Wide Walkways

It was beginning to drizzle a cold icy rain. I’d had a particularly difficult day and I was weary. She has a craft barn at her house and when I visit I often find she is in it making and creating, using her talents and gifts for such good. I was there to pick up one of those good gifts, t-shirts she’d made to distribute to the Bible Study Peeps. 

In all honesty I’d planned to arrive there earlier than the dark dawning 5:30PM, but things and life, my day really, hadn’t gone as planned. She told me to come to the front door of the big house. It was supper time and I knew it. I’d missed the mark on this one, but as she always is, I knew she’d be gracious when I arrived. 

I parked a few feet away from the sidewalk that diverged off from the driveway. I got out of my van and the cold rain hit me squarely on the shoulders. I grumbled inside. I was weary, worn, and cold. It was getting dark and the to-do list wasn’t yet complete. I made my way up her sidewalk, it leads to her steps. I noticed how wide is was. Perhaps it is because I’ve often walked up to houses and the sidewalk is narrow and I feel like I almost have to suck in, steady  my steps, and focus as I traverse them. Some sidewalks are cracked and broken, weed covered, crooked, all manner of things, some obstacles, some just cosmetic issues. I’d never really given it much thought until I was walking up to my friend’s big house entrance. The wide, warm toned sidewalk stood out in the darkness and it curved just slightly to the right. My feet were relaxed and I didn’t have to steer myself or focus in the least as my heavy footsteps traversed the wide warm welcoming sidewalk. The thought crossed my mind that a fiat or a golf cart could just drive up to the front door of the big house, never once having a tire slip into the neat, sodded yard. I made my way up to the door. My friend answered, she is older than me but she always looks younger, lighter, more carefree than I feel sometimes. She opened her arms and hugged me, I had been quiet until then. 

“Did you know you have a nice sidewalk. It’s so wide and welcoming.” Both were declarations, rather than interrogatives. She tilted her head and let out a chuckle, I thought she might comment on the randomness of my statement to her. She didn’t. She said simply the truth, “God gave me this house.” I nodded and marveled at how in His giving a gift to her at some point in history, He’d given me one too. I wondered at how on that cold and dreary evening when my heart was heavy and my burden worrisome He used a wide warm sidewalk that seemed to speak “Come to me you burdened and weary one, come walk this broad walkway to friendship.” It made me smile. It made me ponder further the sizable widths of walkways. 

I thought about one in particular in the King’s Word, one that talks about broad and narrow ways. 

Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Some years ago I’d actually memorized it in the KJV thanks to a repeated viewing of a movie when the verse is quoted as a line, “Broad is the way that leadeth into destruction. Narrow is the way that leadeth to life everlasting.” In the movie the antagonist tosses a coin with a portion of the verse on each side to the protagonist as he urges him to make a choice. He urges him to choose the narrow way of service, rejecting and forsaking the broad way of rock ‘n roll fame. The protagonist shoved the coin down deep in his pockets having declared “broad is the road to his success” and he’s gonna go down it playing the piano, pronounced in true southern drawl “playin’ the pea-anna.” 

I came back to that verse when I studied Matthew and I came away with a new understanding. An understanding not tainted by good screenplay writing and dramatic climaxes in cinematography. 

Not everyone is willing to traverse the path of life that is Kingdom Living, a life lived like Jesus led, a truly sold out heart for Jesus can be people lonely. It can be hard and at times. It often times is a divisive life. Being a Christ-follower means the ease and warmth of this world are to be rejected for the sake of souls in the next. The Narrow way of Christ means recognizing and dealing with the crooked, often overgrown with sin places of an already difficult path. Not everyone welcomes the narrow way because it can be uncomfortable and hard, but the traveler on the narrow path will know he or she will never walk it alone. There will always be another right there trudging through the hard things making the crooked places straight and when the path ends and the earthly walk is over the narrow path is the one that yields, 

“Well done.”

I hugged my friend as I left and I told her how much I loved her and would see her soon. I thanked her for the armload of goodies I carried back to my car. Despite carrying a physically heavy burden in the form of a package, I took those steps feeling just a bit lighter than I had before. 

