Taxes, Taxes

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13:7 NIV

It is said there is nothing sure in life except death and taxes. Taxes. Ugh! I’ve always complained and fretted over preparing my own tax returns. I did hire H&R Block once. All they did was fill in the blanks. I had to do all the calculations and present the sums to them. I thought they were suppose to do all that stuff.  And still they prepared them incorrectly.  After receiving an notice from the IRS that year that a correction was needed,  I decided, “No thank you. If I’m going to do the work for you, then I’ll just keep the fees and go back to preparing them myself.”  Haven’t had any problems since then, except, it seems no matter how many deduction, expenses, and allowances I hunt for, I always end up owing more taxes on top of the extra withholdings. Can’t take what’s not there. Oh, well, it is, what it is.

I’ve been on both sides of the tax payer coin this month. My new job landed me in the world of tax preparation. Sounds like fun, huh? Not!! Talk about stress… I’ve developed a new respect for  CPAs  and tax analysts this past week. The CPA and analysts in my office prepared close to 800 returns or more. A 40hr work week became  64 for me and 72 or more hours for some analysts. Whew! Now the fun of filing extensions begins for those who couldn’t meet the deadline.

I’ll not complain though. God has blessed me with employment. I have a house that keeps  me warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I can take hot showers. I have modern appliances. My vehicles are dependable. I have food when I’m hungry. I have clothing to spare.

I can remember less fortunate times when my family lived in a house with only a single cold water faucet in the whole house. We had running water and a path. There was no inside bathroom, only an outside toilet. Baths were taken in a washtub. I was provided one pair of shoes, one coat, and one school dress each year. If I out grew them before the end of the year, well, too bad. They had to be worn anyway.

No, I’ll not complain. There are many in every country who still live in those conditions, or worse. I’m thankful God has provided me with the means to share His love in helping others, and His grace to do so.

I hope if you have been blessed, that you will also consider sharing with others who are less fortunate.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you have blessed me and others beyond measure. Your mercy and grace is boundless. Help us to have your eyes to see, your hands to serve and your heart to love. In Christ name – amen.

 

 

The Lone Rider

I sat on the back porch enjoying the warmth of the spring sunshine. Finally, I could don a pair of shorts and soak in some vitamin-D. Finally, I had some time where I had no place to be and no one to be accountable to other than myself.

Equipped with pen, pad and a copy of Max Lucado’s book “Grace for the Moment” I was ready for some “me” time. I read through the preface and thumbed through a couple of pages through out the book. None of his words seemed to connect with me.

I prayed inwardly, “Lord, speak to me. What would you have me learn.” Just as I finished my short little prayer, my beagle, Corporal, began to bark. I looked up to see what had gotten his attention. I saw a lone bicyclist pedaling down the road past my house. Head down, eyes focused straight ahead, he never even acknowledged the dog nor me. As I watched him speed on by, another lone rider approached.  Someone on horseback. He was riding at a leisurely gait, seemingly to be taking in the sights, sounds and smells of his surroundings. We made eye contact, smiled and called hello to each other. He was riding with soft music playing. I could barely hear it. But, I recognized the lyrics that were playing as he passed. They were the chorus from “Glorious Day,” a song by one of my favorite contemporary gospel groups, Casting Crowns.

The lone riders passed on by leaving me with my thoughts. I wondered which rider others sometime see in me. Am I more like the bicyclist speeding by, not acknowledging others around me; or the horseman admiring God’s beauty and creation, caring enough to smile and say hello to a stranger?

The little book “Grace for the Moment” now unopened on my lap, didn’t speak to me. But God spoke volumes through a lone rider’s smile, hello and soft music.

Grace whispered a reminder…

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day

An elderly gentleman friend of the family, who once was a school principal, used to say he would tell his students who were misbehaving, “I can’t hear you. Your actions are speaking louder than you.”

Which type of rider were you today? What are your actions saying.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, your Grace speaks  through even the smallest actions of others and ourselves. To some the lone rider has no meaning. To others his action magnifies you and brings a peace.  Thank you for the lone rider today. He reminded me that we are never alone when we allow you into our lives. Help me to be an encouragement to others, even if it’s just through a smile and a hello. In Christ – Amen

Autumn, Winter, Now Spring, Oh My! A Road of Good Intentions.

 

And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” – Exodus 33:14 (ESV)

And it was a good rest for me.

