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.

Learning to Live

by Pam Whitley Taylor

DSC_0465John received what seemed a death sentence in March of 2014.  A failed bypass surgery (CABG) left him more blocked than prior to surgery.  The diagnosis was Intimal Hyperplasia and all his cardiologist could offer was “I’m so, so sorry.”  Prayer, research and friends and, did I say prayer, led us to radically change our diet.  And here we are over four years later,  and we are still enjoying life and following our specialized way of eating.  It has been quite the learning experience.  

Many of you have read “A New Kind of Normal” on my blog as well as other posts about our new normal.  This road isn’t easy and gone are hamburgers, fries, steaks, and cheese cake (and many other things)….all replaced with fresh food, and nothing processed. Gone is the oil from our pantry as well as the butter, bacon, milk, mayonaise, and eggs from our refrigerator. And gone are most of my known and well loved & once often fixed recipes of my past.  Yes, I miss them on occasion, but having John still enjoy life is worth much more than my old learned ‘foodie’ loves!   

John has angina and hurts everyday.  When a front moves through or the humidity is high, he hurts more.  But following a recent Angiogram, the cardiologist told us, “Your pump is pristine!”  He, in fact, told us that he was amazed at how well John’s heart is working…as radically blocked as it is.  He said his heart has found a way to get the oxygen it needs and that his diligence and diet are key.  He even asked if we are able to eat out, and when we said “yes”, he wanted to know “where and what”. You see, he’s had a heart attack himself and has had stents placed.  He told us that most patients aren’t willing to change their life style but rather want him to find a fix.  He commended John for ‘owning’ (The Doc’s words) his disease and doing what it takes to live. 

All of this I tell you because we’re so thankful that John is still here and still able to enjoy life and I want to encourage you, no matter what you are facing, to hang in there.  Give it all you have, do your best, and God will be with you every step of the way.

Twelve Tips To Add More Life to Your Years

  • Feed your Soul & Spirit often with His word
  • Feed your body with whole foods daily – i.e. fruits, veggies(frozen or fresh), and legumes. (Sweet potatoes & white potatoes are great sources of vitamins too.)
  • Feed your body oatmeal or whole grains, skip sugary cereals or doughnuts. Heighten the taste of oatmeal or other whole grain cereal with berries & other fruit..chopped apple & dates or raisins are great adds ins.(We buy big bags of frozen blueberries at Sam’s)
  • Feed your body with at least 60 ounces of water a day.
  • Feed your body with Exercise – even a brisk daily walk is helpful
  • Feed your body with healthy snacks such as dried fruit, frozen grapes, or air popped popcorn.
  • Feed your body greens everyday: broccoli, kale, swiss chard, spinach, etc to name a few.
  • Consider leaving off dairy, including all cheeses, sour cream, parmesan, butter, margarine, & cream or any food that has these liquid fats as ingredients. Don’t cook with them either.
  • Consider leaving off white flour products, sugar, and & eggs. That includes cakes, pies, & candy bars. : (
  • Consider a meatless meal at least once a week – beans in a crock pot with veggie broth and seasonings is a delicious main dish served over brown rice. Eat smaller portions of meat.
  • Consider sautéing with veggie broth and leaving off the oil, including olive oil, canola, and coconut oil.
  • Consider ditching all processed foods from your cupboard – this includes all kinds of chips.

Healthy eating is key, and I’m still learning.  Let’s give our bodies the best fuel we can—body, soul, and spirit—and make the most of our appointed number of days.

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God of This City

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In 2009, I moved from my home in OKC to be near my son and his family. I’d lived in the OKC area since my early twenties, so it was a huge move for me. I left my friends and started over totally in a new community.  A few Sundays after I’d arrived, I sat in my kid’s church wondering how long it would take to settle into this new life, this new city,  and a new church…etc.  I felt broken and ‘used up’ and I wondered if God could use me here.  As I sat in the service, the choir sang “God of This City.”   The words pierced my heart, and the tears flowed.  I tried to look very inconspicuous as the floodgate of emotion splashed down my face onto my Bible.  God’s presence was sweet, and His encouragement strong.  AND I knew He wasn’t through with me yet and yes, He’d use me in Owasso, Oklahoma too….me, who was a broken & marred vessel, but one that still belonged to Him.  And on that day the music minister told the story of the writing of that song, and I was so touched that I came home and researched it. I found a link to the story on UTUBE.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXh_tgjnYJw  You’ll be blessed, too, if you watch it. Please listen to the whole thing.  This song was given/written in a brothel in the midst of a town & a place that seemed hopeless. Perhaps you’re also going through a time of brokenness, or a health crisis, or perhaps someone you know is….and maybe you think God is finished with you?  Guess what…if you’re still breathing, he’s still at work and He’s still the God of ‘where-ever-you-are’ and He loves you.

