About Tender Mercies

I love to write, John loves to take pictures, and we both love to RV. Tendermercies is about our adventures as we make a new life together.

Five Daily Choices for 2018

Here we are already on day ten of a brand New Year.  Wow….it’s hard to believe.  2017 had it’s share of blessings, sunshine, and storms.  I’m fairly sure your 2017 has as well!! But if I’ve learned anything in my sixty-plus fresh calendars of New Years, it’s that even though I can’t control what storms will come, I can control the attitude with which I receive them.

If I could sit down with the ‘world’ and share advice, it would be to “Choose Life in Christ!”  I invited Him into my heart when I was eleven.  That commitment made my life make sense, and gave me Hope, Peace, & Direction for each New Year.  I can tell you, I can’t imagine going through these many years of storms without His mighty direction.  You see, He will direct you.  His Word tells you how to handle life.  His Spirit will guide you in that Word too.  I can’t imagine living by my own will and wit!  Here are a few of my 2018 goals from Him that I’ll strive for.

1. Choose faith always over doubts & fears.  Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. Remember, fear is only FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL! Choose Faith and don’t let your imaginations direct you into fear! The scripture also says, ‘Without Faith it is impossible to please God.” I had to learn to not let my doubts and fear rule my life…still learning too!!! : )

2. Choose positive thoughts over negative & allow God to take control of those negatives that you can’t change. (there will always be negatives) Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” This is one of my favorite scriptures…I’m still training my mind to focus on “what is right” about others, about life, about about whatever I’m dealing with on a given day.  My flesh tends to want to focus on what isn’t right!  Do you have that problem, or is it just me?

3. Choose love over hate. I Corinthian 13: 4-8 Love(Pam) is patient and kind; Love(Pam) does not envy or boast; it(Pam) is not arrogant or rude. It(Pam) does not insist on its(her) own way; it(Pam) is not irritable or resentful; it(Pam) does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.  Putting my name in this scripture was a real eye opener many years ago when I was a young bride!  BECAUSE I was demanding my own way and I wasn’t patient or kind. I was irritable! It was a game changer for my marriage too…and it was God who suggested to me that I live by it when I was complaining to Him about my hubby! : )  It still challenges me big time!!! 

4. Choose forgiveness over vengeance. Colossians 3:13 Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. FORGIVENESS, FORGIVENESS, FORGIVENESS!  Sometimes we need to forgive others, sometimes we need to forgive politicians, sometimes we need to forgive ourselves….but we need to forgive!  It frees us.  I’ve seen some of the ugliest stuff of my sixty-plus years the past year in the political realm.  As God’s children, we must practice FORGIVENESS!!!  HE WILL ENABLE US if we desire to be His love to the world, even when we don’t like the powers that be!

5. Choose honesty over deceit. I Peter2: 1-2 So put aside every trace of malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander and hateful speech; like newborn babies [you should] long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may be nurtured and grow in respect to salvation [its ultimate fulfillment)  

Lord, help me to live by each of these and forgive me when I miss the mark…Refuel my efforts to be Your Light and Love in this dark world.  

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Five Verses to Comfort You When You are Grieving

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There’s an excitement in the air as we start a New Year, but for those negotiating the pain of grief, it’s a new year of facing more ‘firsts’ without your loved one.  If you find yourself in these shoes, I hope these verses will give you a hug and a bit of comfort.  You ARE going to make it, one step at a time.  Hang in there & know you are not alone.

  1. Hebrews 13:5b&6…..”be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] 6 So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?”   This scripture meant so much during my hardest days.  I love how it is translated in the Amplified. 
  2. II Corinthians 1:4 & 5 “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ”. Some of my greatest comfort came from friends who had walked through their own tunnel of darkness and they assured me, I’d be okay one day.  I am AND You will be too. 
  3. I Peter 5:7 “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
  4. Rev 21:4  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”  One day there will be no more death & no more pain!!! I look forward to that day that I’ll see my loved ones again!
  5. John 14:1 -3 ““Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house. If this were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. 3When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

In the meantime, cherish the good memories you have of your loved one.  Let go of any regrets you may have.  Hold on to God and His Words.

 

Have a Blessed 2018

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This morning we had a guest speaker at church.  He spoke on Ephesians 6:10-18 10Finally, be strong in the LORD and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the LORD’s people.

He held a real sword in his hand as he spoke.  Even though it’s was a real sword, he shared he uses it as a decoration in his home.  His point was that many of us use our Bible that same way…as a decoration…or I might add as an assessory to our lives.  But it….God’s Word….is meant to be our foundation and the central focus & guide of our lives.

It was a great challenge to me. once again, to search my heart and stand firm in His Word.

Father, help me put away the places where I conform to the WORLD and not to Your Word.  Show them to me, Lord, because I want to cling to Your truth.  May I hear your voice clearer than ever, may I stand firm in your mighty strength, and may I hunger afresh for You, and wield Your sword of truth unashamedly!  May I not turn back, but press forward in your Kingdom.  