Time stands still for no one. Has six months passed already? Seems like yesterday that I was writing about a “dark night of the soul.”  My goodness how time flies.

There’s an old saying, “The road is paved with good intentions.”  I intended to share the progress of how the “dark night” turned into a brighter day. I intended to share a little each day or at least weekly. Yet, somehow just like traveling down a road in the dim light of dawn, suddenly the day is ablaze as the sunshine brightens one’s way. It seems the long dark night turned into day in the blink of an eye.

A family vacation on Tybee Island, Georgia was a great start to a new day. My daughter and her family met me and my husband at a house she had rented for the week. Both our vehicles arrived within minutes of each other. The grandchildren, scrambling out of their car to lay claim on the bedrooms, brought their own air of excitement to a promising week of rest and relaxation. My son was able to join us the following day.

SUNRISE ON BEACHThere is just something about listening to and watching the ebb and flow of the surf that is sooooo relaxing for me. It has a hypnotic rhythm that I find peaceful. The morning sunrises and evening moonlit strolls and star-gazing with the 11, 9 and 6-year-old grandkids added another dimension of joy. Eating freshly caught shrimp at a backwater grill or take out pizza on the veranda at the house, surrounded by laughter and board games was priceless.  I had my family with me for a week. All was good in my world. Tick-tock…the time went to quickly.

The Christian Motorcyclists Association (CMA) had its NC state rally at Black Mountain, NC in September. That was a great time filled with wonderful fellowship. Some bikers stayed at a nearby KOA campground, some at local B&B’s, some rented cabins or vacation rentals and others stayed at the conference center where the rally was being  hosted. The Blue Ridge Parkway is beautiful in Autumn. BLUE RIDGE(A plus side to this rally was, since my daughter lives about thirty minutes from there, I was able to have lunch with my grandkids during some of the free time. I’m the typical  “gra’ma.” I want to see those kids and spoil them every chance I can!)

JESUS LOVES BIKERS 100The CMA offers a special ministry to travelers during the holidays. We set up tables at local rest stops along the interstate highways and provide free drinks and snacks to travelers. Kids, and men especially, enjoy looking at the different motorcycles.  We offer listening ears and prayers for those who ask for someone to talk with.

At Thanksgiving, I was blessed to have spent time with a lady traveling back home after visiting with a daughter who is suffering from PTSD caused by a stint in front line battle zones. We shared hot chocolate while we talked about families and life concerns. At the end of our conversation,  I prayed with her. She wiped away tears, gave me a hug with a “thank you” and walked back to her car with a smile on her face.

The holidays seemed to have arrived in a blink of an eye.  My children came home for both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. This was the first year in about 16 years that my husband and I didn’t have to travel for the holidays. I must admit, it was nice.

I came to terms with a difficult decision I had been wrestling with for over a year at my place of employment. I knew that they had been discussing a probably policy change that I would have difficulty supporting. My husband, however, made it so much easier to finally make the decision. I shared an email with him that my supervisor had sent out stating the new policy had been passed. My hubby simply said, “You don’t have to back.” I insisted on working a notice though. So I resigned, giving a month notice on November 3, ending nearly 10 years of service with the employer. It was a difficult decision. I enjoyed my work, co-workers and the freedom to minister to others. My position offered flexibility as no other job ever had.

I had given my notice. November 30 was fast approaching. Now what was I suppose to do? I began making plans. I’d go into retirement. I would enjoy sleeping in until the sun rose each morning, instead of getting up at o’dark thirty. I’d be a “stay at home” home-maker and tackle all those household projects that I had been wanting to do for years but couldn’t find the time. I could have a home-cooked dinner on the table at 5pm. I could do this or that and the other….or so I thought. But then, Grace whispered.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

I received a text of a job lead on November 27. It would put me back in the corporate accounting and tax world, but was only part-time. I wasn’t very fond of the idea of going back into the corporate world after ten years of being away, but thought, well it will at least get me out of the house some and give me a little income. (I’m not really the “stay at home” type anyway. I run out of things to do and get bored to easily.) So, with nothing to lose, I applied on November 29th and interviewed on December 1st. I was offered the position on the spot and reported for work three days later. It is not nearly as stressful as the job I left. So far, it’s working out well. Seems God has other plans for me.