 

Hope For the Aching Heart

There are many things that cause a heart to ache…and grieving the loss of a loved one is certainly a huge one.  Many times the holidays trigger that ache.  If you find yourself grieving, and possibly feeling alone, take comfort in these 3 reminders.

1. You absolutely aren’t alone.  Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  

2. Rejoice in the fact that you will see your loved ones again.  I Thessalonians 4:13 -14 LB 13 And now, dear brothers, I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those are who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again, we can also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him all the Christians who have died. (I look so forward to that day…don’t you?)

3. Allow God to take control of your pain by choosing to focus on your blessings. 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 life, about others, about whatever I’m dealing with on a given day.  My flesh has a tendency to focus on what isn’t right and what is hard and hurtful but we can take charge of that!  I remember preparing  a holiday meal after my husband died, and as I peeled the potatoes for  lunch, a wave of grief (an ambush) started rolling in.  You see, my husband usually peeled the potatoes for holiday events to help me…at that moment I chose to praise God for all the years I’d had that Godly man standing beside me and I chose to focus on how blessed I’d been….suddenly a melancholy moment turned into a worshipful moment, rather than one that would have left me devastated.

One of the longest & darkest weeks of my life, I’d listened to scripture tapes hour after hour and day after day as I clung to God.  In fact, I had ear plugs on and the tape clipped to my side. My daughter was deathly sick, and I was beyond exhausted and I didn’t know if she’d live or die.  On one long night, God gave me the following thoughts and I grabbed a pencil and jotted them down.   May they bring you strength and comfort, too, wherever you are walking today, just as they did me some twenty years ago.

“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.”

In the meantime, take great joy that there is a day coming where…..Revelations 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.”  

 

Ministering to the Grief Stricken

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I’m far from being an expert at ministering to those who are grieving, but I can share things that ministered to me in my journey as well as other’s stories.

Make Yourself Available and continue to do so. Sometimes because people don’t know what to say, they avoid those who are grieving. Unfortunately the grieving person already may feel alone.  For them, it feels that the world of others has continued as normal, but it may feel their world has stopped.  Their lens is totally focused on their loss & the severity &  pain of it, and the gettin’ through it. So don’t be an avoider. Instead purposefully make yourself available. Sit with that grieving person, love on them, cry with them, and don’t try to solve their pain. Just walk beside them and listen.

Don’t offer empty words. Consider not saying words like this, “I know just how you feel.”(you don’t, no matter how many losses you’ve had)  or “They are better off”(if they’ve suffered in sickness) or “God took them for a reason.” or “They’re in a better place now.” Those statements may be true, but for the grieving heart, it doesn’t lessen their pain.  I’ve been guilty of saying those things myself, because the desire to do something is great, and we feel so helpless.  Lord, remind me instead of giving advice, to hold their hand quietly, let them talk, and walk thru their pain with them.   Help us to think ahead to what we will say before we visit…perhaps “I’m so sorry.” is a good start, or “I know you miss them so much.”

Look for areas of need.  I’m reminded of actions that really ministered to me during my most painful season.  A neighbor inquired about what I was wearing to my husband’s funeral.  I told her I’d bought a dress, but I’d never had time to hem it. She responded, “I’ll be right over.” She measured me for length quickly, and took that dress, and hemmed it. I wore it to the funeral. Lord, help us to look for places where we can meet needs.

My late husband and I’d moved to a new town and a new church a couple of years before his illness, but he was to be buried in our old community. Two dear friends offered to host a funeral meal at our home. They catered it. Once again, that helped so much because it afforded out of town guests to not have to find yet another unknown address and allowed us to all be together in the comfort of my home.  Help us, Lord, to be thoughtful like these two friends.

