Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, And Happy New Year!

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christmas-tree

There is a season (a time appointed) for everything
and a time for every delight and event or purpose under heaven—
Ecclesiastes 3:1 AMP

This is the season of falling leaves and bare trees…when most things green lose their vibrant colors and morph into dismal browns and grays. Perhaps that’s the reason that the celebration of Halloween is scheduled for this time of year. Halloween with its ghosts, goblins, witches, jack-o-lanterns and all things that pertain to the macabre, is not unlike the dead leaves that cover the ground leaving the trees resembling naked skeletons.

Most Christians don’t celebrate Halloween as such, but have Fall Festivals and Trunk or Treat. The attendees are encouraged to dress as characters that don’t necessarily celebrate the dark side as they go from car to car in the church parking lot receiving candy from the trunks. There are often rides and games and face painting…fun times in a safe atmosphere!

The objects associated with Halloween, however, conjure feelings of fear, darkness and demon spirits. Things of which, we as Christians don’t want to be a part. Therefore we have reinvented its meaning to our children and allow them to participate according to our definition. But as I was thinking about all of this, I had an interesting idea come to mind regarding the connotation of Halloween and its placement in the holiday season.

Following closely behind Halloween on our yearly holiday docket is a lovely event called Thanksgiving! Simply enunciating the word “Thanksgiving”, diametrically opposed to Halloween, evokes feelings of warmth and contentment. My first thoughts are of extended family, turkey and dressing, pumpkin pie and lots and lots of chatter and laughter as everyone catches up on a year’s worth of events in a single day! What a contrast to Halloween and its dismal mental pictures of death and destruction. Thanksgiving doesn’t have to have its story rewritten to allow children to participate. On the contrary, it is an uplifting story of adventure, hardship overcome, cooperation, goodwill and overwhelming thankfulness for overflowing blessings from God. How fitting that it should follow behind Halloween and not precede it!

And next on our list, always anticipated immediately after Thanksgiving is the unprecedented holiday that we wait for all year…Christmas! Christmas…the season of brotherly love, giving, jingling bells, carols and intense shopping. But most importantly, it is the celebration of the ultimate gift to mankind…Jesus Christ the Son of God, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace! All things good are encapsulated in this glorious time of year. Its contagion spreads to those who believe and those who do not. Only those who are absolute in their refusal are not affected by this magical time of year. And for Christians, it brings joy unspeakable, as we remember the origin of our faith and the birth of our Savior as we sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men!”

We barely and grudgingly let go of Christmas when another holiday sticks its head around the corner and bids us a “Happy New Year”! We look forward to new, bold beginnings as we jot down or make mental notes of our new year’s resolutions. And although many of us don’t keep all of them in the long run, still hope is instilled as we meditate on the possibilities of changed attitudes, changed body shapes, changed monetary situations and a bright future ahead.

So in summary, you might say that “Halloween”, the Holiday of The Macabre, gives way to “Thanksgiving”, The Holiday of Thankfulness that makes way for “Christmas”, The Holiday of Love that ushers in “New Year’s Eve”, The Holiday of Hope. And as the cycle begins again…we hope on and dream on and live on for another year of celebrations!

INFINITE HOPE

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HOPE 2
I would have been without hope if I had not believed
that I would see
the loving-kindness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Psalm 27:13

I know I’ve used this saying before in my devotionals, but it is surely one of my favorites and worth repeating. “I am never down. I am always up or I’m getting up!” This is my confession. This is my mantra so to speak. And this attitude, along with the Word of God and His great promises, is what keeps me from giving up in this fight of depression and the challenges of life.

You may be thinking, “Well you just don’t understand how bad it really is. You don’t understand what I’m going through!  You don’t understand what I’ve been through!”

Oh, I beg to differ with you, My Friend. I do understand…for I have been there, done that and have more than one t-shirt! Twenty years ago, after going through a divorce after twenty years of marriage, I was severely depressed. Not only so, but aside from the clinical depression, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. In other words, I had a complete physical and emotional breakdown. I didn’t have the strength to get off the couch except for short periods of time. I had to get on disability because I couldn’t work to support myself. I was about as low as I could get without just laying down and quitting. If it had not been for the help of my precious family and friends, and my belief in the goodness of God, my hope would have been gone.

But I absolutely refused to stay down! Believe me, it was tempting. It’s hard to get up when you’ve fallen so low, but“I am never down! I am always up or I’m getting up!” I started pumping myself full of the Word of God regarding my healing, both physical and emotional. I listened to sermons. I exercised to praise music (for all of five minutes!). I believed as much as my believer was capable and left the rest to God. Although negative thoughts pounded my mind like the fists of a prize fighter in the final round, I refused to tap out! I was still on my knees and God was still on His throne directing my life.

