Are You In The Wrong Place?

“A father said to his daughter “You have graduated with honors, here is a car I bought many years ago, but before I give it to you, take it to the used car lot and tell them, I want to sell it and see how much they offer you.” The daughter went to the car lot, returned to her father and said, “They offered me $1,000 because they said it looks pretty worn out.”

The father said, now “Take it to the pawn shop.” The daughter returned to her father and said, “the pawn shop offered only $100 because it is an old car.” The father asked his daughter to go to a car club and show them the car. The daughter then took the car to the club, returned and told her father,  “Some people in the club offered $100,000 for it because it’s a Nissan Skyline R34, an iconic car and sought by many collectors.”

The father said this to his daughter, “If you are not valued, do not be angry, it means you are in the wrong place. Those who know your value are those who appreciate you. Never stay in a place where no one sees your value.” Edited and borrowed from a posting on Facebook in 2020.

How often do we stay; hoping and trusting that “in time” that company will ultimately see our signifiance to them or perhaps a person or person(s) will value us? Then we learn, the company doesn’t appreciate the skills you have for the job you are doing. Perhaps that friend or even family member left you  emotionally years ago, for you weren’t what they desired.

As I’ve been viewing a televised series on friendships and relationships, I’ve been reminded of the complexity of such relationships in life. One of the characters experienced having her company not deem her worthy to remain on their staff. Romantic relationships were lost due to a lack of acceptance of her as a person. Perhaps one of the saddest life lessons was watching a friendship of over three decades fractured due to human egos and pride.

Tearfully, one of the characters reminded her friend they had given all those years to a friendship that now was going to be destroyed due to one brief moment. Just as with selling the car to the buyer that appreciated and esteemed the merit of its’ worth, we sometimes have friends and family that choose anger and pride over the importance of what the relationship provides.

 As the father told his daughter “ do not be angry. You are in the wrong place.” How devastating it is when you desire to remain because you believe you are in the right place, but you must accept the company or person desires someone or something else.

What a joy and gift it is when we are finally provided the opportunity of being in the right place. Sometimes it takes years, but during that time, God may be preparing us for when we understand our value is elsewhere.  Job 6:14 NIV, “Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.”

Not Just a Bowl of Stew

It may have been the best bowl of stew I’ve ever eaten, but what caused the flavor to be even better was the ambiance and local conversation. Perhaps the crisp, cool day and light rainy mist enhanced the flavor and experience. Whatever the reason,  dining in that small, southern, country café still causes my heart to stir with a tremendous love.

When visiting the Midwest, reading the story of what we had just experienced with the Bridges of Madison County allowed my then husband and I to extend this event for several hundred additional miles. If I didn’t have bags full of audio books from our local library, then I was delighted to read aloud from printed pages.  More than once our “drive way moments” were halted at our garage or continued as we walked inside our home.

The recollection of the taste of warm cider donuts and a cup of hot cider while traveling the rolling and colorful, tree- filled, hills of our northeast still brings a smile to my face. The smells and visions while traveling along the costal highways of both the Pacific and Atlantic linger in my heart and mind.

I love Europe with it’s vast array of history which our magnificent country can’t boast. However, I’m deeply saddened when I hear fellow travelers say they really haven’t gone too far beyond their own state’s borders. When well-traveled Americans know very little of our own country, but tout visiting other countries multiple times, I feel they have deprived themselves of an incredible gift-our USA.

Years ago, it became my goal and desire to visit all fifty states. God has allowed me to visit forty-eight of our fifty. I did “drive by” a small corner of Oregon, but desire to go there and spend some time to experience its’ beauty. Hawaii, remains my final state and then I will have visited them all.

When my then husband and I  became empty nesters, my desire to become our own private travel planner and tour guide accelerated. My opinion was we hadn’t truly visited a state unless we were there for at least a couple of days. Just driving by on the highway didn’t give us an opportunity to learn about it’s culture, its’ people or its’ uniqueness.

