The Love of a Mother

Right now as I write it is a few days away from Valentine’s Day. So, naturally there is an emphasis on love and showing love towards others- those special people in our lives whom we want to show our love for through cards, sweets, flowers, and gifts. It is even celebrated in school (still) with little valentine cards for classmates and parties with cupcakes and juice.

This talk of love has made me think about love. But, more specifically a mother’s love. See, I am a mamma bear when it comes to my kids- which yes, they are not really littles anymore! My youngest turns 23 in a few days, but, yes they are STILL my KIDS. If you aren’t familiar with bears, especially mamma bears- they are protective. There is a saying that you never get between a mother bear and her cubs in the wild. I’ve never tried this and haven’t seen a bear in the wild that close- so I can’t really say if this is true, but it is what I’m told.

So, as a mom it really hurts me when someone hurts my kids or says something bad about them- my mamma bear rises up in me and I feel hurt too. It is difficult to explain to guys- no offense- or those without kids of their own- the love I have for them is just strong, even as they are well into adulthood. There is this incredible bond that begins before they are even born. I love my husband, but at times if I am honest, this love for my kids is just as strong.

Maybe its the carrying them for nine months, or the realization when you hold them for the first time – that this little human is totally dependent on you that spurs you on to make the vow that you’re never going to let anyone hurt them.

Early on in our marriage my husband and I experienced infertility and thankfully, we were eventually able to conceive and have three awesome kids of our own. So, I really feel blessed to have been able to bring these little humans into the world. Maybe that’s why I feel even more love and thankfulness for them. I am blessed by God and fortunate to be their mom.

Over the years, I have heard criticism that hurt and pretty much all the time was unfounded, like the time someone told me to cut my daughter’s hair as a baby because she had too much! Or that one was fat for a baby, or one must be autistic, or another diabetic because he liked to drink water as an infant. There are certainly too many critics and experts on infants and children. There isn’t a shortage. But, through it all I had to vent a little to my husband and then move on to forgiving the critics. That is the difficult part. How do you forgive someone who hurts your little kid with their words? Or hurt you about your mothering?

Honestly, it is just like any other kind of hurt that requires forgiveness. We cannot hold on to grudges, and anger towards others, who like us are created in the image of God. We all have spoken critical words towards others at one time or another. Maybe we were hurting ourselves, or full of fear and anxiety and we lashed out without thinking. Sometimes our mouths can get ahead of our brains. Yikes! Been there done that!

God asks us to forgive those who have wronged us and even pray for our enemies. It is tough stuff, even for mamma bears like me. But, greater than a mother’s love for her children is God’s love for His. Not are all God’s children-only those who have called upon Him for salvation- but all are created by Him. All are known by Him before they take one breath here on earth. And He love all of them. The whole world. That’s not just the planet He talks about in John 3:16- but all the people- all His creation. If God can forgive us our wrongdoing against Him, surely we can too. Maybe the greater the love- the mamma bear kind of love, takes more effort to forgive those who hurt our children, but with God’s help we can do this.

This applies to us all, not just to moms and dads. We are all God’s creation, and we will hurt each other. But we can also love others and forgive others because we are made in God’s image.

So, this Valentine’s day, remember that God has so much love for the world that He sent His Son to redeem it. He protects and loves us, even more than a mamma bear- His love is perfect and greater than a mother’s love. He loves you!-God Bless- Nancy

Loving Yourself?

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made – Psalm 139:14, NIV

So, I am a bit of an introvert. Well, I actually lean more towards an ambivert. If you haven’t heard of that it’s okay. I believe it is a new term for someone who can be both shy and outgoing, depending upon the circumstances. See, I can make small talk with perfect strangers if I decide to, but in a small group setting? Forgetta ’bout it. I stop talking. I get nervous about what to say next. I’m worried that what I say will be taken wrong, or just make things awkward. I’ve had that happen before. I have even been called snobbish for not talking much in groups. But, I have learned that being an introvert makes me a better listener and more observant of others who are introverts. I find people who are willing to talk, but are being ignored by the others at social settings. I am aware of those who are hurting in the room as well.