Another friend who’d been through a major loss herself, asked permission to take me to pick up my husband’s death certificate.  When the funeral home called, I knew what to do. I called her, and she graciously took me pick it up, taking a way a bit of the sting.

Other things that ministered to me, in the loss of my husband, two business partners e-mailed me beautiful letters of what my husband’s expertise had meant to them.  One detailed what he’d meant to their company. Other friends sent notes….some continued to do so for months.  Following the loss of my daughter, people sent precious letters about how their lives were blessed & touched by her, many giving specifics.  I still have those treasured words saved in an album of remembrances. Written words, notes, and cards with scriptures tucked in are wonderful and can come on a day when the person needs it most.

Bear in mind that grief is ongoing for a long time, not that it’s ever totally finished.  That’s why it is so exhausting.  In the beginning, grievers awake daily to face more firsts, and wonder ‘how-to’ deal with them.  One of mine was my first out-of-town-trip where I’d return to an empty home.  My sweet daughter-in-love had a key to my home and recognized that as a painful first.  She printed out pictures of my grandsons and sayings like “Welcome home, Mimi.” and put them on the door going into the house from the garage, and then on the next couple of doors I’d pass when I returned.  I still have them fifteen years later. That took a painful situation and put a smile on my face because it touched my heart so deeply.  Lord, help us to be alert to firsts that we might be able to make a bit easier. Here are a few of the hardest first but the list is endless!

  • Monthly the date of the death – it marks how long it’s been
  • First year Anniversary of the death of the beloved
  • Birthday of the beloved
  • All major holidays

Another memory that comes to mind, when my late husband’s father was unexpectedly killed in a car wreck, our son was in Jr. High. Our youth pastor picked him up, and took him to dinner and a movie.  Again, a major help. Lord, help us to be alert and aware of tangible needs.

And one of the dearest things that anyone did for me follows:  In the seventies when I was a newly wed, I moved from Mississippi to Oklahoma.  My best friend, Celia, and I wrote regularly.  She married and moved overseas for a season and we continued to write.  My writings revolved around my early years of marriage and the birth of my first child. Celia saved those letters and when my husband died 33 years later, she mailed them back to me.  What an amazing, amazing blessing! A

The needs for each griever are unique.  If they have out-of-town guests coming, perhaps they need bedrooms readied, food cooked, and possibly the house cleaned, When my father-in-law died in the car wreck, I still remember the easy-to-bake breakfast casserole that was brought in. It was a life saver the next morning when I had a house full of quests. Also, for many people the added expense connected with the death is draining. That’s a whole other area of need that we need to be alert to.  Lets ask God to prompt our hearts to recognize needs.

As I ponder other ‘helps for the grieving” I recall two stories that John has shared over the years.  One he read in Reader’s Digest as a young man.  The story went something like this….a neighbor who lived next door to a grieving family, knocked on their door the day before the funeral, and asked permission to shine their shoes. They located their shoes,  he took them, shined them all, and quietly left them lined up.  Many years later, that family still remembered his kind and thoughtful act and wrote about it.  The other story is of a four year old child who lived next door to an elderly man whose wife had recently died. When he saw the elderly gentleman in the yard crying, he went and climbed into his lap and just sat there.  When his mother asked later what he said to their neighbor he responded, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”  That must have been a healing salve for that old man’s heart and is such a great example for us. Sometimes just allowing someone to know how much we care is the best help we can give.

I suspect every person reading this has gone through tremendous grief. Would you be willing to share what memory remains in your heart today, perhaps years after the event, that was a salve for you? We could all learn from that blessing of help and perhaps do the same for someone else.

For the Grief Stricken

I know four families that are experiencing deep-in-the-heart pains this week. John and I lay awake til four a.m one night thinking of them….praying for them and discussing ‘how hard’ the ‘hards’ of life are.  I tried to compose a letter in my head to them, thinking what I’d say if I could sit with them & visit.  Tears came, more than words.

Today, I’ve continued to ponder, “what could I say to help”  and I’ve attempted to piece together some of my-lessons-learned in my past journey called grief.

