Not Just a BBQ Run

Little did I know that yesterday would not be just another BBQ run. Grace was going to whisper to me a thing or two about being in the moment.

“Being in the moment” is something I have difficulty with. I have to admit I’m a bit of a type A person. I like to know the schedule, know where, when and what to expect. Heck, most of the time, I’m the one planning the schedule, the where and the when. I’m finding it  difficult adjusting to an early retirement. 

My day began with a cup of coffee and a granola bar, same as always. It would be a bit different from most Friday’s though. Hubby decided to take a vacation day from work. We would bring in the summer with a day long motorcycle ride. He was already outside when I rolled out of bed.

I found him readying our bikes for a ride down east to visit one of the many fabulous restaurants on the NC Historic BBQ Trail. One of the musts on his “bucket list” of things to do, is to visit all of those restaurants, on the bikes. I like short rides myself, on 2 lane country roads around our neck of the woods, but today I agreed to go on a longer ride, and on several 4 lane highways. Definitely not in my comfort zone.  He has been talking about this particular restaurant for over a year. Perhaps  now, he would put it to rest.

The morning had no particular schedule. While hubby finished preparing the bikes, I went into town to get some cash to take with us, because the restaurant accepts cash only. When I got back, we washed the bikes, geared up… (I’m a ATGATT gal, all the gear all the time…full helmet, armored jacket, gloves, jeans and boots. It’s hot yes, but I’d rather be safe. I’m kinda partial to having all my skin in tact.) …then we set out to find this “must have” bbq.

The first 15 miles or so was a comfortable ride on 2 lane highway 96. Then wouldn’t you know it…road construction. There’s never road construction on this stretch of highway. 

 What do you do when you come upon road construction? Slow down or stop and stay alert to your surroundings. Then you wait for the flagman to wave you pass or you wait for the pilot vehicle to guide you through the work zone. (All while complaining under your breath. Be real. You know you do.)

So, I throttled back, put the bike in 1st gear as I applied the brakes and sat there about 10 minutes watching the traffic and workmen while waiting for the pilot truck to guide the line of traffic around the new hot asphalt and heavy equipment blocking our lane. (Grace lesson #1 –  Just like this stretch of highway, sometimes our spirit needs repairing to smooth over the rough edges and potholes that we’ve allowed to creep in due to overuse or neglect.)

We finally merge off the 2 lanes onto 4 lanes on US-264 Eastbound. We are cruising along at about 70-75 mph when a pick up truck pulls up beside me and a young man gives me a thumbs up and a smile, which makes me smile. (Grace lesson #2 – Sometimes, just being in the moment, not our words or actions brings joy to another.)

Then, after about 50 miles, where US-264 runs into I-795,…oh no,…we run into more road construction. Luckily, one lane is open and we only have to slow down this time.

Little did I know that we would run into road construction three more times! By the fourth time I’m thinking, “Really, God? I know I haven’t been on the bike in a while, but really?”  I have many conversations with Him when I’m riding. (Lesson #3 – Reminder…He will make a way, when there seems to be no way. Be patient.)

Grady's BBQ
We finally arrived!

We finally make it to our destination! “Grady’s BBQ”  is in a little building in the middle of no where, literally. It sits in a fork in the road out in the country. But oh is the food good! And the host are the sweetest couple. Click here to read the article by the NC BBQ Society

Mr and Mrs Grady (Grady's BBQ)
Mr. and Mrs. Grady are some great pit masters!

You know what? Sometimes, Grace abounds when we are out of our comfort zone and allow ourselves to just be in the moment. Yesterday, I chose to extend extra grace to my husband and drive nearly half way across state on my motorcycle for lunch. If I am honest, I have to admit I wasn’t really looking forward to the jaunt. But as the day progressed and I allowed myself to “just be in the moment” it turned out to be one of the best. Grace continues to whisper, even in a BBQ run.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency in everything, may abound to every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 World English Bible)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, your grace is sufficient. Thank you for safety in our travels and for lessons learned along the way. May we always be alert to how we can share that grace with others along our life highways. In Christ name, amen.

 

 

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A Special Friend

Who is that special person in your life? You know, the person who knew you before you became the person you are today. The someone who still calls you friend; your forever friend.

