I need You, my God, my Father, my Jesus, my Guiding Spirit. Hear my heart, oh God! Without You, I drift into downward spiral thoughts. Then anxiety and fear sets in. I lack trust, faith, hope, and love when I live outside of You. Philippians 4:13 tells me “I can do all things which He has called me to do through Him who strengthens and empowers me to fulfill His purpose – I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.” ~Amplified Bible. The key is “self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency”. And Jesus Christ is sufficient. He fulfilled all that our Father required. He gave all. Jesus gave His life for you and me. “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:7. Outside of Jesus, you and I have nothing. Period. I turn to Jesus. Turn to Jesus.
My heart has been so heavy these past few weeks. Thoughts have run through my head over and over. I could not publicly write about it until today due to finding the words, as well as work and travels. The ramifications of the COVID pandemic are many. Like a spider web, it’s intertwining in every aspect of our lives. It is about protecting self and family. For me it is also about the 4,000 employees I work with as an HR professional. If COVID wasn’t enough, then the international racial riots in response to a bad police officer’s apparent murder of a black man. How do you and I deal with all this negative news and multiple lives affected with such hatred?
I remember years ago while I was in distress over the lost of a child due to a miscarriage, an older Christian woman called me to tell me she would bathed me in prayer. That afternoon I was so tired from blood loss and mourning over the loss of the child I would never know. My husband then was insensitive to my feelings and said, “Well, you will get over it. We didn’t really want another child anyways.” So hurtful to me, but this was how he rationalize the pain of this death. I slept the remaining day and into the night. I was able to fall asleep knowing another woman was praying for me. It was the intentional prayers of another, as well as this person sharing this with me that brought peace to my soul, and eventually rest. From this I learned to pray fervently and unceasingly for others, as well as for myself.
“All strength that we give away comes over us again, experienced and altered. Thus it is in prayer…” author Rainer Maria Rilke writes. Strength is what I receive when I pray. “And what is there, truly done, that is not prayer?” Rilke adds. I take it that the author speaks of works that coincide with or because of faith and prayer. Holy Scriptures tell us in James 2:14-26 New Living Translation (NLT) “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.’ You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar. You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’ He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.”
Today our prayers and the works that match those prayers sustain us. We cannot justify hatred between family members, neighborhoods, co-workers, religions, and races. Pray. Pray for the “peace that surpasses understanding.” Do a good deed towards someone who may be in opposite view as yourself. If a good deed is not possible right now, then continue to pray. “Pray without ceasing” until you can. Bathe yourself and the other person in prayer.
Remember the serenity prayer …
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
In other words … let go, let God. Easier said than done. And why is that? I will speak for myself. There are times, even some days I am not present moment with God. I think too much. I think I can take this one more thing on, figure it out on my own. God gives us a brain and wants us to use it. It is also Him who gives us the wisdom on how to use it. But sometimes I overstep God. “Here let me do this so it gets done”, like God is not fast enough to answer my prayers or He wants me to do everything but pray. Or “I know what is best”, like I am placing myself better than God! Or how about this one, “doesn’t God hear me?” God is Omnipresent. He hears and knows everything even before I verbally speak the words or know what the need is.
I am writing these words to myself today. A reminder of what I know already, but need to know today as The Truth For Today. There are so many needs within the family as well as the people God has surrounded me with. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”. Serenity means “the state of calm, peaceful, untroubled, and tranquil”. I cannot change the health conditions of my daughters, my sons, my siblings, my cousins, my friends, my colleagues. I am praying for Your comfort and Your healing touch to each of these people on my heart today. There are many, God. My heart is heavy today. Lift this heaviness as I give each of them to You. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7
The state that this world and our nation is in is unsettling to say the least. I cannot remember a time in my lifetime where I felt and seen such unrest, differences, disrespect, and disharmony within families, organizations, communities, governments, and countries. Is it because I have lived 59 years now, or is it really that bad in comparison to other eras? In our American history, think of the upheaval that the Civil War caused hundreds of thousands of people’s lives. Our travels to Missouri historical sites and in the South remind my husband and I how far we have come from those years in the 1800’s. Or have we?
There is that song lyric that goes “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me” that keeps playing over and over again in my heart. I find myself humming the words in my mind and out loud these past few days. Mother Teresa explains, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Holy Scriptures tell us,“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” ~ Romans 12:18. Am I at peace with the world God has placed around me, and myself? Are you at peace with your world, and yourself? Honestly, I am still working on this and in hopes and prayers for a brighter year in 2020.