  • I know there are no easy shortcuts to heal from these huge hurdles/losses.
  • I also know that healing comes gradually and so does strength & insight.
  • I know these ‘hard places’ change us….we’ll never be the same but are FOREVER changed.
  • But I also know there is purpose and learning in this pain because God promised that He would work to our good what Satan meant for our evil/our downfall.
  • And I know that one day we will see and understand it all.  These are words Joseph spoke to his brothers who sold him into slavery…Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

That said, how do you negotiate this time today, when your eyes feel like leaky faucets and your heart hurts so much that you struggle for that next breath?  What do you do? Here are a few things I learned.

  1. Know you aren’t alone. It helped me to visit with someone who had experienced a similar loss to mine. You’ll want to find someone who has allowed God to work their pain for good and their focus is on God & clinging to Him. Otherwise, you may get drug down by their grief.
  2. Know you are going to have “ambushes”!  AMBUSH – Webster’s definition is “to make a surprise attack on someone from a concealed position.”  I didn’t know what to call those ‘surprise attacks’ at first.  They happened often and I’d dissolve into tears.  I recall being in Mc’Donald’s, of all places—only hours after my sister died— and a timer alarmed for their FRIES!  It sounded just like the alarms sounded when my sister’s oxygen dropped.  AMBUSHED!  After my husband died, I was in the grocery store and reached for his favorite snack ~ AMBUSHED again!  Those ambushes still occur ever once in awhile, but when my grief was fresh,  I never knew when I was going to be ‘shot’ and leveled by grief!  I learned to give those experiences a name and recognize them as a part of the journey of grief. I learned to let the tears flow and embrace the ambush! Dear one, know that ambushes will be a part of your life for quite some time, but they will lessen. Take comfort in this promise, Psalm 56:8 (NLT) You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.
  3. Know that Grief paralyzes.  When my husband died, there were many things that had to be taken care of…the death certificate had to be filed, the estate had to be probated, etc.  I muddled through most of it but it was the everyday things I struggled with the most.  I’d forget to eat. I couldn’t’ read a book…I tried…but I couldn’t concentrate.  It took me over a year for my concentration to come back. One thing that helped—–someone sent a poem that had helped Elizabeth Elliot survive her loss. She and her husband, Jim, had been overseas for only a short time when Jim and four other young missionaries were murdered. Elizabeth was in a foreign country with a new baby. Some one gave her the poem and in the midst of her anguish, one line stood out to her. It said simply, Do the next thing. She asked herself, What is the next thing I need to do? In her case, it was change her baby. I found myself asking this question of myself daily, sometimes several times within the hour.  At times, the answer was as simple as, Pam, you need to eat, or you need to pay the electric bill. So if you find yourself having trouble functioning, try asking that question of yourself.  “What is the next thing I need to do?” God will show you. Psalms 34:18 NIV The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
  4. Know that Grief may bring a feeling of desperation.  I felt very anxious and even desperate at times, and I thought something was wrong with me. Was I going crazy too? Later I recognized that was also an emotion of grief.  After all, I was struggling to come to grips with being suddenly single and alone. My heart was overwhelmed with a multitude of broken dreams & so many spaces were left empty in my life that I didn’t know how to proceed without my other half. That feeling of desperation slowly passed as I learned to walk in my new norm. If you are feeling that anxiety, recognize it’s understandable to experience it for a season. Someone else may not understand it unless they’ve gone thru it, but be assured the LORD understands and says in Psalm 62:8 NAS Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.
  5. Know that everyone Grieves differently.  Some go through anger, some go through depression,  and others go through guilt,…for me it was an extreme sadness, a broken hearted sadness. The important thing is to recognize there are many emotions of grief and know that everyone, even those under the same roof, may grieve differently.  An example: my mom always wanted to surround herself with the pictures of who’d she’d loss.  It brought her comfort.  I couldn’t bear to have pictures in front of me. It brought me pain.  Her way was okay, and my way was okay for me too, just different.  Learn what brings you comfort.
  6. Know that Grief is exhausting & truly is heavy! Don’t be surprised if you find yourself so exhausted that you think something is wrong with your health.  I did see a doctor and chose to take B-12 shots for awhile.  That helped. Psalm 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 am in distress: my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief.
  7. Know that Grief can’t be rushed.  Others may attempt to rush you in your grief, thinking you should be over it within a few weeks or months. You will never be totally over it because you’ve been changed forever.  Thankfully though, the huge hole in your heart will gradually mend and the extreme sadness will go away. Your precious memories and lessons learned will become a reservoir of treasure and a salve for your hurt. One day that hurt will be a means to reach out to others. In the meantime, continue choosing day by day to put one foot in front of the other and keep on walking forward.  II Corinthians 1:3-4 NAS Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
  8. Know this is a season to take care of yourself and to be gentle with yourself. I found in the first year of my loss, I functioned better if I kept things planned that I could look forward to. It could be as simple as lunch with a friend, or taking my grandchildren to McDonalds, but it helped. I chose to be deliberate about moving forward.  Isaiah 41:10 NLT Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
  9. Know there is life after loss. When I entered my valley, it was like walking through a long dark tunnel, believing that I’d eventually see the light on the other side.  If I’m truthful with you, deep down I wondered if I’d ever feel whole again or be content. By faith, I kept walking. Today, I can say I’m content and embrace life again.  You’ll get there too. God hasn’t left us in this valley of despair without hope. He does provide the means necessary to cope with grief and to come through that tunnel and be whole again.  There is a reason it is often called, “Grief work.”
  10. . 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, that God still had a plan for me even though it felt my life was over!)
  11. . Philippians 4:8 (NLT). 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. Continue reading