It Pollens

And now spring has arrived again. At least it’s trying. The spring snow showers have changed to the green stuff as we yo-yo between cold fronts and 60-70 degrees weather.

I look at my calendar and it’s chocked full of stuff all the way through to September.  Easter is fast approaching. There are birthday’s to celebrate. Special CMA activities such as Rolling Thunder in D.C. and bike rallies along the outer-banks and motocross events all through out the summer.

The first CMA spring event was this past Saturday at a motorcycle dealership 40 miles away. I took my motorcycle out for the first time in over a year. It took a lot of courage to get back on it and do a group ride again. When we stopped at our destination I received a lot of  “good job”, “you did great”, “how ‘ya feelin’?” and hugs from the group. They were as happy to have a smile on my face as I was. It felt good. I think my husband was especially glad he didn’t have to carry a passenger this time.

“The roads are paved with God’s goodness.”

Who has time for a “dark night of the soul?” Not I! Not anymore!

As I look back through the past several months and I can see God’s wonderful light reflecting on my journey. My life was ablaze with His Grace. I think perhaps my road of good intentions was Grace whispering to me, “The roads are paved with God’s goodness.” I saw how true God’s promises are. Deuteronomy 31:8 reads, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (New Living Translation) God was there with me every step of the way.

Family and friends may fail us. Institutions may fail us. Government may fail us. However, I know the one and only person who never fails us. He is always there to turn to, to cry out to, to find direction when afraid, discouraged or uncertain. All we have to do is listen for His voice and rest in Him.

I hope you can hear Him. Just look for the signs along your journey . . .and listen. He’s whispering. You can feel it in your heart and soul; in the conversations with family and friends; in the gentleman who opens the door for you; in the check-out clerk at the market; in the laugher of a child; in that job lead; in the beauty of nature; in the promise of prayer by a stranger. Sometime perhaps in a blog as someone shares their stories and life adventures. Shhh…listen closely. Can you hear him?

Thank you for allowing me to share His whisperings in my life during this past difficult year.

To those of you who lifted me in prayer…know that your prayers were answered.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, your love endures forever. When I was afraid, you were with me; You are my God, your love endures forever. When I was dismayed, you strengthened me, you helped me, you upheld me with you righteousness. Your love endures forever. Your promises never fail me. I praise you and thank you. In Christ’s name – amen. Read more

A New Day Dawning

Nightfall. For most folks, it’s generally a time of rest. Then there are those who long for rest in the evening, yet it escapes them. The mind just won’t shut down. Fears, worry, concerns, conversations, guilt, hopes and plans swirl around and around dancing with what-ifs. It becomes a long dark night until a breaking point is reached. It’s in that darkest part before the dawn when the body becomes so weary until it finally succumbs to rest . . and for a short while the mind quiets.

pre-dawn-harbour-glow

Then a new day dawns. In the faint glow of predawn, the chaotic jitterbug in the mind quietens. One begins a slow waltz of sifting through the what-ifs, of changing partners from worry and guilt to healing and acceptance. That’s how it is in the long dark night of the soul too.

“Joy Comes With the Morning” by William Kinnaird has helped me discover the predawn glow in the dark night of my soul. In the book’s second section titled Encouraging Others, chapters 12 – 28 cover a myriad of topics: Caring; An Invitation to Live; The Seeds of Love; Altruism; A Key to Mental Health; Make My Garden Grow; Affirming Gifts; Warts and All; Support; Acceptance; We Need Each Other; Hand in Hand; If I Were You; Special Glue; Friendship; Priesthood of All Believers; and Charity Begins at Home.

Some of the chapters reinforced what I already know and attempt to practice. To care for another I must be able to understand the person and their world as if I am inside it. (That’s why, as a Stephen Minister, it is so important to be a good listener.) Seeing with their eyes, having empathy, whether caring for a significant other, family, friend or co-worker. Doing so doesn’t mean I have to react the same. But it may be possible that I would if the same circumstance was mine. I agree with Mr. Kinnaird, “Caring is love in action. It is God at work in our lives.”

I think that of all the chapters in that section, the Altruism chapter struck a chord the most. I thought I was an altruistic person, that is until I read the chapter. Mr. Kinnaird tells the story of  the Apostle Peter in the New Testament book of John. Peter’s denial of Christ caused him to be so depressed that he felt no joy in Christ’s resurrection. His guilt deterred his mission works of altruism and compassion he had been commanded to do. But, when Christ reassured him of His continuing Love, Peter’s depression changed. He felt empowered to carry out the mission he was called to do. I had never read the story in the light of altruism before.