Recently, a conversation about being socially awkward came up, no, it wasn’t about me, but the other person. They were getting down on themselves for being introverted and shy at social gatherings. They felt left out and it made them sad, and lose hope of finding new friends. They believed people would not like them because they are quiet in social settings. Believe me, I can relate. I’ve felt that way before. It seems the world is geared towards the extroverts, who always seem to have a large group of friends. They are the life of the party, so to speak, whether it is at work, social gatherings, or even church. But, despite their popularity and their infinite amount of small talk, they might have problems with listening to others. Why? because they talk too much!

But, really, that’s okay too. We are all different. And that is a good thing. God has given us all a different personality. And we need to celebrate that and not try to be someone we are not. Sometimes, if we are being honest, we can get jealous of the personality of others. We want to be like them. Have their friends. Have their following. Have their job. Have their family. We start to believe the lie, that if we could just be different than ourselves, are life would be different. Better. We tend to default to seeing the grass greener on the other side of the fence. We might even try to change to be like the other person. If we are shy, we try to be outgoing. If we are an extrovert we might try to be quieter.

But, what if instead, we try to accept who God made us to be? There are parts of our personalities that are just genetics. And there are some that are learned through observed behavior. Either way, God can use our unique personalities for His glory. He’s okay with us loving ourselves. We are His creation. If we hate how He made us, it would seem like we are ungrateful towards Him. Or we think He makes mistakes. As the psalmist wrote we are fearfully AND wonderfully made. Do you consider yourself something wonderful? Do you consider yourself loved? Or even lovable? God says you are. And He says we are to love others. How? Are you ready for it?… as we love ourselves. (James 2:8, Mark 12:31, Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39, Galatians 5:14,Luke 10:27, Matthew 19:19, Romans 13:9)

As you can see above, there are quite a few references to Jesus’ second greatest commandment. So, do you love yourself? Including your personality? It might be difficult to love others until we can love and come to terms with who God made us to be. Do you love who God made? Do you love you? I have heard that sometimes why we end up being so critical of others, is that we first are super critical of ourselves. Have you found that to be true? I find it in myself. I am my harshest critic. I expect perfection from myself and that spills over onto what I expect from others. I am getting better, thankfully with God’s grace, by understanding God’s grace and mercy shown to me. And that is a part of what it takes to love ourselves. Give ourselves some mercy and grace. If we keep comparing ourselves to others, we will always think we are not the best we can be and will have a difficult time accepting who God has made us to be. Instead, we need to stop the comparison trap, accept ourselves, give ourselves some grace when we fall short, and love ourselves. The, we can stop focusing on ourselves and really seek out those to love- the way Jesus’ commanded us to. God Bless- Nancy

Pursuing Joy

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,-Hebrews 10:24, NIV.

So, I have a confession to make. This last year has been difficult and despite my best efforts at trying to see the glass half full, I can’t. It is really joy I am looking for right now. The past month has seen two family friends pass away that were pillars of my young life growing up. Somehow, when you lose those who helped to shape who you are, it shakes your world. It is like the foundation you counted on is no longer there.

So, I was very grateful and thankful to my son and his wife for gifting me with a new devotional book by Shaunti Feldhahn, Find Joy. It can be found Amazon, if you would like to buy it. To be honest it was on my Christmas wish list, so it was a book I wanted to read, but the timing for receiving the book was perfect. God’s timing.

Since we’re being honest here in this blog, this book is not what I had expected. It is not an easy quick fix, full of positive Bible verses to read, but really is an eye opener for me personally.

If you recall my last blog, I talked about the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out. And that is still true, but sometimes we need another person to come alongside us with encouragement too. The Apostle Paul planted many churches and preached the Gospel many times to an unbelieving, Gentile world, but what we forget sometimes is that the letters he wrote were to believers that needed encouragement and direction. We all need that. It’s tough to go it alone on this faith journey. We need each other. I am so thankful for people like Shaunti Feldhahn for being an encourager of others.