This past weekend was a reunion with three of my high school classmates. We recalled those days many years ago, and laughed all weekend. Endless fun, without any men, children, work, alcohol, or drugs. High on life. I have had the need to connect to my childhood outside of my family of origin. So much is a fog, just glimpses of faces and scenarios. The past class reunions are minus familiar friendly faces. We had about 500 graduates in our class. So I sought three classmates I am connected to on Facebook, where we seem to share the same interests and connect with our comments on each other’s posts. I remember well all three. One friend is an authentic pal from elementary school, another is quite the comedian then and now, and the other illuminates peace to anyone in her surroundings.
We reserved the entire country inn in a small town. The host and hostess accommodated us well with a bonfire, plenty of bedding options, and a delicious breakfast. We grabbed lunch first at a unique BBQ diner with a resident pig sleeping in a stall. After lunch we stopped at a local antique store. The antiques were as old as us. We visited Big Spring, a natural spring in the Ozarks of Missouri. I came across a metal disc right on the cliff ledge near the spring flowing from the Current River. It said “U.S. Geological Survey Bench Mark”. According to Wikipedia, “the USGS (United States Geological Survey) was created, by a last-minute amendment, to an act of Congress on March 3, 1879. It was charged with the ‘classification of the public lands, and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain’. This task was driven by the need to inventory the vast lands added to the United States by the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the Mexican-American War in 1848.” This bench mark has some kind of significance, probably either a elevation or earthquake marker. My curiosity will have me research until I know the facts.
I felt like this was a bench mark weekend for me. I had never done this, invited old childhood friends to gather for an overnight. We all did not hangout together as a gang in high school, but knew each other. None of us belonged to cliques. I felt a bond would form as we came together now. I have gone on women’s retreats, but this was a different kind of retreat. This weekend rendezvous confirmed we had so much in common. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. Childhoods and schools in St. Charles County, Missouri. Troubled love relationships. Divorce. Made better choices with age and wisdom. Faith. Caretaking. Deceased parents. Mourning. Parenthood. Grand-mothering. Jobs. Thrift. Hobbies. Strength. A confident beauty that a 59-year old woman possesses despite it all. The differences were fewer. We share a sisterhood. The “plump sisters (PS)” vow to meet up again in about 3 or 4 months for another destination, maybe another bench mark weekend.
“Because there’s one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.”
~ Robin Benway, The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June
Since my husband and I bought our quaint 4-room cottage in a historic small city in Missouri, many of my days have been filled with decorating thoughts. Color, pattern, texture, and space. Every niche, nook, and cranny of this less than 800 square-foot space. I am perpetually frugal, a bit of a “minimalist” is the word these days. Despite Dr. Seuss’ advice,“Fill your house with stacks of books in all the crannies and all the nooks,” I am being selective on where to create that niche, nook, and cranny and how to fill it. Although “the love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books,”(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) provides plenty of opportunity for my brain and time to distress from this too real world. Designer, Xorin Balbes offers a different use for nooks. “Creating nooks for conversation and shared activities can do wonders to bring people together. Create more intimacy at home, and you will become more intimate in the world.” Quaint times with and for others is good use of the cottage. We have the cottage listed with Airbnb for festival weekends only, and open our new space for family & friends, too.
Just the same I need time for myself. I allow every cranny of my heart emptied to be filled once again with God’s beautiful foliage. Like these cranny rocks in Cannon Beach, Oregon with a abundance of green moss and colorful blooms. And rest, a time to sleep, and just do nothing. Quiet…hearing my own breathe and the bird tweeting outside the window. “Each morning I gather strength from every nook of my soul softly inhale the aroma of nature,” Monica Bhasin says. Warmer weather sends me to the outdoors with green surroundings, but the winter season I can have that same peace and calm in the comforts of one of the living room perches, the arm chair in the guest bedroom, or even with a 10-minute break from the telephone, computer, and projects in my workplace office. The niche to wholeness no matter my environment is my heart yielded to our awesome God and His plans. All is well with my soul.
Ever notice when our President is first sworn in, he may be mildly gray. By the time his duties are handed over to the next President, he has a full head of gray hairs. Example: Barack Obama. For me those wispy gray hairs seem to be coming in each day. I know the natural aging process causes me to lose stands of hair and my new hair lacks pigment and regenerates gray. But there are some of those days the grays seem to grow by the minute! That may be the difference between peace and strife in my life. Stress multiples hair loss and grays. Example: I decided I was going to work a part-time 20-hour a week job on top of my full-time job to put that extra income into my savings since I had not had a salary increase in 6 years but want to retire in 2 years. Local government work is definitely service to the public, as it does not always serve self well! Humbling as it is, I could not keep up those new job duties and hours. My brain was mush working 2 office jobs by that first Friday evening. I wanted to sleep as soon as I was home every night. No life in that, or should I say “quality of life” in that! I was striving. Lost my peace. My husband saw by the 2nd evening at my 2nd job I was struggling physically and mentally. He simply said, “if it is not going to work, it is not going to work.” No lecture or ultimatum. Relief. Grace given, and received. Lesson learned. I put in my notice to this new office, and back to square one.