Kinnaird says love and kindness are the keys of altruism in the lives of our families and others, “We can use those keys to open up lives to altruism or imprison them in a dungeon of unforgiveness and lack of love. The choice is ours!” I felt like he was speaking directly to me. I had been withholding those keys from a very important person. That has since changed and it is making a difference in our relationship, so far.

Warts and All; Support; Acceptance; We Need Each Other; Hand in Hand; If I Were You; Special Glue; Friendship; Priesthood of All Believers . . . I have been the benefactor of each of these. I have some very, very special friends who accepted me warts-and-all and walked hand in hand with me this summer supporting me as I worked through a deep emotional pain. They have been the special glue that helped me “keep it together” between the hours of 8am-5pm. With our common bond in a belief of a “priesthood of all believers” the healing process is almost complete. It will take some time for the physical side-effects to heal, if ever. But I’m working on those too. (Ulcers seem to have a way of reasserting themselves. Ugh!)  I’m getting pretty good at pain management. What was that I quoted a while back? Oh yeah, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7 (KJV)

Indeed a new day is breaking and joy will come with the morning!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise you. You have blessed me with special friends who echo the Apostle Paul, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.”   2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NASB) – AMEN!

Twilight Zone of Soul’s Dark Night

Cue the guitar, a repetitive 3-4- 3-root lick in the key of E (G#-A-G#-E) topped with a b5 (Bb) pedal tone .. “do DO-do-do-do, DO-do-do ….”

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas; you’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.”

-Rod Sterling, 1963 Twilight Zone, season 4

Somewhere between the level headed, keep a smile on your face, don’t let them see you break, perky perfectionist from 8am-5pm and the drop your guard, remove the mask, falling apart, I can’t put coherent thoughts together insomniac from 8pm-5am, I had entered a Twilight Zone of my dark night of the soul during these past six months.

As I began reading, “Joy Comes With the Morning” I could feel Grace whispering encouragement, nudging me to write about this dark part of my faith journey. It’s difficult. However, I know in doing so, Grace will continue to guide, comfort and give a peace that passes all understanding to me and perhaps to another who may be seeking.

In the previous post, Dusk-The Dark Night Begins, I only mentioned the first of ten chapters in the first section Encouraging Ourselves from “Joy Comes With the Morning.” The remaining chapters, 2-An Experiment in Self Love, 3-The Computer of Our Mind, 4-A Human Filtering System, 5-Heterosuggestion, 6-Take Off the Mask, 7-Vulnerability, 8-No-Knock Policy, 9-Family Communication, 10-Don’t Judge Yourself and 11-Dying to Self, helped me label some of the thoughts and behaviors that took place as I begin to balance the scales of those dimensions within the twilight zone.

Chapter 2 called remembrance to the passage in Matthew 22:36-39.

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (KJV)

Mr. Kinnaird shared how he began an experiment in self-love, that is loving himself unconditionally as God loves him. He said,

Suppose I dwelled on my good points and tried not to condemn myself for my faults. Suppose I forgave myself my mistakes…There is nothing narcissistic or self-indulgent about this kind of love. Rather, it means that I look at myself objectively as another child of God.

How can we discriminate against ourselves? How can we refuse to love any child of God, even our self? Jesus told us to love our enemies, and with so many of us our greatest enemy is our self. Think about that for a minute. How many times have you been your own worst enemy? How many times have you been almost totally self-destructive?”

I thought about what he said. I guess, in a way I had begun an experiment in self-love. Like Mr. Kinnaird, I’m coming to love some of my qualities and saying “so what” to others. Not that I’m unwilling to change them. (I’ve discovered I have more Type A personality traits than I care to admit.) I’ll not get upset if I can’t change a lifetime habit over night by self willpower. Only by God’s power and His will and in His time will some changes come about. I just have to choose to change.