The big thing I have learned so far from reading the book is that joy is present. It is not something we need to conjure up on our own, like psyching ourselves up. And it is not God who withholds joy from us, but it is our own issues that blocks the joy in our lives. I need to let go of any unforgiveness, to stop and be amazed by God, following God’s plan for my life instead of my own, and remembering all the good things God has done and brought me through on this journey. Like I said, it’s not memorizing some feel good Bible verses, but its about getting rid of the joy blockers. At least that is what I am getting out of this particular devotional book. I’ll let you know later after I have read more. I’m only a few pages in.

You might be having a difficult year this year too. Just know you are not alone. Life’s challenges hit us all, Christian and non- Christian alike, but as believers we can go to God and allow Him to speak to us from His Word, and from other Christians. And we can help others and encourage others from what we have gone through.

And maybe instead of pursuing joy, we learn to stop and listen to God. He might just reveal the things that we are allowing that block joy. Joy is not something out of reach, but is right where we need it to be, found in Him, alone. God Bless- Nancy

Inside Out

I remember one of my first jobs in my early twenties. I worked as a fashion merchandiser and stylist for a small chain of ladies fashion boutiques. I enjoyed most duties of the job, but I really enjoyed unpacking the boxes of new clothes and accessories. It was my responsibility to style the mannequins with these new arrivals and quite often it was my styling selections that caught the attention of shoppers. I enjoyed selecting items for the shoppers that made them look their best. Many times I would see them look at themselves in the mirror just outside the dressing rooms, looking quite pleased at the new selections. New clothes can often brighten someones day, when they look at themselves and see themselves in a new way. But, soon these new clothes would become old, worn and would be replaced. They would become too familiar and fail to bring the joy of newness they once held.

Recently, I was reminded of Paul’s admonition to the church at Ephesus to put off their old selves (Ephesians 4:22) The Ephesians had the inclination to return to their old ways (from before salvation) instead of continuing to grow in their faith. Paul wrote to them to keep them encouraged to follow their new selves and put off the old ways. It reminded me of those days of retail, replacing the old with new.

Many people believe trying something new will fix the feelings inside of them. The shoppers I styled felt that way, but just for a moment. The real change must come from the inside out, not the outside in. And most importantly, it does not come from our own efforts, but from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

When we ask Jesus to be our Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, empowering us and transforming our lives from the inside out. At first, we might not notice any changes, for change can be slow. We need to get rooted and grounded in the Word of God and allow God to speak to us, changing us, convicting us and convincing us at other times. And also having encouragement from teachers like Paul to help us put off the old and to learn to grow into the new.

We might not always see this change in ourselves, it’s not like looking in a mirror at new clothes on the outside. But it is very apparent to others.

For me I first realized how others could see what I hadn’t yet after I had accepted Christ in eight grade. I remember someone (an upperclassman) noticing the change when I returned to school my Freshman year. They simply said “There’s something different about you.” I wasn’t quite sure what they were talking about, I’ll be honest; I wasn’t expecting to have anyone notice me and standing out in high school and be called different wasn’t exactly something I welcomed.

But, since that time, I have seen it in others; this amazing transformation that literally lights them up from the inside out. The Holy Spirit just can’t be contained! People are always trying to fix themselves and create the better version of themselves, much like constantly buying new outfits to change the outside. Quick fixes won’t change you, but God can! From the inside out. From hearts of stone to living hearts filled with the Holy Spirit. God Bless- Nancy

The Hand Print of God

It was a dubious, thankless job. But I was willing to do whatever was asked of me to help out. My job? To clean the interior of aircraft with a bucket of water and and magic eraser. This plane was a vintage 1940’s but had been repurposed to haul goods, people and mail to the poorest parts of the Caribbean, specifically the country of Haiti. In recent months Haiti has seen its share of disasters including a large earthquake. The plane I was set out to clean that day was awaiting a replacement engine, so it had been grounded for awhile. As I entered the darkened cabin, I surveyed the interior and began to sum up the task of cleaning the side walls, panels and ceiling. And then I noticed it… the small, child- sized hand print on one of the windows. It was silhouetted against the backdrop of the hangar. It sparked my interest as I contemplated how it got there and whose it might be. It was obvious that it had been a hand reaching out from the seat just below the window, pressing against it. Was it from a missionary family’s child? Was it from a Haitian child being airlifted to a hospital due to the earthquake?