Grief & The Holidays

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Philippians 4:8 (NLT) 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

The holidays are a wonderful season of celebration, but they are also a time of grief for many.  I remember vividly my first holidays as a widow. Each time I looked at the table, my husband’s empty chair brought heartache.  As the holidays approached, my sweet daughter-in-love recognized that pain.  While I was in another room, she turned my table a different direction and it made ‘his chair’ less obvious.  Do you know, that helped my heart?

The Choice

The second Christmas after my husband died, the holidays were almost as painful as the first.  I spent the night – Christmas Eve – with my kids and after the grandsons opened their gifts on Christmas morning, I rushed back home to prepare our Christmas dinner.

As I stood in the kitchen alone and began to peel the potatoes, a wave of grief hit.  My hubby had peeled the potatoes for the past several years, and at that moment, I felt his absence very keenly. The tears came, but as the wave began to envelope me, I felt God speak to my heart and say, “Pam, I know how hard this is but now it is time for you to pick yourself out of the ashes of grief and move forward.” It didn’t make me miss my husband any less but on that day I realized that I did have a choice in the matter.

I applied the scripture above and asked myself…”What are the good thoughts I can fix my mind on?” Oh my, I realized there were so many…how blessed I was to have spent almost 33 years with a good and faithful man who I loved and he loved me. How blessed I was to have two beautiful grandsons(four of them now)! How blessed I was to have a son and daughter-in-love that were committed to each other and to raising their family in a Christian home. How blessed I was to be financially taken care of.

On that Christmas morning when I made the choice to start praising God for what was right…and it was a sacrifice of praise because “me” wanted to nourish my hurt and dwell on the past years, but when the choice was made to praise Him, my heart responded with joy and the wave of grief subsided. Literally the turning point in my grief occurred at that moment with a choice based on faith, not on feelings. Was there more grief to walk through? Yes! But for the most part after that experience, when the wave of grief started to roll in, I turned it into a washing of His Word.  I don’t think I could have done that the first year…the pain was too all-encompassing.

It been fourteen years since my husband died. I still grieve on occasion,  and I’m sure I always will. But I know God wants us all to be over-comers and move forward when the worst of our grief has subsided.

Five Tips to Help Survive the Holidays

In the meantime, if you find yourself struggling, ask yourself “what can I do to make it easier to negotiate the days ahead?” Grief is real and it is hard but we can sometimes do a few things that make it a bit easier for us. Here are a few things that helped me.

  1. Be thankful for precious memories. James 1:2-3 reminds us to “Count it all joy when you go through trials and tribulations.” At one point, I started writing daily in a journal…often simple things like running water, plenty of food, family, friends. etc.
  2. Think of ways to celebrate your loved one.  The first Christmas I turned my husband’s favorite flannel shirts into a quilt for my son. It was painful to cut those shirts a part but it was also healing to see those pieces become a Keepsake. That gave me hope. .

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3. Cling to God and His Word…expecting Him to turn this pain into Glory.           Jeremiah 29:11 reminds me that “His plans for me are for good and not for evil to give me a future and a hope.”

4. Establish new traditions that bring joy. The third year my kids named the turkey (he was Ted and the fourth year he was named Jed!!!) Yes, they made a placard for him.  It was a delight to the grandsons and brought some much needed laughter.  Silly– but yet something different and a joy to the grandkids.IMG_2927

5. Keep something out in front of you to look forward to….lunch with a friend, or treat yourself to something you’d enjoy. Find other people that are walking where you are.  I found ladies in my Grief Share Class and we helped each other.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other and know that better days will come.

Isaiah 45:3 LT  And I will give your treasures hidden in the darkness–secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name. 

When It Seems There is “Not A Glimmer of Hope!” – Ten Rays of Hope to Light Your Way

 

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Jan never took a step or spoke a word.  She never used her hands, arms, or feet. Her vision was poor, and we were told she’d not live past three. She never sat up on her own, or read a book. She never chose her food, or ate ice cream, or drank through a straw.  She lived with much pain because her little body twisted & atrophied, but still she shed much love & joy into this world.  She had the inability to relax & life-long cried like an infant, but against all predictions, she lived to be twenty-eight years old. Her laughter and the twinkle in her eyes delighted all who knew her, and so did her abundant joy.  I am so privileged to call her my daughter and from her, God taught our family great life lessons.

“God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit.’ (Psalms 34:18)  I was crushed and broken by this tragedy yet God used it to teach me my greatest life lesson.  You see, I learned He keeps track of my sorrows, and collects ALL my tears in a bottle. He records each one of mine and Jan’s sorrows and tears in His book just as He does yours. (Psalm 56:8) WOW!

He’s given us a book full of directions – His Words – (The Manufacturer’s handbook) and I had to learn to believe those Words in-spite of what I was feeling and seeing and hearing.  I was feeling despair and hopelessness as our tragedy unfolded and I was also feeling extreme fatigue.  Jan cried night after night her whole life, so I was weary—body, soul, and spirit.  Her body grew in size, but she remained forever a 2 to 6 month old both mentally & physically forever.  I had to learn to choose to believe Him above our circumstances.