All states have gorgeous trees, streams and lakes. Yes, even memorable local diners. But every state also possesses its’ own “language” and vibrant stories of its’ history. From the glistening, golden aspens in Colorado to the splendor of God’s creation in the Grand Canyon or other National Parks, this land is truly “our land.”

The older I’ve become, the more careers I wish I could have experienced. Certainly being a “professional traveler” is at the top of my list. I miss those road trips across our vast expanse of varied landscape. The car was loaded with not only our necessities, but audio books, snacks and the desire to “behold” what God had created.

It was a gift! As the old 50’s commercial used to tout, “see the USA in your Chevrolet” or I might say, “see the USA any old way,” but enjoy what awaits you. Psalm 104:24 NKV, “O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom you made them all. The earth is full of your possessions.

Nurturing the Helpless

For most women, babies; these adorable and helpless bundles of joy are irresistible to hold and cuddle. A baby’s smile and giggles can change even a bad day into one filled with cheerfulness. Their innocence begs us to embrace them.

The helplessness of a baby causes most of us to offer our love. Why do people stop on the roadside when there is an abandoned kitten or puppy? It is human nature to care for and nurture those that can’t help themselves. So it was when I recently walked into the corner of my bathroom and found a tiny green anole. I had never seen such a tiny creature other than a bug. I could tell this little being was alive, but how in the world did “she” get in my house? There was not a door or window close and where was her mommy?

I carefully picked the tiny creature up to take her outdoors, hoping she would survive.  Surely living on a bare tile floor in a bathroom, she didn’t have a chance of survival. So why did I assume this little being was a girl? If your name is Lizzie, then aren’t you female? My first encounter with Lizzies was in the 1990’s when I was quite frightened of these creatures that were prevalent in Florida and south TX, until I realized they are not to be feared. From that day forward, all these lizards were “Lizzies.”

When I discovered tiny Lizzie several weeks ago, I was most concerned about her being away from her mother. My disquiet became more escalated when I learned anole mothers give birth and then leave their young to survive on their own. Anole mothers are not unlike some of the others in the animal kingdom. Even though God’s plan, it is disturbing to know these helpless creations must fend for themselves.

For most human females, being a mother is innate. When we become a mother, we remain mothers until the day we die. The elation of seeing and holding your baby is unlike any emotion we will ever experience. Whether biological or adoptive, our children are gifts which remain forever. No matter the circumstances of where our children are or what they do, they are our children and we love and support them for the duration of their lives and ours.

As we watch our children grow and mature into parents themselves, we still have memories of the time they were helpless and needed us to survive. Sometimes it is difficult for parents and especially mothers to “let them go” to become the individual God intended them to be. However, we know that is not only the cycle of life, but God’s divine plan for us.

What a pleasure it is to know that whether a human baby or one of the animal kingdom God bestowed us with a devotion to nurture a helpless being. On this Mother’s Day, it is with gratitude I thank God for allowing me to be a mother and grandmother. There is no greater blessing. Psalm 127:3 NKJ “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord…”

Do You Have The Strength?

The older I’ve become the more frequently I must take breaks from physical tasks such as gardening and house cleaning. The added elements of Texas heat and a new knee cause this “senior” gal to “fizzle out” more quickly. I become frustrated with slowing down, but also must give God the glory and gratitude that I’m able to be as physically active as I am.

During these short breaks to rest and refresh, I’ve begun watching numerous documentaries on survival. The human body can endure far greater abuse and trauma than we sometimes believe is possible. It is  also astounding at how rapidly a small mishap can become a major life and death encounter.

Many of us have had “close encounters” either with accidents or illness.  I can’t count the number of times I have stopped to thank God for sparing me in what could have been a terrifying situation. It seems my prayers are often when I enter a major highway system here in north Texas.

So too have there been numerous times in these past few months that God protected me from falls or other mishaps. There are also those situations when emotional trauma can be almost as debilitating as physical suffering.