I know you’ve heard the saying, “It’s not over, ’till God says it’s over.” That is a truth, but in my opinion, it is not an absolute truth. If you give up…if you say it’s over…God will not make you get up. He will extend His hand but He will not override your will. So my advice to you is, get in God’s corner and YOU say, “God is on MY side and it’s not over ’til HE says it’s over! I’m never down! I am always up or I’m getting up! End of discussion, Devil! End of discussion negative thoughts! Negative thoughts, I can’t keep you from passing through, but I won’t allow you to move in and rearrange the furniture! I will immediately show you the exit door. Trouble is inevitable, but misery is optional! It is my decision to be powerful, rather than pitiful! I will overcome this by the Blood of The Lamb and the word of my testimony!”

And let me tell you, My Friends, I did overcome by His grace! I gradually started getting my physical and emotional strength back. I started working a part-time job for a few hours a day. At first I would come home, go straight to my recliner and fall asleep. But I got up a little bit at a time until I was standing tall once again…self-sufficient and off disability! To God be the glory!!! And if I did it, you can do it too! God and I have confidence in you!

But this is not the end of the story by long shot. The saga continues daily. I wake up every morning and I must decide, “Will I follow Jesus or believe the negative thoughts that pass through my mind?” I emphatically say, “No! I’ll never give up! I am never down, I am always up or I’m getting up!” And though it’s not the end of the story, it IS the end of the discussion!

Be blessed, My Friends! And if you would like me to pray for you in this area or any other area in which you’re struggling, please leave a note in the comments and I promise you, I will pray!

HOLD ON!

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DON'T LET GO GOD'S HAND
I cried out, “I am slipping!” but Your unfailing love,
O Lord , supported me.
When doubts filled my mind,
Your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
Psalms 94:18‭-‬19 NLT

Have you ever been in a situation where you lost your footing for whatever reason and someone near you grabbed your arm to keep you from falling? Did you welcome the help of that person or did you push them away? How foolish you would be to do such a thing! And yet at times we reject the help that is so readily available to us through our Loving Heavenly Father. Sometimes He extends His hand and we slap it away, choosing rather to fall into our pit of self-pity.

When we already have a tendency toward depression it is more difficult to resist when the trials of life come…especially when they persist like relentless waves pounding one after the other eroding our hopes and washing them out to sea. Let me give you a personal example, lest you think I don’t know what I’m talking about.

In October of last year I was visiting with friends in Florida where I stayed in their basement apartment. The day before I was to leave for home I fell on the stairs and broke my wrist and ended up having surgery where they inserted a permanent plate and nine screws. At the same time I injured my shoulder which caused me constant pain. The day before Christmas Eve I had rotator cuff surgery which resulted in twelve-plus weeks of physical therapy. It is now May and I recently had to go to my orthopedic doctor because my knees were bothering me. I had fluid on my knees and I had to have injections for three weeks in a row to draw off the fluid and insert gel. Now the orthopedic doctor says I need to go to therapy for my knees! Nooooo…not more therapy!!! Lord, what’s going on? Help me…I’m slipping!!!

Friends, I know what it’s like to feel like you’re going under for the third time. I know the feelings of hopelessness and despair. And I know how difficult it is to come up again for another gasping breath. Sometimes you just think it would be so much easier to stay down and experience that lasting peace, morbid as it sounds. Perhaps it would be for you…but not for those who know you and love you! I don’t want to leave that kind of legacy for my children and grandchildren. I don’t want to leave behind that message of defeat for my friends and acquaintances. I want to be a “Rocky Balboa”…a fighter to the end! The only one who can keep me down is me and I refuse to tap out! I want to be like the man who said, “I’m never down! I’m always up…or getting up!”

But I can’t do it by myself! Yes, I am a very strong-willed person, but sometimes my will to “get up and go” has “gotten up and gone”! Sometimes doubts fill the corridors of my mind like floodwaters overflowing river banks. I need the strong arm of the Lord to help me…to keep me from slipping. I need the comfort that only He can give…a comfort that gives me renewed hope and cheer. But how do I get it? I’ve begged, I’ve pleaded, I’ve confessed my sins, I’ve asked for a sign!  Nothing is working!