Ten Rays of Hope for a Dark Path

  1. He will never leave you or forsake you.
  2. He will work to your good everything, every event, every negative that comes into your life if you will believe what He says about it. (Pity Parties will only sink you-don’t ask how I know!) : )
  3. Learn what He says in scripture about #2 because Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ. Romans 10:17
  4. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (even this)Philippians 4:13
  5. My God Shall supply all your needs from His riches in glory, because of what Christ Jesus has done for you. Philippians 4:19
  6. For with God Nothing shall be impossible.  Luke 1:37
  7. You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit them together in my mother’s womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  It is amazing to think about.  Your workmanship is marvelous–and how well I know it.  You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion!  You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe.  Every day was recored in your Book!  How precious it is, to realize you are thinking about me constantly! Psalm139:13-18(This became my life scripture as well as my first husband’s as he was dying from cancer)
  8. I have created you and cared for you since you were born.  I will be your God through all your lifetime, yes, even when your hair is white with age.  I made you and I will care for you.  I will carry you along and be your Savior. Isaiah 46:3-4
  9. Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.  II Corinthians 10:5 KJ  ( I had to learn to cast out the thoughts and fears of ‘what if’s’!–I was a master of thinking what might happen(that’s imaginations!!!)
  10.  Always be full of joy in the Lord:  I say it again, rejoice!  Let everyone see that you are unselfish and considerate in all you do.  Remember that the Lord is coming soon.  Don’t worry about anything: instead, pray about everything: tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers.  If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.  His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.  And now, brothers, as I close this letter let me say this one more thing:  FIX your thoughts on what is true and good and right.  Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others.  Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and saw me doing, and the God of Peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9 (Our world, our homes, our lives would be changed totally if we lived by this one scripture)

Many years have come and gone since I was young and learning to walk this path of Faith.  At times,  I’ve again walked in anxiety and fear, but God has always gently directed me back to the walk of Faith & Trust. Walking with Him & trusting His Word has shed beautiful rays of light and given me hope in my darkest of nights.  And one day I will see Jan whole and healed!

One of my longest darkest nights with Jan, I wrote down the following words that I felt God spoke to my heart. May they bring you strength wherever you are walking today.   “My Child:  Wherever you find your feet treading today, there is One who has walked there too.  He left His home in Glory and “pitched His tent” among us so that He might walk this path with you.  He stands even now beside you, understanding your pain and suffering, having already nailed it to His Cross.  He says to you, my precious one—yes, you, the one who suffers now—on that day I hung on the cross, My mind was on you.  You see, I saw ahead to all the suffering through which you would tread, and I chose to go before you so that I could bear your burden today.  Because of the battle I fought that day, I triumphed over sin.  Now precious one—He says—Grab hold of My Words.  They are life to those who find them and health to their bones.  Grab hold, my child, open My Book….believe every Word because I wrote them with My blood for you.  There in, if only you believe, you will find Me to be your strength, your joy, your deliverance, your shield, your peace, your health, your comfort, and much, much more.  Grab hold….I will not forsake you if only you believe.”

 

 

Eight Tips for Weathering Grief – by Pam Taylor

fullsizeoutput_61f8I don’t propose to be an authority on grief, but I have suffered a lot of loss—including my brother in 2000, my sister in 2001, my husband in 2003, my daughter in 2006, and my mom in 2014, and I just lost my niece in 2017. Up until then, the biggest loss I’d had was my grandparents and then my dad in 1976.  I found I was ill prepared for the losses of the 2000’s.

Grief –  Deep sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death

Synonyms: sorrow, misery, sadness, anguish, pain, distress, heartache, heartbreak, torment, affliction, woe.

Many things bring grief. It’s a universal sign of being human, and it isn’t a weakness.  It’s the cost of loving deeply.  Many things bring grief—-a move, loss of health, loss of a job, financial loss, empty nest, divorce, infertility, changing churches, anything that brings loss of dreams,  Then there’s the loss of a beloved pet, a fire or flood that destroys your home, or a loss of a friendship. All of these things carry a season of grief.  I pray that reading these tips will help a tiny bit…if only for you to know you aren’t alone.  Many others have navigated these difficult waters.

Psalms 38:17 (The Message)  I’m on the edge of losing it—the pain in my gut keeps burning.   Psalms 31;9 (NIV) Be merciful to me, O Lord, For I m in distress: my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and y body