Easter Thru the Years – 2018 by Pam Whitley Taylor

fullsizeoutput_7120 I awoke on the Saturday morning before Easter with the lyrics to two melodies dancing thru my heart. I went to UTUBE and played both over and over as I let the melodies and words wash over me.  I worshiped and pondered my life and His amazing Gift.

Here’s a few of the lines from “Was It A Morning Like This ”

When Mary walked down from Jerusalem?
And two angels stood at the tomb,
Bearers of news she would hear soon.

Did the grass sing?
Did the earth rejoice
To feel you again?
Over and over like a
Trumpet underground,
Did the earth seem to pound:
“He is risen”

Over and over
in a never ending round
“He is risen, alleluia, alleluia!”

Here’s a link if you’d like to listen.  The words are wonderful and make me want to break into song as I’m transported to that long ago first Easter.

And this is a link to the other song, God Gave the Song, equally as beautiful, with also a deep meaning.    https://binged.it/2uGTyGY

As I finished my worship and turned my focus to continue preparing Sunday’s meal, I pondered previous Easters of my life.  Growing up on the farm, my mom sewed  dotted-swiss dresses for me when I was a little girl…it was a Southern tradition…a frilly and lacy new dress, and new shoes for Easter Sunday morn.  AND I always modeled my new dress on Saturday night for my daddy, twirling to show the whole effect of the full skirt. : )

As I started a family of my own, I remember doing similar as we prepared for Sunday’s Worship service.  Such fond and precious memories!Photo544172167381_inner_9-78-738-102-9-977-738-977

The years have flown and by the 2000’s, Easter’s were spent celebrating with the grandkids.  I loved hunting eggs with them and sitting with them and their mom and dad in church.   Now they live in Phoenix and the last Easter Bunny’s I mailed them, melted en-route! : )

Yes, over the years many things have changed….ages, faces, places, and church buildings, but I still serve my Easter meals on the table that was bought by my son’s great-grandma in 1929.  And the message of His Love and sacrifice remains Eternally the same—-except as I grow older, that message grows more and more precious  each year!

Hope you had a wonderful Easter.

A Sibling Vacation By Pam Whitley Taylor

It was a well planned trip. My siblings and I would meet at Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas. I’d be traveling from Oklahoma, both my brother’s would drive from Mississippi, and my sister would drive from Alabama. Our daughter was severely handicapped and her declining health made traveling almost impossible. I’d not been to Mississippi in two two years and was so homesick.

My siblings suggested that we meet at a destination closer to me so I’d not have as far to travel. This was the first time for all of us to congregate away from ‘home” but I could hardly wait to see each of them.

My two brothers would travel in their RV’s and camp at the Park. My sister’s family and mine, along with our mom, would stay at a rental property. My sister and I searched long and hard to rent the perfect place. We wanted it large enough for all twelve of us to meet and eat together and big enough to sleep the eight of us. We finally found what we thought was perfect for our needs.