I’ll probably never know the identity, but it spoke to me that day, and provide the incentive I needed for the humbling task ahead of me. It put a real dimension to the work I was helping with. The real human equation that connected me to others who had sat in those seats and with those who would be sitting on that plane when it took off again. Providing help and aid to those who need it in the places not so far from my own country. Close, but yet a definite world away. I thought of my own children sitting in those seats and how many finger prints and hand smudges I had cleaned on the windows of our minivan.

It also reminded me of how often we fail to see God at work. We see all the bad in the world and think, there is so much! What can I even begin to do to change this world? But every little bit we do helps and we must also remember that we do not do it alone. God empowers us through the Holy Spirit, encourages us in His word, and leads us through His wisdom to show up at the places where we are needed, even if that is to clean a plane on my day off. God is working. He has been working as we know; He sent Jesus. This world is still not ready for His return and in the mean time, there is so much we can do, but we need to realize that God is at work. Just like that hand print that gave proof, if you will, of the work the mission flights were doing, stop and look around you and look for God’s hand print in this world, in your own world, it’s there.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6 New Living Translation)

God Bless- Nancy

Death To Life

Doubting Thomas. Have you ever thought about how he would compare with you? It might seem like a strange topic for Christmas time, especially Christmas Eve, the day I’m writing this blog. But bear with with me for a moment. When we think of Christmas we mostly think about the cute little baby Jesus in the manger. And the cute nativity scene with the animals- sheep, cows, and camels. and the very peaceful baby sleeping in Mary’s arms. We don’t usually fast forward to Jesus all grown up as a man. We save that for Easter.

When we look at the Christmas story as told in the Gospels, we enjoy the story as a completed picture. We have the perspective that those living at the time did not. Except for Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wisemen, and John the Baptist. They all knew who Jesus was when he was born because the angels had visited or in the case of the wisemen, by studying the astrological charts. Everyone else around them, did not know what was happening. They were looking for a Messiah, but they didn’t see who He was when He arrived as the little baby lamb of God. They hadn’t read the gospels, like we have.

Sometimes God is trying to show us what He is doing, but we don’t see it. We lack perspective until we look back and see what He has done. The people of Jesus’ time had been awaiting a savior to free them from their darkness and when He came they did not all realize it, and as He grew to a man, even failed to understand who He was, calling him simply Joseph’s son.

As this advent season gives way to Christmas day, God has been preparing my heart and helping me to understand what He is doing in my life. Piece by piece, step by step, He reveals areas I need growth.

Recently, our beloved family dog died. It was the first dog we had ever had and she died unexpectedly early Sunday morning. My sorrow was deeper than I realized it could be for an animal. It brought back grief and sorrow that I still carry for my Mom who passed on Christmas Day 2014. Christmas can be a very sad time for some, myself included. But, as I was feeling so sad about losing our pet of six years, my thoughts and emotions were jolted in the opposite direction when on Wednesday my daughter and her husband announced their pregnancy. From death to news of life. In three days. Sounds like a familiar story, right? From feeling overwhelmed by the death of a pet, and my mom, to celebrating the upcoming addition to our family. From grief to joy.

God showed me in that moment, how I could be like doubting Thomas. He had just lost His friend, the man He had spent three years following and a presumed lifetime waiting for, like his other fellow Jews. And then He was gone. Thomas was in the middle of grieving and was in shock over the news that Jesus had risen. Jesus was not dead, but had resurrected. How could this be? Was it true? Is this really a change from sadness to joy?

Thomas wanted proof. He wanted to see for himself. Even when Jesus appeared to him later. It was Jesus who offered for Thomas to see the nail prints in his hands. I can finally understand how he felt. A bit of shock. A jolt from his grief into hope. Hopeless to hopeful.