  1. Grief can bring physical responses.  You may experience physical exhaustion, sleeplessness, depression, uncontrollable tears at unexpected times, feelings of anxiety, or an inability to eat or the opposite, overeating.  Grief carries many emotions, and no two people grieve the same way.  Just know should some of these symptoms occur, you’re not going crazy, you’re grieving. During this period, I did get a good check-up to make sure there was nothing wrong, and I got B-12 shots for a season.  I also had an IV of vitamins because I was truly exhausted.  Those things did give me a little pick-me-up.
  2. Grief can bring an inability to concentrate. I would attempt to read a book and I’d have to keep re-reading.  I couldn’t retain it.  It took about a year before that passed.  My memory wasn’t great either. The taxes I did six months after my hubby died, I had absolutely no memory of  when the next tax season rolled around.  It was an eery feeling.  This is one of the reasons  they say, “Don’t make any major decisions the first year of grief.”
  3. Grief can Paralyze.  I found myself forgetting to eat at times.  I read a book by Elizabeth Elliot that helped me a lot—-she said, “Ask yourself what is the next thing you need to do?”  In her case, her husband had been murdered in a foreign country, and they had a small baby.  She’d ask herself the question and sometimes her answer was as simple as ‘feed the baby.”  For me, sometimes the answer was as simple ‘pay the electric bill’ or “eat.”  I found myself asking often, “Pam, what is the next thing you need to do?” Then I’d do it & ask myself the question again.  That helped me to function.
  4. Grief can bring a feeling of desperation. I wasn’t prepared  for that feeling and couldn’t understand it.  Then when I thought of the enormity of the gaps left by the loss of my husband, I understood why I felt that way.  It was an enormous loss. I learned I had to lean here:  Psalm 62:8 (NAS)Trust in Him at all times, O people:  Pour out your heart before Him.  God is a refuge for us.  AND know you are navigating grief.
  5. Grief brings Ambushes, over and over.  A song, a smell, a memory, a sight, an event, a holiday,  or something totally innocent can suddenly bring an unexpected wave of grief.   It helped me when I realized that it was an ambush, and I wasn’t going crazy.  I’d tell myself, “Well, that was another ambush!”  I still have ambushes ever once in awhile, and it’s been 14 years since my husband died.  They are a normal part of grief and loss.  Recognizing them & naming the episode helped me.
  6. Grieving can’t be rushed.  You’re healing from a great loss, and it will take time.  Precious memories will eventually become a reservoir of treasure and a salve for your heart. As you walk through this grief work, make the choice day by day to put one foot in front of the other and keep walking.  It feels you are in a dark tunnel now but one day, you’ll walk out of the tunnel into the light. So choose to press forward with baby steps each day!
  7. Grief is heavy -Keep something ahead to look forward  I dreaded Friday nights because my husband and I usually went out to eat.  It helped to have my toddler grandson spend that night with me, and I’d take him out for pizza. I looked forward to that all week. Often, I also planned lunch with a friend, or a small trip out of town to visit loved ones, attempting to keep a snippet of joy ahead of me.  I eventually went on some mission trips, after I’d healed about a year. I found all those things contributed to my healing because they made me focus on doing something and others…not on my self and my loss. Do try to keep something out in front of you to look forward to.  It will help you.
  8. Grief is not without Hope.  You’re forever changed, but God doesn’t leave us in a valley of despair without hope.  He will provide a means for you to cope with your grief.   Matthew 5:4(NIV)  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Jeremiah 29:11(NIV)  For I know the plans I have for you—plans to give you a hope and a future. (I clung to this. I chose to believe that God still had a plan for me though it felt my life was over!)   There are life lessons to be learned even in this journey of grief. 

NOTE of Warning: Do resist the tendency to make any major decisions that first year.  Keep your guard up. Only God and time bring healing.

  • Consider Grief Share Classes  Through this link you can locate a group near you.  Finding other widows helped me a lot. You can also subscribe on their site to a daily devotional. It’s a thirteen week course, and it isn’t a cry-fest!(Which is what I didn’t want–a bunch of sad people sharing sad stories!)  I took the class at least four times, maybe five.  It taught me a lot about grief and helped me.
  • Think on His Promises, Believe them, Draw comfort from His them.
  • Allow yourself to weep. I remember reading a book where a mom had buried two of her children within five years.  She’d just got in her room and have a cry time, to help herself work through it.  Then she’d get up and wash her face, and move forward.  I did that on occasion on a particularly sad day.  It’s your grief process, so learn what helps you.
  • Listen daily to uplifting music, no sad tunes!
  • Journal – write down your blessings, think about them….they are many. (As a young woman, my mother washed her clothes by hand. She hung them out on the clothes line.)  We have so many, many blessings!
  • Don’t get stuck in grief – deliberately work toward being whole again
  • Deal carefully with your loved ones material goods…you don’t want to too hastily make permanent decisions.  Quilts can be made out of shirts & T-shirts. Costume jewelry can be repurposed–even buttons can be used to make a keepsake…so can hand written items, recipes, etc.  These items could become treasures to hand down and bring joy later. (If you’re one that needs to get reminders out of site, consider boxing and labeling for later.)

2 Corinthians 1:4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 

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Ten Tidbits Learned in Life Eclipses!

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Eclipse – obscure or block out light – On Monday August 21 the moon will come between us and the sun and darken our world for a short time. Difficult life events also darken our worlds  for short seasons but sometimes it feels it will be  forever. Know it will truly only be for a season!

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Growing up on the farm, as fall approached, my mom and I stayed busy.  In the evening we sewed my back-to-school-dresses, and by day, we finished filling the freezer with whatever produce remained in the garden.  It was a very busy time of the year.