Be a Barnabas

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’m known in this world. Now, I’m not talking about popularity or notoriety. I’m speaking about how I’m known in the circle of my Christian brothers and sisters and to the dark world around us.  My heart’s desire has always been to be a cheerleader. One who encourages others.

In scripture, God shows us such a man. His name was Barnabas. Did you know that Barnabas was born with the name Joesph? It’s true, go look it up. The disciples often referred to Joseph has “Mr. Encouragement.” (Acts 4:36) Therefore his name changed to Barnabas, meaning Son of Help. Barnabas was known as a giving man. In fact, the chapter ends with Barnabas taking the money from the field he sold and laying it at the feet of the Apostles. Can you imagine being so encouraging that people referred to you Mrs. Encouragement? Being so giving that you give of your time and your resources with a generous spirit instead of begrudgingly? 

Truth is, many of you are a Barnabas. God has given you that gift of Encouragement. You may or may not realize it, and you may or may not be comfortable with it, but that’s the gift He has given you. If all of us with this with gift accepted it and acted on it in faith, can you imagine what growth could occur in the church? 

Rather than people feeling judged or inadequate, a Barnabas would encourage others with the giftings they see in them. They would help them understand that except by the grace of God, any of us could have walked down the wrong path. We all have things in our past we would rather people not know. Isn’t it time that we allow others to know they don’t have to be perfect to come to God? That He will love each of us just as we are, yet with that love, He will totally change a person and transform them into a person that is LIKE Him. 

Kindness is contagious. So is Negativity.  What you would rather be known for? Someone who encourages others to be the man or woman of God He has called them to be, or one that discourages and crushes a spirit? 

There is new song out that’s popular in both the Christian and Country music realms.  In this song, I’m struck by the lyrics that state: 

In a time full of war, be peace 
In a time full of doubt, just believe 
Yeah, there ain’t that much difference between you and me 
In a time full of war, be peace 

In a world full of hate, be a light 
When you do somebody wrong, make it right 
Don’t hide in the dark, you were born to shine 
In a world full of hate, be a light 

Today I encourage you to take a spiritual gifts survey, see what your gifts are. I included a link to one for you here: https://gifts.churchgrowth.org/spiritual-gifts-survey/ 

I think we can all agree though that we can be an encouragement in this world, we can all be a light in a world full of hate. Be a Barnabas today! 

When the Power Isn’t There

My car was packed and I was ready to go. As I pressed the Start button, all I heard was Click, Click, Click. My  first thought was that maybe my foot was not securely on the brake so I tried again.

Click, Click, Click, was the only sound I heard. Questions started running through my mind like Do I have the remote, Are the indicator lights on, Is there a message on the dashboard? I thought Ok now, let me try this again. Just because it didn’t start the first two times doesn’t mean it won’t start the third time. The car went Click and then everything was silent.

As I got out of my car, I reached for my phone and then reached back in the car for the remote. As I closed the door, my car locked and refused any more instructions. The remote was charged but the car was not.

As I went back in the house and figured how my fingers were going to get my remote off the keyring, I was thankful for that tiny key that I knew was inside of the remote that would ultimately unlock my car. That tiny key would be the only way that I could open the car and pull the hood release. Without that key, nothing could be done for my car. That one, tiny key that I had always known was in there but I had never even seen would provide a way for getting the necessary help I needed. That key was part of the car maker’s plan to get the driver out of trouble if the battery went dead.

God has provided us with a key to help us get out of trouble. His Word has all of the answers.

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105 NIV

God’s Word is the lamp that provides the energy to make the light to guide us on our way. With God’s Word, we have the power to move forward. God’s Word provides the charge we need for our daily life.

Sometimes God works to get through to us in the silence, that moment when everything seems dim. God is always with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)

God has little nuggets throughout his Word to make it possible for us to move forward with our day. Do you need a Word from God today? It is right there for you in His Word. Even if you do not have a physical copy of God’s Word, you have your phone. Go to the search and type in what you are feeling and then the word, scripture. Let God speak to you. Let him give you that charge you need to send you on your way.

April Fools

I wonder how many children in northern Alabama have been awakened by their parents on the first day of April with the words “It’s snowing! Go look outside!” What?! You’ve never done that? That was the standard April fools’ joke in our house when I was growing up. I’m sure each of you have your own special default April Fools’ joke in your family too, and plenty of creative, new ones each year. It makes for a light-hearted day of fun and trickery.

