Saturday, August 19, 2017

Soles of Hope

   This morning was the 5th annual  "Soles of Hope" at my church.  It was started to honor the memory of a little boy who died of cancer, and I have been blessed to take part in this ministry.  We served breakfast to over 1000 people, gave away over 600 pairs of sneakers, and each family took home a big box of groceries.

   My job was to help the little boys find the perfect pair of shoes at the 5 - 7 1/2 size table.  Some came in with flip-flops or no shoes at all, and as I put socks on dirty little feet, my heart was full of joy to be able to put a smile on the face of boys and parents. One grandma said she didn't know what they would have done without our help. Another burst into tears as she explained that she had just moved here yesterday --"You don't know what this means to me" she said.
    Although our table was stacked high with shoes at 9:00, by 10:30 we only had a single pair of sizes 5 and 7, so I quickly drove to Walmart and bought more, getting back just in time to make more boys happy!

     I was also happy to see some of my former kindergarten students -- so sweet to get hugs and smiles as they recognized me. I loved those kids.
     While the media is full of reports about that small group of racists demonstrating, I prefer to think about the large group of loving people bending down to tie shoes on feet of every color. There are lots more people serving God by serving others than there are of the hateful groups that get all the attention. And I'd much rather be on my knees tying shoes than waving signs and yelling hateful words.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Encourage One Another Daily


   I get a message from my friend Denise almost every day on my Fitbit saying something like,"What are you doing today to reach your goals?"  Many times I am sitting in my overstuffed chair doing NOTHING until I read that message. She reminds me that I do have goals, and her reminder is an encouragement to get up and get started.
   My scripture reading today was from Hebrews 3. "Encourage one another daily so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."  I was thinking about how important church is to my state of mind. After another few days of Facebook posts and news reports of violence, racism, demonstrations, ranting and raving about political leaders -- I NEEDED to go to church and see smiling faces, get hugs and handshakes, sing songs of praise, and hear prayers and a message about love. I can't make it a whole week -- I need the midweek gathering too. So when I read in my Bible that Paul said "Encourage one another DAILY" -- I knew why he thought that was important.
   It doesn't take a lot to encourage someone -- even a "like" on Facebook or a short message on my Fitbit makes me feel better about things.  I actually wrote a note to an old friend, put a stamp on it and mailed it this week -- my friend doesn't do Facebook -- because I was thinking of her. I don't do that often enough. It is easy to start feeling isolated when you don't have a job that requires you to leave your house, and my church friends and Chorus friends have become even more important than before.  I was grateful for the opportunity to share my story with the younger ladies Encouragehers Sunday School class last week -- and I hope my experiences were an encouragement to some of them.
    This Saturday our church Family Life Center will be full as we invite the community to come to Soles of Hope -- we will give new shoes to all the children, breakfast and a big box of groceries to each family. Life is hard sometimes, and we find joy in being able to give to others. The big smiles that come with the new shoes give us all a lift. It is such a blessing to see so many from church here to serve and help children find new shoes.
     So encouragement works both ways -- whether giving or receiving -- all are blessed.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Can't Change It

    As I was driving home on I-40 this afternoon, I came to a "one lane ahead" construction area. As I inched along, I was reminded of a podcast I listened to recently.  The speaker, Hal Elrod, has leukemia, but he told his listeners that his perspective made all the difference. If you can't change your situation, then instead of getting upset and frustrated, use the opportunity to add value to your life or to the world. So instead of complaining about the slow traffic, use the stop and go moments to change the music on the radio/cd player or enjoy the flowers planted in the median.
There are things in life that you can't change, that seem unfair. But if you just say CAN'T CHANGE IT and look for a way to use the situation to add value instead of getting mad or anxious or frustrated, your life will be better.
      Recently one of my friends was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. As I held her hand and encouraged her, I was actually grateful that I could be a comfort to her because I had that same surgery nearly 20 years ago. One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 8:28 "All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose."
There are times that I surely don't understand His purpose.  But I do believe that good can come from anything if we just look for it. Maybe you lost a job -- but then got a better one.  Or were late for work at the Pentagon, like my friend Bob -- and avoided the 9/11 tragedy.  Or couldn't get a visa approved to go back to Jerusalem as a missionary, like my nephew Zachary, but then got called to serve as senior pastor at a church where his sermons are broadcast on the internet and he is able to reach many more for Christ. Or, like my husband, got wounded in Vietnam and airlifted out the day before a big battle where many of his fellow soldiers were killed. All these bad situations were examples of God working things out for good.
        It was certainly not fair that Jesus suffered and died on the cross. He was totally innocent and did nothing to deserve that. But because of His unfair treatment, we can have an abundant life.  So whether we are stuck in traffic, or diagnosed with a dread disease, let's look for the good!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