Now, each year as summer comes to a close, I find myself thinking on the past and remembering how life once was…..not only on the farm, but in my younger years as a wife and new mom.  AND I miss both times.  I also miss my loved ones so much….my dad, my sister Lynda, my brother Wayne, my sweet mother, my late hubby Mike, and my sweet daughter Jan.  The loss of each of those loved ones were among some of the greater ‘light obscuring events” in my heart.  But though I miss each of them greatly, I have learned much from that pain…from much pain does come much gain!  Here’s a few of the life lessons learned in my dark nights of loss.  I’d love it if you’d share some of your learned lessons too.

  1. God isn’t blindsided by ‘anything’ that has happened in your life, any choices you wish you hadn’t made, or any life events that ended the life you once knew! He knew and knows it all.  Psalm 139 (my life scripture)
  2. God can take “even this” (no matter what it is, even if it feels that only rubble remains) and work it to your good, and bring forth beauty!  Trust Him with “it”!
  3. Trust God to make a way where there seems to be no way.  He’ll do it!  You don’t need to figure out the ‘hows’!
  4. AND this too(whatever it is) shall pass….the pain will lessen with time, the darkness will pass, and from the scar, wisdom will grow if we see those scars in the Light of His Word.
  5. No matter how long the night is, joy does come in the morning.
  6. Remember, choosing to Praise Him in the midst of the darkness WILL set you free because God inhabits the praises of His people.  PSALM 22:3
  7. Choose to FORGIVE, both yourself and others. Unforgiveness with bind you up, forgiveness will set you free.  (Psalm 66:18)
  8. Remember, we can’t control what comes into our lives, but we can control how we react to it!( I had to learn to just-say-no to pity parties! AND I held quite a few)
  9. Choose to be content with whatever-your-lot-in-life is, and do that which you can do.  God will do that which you can’t.
  10. AND Realize that in the life of the Christian, the best is truly yet to be!  This life, in the context of Eternity, is just a tiny dot in space.  Eternity, healing, and the joy of  what the “no more tears’ encompasses awaits us! Praise the Lord!

Life’s Eclipses, big and small, are stepping stones to growth and will make us better, unless we allow them to make us bitter.  God so desires to take all of our pain, our suffering, and our tragedy and work it to our good.  Only we can hand Him the broken pieces and trust Him with to create blessing!  It is a choice to hand Him those pieces!

Psalm 139:16    You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Romans 8:28   And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

 Jan&daddy
August 22, 2017 it will be 14 years since Mike’s Home going.  Feb 14 of 2018, it’ll be 12 years since Jan joined him. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long.  This pic brings joy and sweet memories to my heart!  
And my dad, has been gone 41 years, my brother Wayne 17, Lynda 16, and Mother 3..  So thankful that I still have my brother Jerry. 
~MAP0000_3
As I write this,  I know some of you are going through your own ‘dark’ seasons.  It may be loss, it may be a shocking diagnosis, or an unexpectedly road block. I wish I could hug you and tell you it’ll be okay.   Just know you are loved, and turn your eyes upon Jesus, (please click on this link and listen) look full in His wonderful face, and the things of the world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His Glory and Grace. .

Blessings to you!

A New Kind of Normal

People often ask “what do you eat‘ since our major treatment for John’s heart disease is our diet.  We’ve researched a lot, talked to specialists in Houston, Cleveland, and Tulsa, and have gradually eased into our new way of eating.  In the year and a half since we began this life style change, John’s health has stabilized and his doctor’s say “keep doing what you are doing.”  John is grade-school skinny but that makes it easier on his heart.

We certainly aren’t experts but from what we have gleamed, it seems there are four major things that play very important roles in our health:

  • Exercise
  • Diet(included in this smoking, drugs, or alcohol)
  • Stress
  • Genes

John’s family has no history of heart disease and he’s never smoked nor drink alcohol. He was, however, exposed to second-hand smoke the first nineteen years of his life because his parents both smoked.  He also worked forty years at a very high stress job (where he was called out also in the middle of the night) and he wasn’t the healthiest of eaters either.  He recalls coming home one night after a long stressful shift.  Tired and hungry, he grabbed the first thing he could find…his dinner was a whole bag of croutons. Sometimes when his days were the busiest, he worked straight through with no stops for meals other than something quickly grabbed from a vending machine….so for him, two of the above four things were out of whack in his life.

For most of us, our world and how we eat has changed drastically over the years. so even when we’re trying to eat correctly, it’s difficult.  When I was a girl, most of our food came from our garden. In the summer it was fresh, in the winter it was from our frozen and canned stash, minus the preservatives of today.  Our meat was from our own grass-fed beef and in the early years our milk and butter were too.  Seldom did we have cheese or any processed foods.  In fact, I guess corn flakes, raisin bran, saltine crackers, peanut butter, white flour, and sugar are all I recall.   We never ate out, or picked up fast food as many in our generation do today.  The stage has gradually been set for more and more disease as our foods have become less and less nutritious.

