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

Pardon Our Dust….Work In Progress

Pardon our dust….work in progress, ……….we’re sorry the site is currently down for maintenance. Uh…… Okaaay? I mean, not really, but what am I going to do? Don’t you hate seeing this when you login to your favorite site online.. or maybe you’ve seen a similar sign on a door, indicating you will have to return later, the place in being remodeled, or something like that. Inconvenient isn’t it?

What about people? Have you ever wished that people would come with warning signs like that? Pardon my dust…..I’m currently working on myself….be patient…..the site is currently down…..so yeah, like…. “Do not be demanding of me…..I am working on it…..trying to remodel my thoughts…. adjusting my attitude…..Be patient….” Or the ever popular phrase…”Be Patient, God isn’t done with me yet….”

I really think I need a sign like that. But, not for others….for myself… See I tend to be the most critical and impatient with myself. Like earlier today…I had woke up, fed the cat, walked our old age dog, poured myself some coffee in my mug, and settled down in my favorite chair to read my Bible. and THEN…. it happened, just as I was reflecting on God’s word….I heard it….the sound of water running….only it wasn’t water….. I looked over to where the sound was coming from…and I saw the source….my old dog. Now when I say old, she is probably 16+ years old, blind, deaf and at times well….she can’t hold it. Neither could I…….my temper that is. My level of frustration with the dog began to boil over from my emotions to my thoughts and came pouring forth from my mouth. I rushed to grab her leash and pulled her outside once again. Angrily, taking out my frustration…. Even the cat picked up on my sour mood and avoided me.

After a bit, I realized I was letting my anger get the best of me…I felt bad… really bad, the poor dog is old, and losing her mind a bit…she cannot see and is diabetic. But she is still one of God’s creations.

I really wanted to have handled it better, and as I thought about it more….actually overthinking it…. I realized I felt worse towards myself…I AM my biggest critic. I do not have much patience with myself…I want to be better than I am. I want to be sanctified already…to get this Christian walk right. To act rightly, to do rightly, to live rightly….But, I am a work. But, no amount of working will change me in an instant. See, it is a process as I cooperate with the Holy Spirit. To renew my mind, to change my thinking…to show myself some grace and mercy. To allow myself to fail sometimes, just not give up. To confess my shortcomings to God and He will forgive me.

Maybe you are like me…impatient with yourself. You want to do better, and to act better, to feel better, but you aren’t allowing yourself a little grace for the process to be completed. Here’s a hint…..neither you or I, or anyone who is a Christian will be perfected, to be fully sanctified, or holy, until Heaven. Until then, God helps us to grow and stretch and move forward towards that day. Be patient. you are a work in progress. God Bless- Nancy

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 ESV

Role (ing)

I heard her before I saw her in the store. She had a distinct voice, not the usual tone for a woman, much lower and slightly booming. Apparently her child riding in the shopping cart ( a buggy for my southern friends) had done something for which she didn’t approve. Her yelling at her son caused me to look up and see who was making all the noise in the store.  She was  a youngish mom and was obviously not happy with what her son had done, but her yelling only made him continue. She continued to yell and shop, completely ignorant of the other customers around her.

As the mom of three,  I’ve been there done that- except for the yelling part. Believe me, I know how long summer vacation can be with kids, but I’ve got to confess, I actually did like having my kids home from school. I still do.

But….. I am a realist, there will be meltdowns when you have children, especially toddlers and teenagers, and it’s not the kids who are doing the melting down- it’s the parents. I have had my own share of meltdowns as a parent.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart, much like marriage it takes work- a whole lot of work and patience. Kids are not mini adults; they are growing and they will act like kids. Eventually they will be adults and as the Bible says you will reap what you sow  (Galatians 6:7).  Children really do model what they see their parents doing. It’s unavoidable, despite what we try to tell them to do, they learn by what they see us doing, and often mimic us. Oh they will hear some of what we say- the gossip about others- and at the most inappropriate time will repeat what they heard. It can be a real eye opener and embarrassing to us as parents.  However, it is what they watch us doing that stick with them the most.

