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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Grace and Mercy

WOW!  It has been two years since I have written anything on this blog---or anywhere else for that matter.  Most of my favorite bloggers are no longer maintaining their blogs and I just sort of stopped mine as well.  Social media has now become the most popular means of staying in touch but I find it difficult sometimes to adjust to that form of communication.  So, I have decided to resume my writing here.

I have recently moved back to Ohio after having lived in North Carolina for almost 13 years.  My father celebrated his 90th birthday in March and I felt a need to be closer to him as he ages.  My daughter and grandchildren remain in North Carolina while she obtains her nursing degree and then it is my hope that they will return to Ohio as well.

Shortly after moving back to my home state, I was in a horrible auto accident.  I suffered some serious injuries and am now recovering in my son's home until I am able to have my own place.  During the time I have been recuperating, I have had many talks with my father regarding how close I came to losing my life.  As a former pastor my father has wisdom that still astounds me.  Following a pause during a recent conversation he said to me, "Surviving that accident was God's grace and mercy all the way through.".  How true were his words.  I did survive because of God's grace--His unmerited favor and divine influence upon my heart--and His unending mercy--a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion.

How undeserving we are of these gifts that come from the heart of God.  Many times I have allowed other things to take the time that I should have given to God and let my relationship with Him slide further down my list of priorities.  But how merciful of God to still extend grace and mercy. Though we experience adversity that we think will take us to the grave, God still cares enough to extend His grace and loves us enough to be merciful.  

Oh, how I love Him.  When trials come we learn how important it is to maintain our faith and trust in Him.  We learn that nothing can replace Him, no peace is found outside of Him, and He alone can give us joy unspeakable.  Yes, there are people in our lives that we love and cherish.  There are memories we cherish as well and new memories waiting to be made.  That being said, we must never lose sight of the fact that our first priority must always be our relationship with the one who extends His grace and mercy to us on a daily basis.  

I pray to never lose sight of the fact that he spared my life for a purpose.  I know that I must not let the lessons I have learned remain untold.  I want to know that when I pass from this life to the next the experiences that I have had will become guideposts to those I leave behind.  The words to a precious song recorded by Steve Green come to mind:  "May the ones who come behind us find us faithful...".  As long as God will extend His grace and mercy, and I will do my part to maintain a relationship with Him, then the ones who come behind me will find me faithful.  Praise God!

In Grace, 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Continuing On

Not many people are writing on blogs these days---including me.  Life and time seem to pass so quickly.  Settling down to write just isn't at the top of anyone's "to do" list.  Technology affords us the opportunity of instant communication and most of us would rather take advantage of a text message or email than to take time to write anything else.  Still, there are instances when something written in another's hand becomes more meaningful than anything money can buy.

I was reminded of this recently when I read my Mother's prayer notebook.  Mother passed away in April of last year and she gave me her prayer notebook before she died.  Written in a simple spiral bound  notebook, her words became more precious than gold to me.  The names of people she loved and the needs of their lives were written in her sweet handwriting with the dates of the entries recorded at the top of the page.  Every new date had the names of my father, my brothers, the grandchildren and the great grandchildren along with others she knew needed prayer.  My name was on the list as well.  I was deeply touched when I read an entry that had listed my name, the needs I had and ended with the words, "I love her so."  Of course, I burst into tears at the thought of how much my mother loved me and how sincerely she prayed for me and all the others on her list.

Oh!  I miss her so.  My mother was more than a parent.  She was a friend, a mentor, an example, and an inspiration.    Life is definitely harder without her and I am lonely without her presence.  No one has meant so much to me as Mother.  I yearn for her touch, her laughter, her wisdom.  She was a godly woman whose daily life reflected her devotion and her love for the Savior she served so well.  And yet, I would not bring her back from the presence of the Lord.  She had suffered so much physical pain from heart failure and had grown weaker in the last year of her life.  Now she is free of that pain and suffering.  She is truly at rest.

Still, I am touched by her handwritten prayers and the example she provided me.  So, I am continuing on with the prayers that Mother began.   I cannot replace her nor can I become her.  What I can do is follow her example of prayer and devotion.  I can learn from her disciplined prayer life and continue seeking God for the needs and concerns of those I love.  Prayer was a privilege that my Mother never took for granted.  It is a privilege that I recognize and value as well.  For that privilege, I am continuing on.  I am certain Mother would like that.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Life Unexpected

Life hits hard sometimes---and sometimes we are not expecting the hit.  We go along with our everyday lives doing what we need to do and trying as best we can to enjoy the life that we have been given.  Ah, but then the unexpected happens and we are left wondering "What do I do now?".     Such was the case recently for me.