As I pondered Aprils Fools day last Thursday, I began to wonder How did this holiday begin? No one knows for sure, but I liked this prominent opinion on how it all started. In 1582, France switched from using the Julian calendar (which celebrated the New Year on April 1st) to using the Gregorian calendar which recognized the New Year as January 1st as we do today. People who were slow to get the news (guess they hadn’t checked Facebook ::wink::) and celebrated the New Year on April 1st became the butt of jokes and were referred to as “April fools.” You can read some more ideas about the history of April fools’ Day here.

As we enjoyed the silliness of the holiday the sounds of giggles and “April fools” rang out around us. I enjoyed every last joke, but it made me realize it’s a good time to reflect on foolishness. It’s fine for jokes and fun, but while we make light of fools, scripture has some pretty direct and harsh things to say about fools and foolish behavior. Let’s take a glance at some of them and consider our own ways in light of God’s word.

Scripture, in Proverbs 26 particularly, reveals several nuggets of wisdom about fools. …

Verse 1 – “As snow in summer and rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool.” – These days people try to get their 15 minutes of fame with foolish stunts, rudeness, off-color language, and salacious acts. We honor them with likes on social media, a platform to make money off of, or an Oscar, Emmy, or other notable award. It seems our modern world gives notoriety to fools.

Verse 3 recommends harsh discipline for a fool.

Verses 4-5 seem to communicate two opposites. Don’t get into a discussion with a fool to try to answer him. But do give him wisdom that will convict His heart and help him see his folly.

Verse 6 Don’t trust a fool to give a message for you. Not the foolish co-worker. Not a foolish go-between in a romance. Not those partying fools you hang out with on Saturday nights. Not even the meddling, foolish family member who stirs things up. They’ll mess you up. Speak your own words if God convicts you they need to be said. “He who sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.”

Verse 7Don’t trust a fools “wisdom.” This verse says, “Like the legs of the lame that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” In other words, wise words in the mouths of fools are about as helpful as paralyzed legs. Don’t trust even things that sound wise when it comes from a foolish person. I remember once confronting the husband of a close friend who was planning to divorce her. In his foolishness he said, “Well God wants me to be happy, so I’m sure He’s ok with this.” … Uh No! I don’t know where he got his theology from, but I guess he’s never heard the scripture that says, “I hate divorce.” (Malachi 2:16)

Verse 9 goes on to say “Like a thorn that goes into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” Don’t take the words of a fool to heart. Seek counsel from a wise and righteous friend, not a foolish one who just wants to tickle your ears.

Verse 11Don’t accept the promises of a fool who keeps saying, “I won’t do it again.” This proverb warns, “As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” They keep on doing the same thing to you. Be wise – look for wise, safe friends who will treat you respectfully.

Verse 17 reminds us to stay out of quarrels with a fool. “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own I s like one who takes a dog by the ears.”

Verses 18-19 warns us about those cruel jokesters and “friends” who deceive with sarcasm and half-truths. “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”

Verses 20-22Don’t respond to a fool’s evil words and accusations. These verses tell us “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.” A fool in your life may be stirring up trouble. Gossip may be rampant. Let it go! You may look bad for a moment, but the truth will come out, and the strife will die down if you do’t fuel it with your own words and risk speaking foolishly yourself.

Verse 28 – Don’t trust a fool’s words. “A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”

Fools cause harm to us. When we act without godly wisdom, foolishly, we too cause harm to others. When we speak foolish words out of hurt or lack of thinking through we cause harm. We must evaluate ourselves to see if we are behaving as a foolish man or a wise one.

I’ll leave you with some final thoughts.

A fool will be repaid for what he has done and the harm he has caused. Verse 10 tells us “The great God who formed everything gives the fool his hire and the transgressor his wages.” And Romans 6:23 says it this way: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Matthew 7:24-27 tells us the story of the wise and foolish man. What is the difference in the wise man and the foolish man? Obedience. The wise man is the one “who hears these words of mine and does them.” Both men’s words and actions yield consequences, either a stable life or destruction. A disobedient fool digs himself a pit and will fall into it. Choose wisdom.

