One day my mother was fussing as she struggled to fasten her seat belt. Hearing her sigh of frustration as I sat in the driver’s seat, I said, “Let me take care of it”. I slipped the latch for the belt into its place and she relaxed.
Afterwards I thought of how often God must want to say to us as we fuss and fret over a situation, “Let Me take care of it”. While we figuratively bang our heads against the wall, trying this way or that to solve the problem, God waits for us to ask Him for help. He wants to say, “Let Me take care of it”.
Scriptures to Consider: Ps. 103:13, Luke 11:9, 10, I Peter 5:7, Philippians 4:6,7
I usually think of blessings as the kind I can see—the kind that happened. Recently I experienced the kind of blessings which are in the “what could have happened, but didn’t” category. This was during a stretch of time in which my mother went to the emergency room twice in a week, and my car went to the garage.
One day while driving up a long hill, the car started to jerk underneath. I thought, Is that the transmission or the gas feed? The only way it didn’t jerk was if I really gave it the gas or if it shifted. I didn’t drive it often until I could get the vehicle looked at, but one time I did drive it was to take my mother to the ER—then drive it home at night when the hospital kept my mother for observation, a round trip of about thirty miles, which included many hills. After taking it to a mechanic, I found out the car needed the transmission flushed.
The blessings contained in my “car drama” include:
the car didn’t break down on the road (very important, especially when taking my mother of advanced age to the hospital, and when driving at night)
no prolonged damage to the transmission
no damage to the engine (what affects the transmission can easily affect the engine)
people—a neighbor and then a relative—who when needed, were willing to help me out by taking me to the hospital to pick my mother up and by taking me to the service shop to pick up the car
at first, the service shop couldn’t get the transmission lines to hold the fluid. Believe it or not, I emailed friends and requested prayer for that specific situation. Later on, believe it or not, the shop called and said the pressure was holding; the car was ready for pick up. I choose to believe prayer made the difference—why else would the situation change??
Other blessings were that my mother did not have any strokes. Instead, she had what is called “vasovagal episodes”, which were scary enough to me, but were not strokes. Another blessing is the caring and thoughtfulness shown by the nurses and staff at the hospital to both my mother and me. A visiting nurse came the other day and gave me tips on how to help my mother. She told me that if my mother has another episode like that, I can call any time and a visiting nurse will come, check my mother, do blood work, take it to the lab, and contact my mother’s doctor. We wouldn’t have to go to the ER. Finally, while sitting at home waiting for the call to pick up my car, I started counting the number of family and friends who would be willing to help me out with a ride. The number was higher than I thought; I have more support than first realized. When I told that to my pastor’s wife, she remarked that was evidence God was standing by me in my troubles. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)
While I didn’t want these troubles to happen, I found out when they do, blessings show up right there in the midst of them. It isn’t all bad news. That’s important for me to remember.
It occurred to me that any time I act in a way I’m supposed to in order to please God (choosing humility over envy, for instance) and I don’t act in a way I am used to acting, I am taking a step forward in faith. To me it’s in faith because it’s choosing a different attitude than I’ve done before. I’m “walking on different ground”, so to speak. For me, it takes a bit of courage because attitudes and thought patterns can become so engrained in your heart and mind that it seems those old patterns are what you are to do. But those old patterns don’t lead to happiness, joy, and peace. The new patterns do, and that’s refreshing and calming.
Scriptures to consider: Romans 12:1,2,9-21, Romans 15:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18, James 1:19, 20, Psalm 1:1-3, Psalm 34:4, Psalm 37:1,2,7
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 (NIV) (This verse restates the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy 31:6)
Several years ago a physical therapist, following an examination, told me I could have spinal stenosis. About three years ago my left knee complained loudly, and after a couple doctor’s visits I was diagnosed with poly-arthritis in multiple sites. Depression jumped on the bandwagon, as I wrote about here.