My youngest brother asked me to come home to Ohio to stay with our parents while he made an out of town trip.  Mother was not well and he didn't want to go away without leaving someone to look out for her.  I made the journey from North Carolina to Ohio to spend a week with my parents and see my other family members.  I arrived early in the morning and peeked in on Mother.  When she saw me she reached up and gave me the tightest hug ever.  Two days later, Mother's health worsened and she was admitted to the hospital with complications from congestive heart failure.  After 10 days in the hospital, the last 7 being in an inpatient hospice unit, Mother slipped peacefully away to meet the God that she had served and loved so faithfully.

At her funeral service, I thought my heart would break as I said goodbye to the Mother I had loved so dearly.  The days that followed were so difficult without her.  I longed for the sound of her voice and to hear her pray just one more time.  I stayed for two weeks with my sweet Daddy who so deeply mourned the loss of the love of his life (they were married for 66 years).  Saying goodbye to my father was also painful as I knew he would now be in the house alone.

Driving home, I pondered the unexpectedness of life.  My mind reviewed life events and how the things that hurt the most were the ones for which I was not prepared.  Oh, but on the heels of those meandering thoughts came the realization that those same events were the ones in which God so profoundly proved Himself to be the God of all comfort.  No matter how dark was my path, how broken was my heart, how endlessly the tears fell, He comforted me.  He held me up and would not let me fall.  He kept reminding me that I was loved---that I was His child and He would never leave  me or forsake me.  I began to marvel at the capacity of God to be an unending  source of comfort and love.  I am completely humbled by the thought that He would be so mindful of my broken heart and so eager to ease my pain.  What a great God we serve!

Mother passed on April 5th.  The days have been so lonely without her.  I find myself reaching for the phone to call her or almost asking Daddy if I could speak to her when we are on the phone.  I think we learn to live without those we love but we never truly get over it.  We learn to lean on the Lord just a little harder.  We learn to love our family and friends a little deeper.  Lastly, we learn that nothing is permanent and life events can be so unexpected.  We realize that there is nothing we can take for granted and that every moment must be savored and enjoyed to its fullest.

Pray for me, my friends, that I will remain faithful to the teachings of my Mother and honor her by continuing the legacy that she has left behind.  I cannot be her equal but I will follow her example.  I know that God will see me through and that He alone is the source of true joy.  Life happens with or without God but how much better it is to have His comfort and His promise that He will be the ever present help in time of trouble.  We may not know what to expect from life at times, but we can always know what to expect with God--an unfailing, unending source of strength, love, and comfort---even when the unexpected happens.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Loving Life

I must admit that there are times when loving life is a challenge.  How easy it is to be gracious and grateful when all is going well but how difficult it can be to remain thankful and feel blessed when all around us life is falling apart.
It is during these times of heartache and despair, when emotional pain and physical exhaustion take over our lives, that we learn just how very near God is.  In fact, it is the midst of these times that we can feel Him closer, rest in His comfort, and enjoy His presence in a way that we cannot know when life is going smoothly.
Heartache is never planned, disaster is often not expected.  When we do experience these things, we are often hit so hard that it feels as if our minds are numb and our heart struggles to beat.  It is not easy to work our way out of this emotional turmoil and to even think of what to do next.
This is where God's love and mercy reveal themselves in such a magnificent way.  To know God is to experience His great love and to understand that He is, as the great King David said, "...an ever present help in time of trouble.".  How wonderful to know that we have a God who cares so deeply for us that, even when a time of sorrow and despair had descended upon us, He eases the burden by His whisper, "I am here.  Don't be afraid---you are not alone."
In the book of II Corinthians 1:3-4, the apostle Paul wrote such beautiful words regarding comfort:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."  (NIV)

How this thrills me to know that not only will I be comforted during my times of difficulty but, after I have experienced the comfort of the Lord, I will be able to comfort others who are suffering or hurting.  Oh, to be able to help others and to encourage them with the love and comfort of our great Father-God.  When life becomes so overwhelming and nearly unbearable it is such a blessing to be able to provide comfort and encouragement to others.
So, do I love life?  Oh, yes.  Do I always love life experiences?  No.  Oh, but I am so grateful for the experiences I have had that have enabled me to know  the comfort of my Heavenly Father.  I value those moments when His love has covered me, His comfort has reassured me, and His mercy has followed me.
Be encouraged today, my friends.  God is not unmindful of us and is watching over every aspect of our lives.  He will make every test and trial bearable.  He will comfort you and sustain you.  He will give you the opportunity to extend His comfort to others.  He will always be there.  Above all, He will help us love life.  He really will.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

God Will Remain Faithful

My friend, Bridgette

I have never found it difficult to speak in front of a crowd.  Whether speaking to one or a thousand, it has always been easy for me.  I love the interaction of the crowd and I especially love it when I see someone's face just light up when they understand and relate to my topic.  It is, indeed, a thrill.