Have you tried letting it all go and giving it to Him, fully relying on Him to work it out? You may have to do it many times. The enemy of your soul won’t give up easily, but don’t you give up either! Be tenacious! Hold on to the promises in God’s Word like a drowning man with a life raft, and keep holding on until the storm has passed! His unfailing love will support you. And I’m telling you, if you’ll do this…it WILL pass!  Wow!  Look up!  Is that a rainbow I see?!!!

Lord, when doubts fill my mind,
Your comfort gives me renewed hope and cheer.

A MOTHER’S REFLECTIONS

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MOTHERS DAY
He gives the childless woman a family,
making her a happy mother.
Praise the Lord! Psalm 113:9 NLT

I entitled this post, “Reflections of a Mother”, because my children are grown and I now have the grand title of “Meme” to my grandchildren. All I have now are memories of their childhood, and sad to say, even those tend to fade as I get older. I still remember looking out the picture window at my son waiting for the school bus when he was in elementary school. He would sign the words, “I love you” and I would sign back the same…precious memories. I remember my daughter singing to me even when she couldn’t pronounce the words correctly. (She still sings and writes music.) Sometimes the mispronunciation was very humorous, but I didn’t laugh…precious memories.

Then came the preteen years when it seemed anything I said or did embarrassed them. I never could figure out why and they never seemed to know definitively. It certainly wasn’t deliberate. But as you know, I’m a little outspoken. They preferred that I keep ALL my opinions to myself. But as a child, I was very bashful and didn’t want them to be that way.

The year my son was entering college, their father and I divorced. It was a hard time for everyone. My son was very angry with me and lashed out verbally on many occasions. I kept asking myself, “Why is he so angry with me and not his father?” Then it came to me…I’m his mother. He knows I love him unconditionally. He knows he can vent his anger on me without serious repercussions. It wasn’t easy, but I did understand. After all, that’s the way my Heavenly Father loves me…unconditionally and with much grace!

However, I must have done something right as a mother. Both of my children are happily married and productive members of society. My daughter has made me a grandmother to four beautiful girls that she home schools. My son works in the corporate office of Virginia College. I am very proud of both of them and give God the glory!

That’s the encapsulated background of my motherhood. Now that I’m pushing sixty (I won’t tell you which way I’m pushing!), I feel that I am experienced enough to give you some advice on the subject if you’re interested. And if you are…please read on, though it may seem a little lengthy. You really don’t expect me to give a lifetime of advice in a few sentences, do you?

(1) LIGHTEN UP!
I can look back now and see so many things that would have made time with my children more enjoyable if I’d just lightened up! One facet of my personality is perfectionism. When my children were small, I didn’t even realize it. Have you ever noticed that things that are blatantly obvious to other people, we often receive with a blind eye. When I was pregnant with my son, my first, I was petrified that I wouldn’t get to the hospital on time. I had hair below my waist and I was so paranoid that it wouldn’t be fresh when I went to the hospital, I washed it every other day. My poor son was probably traumatized before he came out of the womb!

(2) ENJOY EVERY MOMENT
Even in the trying times and mundane tasks that are required of motherhood, make an effort to savor the moment. So they found your scissors and cut off all their beautiful curls…it will grow back! Or maybe they used themselves as a human canvas with permanent marker!!! Don’t blow! Use it as a teaching tool, although it takes every effort not to manifest your horror.

(3) DO YOUR BEST NOT TO STRESS
This was the hardest for me, being a perfectionist. Stop for just a moment before jumping into crisis mode and ask the Lord to give you peace, wisdom and understanding. Most things in life are not worth the pounding stress gives your body. Ask yourself, “Is this permanent? Is it fixable? Will it make an impact on our lives a year from now?” If not, its not worth the stress.

(4) MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
This is something I rarely did when rearing my children. (By the way, I was a stay-at-home mom, so I was with them constantly.) I felt guilty when I made time for myself…a false guilt of course. It doesn’t have to be long periods of time, just little moments to reflect on your own hopes and desires. Spend five or ten minutes in a devotional time each morning. God understands your busy schedule. It doesn’t take Him long to speak peace into your day. Give Him the opportunity and give yourself the pleasure of His blessing.

(5) MAKE TIME FOR YOUR HUSBAND
Many times as mothers, our children become priority and our husband gets left behind in the whirlwind of numerous activities and projects. Don’t let it happen! He needs your love and attention too. If you can’t work out a date night, just put the kids to bed early and enjoy some alone time. It is of utmost importance! Many marriages don’t last after children come because couples grow apart in the wake of increased responsibility.

In short, if I had the whole motherhood thing to do over again with the insight I have now, I would live, laugh, love, breath in life deeply and only exhale after holding it as long as possible!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, MY SISTERS AND FRIENDS!