Enjoy the silly, foolish times when they come, but give thought to your own life and how you handle those around you.

He is Risen!

He is risen indeed!

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.

His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”

Matthew 28:1-7

Celebrate the risen Savior!

Missing Ministry

So pretty close to a year ago, the entire world came to a screeching halt. No school, no social events and no church. We made our way as a family through this unbelievable journey and like many of you reading this, we are ready to move forward to the future. Please notice I did not say “back to normal,” because I am pretty sure there were parts of our normal around the village that we needed to say goodbye to! We were able to enjoy more family time, beach time, bike riding, camping and making memories, and the phrase uttered many times a day “get your mask”!!

We survived all the mask mandates, the social distancing and the safer at home orders, but to be honest for me the one thing I have struggled with the most is missing the ministry God has allowed me to be part of for 37 years. I was blessed to become a musician years ago and never dreamed that when I picked up that saxophone back in middle school it would become one of the most incredible blessings of my life! I enjoyed learning to play years ago and that passion has continued throughout my life, right up until last year when a virus stopped everything. I have continued to practice but my den is just not the same as my orchestra chair!! The cat is not impressed!!

I made the comment to a friend one time that it was so nice to be able to worship while I was playing and she asked me if that was really possible. My reply was “absolutely!” Music speaks to a part of the soul that sometimes even the best message can’t reach. I can tell you countless times that God has spoken directly to the deepest part of my soul through a line in a song or a phrase that might describe where I am in my life and the need for His words to just speak life.

My favorite song of all time is “Alabaster Box” by CeCe Winans. One small simple line in that song almost at the very end says ‘You don’t know the cost of my praise.” This past year has been hard, not the kind of hard that you just take a deep breath and walk away from but the kind of hard that just wrecks you. There has been so much loss in our world, our nation, our state, our city and yes, our church. I have seen so many stories from my orchestra chair before the virus hit as I looked out into the congregation that bring this line to life. We can look around our church and see dressed up folks who may be totally broken on the inside from life and circumstances and especially the circumstances of this last year. We don’t know the cost of their praise, we have no idea what it took for them to make it to the seat in the sanctuary and worship.

I have been there. I have had days where in my mind I would think if I could just get to my seat in the orchestra without having to talk to anyone, I will be ok. There is something so special to me about that chair. I have seen God move from that chair and I have felt the presence of God as I played notes to lift His name up. There is nothing “magical” or particularly special about that chair but to me it represents ministry and passion and appreciation for blessings and I have a sense of purpose when I am sitting there using the gift that God has given me to give back the praise He deserves. I have missed that over this last year. My heart has missed that chair and the music and being a part of worship. That chair is where I am supposed to be!!

This weekend our church, my church, will be gathering to worship and celebrate the resurrection of our precious Lord and I am so thankful to say that the worship ministry, the choir and orchestra, will be together again for the first time in a year! I could use a thousand exclamation points and I’m not sure it would accurately describe how happy my heart is!!! When God speaks He stirs our hearts for worship! Each time the Bible tells of a battle there were always musicians that went out ahead and prepared the field and the people for battle. If this last year has taught us anything at all it is that we need to prepare for battle!! I hope this weekend will find you in a seat in the sanctuary lifting praise to God for His grace and mercy and love. I know where I will be… in that orchestra playing with all my heart to the One who gave me breath to play!!! Blessings to you!!!!

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” Ps. 150

Building Temples for His Glory

Exodus 40:16 “Moses did everything just as the Lord had commanded him.”

This phrase is repeated continually throughout Exodus chapter 40.

Moses had been with the Lord and received instruction. Detailed instructions. Instructions about how the tent of meeting was to be set up and how the priests were to be prepared to be filled with God’s glory. And Moses was faithful to obey all that God said.

God gives us itstructions as well, in His word. Am I always faithful to fulfill God’s instructions? Do I see His words in scripture and obey, or do I treat His commands as mere suggestions? On a most basic level, do I love my neighbor? Do I care for widows and orphans? Do I obey the Holy Spirit’s promptings to witness or share what God is teaching me? Or do I give in to human emotions of fear and timidity?