I met my forever friend in high school. She sat behind me in second period history class. She was a sophomore and I a senior. Both of us were skinny, down to the waist long-haired brunettes and our birthday happened to fall on the same day of the month. That’s about as much as we had in common. Yet somehow God drew us to each other. 

I was blessed to spend the day with mine yesterday, celebrating our birthdays a day early. E is one special lady.

Adrian Rogers once wrote an article titled, “The Marks of a True Friend.” I couldn’t help but think of my special friend as I read the article. In his article he states:

A true friend sharpens. He will make you a sharper person, a better person. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” A true friendship will put an edge on your life. False friends dull your life, blunt your influence, and drag you down. Anybody who makes it easier for you to do wrong is not a true friend. One of the true tests of any friendship is asking yourself, “Am I a better person for having known this person?”

I’m definitely a better person because of E. I didn’t know what it meant to know God until I met her. No one ever told me. No one ever lived it in front of me day in and day out.

A true friend sticks. A true friend is steadfast. We read in Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” If you want to see who your real friends are, just make a mistake and see whether or not they leave you.

Life is like a ship. Some people get on and off board very easily. Some will stay on board as long as everything is sailing smoothly; but let the rough weather come, and they will abandon the ship. A true friend is the one who will stick with you.

E didn’t abandon ship. No matter what I was going through, she was there for me, treading the water with me, helping me stay afloat.

A true friend stabs. You say, “I don’t want to be stabbed.” Well, listen to Proverbs 27:6: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” A friend who really loves you will wound you if it’s necessary. That is, he will tell you the truth and won’t give you hypocritical kisses when he needs to do a little spiritual surgery on you. Flattery is not true friendship. A true friend cares enough to confront.

We had long conversations about life, as we knew it during those teen years and on into our adult lives; Probably saving each other a lot of heartache and bad decisions along the way.

True friends are built. You don’t make them overnight. Friendships are not toadstools; they are oak trees. Jesus said, “…Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Now, that’s the principle, but let me give you five secrets that come from it. If you will practice these, you will make you a great friend.

Accept. The Bible says in Ephesians 1:6 that God has “made us accepted in the beloved.” We all want people to accept us. Jesus accepted the disciples. He said, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you….” (John 15:16) Jesus did not accept the disciples because they were perfect but because they needed Him.

Even though E and I had little in common, we accepted each other as we were and are. We drew from each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Acknowledge. Recognize people. Give them your full heart and attention. When you talk to people, listen to them also. Look them in the eye. Understand that people are important. They’re a soul for whom Christ died. When we acknowledge others, we’re saying, “You’re important to me. I acknowledge your presence and your importance.”

When E and I talked, we might not have always looked at things from the same angle, but we took the time to listen to each other’s ideas and never belittled a comment or action.

Appreciate. I got an e-mail from my son recently. It brought tears to my eyes because he said, “Dad, I’m just so grateful for the heritage that I have. Thank you.” I could live six months on that. It didn’t take him but a few minutes to write that little message, but it meant so much to me. Folks, you’re lying if you say you don’t want to be appreciated. Tell your husband, your wife, your children, or your friends that they are appreciated.

Affirm. Appreciation is for what people do; affirmation is for who people are. The Lord Jesus affirmed His disciples over and over again. It doesn’t mean you approve of everything a person does when you affirm them. The Bible is full of affirmations, and yet it acknowledges the fact that we’re sinners and that we fail. But affirmation is important.

I know E loves to garden. So, today I gave her a little marker for her birthday that says, “Life begins in a garden.” I tucked a card inside the gift bag. The card said, “To a Special Friend,” and went on to say how much she is appreciated and affirmed all the attributes  that make her such a special friend.

Assure. Assure them that you understand. We all want empathy. The apostle Paul said in Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Find a way to let people know that you’re sensitive to what they’re up against, what they feel, what they’re going through. Assure them that you’re there, and that, to your limited ability, you understand or you’re trying to understand what they’re going through.

As E and I talked yesterday, we caught up on each other’s lives. The burdens and struggles that each have had over the years and our hopes for the future. There were times when I could only weep and say how sorry I was for her and she did the same as I shared.