Most of the things I speak about are personal experiences that have worked themselves out in a way that brings glory and honor to the Saviour I love so well.  To be able to share the heartaches and despairs, and to then share the glorious way God turns everything into tremendous victory and triumph is, to me, a glorious calling.

One of my favorite topics is the faithfulness of our great God.  He is the ever faithful, never failing, ever present source of strength and help in time of trouble.  He is never far away, hears every cry, sees every tear-stained face and then draws us close to Him where we hear the heartbeat of God and are comforted.  What a mighty God we serve!

I recently lost a dear, dear friend.  Bridgette was a young woman who captured my heart from the time I first met her.  We had an immediate connection and she became my dearest friend.  Bridgette was not only beautiful outside but she had a shining spirit that allowed her to see the positive in every situation, to bear every cross with joy, and to convince others of their need for Christ.  She encouraged my every endeavor and became my strongest supporter.  I loved her dearly.  We were inseparable for three years.  She was my room mate during that time and I enjoyed her presence in my life.

In time, however, a series of personal tragedies brought Bridgette to the brink of despair.  Though her faith in God never wavered, her choices during that awful time were not the best.  She moved from my home in North Carolina to a small town in Virginia and started her life over.  She was constantly writing to me, calling me, and sending me messages on Facebook letting me know how much she loved and appreciated all I had done and been to her.  She still had that beautiful spirit and never failed to encourage me each time we talked.

On January 27 of this year, Bridgette passed away.  I could hardly believe the news when it came to me and my heart was truly broken.  So many precious memories came to mind and I ached for the sound of her voice.  Each room in my home had small treasures that Bridgette had given me over the years and each one broke my heart anew.  I shed many tears at the unexpected and tragic loss of my friend.

A few days following Bridgette's funeral, I reached for a book that she had given me.   One of my favorite authors had written the book and Bridgette had given it to me for Christmas.  In the front of the book was an inscription Bridgette had written.  As the tears streamed down my face, I read her words and the sound of her voice came ringing back.  The last line she wrote was this, "God will remain faithful."

I read those words, written in Bridgette's hand, and remembered the times that she and I had discussed the faithfulness of God.  I recalled that we had shared many conversations about our great God and that we had always come to the conclusion that no one could be as faithful as God.  No matter what the situation, no matter how fierce the pain, how deep the betrayal, God remained faithful.  We agreed that though we were the best of friends and loved each other dearly, there would be the time when we would not be there when needed or that a word of encouragement would not be spoken when needed.  We agreed that there was no way we, as weak and frail humanity, could ever be as faithful and true as our Heavenly Father.

"God will remain faithful".  When we don't understand---He is faithful.  When we stand alone---He is faithful.  When death comes---He is faithful.  When all is well---He is faithful.  No matter what the circumstance or the difficulty, in sorrow or in joy, God will remain faithful.  He will never, ever leave us or forsake us.  He will be with us always, even unto the end of the world.  How faithful is that!

I will never forget Bridgette.  She lives in my heart and mind and will always be remembered.  When I stand speaking on my favorite subject, the faithfulness of God, Bridgette will be with me.  When I speak words of encouragement, faith, and hope, the conversations we had will be a loving reminder that God remains faithful.

My friends, I have no idea what you are going through today.  I do not know if life is bringing you low with adversity or if you are soaring through clouds of joy.  But I do know this---no matter where you are in life or what you are facing now or will face in the future, God will remain faithful.  He will be there to pick you up,, hold you close, and help you start again.  Faithfulness is what God does---faithful is who He is.  It's just that simple.  I believe it because my friend told me so and because God has proven Himself  faithful unto me.  Only a God who loves me so could speak from the grave of a beloved friend and remind me of who He is.  You can trust Him---you really can.  God will remain faithful.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Remembering To Be Grateful

I don't think that people mean to be ungrateful  Life is so very busy and ever changing that, some days, we feel good about just making it through the day.  Our to-do list seems unending and we fall into bed each evening ready for the precious hours of sleep we are able to gain until the next morning when we start all over again.  For those who have never felt this sense of rush or experienced the endless tasks that remain unfinished at the end of the day, then these words may not be for you.  If, on the other hand, you are painfully familiar with the busyness of life, then perhaps you will identify with me when I say that, rather than take everything for granted as I rush through the day, I pray that God will grant me the grace to remember to be grateful.  