When Moses completed the work of the Lord, what happened? Verse 34 tells us, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” God desires for us to be faithful and complete our assigned tasks as well so He can fill us. And fill us. And fill us. Again and again.

When God gives us a task to do, do we work diligently? Do we follow His specific, detailed instructions? Do we go to work immediately to get the job done without getting derailed and putting it off? (Sorry to bring that up, procrastinators.) Let’s learn to move when He says move and not put it off.

Think about the time it took to gather all the materials to build the Tabernacle. They had to acquire wood and ore and prepare them for the supports of the temple. Consider the time it took for the artisans to cure the hides, weave the fabrics, stitch the curtains, and plan, mold, and carve all the hooks and articles and lamp and basin and altar. How long did it take to build it? It was a huge task.

When God gives us a big task, do we approach it with a spirit of faithfulness and excellence? Or do we rush through? Perhaps we get overwhelmed and want to bail on the job before it is complete. On the other hand, we don’t need to rush the job and be the first to the finish line. We need to be faithful. We need to exercise commitment to whatever God has called us to.

Romans 12:1-3 tells us, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Do we run our best race? Do we handle the things of God as diligently as we would preparing and training our athletic child to get that college sports scholarship? Do we do “everything heartily as unto the Lord”? (Colossians 3:23) Are we running in a way to receive the Prize? (1 Corinthians 9:24)

We live in a microwave generation. Everything seems to be obtained or accomplished in an instant. Things that take an extended amount of time and effort challenge us. We don’t like disciplining ourselves to lose weight over time, to develop muscles slowly and diligently doing the reps each day. We want to be able to lift the heavy weights today without the repetition and effort. We don’t like those long-term Moses assignments. We want to get it done, make progress, and quickly move on.

We must realize that with God the lesson may be in the journey. God may be more interested in who we become through His assignment than He is with getting the job completed. What is He making in us? He is making pure and holy vessels designed to be filled with His glory. Be home to His glory. Display His glory to the world. Let’s chose to be a Moses today and do “everything just as the Lord had commanded.”

“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” 1 Corinthians 6:19

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Getting Real

On this stormy day I’m anticipating the warm breezes of summer. Flashback with me to a summer a few years before Covid… Grilled burgers. Watermelon. Homemade strawberry ice cream from my Mom’s 50 year old secret family recipe. It was a typical summer holiday cookout – yummy and very laid back with just the family.

So after a day full of old movies, Nertz, and being totally lazy, it was wonderful to have a couple of friends that we hadn’t seen in a while drop by in repsonse to our Facebook post about the homemade ice cream. We enjoyed the frozen goodness and had a wonderful conversation, ranging from light-hearted catching up, to corny inside jokes, to deep, gut-level honest sharing that you only do with REAL friends and family.

It was 30 minutes after they left – probably 7:00 p.m. or so – that I went into the bathroom and noticed myself in a mirror… Yikes! I had not combed my hair after I got up that morning! But then… I smiled. And I thought how wonderful it was to have people I could be REAL with! They didn’t care. They loved me anyway.

Don’t we all long for that?! We want to know and be known at a deep, gut level and to be so comfortable with friends or family, someone, anyone, that we can smile, relax, and not sweat and fret and fear what they’ll think. We don’t want those insecurities to rise to the surface. We want to be accepted for who we are, they way we look, and the mistakes we make. Not for who people want us to be. Not for who they think we are because we are keeping up pretenses and hiding the REAL us every time we are around them. We long to be accepted… loved… just as we REALLY are.

Some of us will have the rare pleasure of experiencing that with a few select friends, but for many of us even family seems to be unable to know us, accept us, and love us as we long to be loved.

But there is Great News! There is Hope! We have a Heavenly Father, our Abba, who knows us intimately, accepts us totally, pursues a relationship with us relentlessly, and loves us unconditionally! Psalm 139 reminds us “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely…. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be…. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

God sees you! He knows you – the REAL you! And you know what? In spite of all your self-condemnation, fears, hiding, and not loving yourself – God loves you! He REALLY loves you! Come to Him. Just as you are.

“He Knows” by Jeremy CampEvery Heart That is Breaking” by Twila Paris

Finding Peace in the Storm

Psalm 121:1-2  I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.