I sit in front of a computer all day. You know the term “GIGO” don’t you, “garbage in-garbage out?” Without proper filters, that’s what happens to our systems, the information becomes garbage, or worst yet the PC becomes corrupted with virus’s and malware. Sometimes we have to do a system restore to get the PC operating correctly. Our minds really are like a computer. If we let negative thoughts in, then negativity is what will come out. If we don’t have correct filters in place, then our perception of people, places and things become skewed. That’s what happened in my twilight zone. I had to distance myself from the negativity in my life in order to do a “system restore.” Grace affirmed that I had made the right decision to limit my visits to Henderson and its negativity to once a month, instead of weekly. I felt guilty about it. I felt I was not upholding my responsibilities. However, I knew it was best for everyone for awhile and doing what is best is upholding the responsibilities I have been asked to do.

The “taking off the mask” and allowing others to see my brokenness has been a bit challenging. The first time was when I had to ask an acquaintance’s forgiveness for a negative outburst I directed towards her back in April. (I think that’s probably when I crossed over into the twilight zone. I kept trying to justify my actions. Even though, deep down, I knew I was in the wrong. Why, I wouldn’t even speak to her after that.) It took two weeks for me to work up enough willpower (again not my desire, but God’s prompting) to invite her to lunch and share with her what I had been going through since Thanksgiving. The mask slipped off a little during lunch. After discussing our different yet similar personalities, she realized that she was partially at fault for the outburst and asked forgiveness also. The lunch became a little like a counseling meeting. She too had some family matters that were heavy on her heart that she needed to share. So, there I was, a Stephen Minister. What was I to do but offer an unbiased listening ear? (Isn’t it amazing how God places people in our lives at just the right time?) It turned out to be a positive lunch. I think it strengthened our relationship somewhat. We agreed that we could disagree on opinions. Personal opinions were just that, personal. She is more considerate of mine and I hers.

The masked slipped a bit more the following month. Friends of mine and hubby invited us to go with them to Gatlinburg, Tennessee for the Memorial Day weekend. We ladies discussed several prayer concerns that were on our hearts. In the course of the conversation, I let my guard down and shared all that I had been experiencing. I knew I could trust her. I didn’t feel quite so vulnerable with her as a confidant. It felt good to finally tell someone else the whole story.

As the months rolled on, my brother kept his promise to give me rest. He protected me by implementing a no-knock policy with mom. Whenever she began her negative comments, insults, complaining and put-downs, he reminded her why he was her caregiver this year. He only calls me when needing advice on handling certain situations, or wants affirmation on a decision. We’ve kept the family communications open.

In order for a new apple tree to grow, a seed has to die first. Then it is re-birthed, producing a new tree and a multitude of more apples, more seeds, more trees. Mr. Kinnaird states it this way, “It may have to be buried for a time while the roots are taking hold, but eventually it will sprout into something better than ever.” Perhaps this twilight zone was just a way for me to “die to self” in order for God to use me in more ways, better ways in the future to share encouragement and His grace with others.

A new dawn is breaking. I can see morning coming. More on that next time.

door-into-the-unknown-13303398429tsPrayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for this twilight zone, another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. A place of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. Perceptions and growth. Perceptions can change and growth can be multiplied, especially when you bring joy with the morning. In Christ – Amen

Dusk – The Dark Night Begins

Mountain sunset

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. – Proverbs 23:7 (KJV)

The “dark night of the soul” is such a cold, lonesome place to find oneself. In his book, “Joy Comes With the Morning,” William Kinnaird titles the first section Encouraging Ourselves. The title for the first chapter is The Surest Ego Builder. As I read that I said to myself, “ I don’t need to build my ego.”

I thought about that title for a while. I continued reading. Kinnaird said, “Unless we feel good about ourselves, unless our ego is healthy, we can’t help anybody else. We don’t have anything to offer.”

Surely, not I. I don’t need encouragement. After all, wasn’t I the one who always offered the listening ear. Didn’t I pray with and for others who shared their stories and concerns with me. I always greeted everyone with a smile. When anyone asked, “How are you doing?” I gave a quick reply, “Fine. I’m fine.”

The more I thought about it though, the more Kinnaird’s comment got my attention. Especially the last sentence, “We don’t have anything to offer.” Again, it was as if he had ripped me open and was peering deep into my soul. I felt I didn’t have anything to offer. But why? I began looking back over the past eight months to search out the reason. Just when did the dark night of the soul began for me? I thought, “a night fall begins at dusk. I needed to discover my “dusk.””

Dusk sets in as the dark night of my soul begins.