I don’t propose to have all the answers but what John and I have done has changed our lives for the better.  We don’t do our diet perfectly or as well as some other extremely committed people, but I think we do pretty well.  AND It makes sense that if we are careful what gasoline we put in our cars and are faithful to change the oil every so many miles, shouldn’t we be more diligent about what we put into the bodies God has given us?  If we can’t pronounce the list of ingredients in something, chances are our bodies don’t need it and probably can’t use it effectively either.

That brings me to this, before John’s health crisis, I thought I ate well.  I’ve seen people take a dose of vitamins with a candy bar lunch.  I’d never do that.  I’ve seen people eat a whole bag of cookies or chips or a carton of ice cream at a time, but I’d never do that. I baked with butter and cooked with olive oil because I thought that was healthy.  I never skipped meals. BUT when I had my blood work done and my carotid arteries checked, it showed a forty-five percent blockage in my neck and blood work showed several high risk heart markers along with high cholesterol.  I needed to change some things too.  So with John’s situation only treatable with diet, and mine needing to change directions, we embarked on a plant-based diet….no oil, no dairy, no eggs, no meat. (“The China Study”, “Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease”, ” Forks Over Knives” the documentary(which can be watched online),  “Eat to Live,” “What the Health”(documentary),etc give info on why we choose plant-based eating)

So what does a Southern girl who has twenty plus well-worn cook books and forty-five years of learned recipes, filled with all the before-vegan-ingredients, re-learn how to cook and eat?  VERY SLOWLY!

For those who keep asking how we do it, this is for you.  We can have almost any veggie, fruit, or bean…as much as we’d like, though we have to major on the veggies, not the fruit. (Note: John isn’t supposed to have avocado or nuts because the ‘no oil’ is what is helping to reverse his heart disease.)

What do we eat?  I pick up the two ingredients pictured below at Sam’s and keep them on hand. I do this when we travel also. I buy fresh veggies and fruit a few times a week and try to always have a couple fresh bunches of Kale on hand.  I steam the kale and we eat it with our meals. or snack on it through out the day.  It is filled with vitamins, often called a super food. With the two tubs of ingredients below, I can always make a wonderful salad quickly.  I vary what I put in them but typically I’ll throw in a handful of shredded carrots, sliced mango (when it’s in season), chopped sweet peppers, cucumbers, shredded zucchini, segments of cuties, craisins, pumpkin seeds, edamami (thawed), black beans, or garbonzo’s etc. The more multi-colored stuff I can throw in, the more vitamins I feel we’re getting. Sometimes I’ll use shredded broccoli, some times I’ll chop an apple and toss it in along with a little lime juice.  I love adding fresh blue berries or sliced strawberries.  I’ll use a little of the dressing from the “Sweet Kale package” for myself sometimes but I’m learning to toss it and make my own oil free.  I make John’s dressing or use a vinaigrette (he eats no oil at all). With all the ingredients in the salad, you really don’t need much dressing and there are lots of great no oil dressing recipes out there.   I also have a recipe for just a straight kale salad(it’s at the end of this blog)that we fix and enjoy.  Different programs say eat at least 2 lbs of veggies a day….this puts us in the ball park of eating that much.

IMG_4069IMG_4070I use a lot of the Muir Glen products.  I buy their big cans of crushed tomatoes and use it in soups and sauces. One of our favorites soups (particularly in the winter)is tortilla soup with taco seasoning, canned corn, a big can of crushed tomatoes, one can rotel tomatoes, black beans, kidney beans, pintos, and one small can chopped olives.  It’s great. Some days we’ll have it as soup, some times over rice, and sometimes over a baked potato.  We’ll throw steamed kale in our bowl–chopped fine, and John will top it with a variety of hot sauces. This is a great recipe to toss the ingredients in the crockpot before church on Sunday morning.

IMG_4071I make brown rice often in the Instant Pot, baked potatoes, both white and sweet potatoes.  I make hummus often from garbanzo beans and keep plenty of fresh veggies to dip in it.  I use canned, no fat refried beans to make a variety of mexican dishes.  That takes care of our craving for Mexican foods. : ) I also cook a variety of dried beans from scratch but I also keep cans of black beans, garbanzo beans, pintos, and kidney beans. They can be washed with water and drained and thrown on the salads for protein or used in numerous plant-based recipes.  Seasonings are key in cooking with no oil. I’ve broadened the seasonings I use a lot.  I make curried rice (recipe from the Forks Over Knives Reversing Heart Disease book) and a variety of casseroles, lasagna’s,etc.  John cooks a killer stir fry and we’re still learning new recipes.  Here are pics of a couple of our meals.  We love mango with our curried rice as you can see below.

IMG_0006IMG_0011We steam lots of veggies.  We’ve learned to love corn on the cob with nothing on it.  AND we love fresh green beans with veggie broth, onion powder, garlic powder, and pepper. Below, you can see the kale salad with the grapes, pasta, and shredded carrots.  YUM!