When I first read the above Scripture, it sounded like marriage vows. The difference is that although a husband or wife may leave the spouse, God says He will never leave. While I’ve never been married, the above verse gives me comfort in my struggles with chronic pain. I am limited in what pain-killers I can use. When my back starts hurting, or my knee or my wrist start complaining, it’s not long before I get grumpy, irritable, anxious, and depressed. When you throw in that some days my pain is all I can think of, and other days I hardly notice it, and I can’t predict when days will be good or not good—well, that would put stress on any marriage. But God stands by me, nevertheless. I may not be as sensitive to His Presence as I should be, but all I have to do is read the above verse to realize He isn’t going anywhere. He is not going to leave me, even if I am so grumpy I could bite my own head off, let alone anyone else’s! 🙂
It may be that part of God’s faithfulness is realizing blessings hidden in chronic pain. “Blessings???” you say. “How can there be blessings in something so painful, so unpredictable?” Consider these:
Chronic pain forces me to look at Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for me as the source of my feelings of self-worth. I sure can’t get it from the amount of work I get done, because there are days when I can’t do much!
I am gaining empathy for other people, who are in pain, depressed, or anxious. I know what it’s like, and it’s hard.
It forces me to be glad for the small amount I can get done—if my right wrist is bothering me (I’m right-handed), instead of a complete letter to a friend, maybe I get three paragraphs written. Instead of an hour or two on the computer, maybe I can get fifteen or twenty minutes in.
This goes along with #1 and #3: it’s an effective way of wearing down perfectionism: I’m hurting too much physically to beat myself up emotionally or mentally.
So, yes, there are blessings even in something so unwanted as chronic pain. I think the greatest blessing of all is simply knowing God’s faithfulness in the middle of it all.
Another Scripture to consider is: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35, 37, 38
For some time I’ve had fearful thoughts running around in my head. You know, the kind which start out, “What if…? What if this happens? What are you going to do when…?” Since I don’t know the answers to those questions, the thoughts provoked a lot of anxiety.
Recently I’ve been spending more time reading the Bible. The verses which seem to jump out at me are those which speak of God’s sovereignty, and His character—His goodness. I’ve also spent time reflecting on the fact that life is lived one day at a time. I can’t “hurry” tomorrow along so I can see what I have to deal with. God has hidden tomorrow from me. I believe this is a type of discipline, so I’ll walk by faith in Him.
Tomorrow will bring challenges, but by God’s grace it will also bring provision for those challenges. I don’t see the provision for tomorrow because I’m not there yet. I don’t need tomorrow’s provision for today. God does not waste His provision. God’s help will be there when I need it.
These reflections bring me peace. They are the answers to the questions which put my mind in turmoil.
Some Scripture verses to think about: Matthew 6:34; Exodus 16:17-21; Philippians 4:6,7,19; Psalm 27:13,14; Psalm 145:3-10.
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8b, (NLT)
Like many people, I tend to look back on the old year in January. As I remember situations, I think about the good things God did for me. Things like—
He helped my mother through various health issues, as I wrote about here. He used that time to mold me, as I wrote here. Through that time, He gave me a better perspective on love, not as strictly an emotion, but as commitment and action.
I wanted to live in a bigger comfort zone. God responded through a friend’s request to cat-sit for her. Even in that small effort, I learned some things. This post, here, is reflections on what stuck out to me.
I wanted to try something new. As a member of Inspire Christian Writers, I had an opportunity to volunteer to serve as an assistant editor for the 2021 Inspire Anthology. I had never done any editing before. As an editor on four pieces, I gained valuable experience. To do the editing I used Track Changes on Microsoft Word. Although I use Microsoft Word regularly, that was the first time I used Track Changes. I looked at the pieces with an editor’s eye, certainly a different approach for me. I learned an editor’s way of interacting with a writer.
In December I received a Christmas letter from an acquaintance. For whatever reason, envy reared its ugly head. I was so angry! I had no cause to be, but I was. I intended to write the person back in a way as to cut off any future relationship. But, thank God, a phrase from Steve Laube’s writing/publishing blog jumped to the forefront of my mind: “Never burn your bridges”. Another phrase followed, this one from a magazine: “Grace beats malice…” The need to write something in reply was almost overwhelming, but I didn’t know what to write. God provided the answer, as I believe the Holy Spirit told me to write the person a letter describing how God worked in my life through the year. I wrote it, mailed it, and had a wonderful sense of peace and relief about it. Had I allowed my envy and anger to go from me to the person, I would not be enjoying that peace today.