I have a print of my new grandson or granddaughter’s ultrasound. I see him/her. I have anticipation for our meeting. On Sunday, I was grieving, but on Wednesday I celebrated. We just do not know what will happen next. God has it under control. It might seem dark now. But light has come into the world.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.– John 1:1-5

Merry Christmas and God Bless You

Waiting for the Light

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.- Isaiah 9:2 NIV

Isaiah’s words prophesying the birth of Jesus brought hope to those who lived at his time as well as ours. But what does it mean to be a people walking in darkness? Do we walk in darkness too? Spiritually speaking yes, we do, until we accept Christ’s offer of forgiveness. But also we can have dark times in our lives when we cannot seem to see the way out. We are looking for answers to free us from our depression, anxiety and stress. We see the world around us as a very dark place full of injustice and heartache and even grief. Grief is especially difficult to process at Christmas time. It can appear so dark.

Or perhaps it seems as if God is far off and silent. That’s how many of the Israelites felt during the four hundred years of silence between what we now have as our Old and New Testaments.

During that time there were no prophets or people being filled with the Holy Spirit to speak God’s message until the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph. Their darkness was about to end and God was breaking forth the light. Mary and Elizabeth would have the Holy Spirit come upon them and the silence would be broken.

I wonder what I would have thought if I lived at that time in Bethlehem or Nazareth? Last night my husband and I visited a local church’s drive though nativity. Scenes depicting the birth of Jesus are recreated, complete with the marketplaces, King Herod’s temple, the inn with no room, the stable where Jesus was born and the gate of the city guarded with Roman soldiers. You are completely transported back in time. As we drove through, we rolled the windows down and listened to the conversations between the people. Herod was scolding the people, the carpenter was sanding a piece of wood, the blacksmith forging the iron, the women in the market trying to sell us their wares, the Roman soldiers sitting on their horses, looking suspiciously over us and our car, the shepherds watching the sheep eat the hay, the young Mary and Joseph begging the innkeeper to give them a room for a trade of a loaf of bread. Although some of the conversation followed the Bible story as we have heard it many times before, many of the actors improvised. I liked this improvisation. The women were gossiping around the town well, and the craftsmen telling each other to travel safely. It was what it probably sounded like back in the day. People will spread rumors and talk about politics and business, no matter what time frame. People are the same.

So, what do you think it would have been like? Rumors about a rushed marriage and miraculous birth. A king who would be sought after by wise men following a star? Shepherds seeing angels? People living under the oppression of the Roman government in a violent time? A difficult life of work and never enough money for most of it went to the tax collectors. Religious rulers working in conjunction with the Roman rulers to increase the burden on the people. Making up new rules that must be followed. Yeah. A dark time. It was good news of great joy, when they heard about Jesus. Light breaking into the darkness.

As we get ready for Christmas, let us think past all of the preparations, past the shopping, past the food prep, past the sadness when we think of the loved ones who won’t be around the table this Christmas. Let’s look for the light breaking into this world’s darkness. Remember, Jesus came once as a little baby in a humble stable, but He is coming back again. Breaking into the darkness of this world. But next time He won’t be a baby, but a a triumphant King. That is truly good news of great joy! -God Bless – Nancy

Expectation

So, what are you expecting this Christmas? Presents? A family get together? Traveling? A candlelight Christmas service with carols? Hope for a year that has seemed hopeless? Joy? We all have our expectations of what Christmas might bring. The problem is with any expectation, it doesn’t always happen as we want. Reality is different from expectation.

This advent season, I was planning on focusing more on my own heart. I was also expecting to get through this Christmas without grieving my mom as much. In the past it has been really hard for me to feel much like celebrating Christmas. It has been eight years now since my mom died on Christmas morning. Over the years it has gotten easier as I processed through my grief. But, when Christmas time comes around; I struggle. At first, I cried every time I saw the Christmas cards in the store rack labeled “For Mom on Christmas” But, it does get easier every year.