MOTHERS DAY HEARTS

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

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IN TOWEL 2
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.
Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them
and will last forever!
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now;
rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.
For the things we see now will soon be gone,
but the things we cannot see will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4:17‭-‬18 NLT

This verse just came to my remembrance this morning as I was taking care of my little dog, Lucy. If you’ve read many of my devotionals, you know that the Lord often speaks to me through my interactions with my pets. I have written many a devotional about Rosie, my cat who has gone on to kitty heaven now. But…back to Lucy, my little four pound Yorkie, who was a recent gift from friends who thought she would be a perfect companion for me. And they were right! What a blessing she is!

Lucy lost a toenail on her right foot recently and had to be treated for it. I have to give her antibiotics twice a day and soak her paw in Epsom Salt for five minutes three times a day. Now I can say without any exaggeration that Lucy hates taking the antibiotic and from the look and smell of it, it certainly is justified! The only up-side is that she gets a treat afterward. She doesn’t really like the foot soaking, but does tolerate it much better than the antibiotic. I keep telling her that this ritual is going to make her paw much better. (Don’t tell me you don’t talk to your pets!) But I’m certain she thinks that I must be punishing her for some unknown sin, although while the foot is soaking she does gets to cuddle in my lap on a fluffy towel.

It was while this was going on that the Lord brought the verse in Corinthians to my mind. Lucy doesn’t like what’s going on right now. It seems harsh and hard and is very uncomfortable. She doesn’t understand! Why would her master who purports to love her allow such things?! Do you see where I’m going with this?

Many times in our life things happen that we don’t understand…troubles come, depression comes, heartaches come, disappointments come. We don’t understand! We’ve been doing the best we can. We search our heart for some unconfessed sin. Is God punishing us? There must be a reason! But let me tell you, My Friend, sometimes the only reason is that we live in a fallen world full of chaos brought on by the enemy of our soul. Sometimes there is no reason except this…“Life Happens!” Lucy didn’t do anything wrong, nor did you. Lie back in your Master’s lap on the fluffy blanket of His love and just chill for a while.

We have to encourage ourselves with this tried and true phrase…“This too shall pass!” The trials and adverse circumstances that are affecting my life now won’t last forever, although they are quite uncomfortable. I can’t let myself get bogged down in the mire of self-pity and hopelessness. God is ALWAYS for me and never against me! I refuse to look at the present troubles, rather I will “fix my gaze” on Jesus, Whom I know is working behind the scenes to make a way of escape for me! I’ll keep traveling down this bumpy road of life with its potholes and sinkholes and manholes…and I will do it in joyous expectation that my deliverance may be just around the next corner!

TURN ON THE LIGHT!

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WITH SLING
There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24b

I would like to apologize to you, my followers, for not posting in quite some time. I do have an excuse. Now, sometimes an excuse is not really a valid reason, but in this instance, I think perhaps it is.

The first week of October 2015 I was visiting friends in Florida and staying in their basement apartment. I have visited often and walked up and down the somewhat steep stairs numerous times before…no problem. But the night before I was to leave I walked down without turning on the light (Duh!), missed the bottom step, lost my balance and fell with a rather large thud on the cement floor. Shock waves surged through my body like a small earthquake! Even though my body was immobile on the outside, I still felt like I was bouncing on the inside…kind of like an instant replay in slow motion. My first thought was, “Oh my…I think I’ve broken EVERYTHING!” I caught myself with my left wrist and after sitting there stunned for a moment, I finally managed to pull my arm around to see that my wrist was about twice it’s normal size and was apparently broken. I was a little freaked, since I’ve never had a broken bone before, but at least nothing was sticking out!

I called for my friend’s husband, Mike, who had already gone to bed and was asleep. My friend Elaine was at work. Their little Yorkie, Ripley was standing at the top of the stairs barking frantically at the commotion below. I started yelling for Mike to no avail. Ripley was helping as much as he could by barking in his loudest Yorkie voice! Still Mike did not wake up. I finally decided I had no recourse but to drag myself up the stairs. I finally got myself up and scooted up the steps one at a time pulling myself with my good hand. (Do you feel sorry for me yet? LOL! Hey, I can laugh about it now!) When I got to the top, I started yelling for Mike again and by this time, Ripley realized something was terribly wrong, jumped on his chest and continued barking…my hero! Mike awakened with a start, jumped out of bed and the saga continues.