True friendship is costly. It’s not easy to maintain a friendship. Remember John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” You must be willing to pay the price. But finding a true friend and being one in return is one of the best investments you can ever make.

It’s not easy to maintain a friendship. E and I had to make time for each other in a busy weekend. She coaches Special Olympics volleyball. This weekend is the time for all the matches and ceremonies. I have a CMA ministry event to serve at tomorrow. I chose to spend today with her at their matches, so I could take her out to an early dinner before their evening activities. I had a 45 minute drive to meet them at the game site, then after the games, follow them another 30 minutes back to the dorms where they are staying for the weekend, so I could take her to dinner and return her in time for the evening ceremonies.

You’re probably thinking, “No big deal.”  Well, yes and no. You see, we live on opposite sides of the state. We haven’t seen each other in five years. And before that it was nearly 20 years. I wasn’t feeling up to par….but, it was a special day for two BFF’s to reconnect.

We picked up right where we left off…

 I thank my God every time I remember you.

BFFs
E and D June 2018 – BFFs 

Dearest E …”I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:3-11 NIV)”

Heavenly Father, I praise you for bringing special friends, especially E, into my life who have helped encourage me, affirm me, sharpen me and remain through all the storms of life. I pray that the one seeking that same type of friend will meet him or her today. In Christ’s name, AMEN.

Making a Difference

Changing the World One Heart at a Time

We left home at 9:15a.m. Our hopes were to meet up with other members, from the CMA (Christian Motorcyclists Association) Warriors of Truth Chapter 1360, as they approached the intersection of US 1 and Hwy 96. They had planned for KSU (kick stands up…meaning they would leave) around 9:00a.m. from breakfast at the restaurant just 10 miles south of us. We approached the traffic light hoping to see our fellow riders and merge in with the group. None were in sight. I eased my Suzuki Boulevard out onto US 1 N and settled into a good cruising speed. My husband followed on his Honda Shadow. This was my first road trip in over six months. Hubby wanted to follow to keep an eye on me.

The weather was perfect, slightly overcast with sunshine peeking through the clouds once in a while.  Temps were a little cool with promises of heating up later in the day. The mesh motorcycle jacket added enough windbreak without being too heavy. Traffic was light…just the way I like it. I had a fresh piece of gum in my mouth. I was ready for the 45 mile drive north to Brewer Cycles where our chapter would meet up with two other chapters for the annual CMA “Run for the Son” fundraising event.

RFS 2018
Hubby insisted that he get a picture of me in front of a  Brewer’s sign and I conceded. I don’t usually. Helmet hair is not becoming.  I’d rather be behind the camera, not in front of it.

I kept watching my review mirror, but never saw our group. We arrived about 15 minutes ahead of them. Seems they were late leaving and stopped to pick up two other bikers before heading on to the meet up. It was all good though. They were glad to see that I drove my bike.  

RFS bikes begin to arrive
The bikers begin to arrive! The sun was starting to get hot and it’s not quite 11 o’clock!

It would begin with a beautiful 100 mile circle countryside ride up into Virginia across the John H. Kerr Dam and back down into North Carolina, ending at the Shiloh Family Campground on Kerr Lake near Middleburg, N. C., with a catered meal of eastern style chopped pork bbq and crispy fried chicken with all the sides, and of course sweet tea.

Going over the road rules
Gathered around for the road rules before the big ride.

What is CMA and Run For The Son, and what does it  have to do with making a difference? I’m glad you asked.

We always pray before mounting the bikes
We always pray before mounting the bikes.

CMA started back in the 70’s as one man’s effort to reconcile his relationship with his son. But God had a much bigger plan. A plan to reach out and minister to the hurting in the  motorcycle community. Today CMA is over 1,000 chapters in 38 countries guiding many thousands of people to a reconciled relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Praying with other bikers at a stop along the route
Praying with bikers we met at a cooling break along the way.

This is achieved by attending motorcycle rallies, tours, races, etc., helping serve where needed, be it directing traffic, picking up trash or handing out cups of coffee, and conducting worship services at these events whenever possible.

Campground arrival
The Run for The Sun group riders arrive at Shiloh ready for some shade!