As I write these words, I am sitting at the dining room table in my mother's lovely home.  Mother and Daddy are watching our favorite baseball team, my brother has just cut the grass and I am smelling its freshness come through the screen door.  I am free of chores, tasks, and obligations which allow me time for reflection and writing.  I listen to Mother and daddy talk about the game and the sound of their voices are so precious to me.  I find myself thinking how grateful I am for them and for all the things they have taught me about life and faith.  They have been such wonderful parents to me and my four brothers.

Being grateful, though, is not just being grateful for what we have---it is being grateful for the ability to live life to its fullest.  Each new day offers us choices and grants us opportunities to capture the moments of life with awe and breathless anticipation of what will happen next.  To be grateful is to look at life, the good and the bad, and know that we have come through it all for a purpose.  Every heartache, every moment of despair, every sorrow, every weary moment, has helped mold us and develop strength of character that only comes to those who endure.  These difficult times of life make the good times all the sweeter.  Enduring hardship prepares us for moments of sheer joy that could never be fully appreciated unless preceded by deep sorrow.

How do I know this?  I have been in those moments of life where I felt no joy, no happiness, no anticipation for another day.  I have lain in my bed and watched the sunlight begin to filter through my window and I have thought to myself, "Another day to struggle through.  Another day to feel my broken heart---another day to cry."  I have wept until I had no more tears to weep and could only sit in despair and sorrow, wondering what was the use of living.  I hurt so badly and no one could help me.

Gradually, though, I came to realize that, though I had much pain and sorrow, I also had small things that broke through that sorrow.  I learned the healing power of my grandson's arms wrapped around my neck.  I discovered that a cup of tea with a friend was like the healing balm of Gilead.  My father's booming voice telling me how much he loved me brought tears of joy to my troubled mind.  Mother telling me that she was keeping me in prayer allowed me the peace to sleep through the night.  

As I began to heal and recover, I found myself giving thanks for the small things.  I began to read the Psalms, I listened to instrumental music, I sat outside on my porch swing and felt the breeze on my face.  Most importantly, I purposed that at the end of each day, I would find something to be grateful for.  Giving God thanks for the small pleasures of my life helped me find my way back to living that life.  Was it easy?  NO!  Was it emotionally exhausting?  YES!  Was it worth it?  YES, YES, a thousand times yes.  Life is always worth the effort.

Since that awful time, I have continued to give God thanks and to be grateful for the small things.  Things like the smell of a fresh pot of coffee, the spritz of my favorite perfume, the pink of the sky as the sun sets, the softness of the pillow beneath my head at night, the comfort of a friend's presence and, most of all, the knowledge that no matter where I go God is with me.  I have a small journal that I use to list the things for which I am grateful  Each day I try to add something new to the list.  It keeps me from sinking back into despair when life is painful and keeps me mindful of the daily blessings God bestows upon me.

I pray that God will keep us grateful.  I pray that we will look around at life and realize that, even in our busiest moments, He is there blessing us with small favors that make life rich and full.  I love the praise and worship song that simply says, "I'm forever grateful to you".  My desire is to never forget where He brought me from and to remember to be grateful for the small, daily joys that fill my life.  I yearn to always remember to be grateful---always.

Monday, January 6, 2014


It is not yet daybreak and I am sitting here with my morning coffee thinking about the day ahead.  Today is Monday, the first day of a new work week and I am already planning how to approach the day.  Sometimes I just need to be in the present moment and not think too far ahead.

As I sit here in the quiet with no TV, no music playing, no voices heard, I ponder how lonely life can be when it is not shared with another.  Being single and alone is many times a sad place to be.  As these thoughts flood my mind, I am reminded of a song from my youth, "No One Stands Alone".  The song has beautiful words that lift my spirit and encourage me greatly as it reminds me that, with God, I am never alone.  The chorus of the song is my prayer today:

"Hold my hand all the way, every hour, every day.
From here to the great unknown.
Take my hand, let me stand
Where no one stands alone."

We are never truly alone when we are sheltered by a loving Heavenly Father.  He is the friend that is ever faithful, the companion who never leaves or forsakes, the one whose love is constant and true. I  could not endure the adversities of life without knowing that He is ever near.

I realize that there are those who doubt His existence, who have never trusted Him or believed in Him.  That is their choice.  However, I cannot imagine a life without God in it.  His love has covered me and held me secure from the days of my childhood.  When life has been at its bleakest, He has been there.  When death has come to those I loved and I have been left behind, He was there.  Every morning that I awaken, seeking His guidance, He is there.  I am never really alone.

I have no clue as to what the year ahead has in store.  I can tell you this, though, wherever life finds me it will find my sweet Lord.  I live each day knowing that He will never leave me---knowing that I have a friend who is closer than a brother.  I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and knows me by name.  I am never really alone.

In Grace,