My husband and I survived the ordeals and meltdowns of early parenthood and we made our share of mistakes in the process. But we have seen how the good habits we demonstrated in front of our kids have stuck with them.  Praying about everything and helping others are two of the good habits I see them doing now as adults.  We are our children’s greatest role model.  As we grow ourselves in our relationship with Christ, let our children see our faith in action. Yelling at children doesn’t bring about much good- it only models how to poorly handle frustration.  How are you role(ing) this summer? If it’s more than you can handle without losing your peace, reach out and ask for some help. Take a break for yourself so you can regroup, or if you can’t then take a deep breath and count to ten before you yell at your kids. Be patient they aren’t adults yet. Happy summer- Nancy

 

Hold On To Faith

“When everything is gone and all you have left is faith, hold on to faith” I wish I had said this, but no, it is actually is a line from a television series I am currently watching. Let me put it into context for you; one man presumably the son- although it hasn’t been revealed as such yet- is complaining to the older man (his father) that he has lost everything that mattered to him. To which the father replies he too has in the past lost everything that mattered to him, BUT. And this is where the line comes in, he learned that he did still have faith, and that is what sustained him while he was held prisoner for several years. he bent down to his son and encouraged him by telling him to hold on to faith.

So, maybe you think that’s just for cinematic effect, that’s not real life. But, let me assure you it is every bit real life. Recently, I heard about a family who’s son was involved in a car accident. The accident did not take his life, but has left him paralyzed. They are now preparing for his return home, but realizing their home needs quite a bit of modification before he can return such as a wheelchair ramp and the widening of doors. Although this family is no doubt thankful for the sparing of their son’s life, there is still loss and grief they must go through. Loss because their lives will not be as they had thought. They might have to give up on dreams they had for their son, or perhaps their own in order to provide care for him.

There are many kinds of losses in this life and not all involve the death of someone, although that is definitely a more difficult one to process and grieve. But, there are losses when we change jobs, move, watch our kids grow up and leave home. Friends change, relationships end, dreams die. These are all losses and at times they can feel as if we have lost everything.

Have you had losses like this? I would be more surprised if you haven’t. That is what this blog is about for me, changing times in life and how to handle them by living a life of faith. I really wish I could say I have all the answers to how to deal with losses, but I am still in this processing stage myself. That is why lines like the one I shared from the television series can stand out to me and be a helpful reminder to “Hold on to faith”

The Bible as well gives encouragement to our holding on to faith when all else seems to have left. Faith in God sustains us, builds us up, and keeps us going when we just want to give up. Maybe you have heard of this passage from Jeremiah 29:11; “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Wow, so good, maybe you’ve even memorized this verse, own it on a plaque on your wall, or used for your graduation verse for high school. Well, do you want the good news or the bad news? At least this seems to be what God does with this passage in Jeremiah.

See, before you get too comfortable with this much quoted verse, maybe we should unpack the context of it and take a closer look at it, so we won’t misapply it. Jeremiah was a prophet and it was his job to tell those in charge what God was about to do. So we find this verse is a part of a letter that Jeremiah wrote to the elders and priests who had been captured and taken away to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. So, you might say of the people he was writing to, they had lost everything. They had been kidnapped and sent to another country. Yeah that’s the bad news, but wait there’s more! In verse 28 God tells them they will be there for 70 years, and THEN when the seventy years it up, He will come get them. So, like I said there’s the good news and the bad news. The bad news; “You’ll be exiled for 70 years, but the good news, it’s all going to work out and I’m going to rescue you because I have a plan” So, while this verse is a good one to memorize, remember it’s original context next time. It was encouragement to sustain the people.  Just think about it, seventy years is a long time. Most of us would rather not have the seventy year wait. I know I wouldn’t. I would prefer only the good news, not the bad. We believe God has a plan, but we don’t anticipate the losses in life, the hardships in life, the waiting in life. So, when we find ourselves in those times, when it feels like we have lost everything, yet, we have faith. Faith sustains us, it is our hope and our anchor. Sometimes it is all we have and we have to cling to it for dear life, like a drowning man clinging to a life preserver thrown out to him. When all you have left is faith, hold on to faith. -God bless– Nancy