We called another sweet friend, Liz, who came in the middle of the night to take me to the hospital in the town nearby. By the time we got there, Mike had called Elaine and told her what happened. She works in the sheriff’s office at the county jail. So in she comes decked out in full uniform…utility belt, gun and all and sat down beside me. After a while we noticed that the people who came by looked at us very strangely and with what seemed like a little apprehension. It was only later that we realized that they thought I was an inmate that she had brought in for treatment. We had a really good laugh in the midst of my pain!

The doctor put on a temporary cast and said that I would have to see an orthopedic surgeon, for I would definitely need surgery. The next morning, Mike and Elaine drove me the eight hours back to my home, one driving my car and the other following behind even though they had to leave early the next morning to go back to their home and jobs. Now that is when you know you have true friends!

I had surgery three days later. The doctor put a permanent plate and nine screws in my wrist! So now I say I’m partially bionic! However, by God’s grace, I have healed in record time and done amazingly well. I can’t play my guitar yet, but that also is coming, for my God is faithful!

I will write again soon and share with you the lesson I learned from this experience. So until then . . . be blessed AND turn on the light!

A CHRISTMAS STORY

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NATIVITY
A Christmas Story by Sherry Evans

The cool air swirled around her feet giving her an unwelcome chill. The animal beneath her bristled. She wondered about the unknown. The babe kicked from inside the womb, a gentle reminder of what was to come. “Am I ready for this?” she pondered. “God will be my strength,” was the assurance from within. The journey was far. Joseph tirelessly walked onward even though last night he was the watchman. The caravan was slow. The large robust group had made good time and were probably already in Bethlehem. Joseph had insisted they stay behind with the stragglers, the elderly, the sick, and those expecting. The trip would take twice as long but Joseph was right not to take chances with such precious cargo.

The days were grueling with frigid temperatures, rain and sickness all around. Mary’s heart went out to the suffering around her. Mary wished for an end to the days but the nights were worse. Hungry animals prowled the edge of the camp each evening. And rumors of bandits floated throughout the camp from terror stricken lips. Mary knew God would protect them but unwelcome fears still lurked in the background. The days stretched on. Mary dreaded giving birth on the road. Her heart silently plead, “If only we can make it to Bethlehem before the babe arrives.”

When the first birth pangs began, Mary feared they would not make it in time. By the time Bethlehem’s gates were visible the regular spasms caused her to catch her breath…people everywhere, noises and smells. Nausea made her dizzy as Joseph paced determinedly from house to inn in search of a resting place. He could see she was in pain. The furrowed lines etched upon her brow told him that time was short. There was no room. Would No one show any kindness to a young girl when her time had come?

The last innkeeper opened to the knock of Joseph’s shaking hands. “Sir, my wife…” Joseph pled. The desperation in his voice caused the innkeeper to look beyond the man to the young girl atop the mule gritting her teeth amidst the pain. This innkeeper was not known for kindness. He was a business man. But the haunting eyes of the girl in such straights caused him a momentary pause. “You can take her to the Livery. It’s dry and warm there. I can do no better. GO!”

Joseph stood in shocked silence, then quickly gathered his charge and entered the mouth of the cave. Mules with servants milling around parted and made a path when they saw the young girl. The atmosphere was quieter and more serene in this alcove, sheltered from the outside chaos. Female servants hurried over when they realized the state of things. Joseph now searched for a midwife. Time was short. Things were happening too quickly for Mary. This was not what she’d envisioned. The babe was coming in a stable. This was no place for a king! The pains were strong and unlike anything she had ever known. She wished for her mother or sister’s comfort. And then it was finished. Cries echoed into the cavern. Mary’s eyes watered at the first sight of this babe. The babe cooed softly and with wide eyed wonder he stared out into the world. His mother searched his eyes. She felt an electricity, an intangible force felt by all present. This babe knew her soul.

The midwife returned with Joseph just in time to see that all was well. Joseph felt the power in the room and timidly approached. Gingerly taking his adopted son in his arms for the first time the weight of the responsibility hit him hard. Joseph searched the eyes of the child and wondered if he was able to provide for this small babe of wonder. His eyes were mesmerizing. A peace filled his soul. He was comforted.

Joseph placed the babe in the arms of his mother and looked up. Everyone could feel a slight tremor in the air. Everything was changed in the short span of time since the babe had come. People spoke in hushed tones of reverence. The activity of angels was unknown yet overpowering, causing the air to be electric and alive. The babe saw the angels about and giggled aloud sending chills throughout the group of onlookers as his mother smiled at the sound. Outside a solitary star outshone the moon guiding others to share this vision. Shepherds entered the cavern in search of the truth. Unbeknownst to all, after this night the universe would never be the same.