IMG_1486IMG_0060We’re also asked often “what do you eat for breakfast.?”   Our answer, “OATMEAL!”   IMG_1472Gone are the days of donuts or McDonald’s sausage biscuits…two of my favorites!  It’s replaced with raw oatmeal (the regular, not minute)  We have a big container filled with oatmeal with a scoop in it.  We place a couple scoops of the dry oatmeal in a bowl, add a TB of chia seed, one TB of pumpkin seeds(Pepita’s raw), and lots of fruit.  John uses mostly berries, frozen or fresh.  I cut up half a banana and throw on a few almonds. Then we pour unsweetened almond milk over that.  It’s’s great, and sticks with you.  You can have cooked oatmeal too…this is just what we eat.  There are tons of recipes for a variety of healthy breakfasts available but we’ve gotten accustomed to this and it is what we typically have.  We travel with our container of oatmeal too.  : )

Below is a picture of a bowl of steamed kale.  I pull the leaf off the stem and discard the stem, chop the kale, and then steam it for about 6 of 7 minutes.  We’ve tried a variety of seasonings but have found we like it best plain.  We’ll walk by and eat a handful (by itself) or serve it on our plate along side what we are already eating.  When we first tried to eat kale, we didn’t like the bitter flavor, but once we chose to eat it for its health benefits…we developed a taste for it and now enjoy it.  Interesting, isn’t it? The picture next to the kale is of one of our salads.

IMG_0496IMG_1516So for those who wanted to know how we eat, hopefully you have a better idea.  When we travel or don’t have a salad bar near, Subway is one of our go-to places…veggie subs are really good(on whole wheat bread of course). (And by the way, I’m sure subway’s bread has oil and isn’t 100% legal but this is how we live)  We have practically all their veggies (asking they go heavy on the spinach), and double the cucumbers and tomatoes. I top mine off with a tiny bit of sweet onion dressing.  It does have sweetener so I go very light on it. John skips dressing or better still just gets a salad instead of the sandwich.  (If we’re traveling, I taken my own hummus with me and used it as my condiment on the bread.)  Also when traveling, we are excited when we find a Chipotle Grill.  It works well. Some Chinese Mongolian grills work for us too.  Some do use oil on their grill so you have to be careful.  We also love to fix a salad at Whole Foods (if we are near one when we are on the road) and traveling by car.  If in the RV, we bring our own veggies. : )  I also use the App “Happy Cow” to look for vegan places if we are on the road.

I do hope this sheds some light on our way of eating.  It takes some learning and trial and error but the benefits are well worth the efforts. If you’re interested, “Forks Over Knives” and Engine 2’s web sites have a wealth of info. So does Dr. McDougal’s web site.  I love the FatFreeVegan’s blog a lot too.  She has a wealth of delicious recipes and quite a few that I use regularly.  Also I have found several recipes here….Oh She Glows   and here BRAND NEW VEGAN. I’ll also share a few of my favorite recipes Mexican Lasagna, Favorite Lasagna, Pasta Fagioli, and Sweet Potato Lasagna.  I also love to make a burrito type casserole with refried beans, black beans, and seasoning of red bell pepper and plus garlic, cumin, and chili powder.

Below is our favorite salad recipe, its keep very well in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days.  It took a lot of trial and error to come up with these recipes and links to blogs, but they’re all good.  Hope it helps you on your journey too.  It was very overwhelming at first for me so don’t get discouraged.  Find what works for you. After all, I was a mayonaise, butter, and bacon loving gal.

Quinoa Kale Salad  

-kale, snipped or torn into small pieces –

cooked and cooled quinoa(I’ve used the quinoa pasta)

-lemon zest and fresh lemon juice

-shredded carrot (optional) -craisins – raw sunflower seeds -red grapes, each grape cut in half -(optional) small amount brown sugar in a little bit of warm/hot watIMG_5200.JPGer If you use it for the dressing, dissolve some sugar in the hot water and whisk thoroughly to dissolve. Set aside to cool a little.

Place kale in large bowl. Combine freshly squeezed juice with sugar mixture if you use it. Pour juice only or juice/sugar mixture over washed and chopped kale- massage it in until it coats the kale thoroughly. Add in quinoa and toss thoroughly. Add in grapes and raisins and zest and carrot. Toss again. If you use them, dust with sunflower seeds before serving.  This is so good!

I’m so thankful there are so many resources available to help us all on our journey.   Hope this helps you a bit too. Blessings to you.

Additional Notes to help you: Applesauce is a substitute for oil in baked goods.  1 TB spoon of ground flax seed with 3 TB water is a substitute for eggs in baking.  Nutritional Yeast is high in B-12 and gives things a cheesy flavor. I sprinkle it on a lot of our casserole dishes. We saute veggies in vegetable broth, using non-stick pans.  I make our own bread often but have also found a brand named “Dave’s.  We buy it at Sprouts but you do have to read the list of ingredients on Dave’s. One of theirs has oil but most don’t. Avoid all white refined products like flour, pasta, bread, or sugar.  Choose whole wheat instead.  Most pastas, spaghetti and lasagna come in whole wheat.  I substitute honey, or maple syrup for sugar and use frozen bananas often for sweetener too.  Frozen bananas, thrown in the food processor with frozen fruit makes a delicious “Nice Cream.” It fills our need for ice cream, gives us a couple of servings of our fruit, and is nutrition filled.