November 14, 2015 . . . The beloved 3P Women’s ministry, a ministry of prayer, praise and fellowship for the women in my Sunday School class, came to a close. I had been blessed with co-leading the ministry for two years. 12 precious women met monthly for Bible study, life enrichment discussions, encouragement, developing and deepening relationships with others and deepening their faith in Christ. My co-leader, whom I speak of in the “about” page of Whisperings of Grace, a missionary serving in the local area, would be leaving our church to attend one in her mission field. Oh how I would miss her! Both she and I needed to take a sabbatical and was hoping someone else would take-over. However, no one felt equipped to continue the ministry. Thus, that last fellowship would be our last time together as a group. It was a bittersweet day. Perhaps it was for the best. Our church would be changing its scheduling in the new year. Many of us would begin attending different services and Sunday School classes. It would give us the opportunity to expand our relationships beyond the fellowship that we had grown accustomed to over the past six or seven years. I could only hope the individual prayer and accountability teams that had developed in 3P would continue to meet for prayer and to offer each other encouragement. Letting go was hard to do. Dusk sets in as the dark night of my soul begins.

The dusk deepened on the following Saturday. It was a dark valley for me that day. I am my mother’s only daughter and have been her primary caregiver since my father died in 1980. Her harsh angry words to me and my husband, along with an attempt at striking me with an object, cut me deeply emotionally. So deeply that on the 30 mile drive home I tearfully commented to my husband, “Don’t be surprised if you come home one day and find your gun missing and me laying in the woods out back.”

So, I did as mom asked. I stayed away. Thanksgiving came and went. No visit. No turkey and dressing. No family reunion. She didn’t call me. I didn’t call her. A trip to my daughter’s house in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains did little to lift my spirits. I developed a case of herpes zoster, adult chicken pox, “the shingles” while there. (Oh what a nasty disease.)

December came with all its trappings. There were office parties and church fellowships to attend. Waking up together Christmas morning with the grandchildren. But there was no Christmas visit with mom. Again, not even a phone call. I tried to appear cheerful for everyone. I refused to let the painful shingles interrupt my life. Yet on the inside, emotionally, I was swiveling up. Joy was ebbing away and I didn’t even realize it.

Perhaps my ego did need rebuilding.

Hmmm. Perhaps Mr. Kinnaird was correct. Perhaps the shingles were the result of an unhealthy ego. I was no longer teaching. Teacher identified “me.” The identity of “care-giver” for my mom had been rejected. The next several months would tell the tale. Perhaps my ego did need rebuilding. Indeed.

2016 revealed more than I wanted to admit.

The shadows of dusk deepened

In January, I packed up all mom’s belongings that I had been storing for her since she broke up house-keeping and moved into the independent living facility. I gathered together all of her records, files and financial reports I have been accumulating as her Power of Attorney. I loaded it all in my car and carted it the 30 some miles and deposited it at my brother’s house, who only lives five miles from our mom. He attempted to refuse the delivery. But after the private conversation which my quiet spoken husband insisted on having with him, he agreed to step in and take on the responsibility as mom’s care-giver and give me a year to heal…emotionally, physically and spiritually. Yet, the shadows of dusk deepened.

As chapter one came to a close in Mr. Kinnaird’s book, he commented that for a long time he wasn’t able to minister to anybody else. He was to consumed with his own hurts. As I read his comments I empathized with him. I knew exactly what he was talking about. Then what he wrote next seemed to leap off the page at me. I KNEW Grace was whispering to me, reminding me of His promises. Mr. Kinnaird stated that his favorite scripture verse is Romans 8:28. I consider it my life verse. It has been since I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and savior at the age of 17. It’s the verse I go to when I’m hurting or when I don’t understand why things happen the way they do. It’s the promise I cling to.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”-Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Even though the dusk was deepening. I can now see how Grace was and is healing me. An old song from my youth came to mind that reminds me of this. The lyrics to it are:

Are you discouraged and are you blue?
Are clouds obscuring the sun from view?
Keep trusting Jesus, though storms assail.
You have His promise He will not fail.

CHORUS
It’s always darkest before the dawn.
Don’t be discouraged but carry on.
He’ll not forsake you, the sun will break through.
It’s always darkest before the dawn.

He knows your heartache, He understands,
Just put your problems in His great hands,
No trouble meets you but in His will,
He’s not forgotten, He loves you still.

I can hardly wait to see what else Grace has to say as I continue reading “Joy Comes With the Morning.” I hope you will join me again.

