling to those childish ways. Thus, it  may seem we are constantly “nagging” our precious children to be better, to say better, to do better.

How often  do parents have obstacles and difficulties in our lives which prevent us from seeing clearly as we “parent” our children? We’ve all heard countless times that our children don’t arrive with a “how to” manual. All the child rearing books in the world can not enable us as parents to be the parent our children may desire.

Like the father in my devotion, kneeling beside his young son and apologizing for his actions of that day or days past, we so often wish we could have , a “do-over” for that day or weeks past. We can only take each day and continue to do our best.

We pray and trust when our children become parents they may reflect on their times as children and have an understanding that the actions of their parents was not to harm or injure them, but from great love for them. As quoted in Focus On The Family 2017, “Parental love can be transforming for you and your child. But it is an endeavor that can always use improvement and refinement. A parent’s love is full of mistakes and mishaps, but it is the essential glue to our imperfect and messy family relationships.”

NIV 3 John 1:4, “I have no greater joy than to hear my children are walking in the truth.”

A Gift For Myself

Tiktok, Instagram, Facebook, texing, zoom, emails and the list goes on and on. Recently as I sat in a physician’s office awaiting my turn while the doctor was over an hour and a half behind on seeing his patients, a gentleman in the waiting room began a conversation.

He is a retired college professor and loved to converse , as do I. I feel I never meet strangers, but merely potential new friends. Some people converse, some don’t, but this gentleman had many tales to share. One of our commonalities in our conversation was the slower pace of life when we were younger-the neighbors that said hello and wanted to know you -the neighbors we could borrow sugar or flour from. Sometimes we returned the item borrowed or quite often, waited until they needed their own missed ingredient.

We both agreed we are not fans of some of the new technology, but we have adapted. We still prefer sitting and chatting rather than texting or sending emails.  I would love to run over to a neighbor’s, knock on their door to borrow an ingredient for something I could share with another.

We all love our modern conveniences of high tech equipment, appliances that can do everything except put our clothes away or set the food on our tables. Yet what about those days when the family gathered in the kitchen following a meal to “do the dishes?” Some would bring dirty dishes to the sink while others washed-one or two would grab a towel to “dry.” Still others might be there to put the dishes away.

Oh that’s right!  This was only  in Father Knows Best or Leave it To Beaver or some of the other family television shows where life was perfect.  There might be two people cleaning the kitchen, if that many. Even though there was often bickering in my family of origin over every household chore including all those kitchen tasks, I still miss some of the simplicity of that time.

As I read one of my devotions today, I was reminded again of the uncomplicatedness of life in previous years. It was set in the 1960’s, so it was akin to the discussion in the Dr’s office.  This author was one of over a thousand passengers whose airline flights had been rerouted, delayed and/or canceled on December 24th. There were crying children and yelling parents. There was stress and worry because there were no cell phones to inform anyone of the situation. What could they do?

Then came along a gentleman to soothe the worry and bring a ray of sunshine to the beleaguered passengers. With his homemade coffee cart, he was offering a smile, kind words of encouragement that everything would be alright and a cup of coffee. He even carried blankets for those that might have need of one.

As the author boarded the bus due to his flight cancelation, he queried the jovial man about his acts of kindness. Mr. “Jovial” took two weeks of vacation every year to be there at the airport during the holidays knowing the stress the passengers endured.  He called helping people his “gifts to himself.”  Have you gifted yourself recently, by helping another?

Luke 6:38 NIV, Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap…”

I Could and I Did

Don’t you have those warm “all over goose bumps” when you hear or read about love and forgiveness? Whether from another or in our lives, we can’t help but have joy when we read about or experience these great gifts from God. Perhaps they will bring a smile to your heart, as they did to mine.

I want to share a small sampling of some of those godsends. “Now he was in front of me…and I…fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course-how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

 And I stood there-and could not forgive. It could not have been many seconds that he stood there-hand held out-but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I ever had to do.