Also contemplate Daniel 1: 11-14

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
― Hippocrates

RETURN TO SMOKY MOUNTAINS

In 2012, John and I visited the Smoky Mountains on our first anniversary.  We stayed in the Buck Horn Inn, a picturesque Bed and Breakfast, in the foothills of Gatlinburg.  We loved the area and hoped to go back one day.

When Brett and Angie mentioned they’d love to take an RV trip to the Smoky Mountains and invited us along, we said, “Yes.” And on Mother’s Day of 2016 we headed out in our RV’s on a new adventure.  John hadn’t felt well in the previous weeks so it was another trip taken by faith and bathed in prayer. Among our health challenges, eating healthy on the road is one of our hardest. For John, it’s a matter of life and death & when you don’t eat oil or processed foods, often there aren’t many choices available.

So we always take along our healthy foods, including our trusty kale, but we love it when we find a healthy place to eat along the way.  We spent our first night boon docking at a Walmart in Jackson, Tennessee. We found a Jason’s Deli near by so we were thrilled to be able to eat out. Their salad bar is always awesome.

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Along the way, we can always find a Subway. In fact, Subway is our best friend when we travel because we can order whole grain bread loaded with spinach and plenty of other veggies.(cucumbers, bell pepper, pickles, & tomatoes)  That does get old after awhile though.  : )

Monday night we arrived at our camp ground in Gatlinburg.  It was a quaint little park, Camp LeConte Luxury Resort, complete with Clamping areas. (Clamping is a new term for me)

Tuesday we headed to the park for our first day of adventure.  It was a beautiful Spring day. I’ll share some of the beautiful sites along the way.

We drove to the top of Clingman’s Dome and the weather was in the fifties. we loved the scenes but didn’t last long with the temps.  Can you tell we were cold?

My friend, Judith Hilbun, told me of a stop she thought we’d enjoy while in the Gatlinburg area…Parrot Mountain…we took this little side trip the second day of our visit.  Can’t wait to share these bird pictures. This little paradise area is filled with scriptures and beauty and parrots and birds from all over the world. Several of the parrots talked and waved hello and bye!

In my attempt to document our adventure, I’m over loading you with pictures!  One more I have to share is our visit to Bubba Gumps.  We ate there on our anniversary before we were Plant Strong and didn’t think we’d be able to eat there again.  BUT we were thrilled when we found a mushroom burger on their menu(I looked at their online menu & called to make certain) and John was able to order broccoli as his side. He normally doesn’t eat avocado so that was a cheat.  It was a delicious burger.

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So thankful for the fun we had.  We ended our trip with one more night of fun at Hot Springs.

img_3374-2Angie snapped this picture of our last evening. THANK YOU, LORD, for another opportunity to enjoy Your creation. Thank you, Brett and Angie, for traveling with us and making it so much fun.  Angie, thanks for your creative Owlbert Snap Chats.  I feel I should have his picture here. : )  (Owl-bert is a little puppet..for those wondering)

 

2015 Cookie Exchange

Another Christmas season is upon us.  Our Memory Tree is loaded with my collection of ornaments….it may resemble a Griswold tree to some, but I love every precious memory it contains.  : ) The manger scenes are out and the garlands hung.  That means among many things,’it’s time for another cookie exchange.”

I hosted my first cookie exchange in 1980.  At that time, I was doing a program with my handicapped daughter that involved (over a period of two years) one-hundred-twenty patterners (Yes, 120 precious ladies!)  who helped my family to do a very intense program with my daughter, Jan.

I wanted to do something to honor them, so on a cold December afternoon in 1980 around fifty ladies arrived with their cookies-in-hand to celebrate our shared task….cheering Jan on to achieve her potential. Slipped in with the Christmas Carols that day a Gaither song played in the background on our old eight track stereo.  The lyrics were “I am a promise, I am a possibility, I am a promise, with a captital P, I am a promise to be exactly what God wants me to be.” Some of you will remember that “I Am a Promise”melody. : )

I remember the fun of those days and the wonderful break that party gave that tired young mom as she saw all those ladies who were “Jan’s Clan” come together to celebrate. They were old and young, all volunteering to help me and Jan have a better life.  Many of you are still friends on Facebook and I send you a big hug and say thank you for all you gave to the Whitley family at a critical time in our lives.  I still pull out recipes from those by-gone-days and think lovingly of the ladies who brought those sweet treats.  They blessed me more than they’ll ever know.

Though I’ve skipped years for one reason or another in hosting the exchange, I added it back to my traditions five years ago, at a time when every known normal in my life had changed.  And once again, it has been a great blessing to my life.  One of His Tender mercies—coming together with friends, laughing, and sharing our memories, our faith, and our sweet treats.  Count me blessed!

jan-jan's clan shirt

One of the few pictures taken at the 1980 Cookie exchange.