Just four years ago, my life looked very different, things were not perfect, but “I” could manage it. I was doing my own thing, training for my 3rd triathlon it was April 2017. I loved the feeling of strengthening my body, pushing it to its limits. Training was something I did 6 days a week no matter what, or no matter where. And in that was much pride. Yes, I loved the Lord, I spent time with Him. But, He knew there could be more, He could see what I could not.

One spring morning, I woke up with a case of poison ivy. This was nothing unusual, I have had it every year since I was a child. But, as much as I remember, I had never had it on my neck. But this day I was looking in the mirror at this red streak of bumps across my throat, itching like crazy. So, I got out my tubes of itch relievers, and began to rub it on my neck. As I was rubbing, I felt a small knot in my neck beneath the skin. Just a passing observation, no big deal. After several days of this it seemed the knot was growing. A couple of weeks later I made a doctors appointment.

By the time I saw him, you could see the lump in my throat. He sent me straight to get a cat scan. Two days later wanted to see me, that got my attention. He wanted me to see a surgeon and have this removed immediately. From then until I saw the surgeon, it tripled in size, now the size of a golf ball. But, after seeing a thyroid surgeon and radiologist that specialized in this, they determined it was benign, and decided to not do surgery. I saw another doctor who used iodine to shrink it to a third it’s size. But, in the meantime, my thyroid quit functioning. I was very weak, tired, didn’t have the strength to run or workout at all. After a year, I finally got back to exercising again slowly trying to get back to where I had been, but every time I did something happened to set me back.

In July 2019, I was getting in my car to go to church, as I sat down, pain shot from my hip, to my foot. I had never experienced anything like it. I ended up laying flat in the floor all day. From there it was chiropractors, doctors, injections, treatments, massage, anything to get relief, but it never lasted. I had numbness in my leg and foot. Months at a time I would rest my back. My husband had to do all the vacuuming and mopping, I couldn’t lift anything. After one last treatment, we all realized it wasn’t working. At the end of the 10 week of rest, I and my husband got Covid. 

My husband has heart and kidney issues, I was very afraid for him. One night, as I was giving him a breathing treatment, I was praying for wisdom, fearing for his life. I cried out for mercy, and strength to take care of him. The next day, he began to take a turn for the better. 

At the same time, I had been in a crisis with my Daddy. He had a heart attack last January, followed by a fall in June. He ended up in the hospital, then to rehab. While in rehab he got Covid. Back to the hospital, then home with hospice. He was bedridden, we had to use a lift to get him out of bed. We were able to care for him at his home for 3 months, I’m so thankful for that time with him. I was praying God would do a miracle and heal him, but he wasn’t healed. While I was at home with Covid, we had to have him moved to a nursing home. It broke my heart.
This was the end of October.

On November 9th, our oldest son, his wife and 3 children moved to Bozeman, Montana, 1852.1 miles away, a 27 hour drive. Never since our grandchildren came into the world, had we been away from them more than two weeks. I thought that was the way it would always be. I was wrong. I grieved the loss. No more birthdays, ballgames, piano recitals, I wouldn’t be there for grandparents day at school. I grieved it all, for days at a time I cried. I fell into the trap of self-pity, and the enemy loved it! He fed every self-pity thought, and I went deeper into despair.  

I went to the Lord,  asking why? I had loved Him, served Him, followed Him. Why did He allow all this. I was stripped of my health, my husband’s health, my Daddy, my family. We had major problems at work. It was all caving in. I felt completely vulnerable, afraid of what would come next. All the things I had put my hope and trust in were gone.

I was now facing back surgery.

On February 1, 2021, I got up and ran to My Father, My Heavenly Father. I cried for answers. I needed hope, I need help, I need direction, I needed Him!

“Call upon me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things you know not!” Jeremiah 33:3. And He answered me. Psalm 139:6-7 Angelia, I have beset you in behind and before, and laid My hand upon you. Where could I go from His Spirit? Where could I flee from His presence? He was with me. He always was. He saw every tear. He knew every pain. He felt it too. Because I am His child!