Prayer: Father God, your Word also tells us in Romans 8:26-27 “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Lord God, thank you for the one who intercedes on our behalf. In Chris name. Amen

Dark Night of the Soul

beauty-night

Weeping may come in the night, but joy comes with the morning.” – Psalm 30:5 (ESV)

Love doesn’t teach us about itself; it communicates itself to us.

I predicted it was going to be a year of change. Little did I realize what sort of change, nor how subtle it would be, nor how I would be affected. Little by little I notice something wasn’t quite the same. I wasn’t sleeping. I became irritable easily. By balance was off. My digestive system was all out of whack. I had poor concentration. I sensed a foreboding enveloping me.

A trip to doctors with testings and a C.A.T. scan revealed several possibilities for this feeling of being “out of kilter.” However, further testing revealed no major physical concerns to be alarmed about. At least, not for the moment. After the final procedure the specialist laid his hand on my knee and gently said to me in a quiet voice, “You know stress will play havoc on our bodies.” I was given a list of foods with low caloric and metric nutritional values to follow, along with the suggestion to get rid of some stress.

My wonderful friend and prayer partner drove me home from the clinic. Knowing I was still weak from the anesthesia and it would be several hours before my husband would be home from work, she made sure I was going to be okay staying by myself before she returned to her family. I promised her I would go to bed until hubby got home. (God gives us some wonderful angels, doesn’t He?)

I picked up “Joy Comes With the Morning”

Left alone with “woe is me” thoughts, I needed something to take my mind off of myself. So, I thumbed through unread books that have been sitting on the shelf for several months that I had purchased with intentions for use in Stephen Ministry. (Stephen Ministry is a care-giving ministry that supplements pastoral care. The program teaches laypersons, called Stephen Ministers, to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered one-on-one care to people (called care-receivers) who are going through tough times. The one-on-one care continues until the care-receiver feels he/she no longer needs a Stephen Minister, or until professional medical counsel is deemed necessary. A Stephen Minister is not a cure giver…we are care givers.) I picked up “Joy Comes With the Morning,” a little 155 page book chock full of inspirational collections, experiences and wise counsel written by William Kinnaird.

I opened the book and began to read. In the first paragraph of the prologue, Mr. Kinnaird writes:

You’ve probably heard the expression “dark night of the soul,” meaning a time of deep travail when all seems hopeless and useless, when the spirit is broken and to go on seems pointless, too excruciating. We just want to give up and die, even by our on hand if it can’t be accomplished any other way. God’s so-called presence and promises are of no help. We’re too numbed and devastated to be encouraged by them.

He then asks in the following paragraph, “Have you ever had a dark night of the soul?” A few paragraphs down he comments, “I’m sure many of you have gone through your own particular dark night of the soul, whether it be a loss of a child, a serious illness, unemployment, or whatever cruel circumstance of life that brought you despair.”

That’s when I had an “ah-ha” moment.

That’s when I had an “ah-ha” moment. I could finally put a label on what I have been experiencing for the past eight months…a dark night of the soul. However, unlike the author’s comments about God’s so-called presence and promises being of no help, as I look back I can affirm it was God’s presence and promises that sustained me. It was His whispering grace that kept me from accomplishing the end by my own hand.

I didn’t agree with all thoughts and comments made by the author. I responded to what was relevant to my life for the present and let the other comments fall by the wayside for another time. But, the writer of the forward to the book made a comment that I thought especially spoke volumes. Dr. Paul Tourneir said, “Love doesn’t teach us about itself; it communicates itself to us.”

There it was…love…Grace…communicating itself to me, whispering, “Write again. Tell your story. I have someone who needs to hear it.”

I began to feel the rays of sunlight filter through the darkness.

So, just as Mr. Kinnaird shared his story, I will share mine in the days and weeks to come. My prayer is that as you read about my journey through darkness, that you too may find joy with the morning.

Join me next time as I share, “Dusk – The Dark Night Begins.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, the prayer of Psalm 30:2-4 is my prayer also, O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”

Father God, your promises are true. Your love is never-ending. Thank you for those who are willing to share their stories of trials and witness of how their faith in you helped them out of their darkness. Thank you that we may be encouraged through their testimonies. In Christ name, Amen.

Embracing Change

Embracing change is not always easy, even in situations we ask for.