Until… that one thing that brings it all back. The pain and sadness that she is not here with me this Christmas.

Yesterday was that moment as I unpacked some Christmas decorations. There was this small house that lights up from a small bulb inside. It had been my mom’s. But, more than that, she had gotten it from her best friend as a gift. I thought about both my mom and her friend who were both gone now. Before I knew it, the tears were flowing down, unexpected. I had been doing so well this year. What happened? How can I shut off the grief I feel every year at Christmas?

Maybe this will be a part of my preparing my heart for Christmas. It is still tender and need of healing. A soft heart can hear from God.

As you prepare for this season, be mindful of those who might be grieving and validate their feelings. And look past the busyness of the season and ask God if there is something He is working on within your heart. Christmas is so much more than a baby in a manger. It is about a Savior. It is about the expected Messiah who came in a very unexpected way to accomplish what only He could in a very unexpected way. -God Bless, Nancy

The Wrong One?

Have you ever grabbed an item off the store shelf, thinking you had one thing, but only to discover after you arrived back home you had some entirely different? I have. Once I grabbed a jar of pickles from the store, only to get home and realize what I bought wasn’t dill pickles, but dill pickles with jalapeno pieces that were very spicy. The jars looked the same, but in small print were the words “with jalapenos”.

Yesterday, a similar thing happened when I stumbled into my kitchen to make my breakfast, I opened the cupboard and surveyed the boxes of cereal. Hmmm. Pumpkin Spice Special K, sounds good, and without thinking much about it, I grabbed the box and a bowl from the cupboard. I began to pour out the cereal into the bowl and in my morning foggy brain, realized that someone had switched the cereal in the box, because what I was pouring into the bowl was not flakes; it was little ring shaped cheerios. “Who would do that?” But, wait… no, I turned the box around to face me and discovered nope, no cereal substitution, just the box of honey nut cheerios. I had grabbed the wrong one. From the side, both boxes had a brownish color. Both boxes were of the same size. Both were side by side on the shelf. I grabbed for what I thought was Special K, but my hand actually picked up the cheerios.

I only realized my mistake when I tried to use the cereal, that is poured it out. I thought I knew what I had in my grasp. Appearances can be deceiving as they say. It made me think about my faith and about my faith journey. Is it possible to grab at faith, thinking we have the “right” one? Is there really any difference? Without getting into a full blown apologetic discussion about other religions today, let’s consider: Are there really different faiths within the Christian faith? Sadly, there are a few, just as there were in the early days of Christianity. Its not just about what music styles or versions of the Bible are used, but real differences in the Gospels presented.

Peter warned early Christians about false teachers in his second letter (2Peter 2:1), and in his letter to the Galatia church, Paul suggested that many spies had infiltrated the church, trying to disrupt the faith (Galatians 2:4). In his second letter to the Corinthian church he warned of false apostles (2 Cor. 11:13). Even Jesus warned His disciples that many false prophets would arise (Matthew 24:11). These are just a few examples, there are many more, so they should be expected.

So, are there different gospels too? You may have heard of a few, such as the prosperity gospel that promises blessing for asking God for it and if you expect it you can have it all- sports cars, health, wealth, mansions, fame, etc. And most people can see through all the false claims made by this gospel, but are there others? How do you know if you have heard and chosen the right gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.

The easiest answer I have is this;

1.) Does it line up with what the Bible has to say? Does it line up with the entire bigger picture of the Bible, that is both the Old and New Testaments? Some churches have eliminated the Old Testament in favor of just the New. Is it an addition to the original accepted canon of Scripture or is it something written later on by a self- proclaimed prophet or writer who added their own personal thoughts without proper scholarly research? Watch out for what is presented as a gospel not found in a scholarly version of the Bible. Compare verses of the Bible from “word for word” translations with “thought for thought” translations of the Bible, which while easier to read, often fall short of the actual meaning of a verse and can confuse the reader- leading to a misunderstanding of the gospel.