It sat in the country, not too far from my brother’s camp ground, and had three bedrooms and a den with a hide-a-bed. The advertisement pictured a large enclosed sun porch across the back of the home with a beautiful view of the woods. Just out that window hung a hummingbird feeder. That sun room was furnished with a rustic willow table, and the room was surrounded with beautiful hanging plants. I had visions of delightful early morning chats around the little table. We’d watch the hummingbirds flit around and enjoy the wildlife as we sipped our morning coffee. And we’d grill….the yard had a large and gorgeous custom stone grill. AHH! I could hardly wait.

It seemed I packed the van for days, but finally the long awaited travel date arrived. We steered our van on to I-40 and headed to Arkansas. My instructions to the rental went something like this: “Go to such and such convenience store where Highway so and so cross, and pick up the key. They’ll give you the instructions to the rental.” We made the five hour drive and found the country convenience store easily, picked up the key and the directions to the already paid for house. We wound around a long tree-lined dusty dirt road and soon sighted the house, it looked okay but the hedges around it were surely BIG.

“Not sure we can see any wildlife from those windows,” I thought.

Those untrimmed hedges also framed the graveled ‘parking’ area. Stepping out of the car, the first thing I noticed was that custom grill. It lay in shambles. Oops….we’d not be grilling on that thing. “I sure hope that isn’t a sign of things to come.” I thought to myself. All I knew, was that I was tired and I was eager to fix my coffee and take a break on that beautiful sun porch. I unpacked the coffee, started it brewing, and took a quick look-around the house.

Then I headed to the porch. Sure enough, there hung the variety of plants that I’d seen in the pictures…probably about ten baskets with a wonderful variety. Among them were Swedish Ivy, Airplane Plants, Wondering Jew, and ferns. The only problem was they’d not been watered in years, probably not since those pictures were taken, and they were crispy and brown. I then pulled out a willow chair and found it was rickety and had been built by someone who didn’t know what they were doing. The chairs were also very uncomfortable, if someone was brave enough to trust it as a chair! They were, however, great for the magazine pics! Ouch! And then I saw the hummingbird feeder. It hung exactly where it did in the pics…..but had a broken lid that was barely hanging on. I was certain no hummingbirds had fed there in years.

“OKAY! “What’s next?” We’d soon find out.

We’d brought all of our food so I popped our lasagna in the oven for dinner as the rest of the family arrived. Thankfully the oven worked. Then for some reason, I opened the dishwasher. The inside door was totally rusted and that dish washer (listed as one of the amenities of the home) hadn’t been used in years…many years. Maybe that’d be our last surprise!

Bedtime came. We opened the hide-a-bed and put sheets on it for my niece, Nicole, and her girlfriend, Amanda. As soon as they climbed in, the back legs of the couch tilted forward and the front legs of the hide-a-bed flew upward and the bed instantly incased them. The middle of the bed’s mattress touched the floor. Their screams and their saucer-sized-eyes sent me into an attack of hysterical laughing. Simultaneously, just as the three of us dissolved into a delirium of laughter, we heard my brother-in-law spouting choice words from their bedroom…..words I can’t repeat here!

I hollered to them. “Oh no, what’s wrong?

Turns out, when my sister and he dropped their travel weary bodies into their bed, they found their ‘mattress’ consisted of two box springs and NO mattress. (By the way, this was before cell phones and there was no phone in the house to call and complain!) Thankfully, I was able to pull the egg crate off the queen bed in our van and top their mismatched pair of box springs with it so they could rest.

And I knew now why we were asked to pay in advance, why we’d not met the owners, and why they asked us to pick up the key at the convenience store! (This was prior to the day that you could read a string of reviews on the internet telling you why not to stay someplace!)

It’s been twenty-six years since that laughter filled 1992 vacation, and I’ve lost all but three of those precious people. No, the rental was very far from our expectations, but it was the people and their attitudes that made it such a fun-filled and memorable trip. I’m so thankful we didn’t sweat the small stuff, but made the best of that visit and magnified the time spent with each other, rather than the circumstances.

Thank you, Lord, for such a treasured memory. My only regret is that I didn’t take more pictures of my loved ones.

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We brought Jan’s bean Bag to sleep in. She enjoyed the trip.

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Can you tell how rickidy this chair is? And that plant hanging behind me was dead too.

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My sister-in-law’s ‘admire’ the grill.

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Mike and I test the hammock couch!

PD_0059I’d forgotten the cafe curtains had fallen off the wall and were just “hanging out’!

Proverbs 17:22a KJ A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.

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.  

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.