God Blessed America

  I love America. As we celebrate the birth of our great nation, I've been thinking about blessed we are to live here.   I have been lucky enough to have opportunities to travel to many places in the United States.  The south has white sandy beaches and tall palm trees and it is always exciting to drive there.  We loved the rocky coast of Maine and watching the lobster traps being hauled aboard the boats.  Alaska was breathtakingly beautiful with the snow covered mountains and it was a thrill to catch a glimpse of the moose and grizzly bears.  The Midwest had miles and miles of flat farmland -- endless cornfields.  The Grand Canyon was so incredible, and I loved seeing all the Joshua trees in Nevada and Arizona. My home state of West Virginia has beautiful hills and valleys and rivers that I love, especially in the fall when the leaves are spectacular.
I wonder how some people can think for a moment that there is no Creator.
Oh, Lord my God,
When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made...
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee
How great Thou art!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Matter of Perspective

 
 As I was leaving church Sunday, I was stopped by a 90-something lady. She took my hand and said, "I was watching you bounce up the aisle this morning and thinking how I wished I was young again!"  And I thought,"YOUNG? I am almost 70 years old!" I am glad she thought I still had a little bounce in my step -- and I was thinking about that as I trudged around the track on my morning walk.  Notice I said TRUDGE -- because unlike church, exercise is a chore and most mornings I don't have much spring in my steps unless I listen to music that gets my mind off what I am doing.
    I've been working on researching my ancestors lately, and as I walked (no music so had time to ponder some things) I thought about just stopping and going to my air- conditioned car and quitting early.  But then I considered my 3rd great grandmother. Her name was Ann, and she came over from Wales on a ship in 1863.  Her husband was already in America, and she was following with her 4 small children, including a baby born after her husband left.  The voyage was probably more than a month long, and some of the children got a "fever" -- 2 of them died, including the baby. She tried to hide the little bodies in a trunk, but she was forced to bury them at sea.  After arriving in Baltimore, she had to go by wagon to Pennsylvania where they probably got on a flatboat and rode down the Ohio River to Ohio. So there she was, new country with a different language, no air conditioning or car or Walmart. I can't even imagine what that was like.  When I had to cross the ocean to follow my husband to Germany, we flew and arrived the same day and I was exhausted.  Obviously my Welsh grandmother was much stronger than I am.  Here's a picture of her daughter Mary -- she came over on the boat when she was about 3 years old.
   

    So I thought about my ancestors, and walked a while longer.  The meaning of "difficult " or "old" is a matter of perspective. This is the day that the Lord has made -- let us remember where we have come from and REJOICE! Put a spring in your step!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Not Sitting in Darkness



As I was reading in the Old Testament book of Micah today, I came to his verse that really stood out to me.  You see, I spent a few moments sitting in darkness this week when I got the results of my last blood test.  When I had my lung surgery last year -- recurrence #3 of my thyroid cancer -- I hoped I was finished.  The blood tests every 3 months didn't show any sign of thyroid tissue growing, and I thought I was out of the woods. But no! This test showed an elevated number -- going up instead of going down. So I spent a few hours thinking about writing a will and other depressing thoughts before the LIGHT brightened as I realized that my life has always been in His hands, so I'm not going to start worrying now.  I talked to my doctor, and we decided to test again in 3 months before we get too excited. The number was only 5 points higher than last time, so I intend to enjoy my summer and live it to the fullest.  I think of the song, "He Knows My Name" and the words that tell me He will pick me up when I fall, so I am depending on that.  No gloomy thoughts -- I refuse to sit in darkness thinking about what might or might not happen.  The Lord will be a LIGHT to me!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Serving God by Serving Others


    Rick Warren once wrote,"The only way you can serve God is by serving others and helping others in need."  I have personally experienced the love of God as my family and friends have helped me this week following my lung surgery.  So many wrote on Facebook that they were praying for me, sent cards, called, and visited -- it really gave me great comfort to know that God was hearing from California to Massachusetts to Florida and even Ukraine. Prayers were answered and the surgery went well.
    I came home from the hospital on Saturday and found more cards and flowers and a "Welcome Home" cookie.  Sam gave up his recliner so I could have a comfortable place to sleep. I made a list of things I needed to do -- I am a list-maker -- and my daughter saw the list on the table and quietly checked off every task as she completed it. I decided to try sleeping in our bed on Sunday night. Sam was afraid he would disturb me, so he made a bed on the floor beside me so he could hear me if I needed anything. At 3:00 a.m. I had to wake him to get my pain pills and he kindly brought me the pills and water. I told him to get in the bed, but he said he had slept in a bunker before and didn't mind sleeping on the floor a bit.
    The next morning he brought me a hot cup of cappuccino while Sara whipped up some biscuits and gravy and brought it to me in bed.  This afternoon a couple from church came over and brought a big pot of soup, corn muffins, and blueberry biscuits.  Someone else is bringing supper tomorrow, and I am feeling a little overwhelmed by all the expressions of God's love.
       I even had a FaceTime call from my son in Memphis -- he wanted to let me watch as he set off fireworks for the 4th of July!  It seems that everyone is contributing to my recovery, and I am so grateful to be the recipient of so many blessings. I think God must be pleased to see his children offering their time and talents to help someone in need.