I am praying and seeking God’s plan. I want to retire from my employee benefits job with the local government at age 60. Planned to work part-time some place(s) while pursuing my master’s degree in writing. Tuition is 1/2 price at age 60 at the university of my choice. I want to teach college students the gift of writing. My dreams are noble and good, achievable. Are they God’s plan? Maybe my timing is off? Maybe putting off retirement another 2 years to make up for lost income with the salary freeze? Maybe thinking outside of the box? Henry Ford made this statement, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Peace is returning with prayer, meditating, gardening, my husband’s love, and even the midst of chaos this last week at that 2nd job. God’s provisions are endless. God continues to mend me with His pure gold. He has aggrandized me through Jesus Christ!
I was a guest panelist for the St. Louis American Heart Association’s Workplace Wellness Solutions Forum this week. What a wonderful experience to share the budget strategies I have incorporated in the wellness program at my workplace with other human resources and wellness professionals. Our keynote speaker, Aaron Hunnel brought his message of perspective, positivity, passion, and purpose. This humble young man has accomplished much in his young years. An American veteran who served two tours overseas, overcame addiction, has literally climbed several huge mountains, ran an Ironman Marathon with a disabled young woman as his partner, author of the book Upwards, and a successful business owner. His keynote message “There Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” moved many to tears. I sobbed. His authentic message reached home in my heart.
You see I know this woman who has a beautiful soul. She seeks the good in everyone she meets. She loves unceasingly, full of “thank yous”, and affectionate hugs. “See the light in others, and treat them as if that is all you see,” Kirk Weisler is quoted, and this is what this woman lives. And the courage she possesses is like no other I know. This woman has not one but multiple disabling medical conditions. This woman is Rachel, my oldest daughter. I am so proud of the character she has and is. An “all abilities” woman. The battles she has fought and continues to fight are extreme pain with advanced degenerative disc disease and arachnoiditis. Depression, self-pity, “why me”s, “why now”, purposelessness, faithlessness, hopelessness Rachel has fought against too. And this woman warrior has won! Her faith in God has saved her time and time again, and will continue to sustain her. Rachel gives love to family, friends, and strangers because she knows she was created for such as this. Love is sacred, love shared, no holding back.
“There are two ways of spreading the light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it,” author Edith Wharton is quoted. Edith began to write poems, short stories, and novels as a child in the latter 1800’s. Her first published novel would not be until she reached age 40, as it was not acceptable for a societal woman to be active in writing during this era. Edith’s life reflected her love for humanity during the first World War, brave efforts made for her French friends. Days and years, maybe a dimly lit wick, but she persevered in those humane and writing works. Edith Wharton’s influence is seen in literature and the arts today, and she has been gone from earth since 1937.
“He will not break a broken branch or put out a little fire. He will be faithful to make everything fair,” the Bible verse encourages us in Isaiah 42:3. In today’s world when life seems totally unfair, there is this promise from the Old Testament. Do not put out your own light by living like life is unfair, slanted, short-changed. Stop the envious comparisons to your family member, curtail the jealous plans to out beautify or own more than the Jones, and live your life at peace with yourself , neighbor, and God. Be secure in God. Be thankful. “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine …” Be that candle, and reflect God’s love for you as a mirror to the community you have been placed in.
Life is too short to sit idle, hate others, be jealous or depressed, and play mind games. With God’s grace, sincerity and a pure heart is what I desire to become. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10. Pure and as sweet as honey. White as snow. No bargains made or motives conjured up. Just live for my Creator. I answer to my God at the end of the day, every day. And every day is a gift. At the end of the day, I take in account how I spent those precious minutes, my God-given talents, supply of resources and energy? Is my time consumed in front of a screen, iphone-size or mega flat screen TV-size? Size of the electronic does not matter, just how did I personally connect to those around today? Did I pick-up my neighbor’s storm-tossed trash scattered across his yard, encourage my co-worker on her new project, smile at that smelly stranger on the street bench, or pick-up the phone to talk to my kin living a few hundred or 2 miles away? Everyone has something they are good at. My energy levels may be up or plummeted down or be sporadic. Did I use whatever today’s strength is to extend God’s love and grace? Did I pray and be a vessel for peace or healing? At the end of the day …