We think we want something and then when we get it we don’t always know what to do with it. We “test the waters” to see how we will adjust to the change. Sometimes we find that our choice wasn’t the right one. Sometimes we just jump in and embrace the change, learning new things about ourselves. We learn more about our strengths and weaknesses as we strengthen our trust in God. At least, that’s how it is with me.

I had a conversation that I wasn’t particularly anxious to have with someone this week. Discussing difficult subjects is not a task I enjoy. However, with prayer and God’s guidance, I jumped in with both feet and embraced the change that I knew had to happen. Both the conversation and the outcome was better than I anticipated.

I’ll be embracing another change in a few minutes. I will be driving my Suzuki Blvd trike on my first long trip. Well, long for me anyway. Crossing the state border is a big deal. I’ve been “testing the waters” with it since December. It’s now time to jump in.

I’ll hold on to the handle bars tightly and this promise from God’s word even tighter…

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

I invite you to do the same as you embrace your changes.

Prayer: Heavenly Father thank you for guiding us and strengthening us as we embrace changes. In Christ name, amen.

Quick to Listen…Slow to Speak

It is said that when God’s word goes out it does not return void. I have found that to be true. Each time I begin a study, the Scriptures supported in some area of my day or week. It’s as if Grace is saying, “See? My Word is true.”

I was blessed when two friends knelt at the altar with me in prayer today. Each had shared a trial or crisis that had recently occurred in their lives. I had no words of wisdom for them, at least none of my own. However, Grace spoke… not through my words, but actions. Well what did I do, you may ask. I simply offered a listening ear and offer to pray with them. I think that alone gave each of them the comfort to share and receive counsel from each other in a way that I knew I would not be able to do. We sat on the steps of the altar for nearly two hours. Them talking and encouraging each other while I merely listened with an occasional nod of my head or a quiet affirmation of their statements.

Grace reminded me later of these words I had read in the first chapter of James during my early morning study and mediation:

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:19-25)

I love these two friends dearly and my heart broke for each of them. I knew that they could glean something from each other’s story and I had to be “quick to listen and slow to speak” this time.

Sometimes, oft times, what our friends need most from us, when they are experiencing troubles, is a listening ear and a compassionate heart.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for bringing your word to mind when we need it. Thank you for our friends who willing to be quick to listen and slow to speak when we need to talk. Above all, thank you for always listening to us. In Christ, amen.

What Trials and Tribulations?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a doubled minded man, unstable in all he does. – James 1:2-8 (NIV

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During the season of Lent I followed morning readings of short sentences that challenged the reader to acknowledge and consider surrendering things (behaviors, attitudes, actions, etc.) that hindered one from living with grace in their life.

It seemed that each day, the reading was targeted at an area of something in my life that I had been holding. Each day learned to release a little more. Still I felt empty. I couldn’t hear Grace whispering.

During this same time, I was doing a required Stephen Ministry reading in the book “Sacred Pathways” by Gary Thomas. The book unfolds nine distinct spiritual temperaments…Naturalists, loving God outdoors; Sensates, loving God with the senses; Traditionalists, loving God through ritual and symbol; Ascetics, loving God in solitude and simplicity; Activists, loving God through confrontation; Caregivers, loving God by loving and caring for others; Enthusiasts, loving God with mystery and celebration; Contemplative, loving God through adoration; and Intellectuals, loving God with the mind, digging deeper into scripture, asking questions.

There is a series of questions at the end of each chapter that scores ones strength in each area.
I learned that I have some of all the temperaments, the strongest being Caregiver. I was surprised that the next strongest temperament is Intellectual.

As I sat quietly meditating and praying this morning, I thought “no way” am I an intellectual. But as I reflected back over the past several months of not teaching or participating in a group study, I had to admit I was happiest when I was doing in-depth studying as I prepared lessons. I knew right away that I needed to get back deeper into the Word. I admitted my lackadaisical approach to study since the first of the year. And Grace whispered “read James.” I balked, “are you sure?” Again I heard in the recesses of my heart and mind, “read James.”

I should have read those scriptures several weeks ago. The sadness, hurts and frustrations would have been easier had I heeded the Word. I could have said, “What trials and temptations?!”

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I have to admit that I don’t find it pure joy when faced with trials. But Father God, I thank you that I am able to persevere through the trials and that you will give wisdom to overcome those trials. In Christ’s name – amen.