2.) Does it add any requirements of what must be done to be in right standing with God? Such a gospel might look the same, like my boxes of cereal, but no one can earn or keep a spot in Heaven. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.”(Ephesians 2:8-9) and “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9). “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28) “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”(Romans 3:28).

3.) Does it require a personal commitment? Many people have been mislead that joining a church, being confirmed, or because their parents attended a church, that they are in right standing with God. That is, they are automatically considered a Christian. But, the Bible says we are all sinners in need of a savior and we must recognize it is our personal standing before God that will be judged when we die, not on whether we were sprinkled as an infant, confirmed as a child, or because we gave money or volunteered with the nursery. “And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“, (Romans 3:22-23)We must recognize and admit we are not able to have fellowship with God, that we are the ones who have broken His commandments, and must admit it. We need to realize we cannot fix it in ourselves. We need Jesus as our savior. Our personal savior. For our sins. To die for us. To justify us before God.

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:10)

Have you grabbed the right one? -God Bless Nancy

Hope

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love- 1Corinthians 13:13

So, in the last few years I have had this aversion to weeds. In my yard, in the flowerbeds, in the cracks in the driveway. But, it wasn’t always this way. When my husband and I moved, we moved into a neighborhood that has this thing against weeds. I am in awe of all the perfectly kept lawns here. Not a weed in sight. Perfect and green. And then, there are the HOA inspectors who ride through the neighborhood on Monday mornings. looking for any code violations. They look for any lawns that need mowing or trash cans left out. If there are, the homeowners will get a letter in the mail with a notice to either comply or pay a fine.

I’m not a fan of paying fines, so I am obsessed with following their rules. And attempting to get this perfect lawn. Well, it hasn’t happened yet, despite our best attempts, so we live with the stray weed or two.

Growing up, I really didn’t mind them. I thought the ones with little flowers were actually kind of pretty. I didn’t think of them as weeds really, just flowers that grew by chance. I saw their beauty instead of their annoyance.

So, this past week as I was taking our elderly dog out for a walk in our back yard, I spotted an annoyance. Except, it really caught my attention in a good way. It was standing out where and when it shouldn’t be standing out. It wasn’t so much as an annoyance as beautiful reminder of hope.

This year has been very trying on me and on my patience. I keep waiting for the right opportunities to come forward- applying for jobs and praying that I will actually get to use what I am called to do. I have also watched as neighbors have died from Covid, leaving behind children and spouses. I have seen relatives grow older and frailer, making me look at the future with a bleaker, pessimistic view. I have felt my patience tested, even with my elderly dog, who is not only blind but I think has a slight case of dementia. Do dogs even get that? She requires multiples trips outside to do her business, one trip after another, sometimes five trips in two hours.

So, on a cold morning this past week, as I grumpily took the dog out, I spotted a very bright and welcomed little flower spouting proudly from the lawn. It shouldn’t be there I mused- not because I did not want it to be there, but, you see we had had a frost a few days before. The lawn had been covered in a beautiful layer of frost. It is supposed to kill all the grass and the fragile plants. But, no, this beautiful dandelion was this bright spot of yellow on the now brown, dead grass.

It hadn’t bloomed with all its buddies in the summer or early spring, but here it was in November, standing up as the singular bright spot of life. It was a reminder to me, that despite the year that has seen both bright and bleak spots, there is still life and hope. It was a reminder to stay faithful, keep hope alive, and there will be a bright spot coming soon. It isn’t in our timing, but in God’s timing.

Sometimes I feel like that little dandelion. Everyone of my friends seemed to bloom earlier, in the summertime and springtime, and here I am in the autumn of life, blooming or hopefully soon to be, with all the hopes and dreams I have had for years. But, maybe that’s okay. Maybe, like that flower, I can be a bright spot in other people’s lives, when they are feeling the bleakness around them.

Most people have read the verse above, and remember it from weddings and the talk of love as the greatest, but I was reminded that in this verse, faith, hope and love are connected. Faith is believing, hope is putting our trust in and love is what God has shown us in sending His son. Never give up on believing, on faith, on hoping. For God never gives up on loving us. -Amen