Serving God by Serving Others


    Rick Warren once wrote,"The only way you can serve God is by serving others and helping others in need."  I have personally experienced the love of God as my family and friends have helped me this week following my lung surgery.  So many wrote on Facebook that they were praying for me, sent cards, called, and visited -- it really gave me great comfort to know that God was hearing from California to Massachusetts to Florida and even Ukraine. Prayers were answered and the surgery went well.
    I came home from the hospital on Saturday and found more cards and flowers and a "Welcome Home" cookie.  Sam gave up his recliner so I could have a comfortable place to sleep. I made a list of things I needed to do -- I am a list-maker -- and my daughter saw the list on the table and quietly checked off every task as she completed it. I decided to try sleeping in our bed on Sunday night. Sam was afraid he would disturb me, so he made a bed on the floor beside me so he could hear me if I needed anything. At 3:00 a.m. I had to wake him to get my pain pills and he kindly brought me the pills and water. I told him to get in the bed, but he said he had slept in a bunker before and didn't mind sleeping on the floor a bit.
    The next morning he brought me a hot cup of cappuccino while Sara whipped up some biscuits and gravy and brought it to me in bed.  This afternoon a couple from church came over and brought a big pot of soup, corn muffins, and blueberry biscuits.  Someone else is bringing supper tomorrow, and I am feeling a little overwhelmed by all the expressions of God's love.
       I even had a FaceTime call from my son in Memphis -- he wanted to let me watch as he set off fireworks for the 4th of July!  It seems that everyone is contributing to my recovery, and I am so grateful to be the recipient of so many blessings. I think God must be pleased to see his children offering their time and talents to help someone in need.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

I Am Not Brave


    I. Am. Not. Brave.
     There are lots of things that scare me.  Speed, heights, snakes, rats, airplanes -- even little mice. This week I picked up a big ol'snake in my driveway with a shovel and put it in the empty trash can nearby, and people called me brave.  But I am not brave.  I was too scared to let it crawl around in my yard, and too scared to kill it because then there might be 2 pieces of snake crawling toward me.!! Beside, I didn't  want to see snake guts either. So I shoveled it up and dropped it into the trash can to wait until my for real brave husband to come home and get rid of it.  So no, I am not brave.
     And now I am facing a very scary surgery next week, but with 3 days to go, I still have an incredible peace. I am not lying awake at night or hyperventilating -- it is the strangest thing!  The only explanation is -- God.  There are lots of people praying for me -- not just saying it, but really sincerely making a commitment to pray.  And as I have been working through my journaling Bible, there are so many verses that seem to be written just for me.
        One of my husband's favorite actors, John Wayne, said "Courage is being scared to death...but saddling up anyway."  John Wayne, by the way, also had lung surgery. So, I am saddling up, facing what has to be done, but with a peace that passes understanding.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Little Taste of Heaven

     I drove from my home in North Carolina to my childhood home in West Virginia this weekend.  The event was my 50 year high school class reunion.  It has been 10 years since the last one, but there were some who had never come to any of the previous reunions, so we had not seen them since graduation 50 years ago. It was a wonderful evening of renewed friendships. There was a lot of laughing and hugging -- we spent the evening sharing memories and catching up with each other.  Some were hard to recognize, but some didn't seem to change at all. One boy who was a total goof-off in high school came over and shared his testimony with me then sang "Blessed Assurance" to me. God had certainly changed his life since high school!
       Some had lost children and spouses, some had lost their health.  And there was a chart with the names of the 27 who have died since graduation.  It was hard to see all those names of boys and girls from our class who were gone too soon.
       Many of us had come a long way -- Florida, Missouri,  North Carolina, Louisiana -- and we were disappointed that many local classmates didn't choose to come.  There were name badges waiting for some who were not able to come at the last minute, because of sickness or death in the family.  We signed cards and taped a video to share with some of those.
       A couple of my friends and I were still talking while the restaurant was being cleaned. We met again today and talked for over 3 hours, then continued the talking at one final gathering tonight. We were all so glad to be together again.
        As I was driving home, I was thinking about what heaven must be like.  I wonder if there will be hugging and laughing and celebrating when we see our loved ones.  Will we be sharing our testimony  about how God brought us through? Will we talk and talk to those loved ones without thoughts of a meal? Will we sing, "This is my story, this is my song..."  Will we feel disappointed when  some friends are not there? Or regret not giving a personal invitation to those who didn't know how great it would be?
        As much fun as I had this weekend, I know it can't compare st all that God has prepared for those who believe! But I felt like we experienced a little bit of heaven tonight!