“Run for the Sun” is the one and only fundraiser that CMA does. That takes place the first Saturday in May. It started as an effort to provide one motorcycle to a pastor in Guatemala. From that simple beginning, it has now provided transportation in the form of motorcycles, bicycles, horses, boats, camels (yes, camels), horse & buggies, snowmobiles and wheelchairs to more than 13,000 pastors, evangelists, and Christian workers in 105 countries.

The CMA vision statement is “Changing the world, one heart at a time.”

You can learn more about CMA on its website at http://www.cmausa.org/ministry/.

I hope you will give it a visit.

If you had told me 5 years ago that I would be driving a motorcycle, and that I would be serving as an officer in a local chapter, I would have said you were crazy.  But now, now I am blessed to be a part of this motorcycle community. I have developed friendships and relationships that are closer than family. When a CMA member tells you, “We are here if you need us.,” they truly mean it.

RFS celebration with food and fellowship
Run for the Sun celebration with food and fellowship. A great way to end a great day!

If you or a loved one is a motorcyclist ever need assistance with something, contact a local CMA chapter and they will be happy to help. We are God’s servants…changing the world, one heart at a time.

Heavenly Father, watch over all the motorcyclists on the roads today. Give them clear vision, attention to their surroundings and quick actions in an emergency. Protect them from distracted drivers, debris in the roadway, and darting animals. May their journey lead to you and perhaps they to can Be the Change  in someone’s life. In Christ name I pray. Amen.

Road to Retirement…Me?

The road of good intentions that I mentioned last year had some potholes along the way. Goodness! A year has passed already. The time raced by at lightening speed.

2017 morphed into 2018 in a blink of an eye. The trip was a bumpy ride. But Grace guided me over or around each pothole.

My brother continues to take the lead with caring for our mother. We had to place her in Assisted Living this past. He’s doing a good job of  keeping me informed  and seeking my guidance when any major decisions need attention. He’s realized just how difficult caregiving for our mom was for me and admits he didn’t realize the amount of stress it is.

It was a difficult decision for me to make when I transitioned from a ministry of being the office and financial manager at a church with 1200+ members, back into a corporate business environment.

I’ve always considered myself as being a good team player with all of my previous employers, the CPA firm was no exception. The firm afforded me the opportunity to experience and learn different aspects of the corporate financial arena. Some experiences were good, some not so good, and some very challenging.

A health scare, (Two mild stress related heart attacks in one week. Yikes!) Caused me to eliminate as many risk factors as possible from my life that throws my body into unhealthy reactions. The firm was gracious to allow me to transition from a full-time finance position to a part-time position as support personnel for all of the departments.  Then recently, after dealing with irate clients & situations out my control, my body decided to go into another unhealthy stressed state. I didn’t have to take a ride with screaming sirens this time though.

So, after many conversations, my husband and I have come to an agreement that I will go into full-time retirement; What ever that means. I will embark on a new journey. One that will allow for a slower pace and opportunities to develop new interests and areas of ministry, and hopefully, one with fewer stressors.

I will look back on my employment history with fond memories of the relationships God has given me opportunities to develop, and satisfaction knowing that I was able to touch someone’s life for Him in a positive way.

This scripture comes to mind as I meditate on this new beginning…

Acts 20:24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

 

I look forward to attempts at writing again. I hear Grace saying, “I know you hear me. But you are you listening?” Yes, Lord. Yes.

I  came across this prayer and thought it appropriate for this season of life, and any journey we embark on. I hope you will make it your prayer too.

Heavenly Father, as we reach cross-roads of our lives, there are many unknown opportunities awaiting. Guide us along the path that You would have us to go. 

Thank You that Your word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path and as we step out into the unknown. I pray that You continue to guard and guide the way that I take – and thank You that You have scheduled every day of my life, including the unknowns in this retirement. 

Lord, this is a wonderful new beginning for me. Help me to seize every opportunity that arises and to explore the skills and gifts that You have given me, so that they may be used to glorify Your name. 

I trust You to be with me in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth and pray that I will submit day by day to the leading of Your Spirit and simply rest in Your love, knowing that You are my light and my life, my way and my end in Jesus name I pray.

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