For years I’ve known I should read and study the Bible more, but couldn’t keep up with whatever Bible reading plan I followed. I felt guilty and gave up. Through the years I read bits and pieces here and there, but never had any organization. God provided an answer through a journal and the Bible I started using (New Living Translation). The journal provided a page a day for Bible reading and reflection, and the NLT has headings above passages, breaking up chapters. I decided to read and reflect on just one passage or possibly two for each day’s reading. This is working out well for me. If I miss a day I no longer feel condemnation. I simply pick up where I left off. A bonus is that I want to read the Bible now; it’s not a “should” thing.
I am glad I can look back and see these things God brought into my life.
If you’d like more information on the anthology I mentioned, Inspire Christian Writers 2021 Anthology, InspireCommunity—Inspiring Writings About the Power of Community, is available on Amazon. Seventeen writers share different ways community exists.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NIV)
“give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV) I used to have a really hard time with this verse, until it sunk in that we are not to give thanks for circumstances, but in circumstances. There are many extremely difficult circumstances we cannot give thanks for, and God does not expect us to. But even in them, we can give thanks. Sometimes it’s still hard to wrap my mind around this verse, but as I practice doing it, I find that thanking God helps me in the circumstance. It changes the face of it, and brings it “down to size”, so to speak.
“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29b (NLT)
“Never, never, never, never give up.” Winston Churchill
Here is one I put on the wall next to my computer:
In the line of Sunday’s post, here, I am thinking about gifts you can give. These gifts don’t require money, don’t need wrapped, and can be given to anyone, anytime of the year. They do have a cost—gifts always do—these gifts require you to put your self on the back burner. What are these versatile, but costly, gifts?
Patience. It’s especially needed this time of the year. It’s in short supply, and therefore is more needed and more valuable. It costs a person to be patient, rather than grumbling, being obnoxious, complaining about how slow the cashier is, and practically pushing people aside to get to the head of the line.
Flexibility. Ok, you are doing last-minute shopping, you meant to get that special gift earlier, but circumstances beyond your control stepped in, and the special gift isn’t available online or in any store. What to do? Take a deep breath, and be flexible. Think of that in the broadest terms possible. Don’t think of it as a specific gift, look at it like this: what need or want did that gift fill? Can you get something else that will work? Flexibility is a gift you can give yourself as you give to others. To be flexible means I’m not demanding something be exactly the way I want it. If I can be flexible, I don’t get stressed out about a situation.
Compassion. I am not talking about sending money to charities here, but rather being aware of a individual’s need and stepping in to do whatever you can to help. Maybe it is giving that person money, or a gift card for food, or buying a whole turkey dinner, taking it to the person, and helping them prepare it. Maybe it is sitting down with the person and taking time to listen with your whole heart—not planning what you want to say, not judging what he or she says—but just listening. Many people in various circumstances need the gift of compassion expressed as listening.
Willingness to withhold judgment. This is hard for me. I tend to think I know everything about a person’s situation based on what it looks like on the surface. LOL! People are complex; life is complex; there’s a lot going on below, so it’s always best not to judge.
A break. Yes, give yourself and others a break. Remember that whether or not you get everything done when you want it done, how you want it done, whether your family members get along or not—your value as a person does not depend on any of those things. Your value as a person does not depend on what other people say or think about you. Your value as a person depends solely on the fact that God loves you. In His eyes, you (and everybody else) have tremendous value. His view is the only one that ultimately matters. Think along His view, and you’ll have less stress, more joy, and be able to give the other “gifts” on the list easier.
Happy New Year!
Scripture references: I Corinthians 13: 4,5, Romans 3: 23,24, John 3:16, Romans 5: 6-9, Philippians 4: 6-8
Some months ago I was thinking of an event in the life of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. The Lord told him to go to the potter’s house, and He would give him a message. Jeremiah watched the potter work the clay. As he watched, the Lord spoke. He told Jeremiah that as the potter molded the clay in whatever shape he wished, the Lord could do the same with Israel.
As I thought of the clay being molded by the potter’s hand, the Lord spoke to me and said, “It won’t look like what you think it will.” I said, “Okay”.