Why do some people endure while others succumb to their situations? We all know persons that “gave up” when situations were challenging. Are the survivors more determined than others, more mentally acute or just stronger physically than some other person in the same situation? For many of these individuals their strength comes from God.

When I’m having one of my “pity parties”, and saying “why God why?”, I think about the situations King David was involved with in the bible.  Yes, many of his problems were self-induced. However, there were also circumstances that he didn’t cause. God was right there giving him the power to fulfill his tasks.  

As I read my devotions today I was reminded that Moses murdered an Egyptian. Yet God had protected Moses as an infant in a way which only God could ordain, so that as an adult Moses would be the voice of God to the Israelites.

Our lives are not as notorious as the leaders in the bible. Our names will not be written down and admired for thousands of years. However, our lives and actions can lead others to the Lord. Our stories of survival and courage may not be as monumental as some, but the strength God gives us to undergo these trials can certainly bring enduring benefits.  Will our words and actions cause others to become children of God?

I had a circumstance which happened only a couple of days ago when I wanted to stand up and shout “wait a minute”, I’m the one hiring you, not the other way around. I hired someone to assist me with a small task as a way to help them in a time of need.  Upon arrival they were controlling and belligerent. I chose to “let it go” rather than cause a conflict for I didn’t want my Christian testimony marred. God gives us the strength no matter the situation.  Isaiah 41:10 NIV “So do no fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you…”

Be Happy

Because I love spring and all the beauty it offers,  viewing the tulips of Holland in the Netherlands was on my bucket list. For several years I have prayed about and planned this trip. This was the year!  I wanted my daughter, Andrea to experience this adventure with me, so I was thrilled when she accepted my gift.

Since only God knows the future, I had no idea that I would be extremely ill for weeks and even days prior to our trip departure. There was conversation about re-scheduling, but the expense was too great and too many schedules had been altered. With a physician’s visit and prescriptions in tow, I trusted God would enable me to enjoy the trip.

For me, the blessing of observing Andrea’s excitement and awe was invaluable. Each day brought new discoveries and memories abundant. Less than thirty hours after our arrival, we met Christian buddies to accompany us on our journey. What a joy it was when an unfortunate circumstance arose to stand together in “prayer” that God would intervene and “take charge” of the emergency.  Of course He did!

As so often happens when strangers meet, they query. They seek to know about other’s lives. This trip was no different. One hundred and fifteen strangers, many of whom we met and many whom called themselves friends, two weeks later as we parted ways. There are no doubts God placed my daughter and I exactly with the people He chose for us to meet.

I received one of God’s hugs, when  one of our buddies that queried about me, hugged me tightly and with such great care and concern.  Only months prior I had been chastised for “loving too much and too long.” I knew then that no one has the right to judge another. Now here stood a lady I didn’t know, reminding me that God allowed me to love and I may never find another love for the love I gave was great. As she held me tightly, she whispered in my ear, “always remember your beautiful children were created from that love you had.” Tearfully, it was a reminder, God sees and hears all our thoughts and emotions.

The beauty of the Netherlands at this time of year provides not only fragrant spring flowers, but strong winds and cool temperatures. Bundling in multiple layers, scarves, hats and gloves became the “norm” of each day’s outings. Nonetheless, the magnificence of our surroundings warmed our hearts.

God affords us many learning opportunities when we travel. As we experience different lands and cultures, we also are reminded of the wealth we possess. It doesn’t matter our age or status, we are a blessed people. Too often we complain that we don’t have a large enough home or vehicle or that we don’t have enough “stuff.”

As we visited a home in the Netherlands, our hostess and her family of five had resided in their home for forty years. Along with two large dogs, her lovely home was 1,000 sq. feet. There was not a yard or a garage with two, three or more vehicles, but a couple of bicycles which were the primary mode of transportation.

We learned the Dutch are “happy” people. Whatever they have, they feel blessed. This should be a lesson learned for each of us. NKJ I Thess. 5:18, “In every thing give thanks…”

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 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.”