The Holy Spirit comforted me, strengthened me, and gave me perfect peace that day. No one else could ever have given me that! The next day, as I went to sleep before they operated on me, my last thought was, Angelia, I’m going to do exceedingly, abundantly, more than you could ever ask for or imagine. And He has. I’m able to walk again, and stand without pain, still healing, but so much better.

Through the stripping away, I’ve found what only God can give: peace in the storm. No matter what I face, He has been there. But it only came when I surrendered it all to Him. I said, “Lord all of this is Yours. I’m so blessed, what You choose to remove is for my good. I live for You, beneath Your wings I take refuge, until the disaster has passed!” (Psalm 57:1)

I have heard, when God is all you have, He is all you need. And it is true. In every storm lift up your eyes, He is there!

The Best Gifts

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 

James 1:17

A trip to the bank to deposit a paycheck on a Friday – simple, right? That simple end of the week task began an adventure. I daresay that you probably had an adventurous week that week too if you are one of my fellow Alabamians. The day in question March 12, 1993 – the beginning of the Blizzard of ’93.

Nine months pregnant with a 5 and a 2-year-old in tow, I headed off to the bank expecting a normal errand run. The next day the 5-year-old would turn 6. Grandparents were coming for a cookout. Groceries had been purchased, presents wrapped, just a couple of business things to tie up so we didn’t forget them during this very busy birthday week. After tomorrow’s celebration, the 2-year-old would turn 3 on Thursday, and baby number 3 would arrive on Friday if she landed on her due date. It was looking to be quite a week.

As we walked in the bank, the atmosphere felt peculiar. Lines were the longest I’d ever seen, and the normal hush of the lobby was a buzz of people talking. Stepping to the end of the shortest line with the little ones in hand, I heard a snippet of a conversation, “snow… they’re saying 6-12 inches…”. A bit of shock overwhelmed me in the moment.

I had been too busy caring for kids and gearing up for the new arrival just around the corner; I hadn’t had time to turn on the news! Snow? Real snow? We never get anything but a dusting in Alabama. And besides the temps weren’t that cold, were they? I interrupted the men chatting. With great gusto, they poured out the latest news to me as our line inched toward the teller.

By the time the teller handed me my receipt I was in hurry mode. I rushed the kids to the car. Flakes began to fall as we headed home. Then heavier snow started coming down. Ten minutes later pulling into the house, bushes and trees had a dusting on them already.

I unlocked the door and tossed my purse inside without stepping in. Grabbing the wheelbarrow, I told the kids, “Come on.” We loaded logs from the wood pile and pushed a few wheelbarrow loads to the house just in case we lost power for an extended time; we would need firewood. “Don’t overdo it and go into labor early,” rang I my head. I called my husband and the grandparents, started a pot of soup, and finished up decorating the birthday cake just as my husband arrived home from work and the grandparents showed up with suitcases. Spending the night for the big celebration the next day “just in case we get snowed in” seemed to be the wise thing to do.

Snowed in we were! March 13th dawned bright and snowy. Nine inches worth where we were. Of course, the party plans were pretty much scrapped for the rare option of playing in the snow instead. What a birthday present for a 6-year-old! How could any present top that? Five days later we topped it. Baby sister arrived on big sister’s Big Day! We’d hit a parenting homerun – snow and a baby sister, the two best birthday gifts we’ve ever been able to give!

But those are only faint shadows of the gifts God gives to us. Our Heavenly Father is the giver of all things. The perfect gift-giver, because His gifts are always the Best. Best for us at least. Everything we enjoy and celebrate comes from Him. Let’s rejoice with gratitude to Him and thankful hearts for all His gifts, big and small, expected and surprising, perfect and… things that were not on our wish list. Thank God for your good times, your bad times. Your children or lack of children. You husband or your singleness. Your material goods or the freedom that comes from not having to worry about lots of material things. God is good. He has His purposes. Trust Him. Enjoy Him today and His perfect provision for you, even if it doesn’t seem to gel with your plans. Unexpected blizzards and early babies are wonderful treasures once we adjust our mindset. We may find those things not on our wishlist are the Best.

Note: Today just happens to be the birthdays of those babies. This is my favorite story to tell. Thanks for listening as I walked down memory lane and gave my tribute to those two godly young women who fill my heart with joy. Thanks for indulging me.

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

Psalm 127:3-5