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion-I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will…I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. I forgive you…I cried.”  Corrie Ten Boom-prisoner of Ravensbruck and the man who desired forgiveness was one of the her most cruel guards.

“ Even now I can’t talk about what I did…even to you. Thirty-two years, two months and 11 days ago…It happened during a bad winter storm with a lot of rain…winds and almost no visibility. It was two nights before Christmas….I volunteered to go out in the rain and wind and push the switch for the northbound 8:30 freight…

I guess I was more drunk than I thought I was because I pushed that switch in the wrong direction. At 45 miles an hour that freight train slammed into a passenger car at the next crossing and killed a young man, his wife and their two daughters…Father O’Malley gently put his hand on Tom’s (the man) shoulder and said very quietly, If I can forgive you, God can forgive you, because in that car were my mother, my father and my two older sisters.”  Warren Miller as shared with Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul.

Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts God gives us as humans, but so too is love for forgiveness and love so often are “one.” This last story I share as it touched my heart greatly as I read it and trust it will also touch yours. It reminded me of one my favorite movies, The Notebook.

 “I watched him look into the window and check his reflection. He carefully combed his hair and straightened his tie.  He had to be seventy years old, yet he acted as eager as a schoolboy…He was meeting his wife, a victim of Alzheimer’s. His wife never spoke much. But it didn’t seem to matter to him…He made cheery conversation, read letters from family, sang to her…or just held her hand.

Love, a rare commitment to care for another regardless of the response…Mr. Lacy is pitied but a privileged man, who loves his wife in such a way that the world may look on with a deep sense of longing…” authors, Teresa & David Ferguson, Holly & Chris Thurman.

Colossians 3:13 NIV Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Only $1.03

What? A check for $1.03. I immediately chuckled. It cost more in time, labor and postage to send than the value of the check. I had to assume policies are polices and so it was. The small check must be sent to all customers as a rebate for “sports interruptions.” It seemed so trivial. But then-it came to me. What about situations and incidents we might do toward the Lord which may seem like a “waste of time?”

 We might wonder how we are wasting God’s time. What do you do with your day? For most individuals that are employed, a minimum of eight to ten hours per day is given to your employment. Then if you have a commute to your place of work, there is additional time allocation.

If you are a parent with children at home, there are the family obligations and commitments. Add school and/or social activities,  meal preparation, household chores and errands and our days are rapidly depleted. You might be perplexed how you could be wasting time when you seem to have so little of it.

While commuting or spending time “are you fretting and worrying about life? What if?  The list goes on and on for hours, weeks and often years of our lives. Worry! This is a huge waste of God’s time- time He has given us to be productive.   Worry doesn’t just last for those few minutes we might be alone. It carries on throughout our days. I’ve heard Christians say often, “I’m so worried that thus and so will happen.” Why? You can’t change it, even if it were to happen.

I’ve heard more than one pastor speak about God’s timing and that we can’t make it happen any sooner than He plans.  However, when He does implement a plan, “get out of the way” for nothing will stop it. So why worry?

Guilt is also a time waster. If we have sought forgiveness from God and the person(s) we have offended, then we must “let it go.” Fretting over it, doesn’t alter what happened. Guilt often brings about anger, which compounds the waste of God’s time; our time.

Joyce Meyer said, “Whatever is making you so angry, it’s time for you to give it to God and get over it. Life isn’t fair, but God is. He will bring justice into your life, but you must drop that offense, leave it, let it go, and trust God to bring resolution in His perfect timing.

We can add dread to our list of time wasters. We dread doing this or that. If you can avoid it, do so. If you must do it, then ask God for the strength and wisdom to accomplish the task.  I imagine some of the above time wasters were also incorporated into each of the others. You worry when you dread and are sometimes angry about what you must do.

No more need to waste God’s time, money and energy on things which He already has “paid in advance.”  The check is not only in the mail, but in our account of life. Matthew 6:25 NIV “ Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”