I look back on the past few months, and have to agree, it doesn’t look like what I thought it would! Somehow I thought it would be smooth as ice cream, and there wouldn’t be any rough spots! LOL!!! There were plenty of rough spots, dark spots, and potholes. But—God was in it. How do I know? I know because I acted differently than I would have on my own. When my mother uncharacteristically screamed and yelled at me, and said things, God gave me the grace not to take it personally. (Pleasetake note: it’sbeen my specialty since childhood to take things personally.) God gave me the grace to answer the same question three times or more in a row without getting impatient; He gave me the grace to speak with a kindness and gentleness I didn’t have before. He gave me assertiveness when I needed it. He walked me through that difficult, unsettling time, and I can say, I believe He is molding and shaping me, by everyday experiences and circumstances.
Through other ordinary experiences, He provided respite and refreshment from my cares, as I wrote about here.
As I was writing a letter to a friend this evening, I had an AHA! moment. It was this: if God is molding me, He is in the experience; He is right there with me, and He will not let me go. He is Immanuel, God with us.
Here are the verses from Jeremiah: The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the Lord gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” Jeremiah 18:1-6 (NLT)
From Matthew: “…She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” Matthew 1:23 (NLT)
This fall I had an early attack of the “gloomies”—a blue mood that makes a person lose incentive for doing anything. Back in October my area got four or five days in a row of cloudy, gloomy weather. I wondered if the sun lost our location coordinates! In addition to that, we put up thick plastic storm windows earlier this year. The gray weather, combined with my inability to see outside, brought on the dreaded “gloomies”.
This year I found a welcome difference in my perspective—the realization that the gloomies can be fought. The gloomies are here, but it’s not the end of the world. My mood will change. It is a battle, and yes, I have to push myself, but I don’t have to lay down and take it. I have weapons; I just have to take them up and use them.
The most powerful weapon is to praise God, especially when I don’t feel like it. Praising God takes my focus off my blue mood and switches it to God. I’ve found that praising God clears my head and calms my heart.
While I’m doing that, I can also:
Go outside. Yep, right out into the gloom. It’s challenging the hold the gloom has on my mood. I pick up twigs, or feed the birds, or just look at the patterns of the bark on the trees. Nature has so much variety and detail to see. Nature reflects its Creator in some aspects, and I can gain insights, if I get myself out there and look.
Write something–a letter, a blog post, a reflection on a book I read, or revise a piece I already wrote.
Listen to music.
Color or draw.
Get rid of clutter. As I clean up the material clutter, the mental/emotional clutter goes too.
A new weapon this year, courtesy of fellow blogger/photographer Gary Fultz, is cooking new recipes.
Add more light inside. I dug through some Christmas decorations and found two sets of candelabras—plastic “candles” that you put four-or-seven-watt bulbs in. After the bulbs warm up, they twinkle. It makes the room more cheerful-looking. Nowadays, the LED candelabras are popular, but this is what we have, and it fills the purpose.
Decorate the plastic storm windows. Within two days of putting up the plastic, I missed being able to look outside. It was a feeling akin to homesickness; I couldn’t believe it bothered me so much. So I taped pictures of flowers I had colored onto some of the inner storm windows. That way, when I open the curtains or drapes, I see something beautiful, not the opaque plastic. Childish? Perhaps, but it lifts my spirits.
Change interior decorations. My mother and I both worked at stores which sold candles, artificial flowers, and ornamental items. Over the years we amassed quite a variety. Soon after the gloomies hit, I decided to change one little corner near the computer. I rummaged around the candles until I found a beautiful mint green candle. I paired it with a miniature artificial plant and put them on the stand in the corner. All this may sound like much ado about nothing, but I’ve read that the brain gets used to the furniture and decoration arrangements, and gets in a “rut”. Changing the way a room looks gives the brain a bit of a jolt, and gives a lift to the spirits.
I'm Joanna, a busy married mum of two beautiful boys aged four and three. I'm sharing my experiences as I navigate the wonderful world of motherhood! Mistakes, routines, mum / life hacks, cleaning, beauty...little bit of everything!