Confidence During Quarantine

Confidence During Quarantine

Many viruses with new adaptations have emerged in the past twenty years but none as insidious and deadly as the Covid- 19. This virus has spread world-wide and caused chaos-signextensive damage and loss in its wake which is still ongoing. We were not prepared for a pandemic and all of its loss. Loss of loved ones, jobs, connections and vacations to name a few but the biggest has been loss of control.  I am glad to know that our God is in control and nothing is a surprise to Him.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Prov 16:9

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope      Jer 29:11

Human beings have always been able to adapt even though we do not particularly like change. As a New Englander I often comment on the changing weather but I can’t do a thing about it except adapt. It took awhile but most of us acclimated to the new “virtual world”.  How great to know that God never changes.

I am the Lord, and I do not change.       Malachi 3:6

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever       Hebrews 13:8

When the shutdown started – everyone started cleaning cupboards and closets out DSC_0927 (1)because they had extra time. What we learned is that we all have too much “stuff” lurking in various places in our homes. Many of my friends have “down-sized” and I know I have way too many hoarded treasures, my husband labels “junk”. There is nothing wrong with being comfortable or owning nice things but when do we say, “enough”?

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.        Matthew 6:19-21

We still are not sure what this “new normal” will look like. Acceptance gives us a better family gamespicture of what needs to be or can be done.  Acceptance changes our perspective from what I can’t do or don’t have to being thankful for all I have and looking for new opportunities.  We can’t actually go very many places but we are grateful for our neighborhood and take walks to enjoy the flora and fauna around us. We have played more board and lawn games. It’s important to be mindful of the good things and enjoy life everyday.

 So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this!8 Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne!9 Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil.10 Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.              Ecclesiastes 9:7-10                                                                                        (Solomon had become a bit jaded when he wrote this.)

 We are so unprepared for the unexpected yet predictable.  For example, how many adults have a will, have written or even spoken about possessions and final wishes? Yet it is inevitable that we all will die someday. We need to be better prepared for the possible and inevitable whether it is an illness, retirement or caring for children and aging parents. The most important question is are you prepared for eternity? Where does your hearts’ desire lie? Have you nourished your soul? If today were your last day would you be ready?

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.          John 14:6

 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.         1 John 1:9

 13 I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.14 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him.15 And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.        1 John 5:13-15

Dear Reader – I hope you are confident in the faith and in your future.  If you have any questions, please write to me – I would love to share more.  All verses are in the New Living translation.

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The Garden of My Heart

The Garden of My Heart

gardenbloomMy flower gardens bring my husband and I great joy. They were planted strategically and have spread over time. Easy care perennials bring color at various times of the spring through late summer and annuals show a more consistent pop of color. A bonus to the flowers are the birds and butterflies that have come to our back yard. It is amazing to watch the little hummingbirds flit about, giant butterflies visit and we watch the brilliant goldfinches in our birch tree. Several neighbors have been beneficiaries of bouquets of flowers for their tables.

Taking care of a garden and keeping it healthy takes a little TLC and a watchful eye. My neighbor has a huge vegetable garden that has tripled in size this year. We watched as he built new raised plots, carefully planted, staked and screened in the new beds. He has invested a great amount of time and energy in protecting, watering and weeding .  If it’s so much work why do Gardeners garden?  The answer is, FOR THE HARVEST!

Living the Christian life is like a garden. We need to invest time and energy to nurture our souls and be careful of the things we allow into our hearts and homes.  Social media lacybybugscan steal that precious time and allow a lot of anxiety, negativity and even anger to creep in and eat away. I was not watchful while some insects quietly munched away on my hibiscus bush leaving the leaves looking like lace. Weeds are subtle because they grow slowly and often look like the plant they are next to. To be our best selves we need allow God to work in our hearts, carefully dead heading the things that don’t belong. If we are not careful to read “The Master Gardeners manual” we cannot tell the difference when Satan’s lies blend with the truth.

I think God loves gardens. He placed Adam and Eve in a garden with many kinds of foliage and fruit- not at a seashore resort. Jesus told the parable of “The Sower and the Seed” (Luke 8) to warn against the condition of our hearts and other scriptures are filled with life giving encouragement to help us grow strong.

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Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.2 But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.              Psalms 1:1-3 (NLT)

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?       Matt 6:26-30 

What is the Kingdom of God? 31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds,32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.        Mark 4: 30,31

Despite the circumstances we are now facing, we all  have a job to do. We can be water bearers to those who are dry and weary. We can give shade and assurance to those who are confused and angry. Let us share the flowers and fruit of compassion and kindness and be a beautiful bouquet drawing others to Him.

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A Clean Sweep

A Clean Sweep

The beginning of a new year gives a chance to look back at the accomplishments and struggles of last year and look forward to the new and hopefully better one. I change the calendar, the checkbook register and get a new “planner”. My husband and I sit down and discuss home improvements needed, taxes and vacations… but not at the same time!

_20180126_094451 (1)January is known for its “white sales” – new appliances, linens and storage containers.  Decluttering, downsizing and organizing guru’s share the latest tips to contain the mess.  Every year we make the same or similar new years’ resolutions because we want to do better, be nicer and feel healthier.

We often deal with the stuff around us but what about dealing with the “stuff” in our hearts? The classic booklet “My Hearts Christ’s Home” by Robert Boyd Munger weaves a story of inviting Jesus in and giving a tour room by room of our “house”. Each room represents a place in our lives but the host balks at letting Jesus see the hall closet.  The stuff in that closet is old and smells bad ; like bitterness, bad habits, past secret sin we hang on to. Only Jesus can help us clean, reorder and restore this closet of our heart.

DSC_0927 (1)  It’s easy to ask God to forgive us for “little sins” of omission or commission. But what if we are honest and go a little deeper? We can try to justify our feelings and actions – but that doesn’t bring peace of mind. The Bible has a lot to say about unclean hearts.  God sees and knows it all and yet we often try to sweep our “stuff” under the rug or hide.

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you Psalms 69:5 (ESV)

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

Only God can wash our hearts from all the hurts and hang-ups. He says come – let me remove the “dirt” and cleanse you from the inside out. God desires to restore a right relationship with Him and promises us a new beginning. He is the God of second chances! Even if something seems impossible to forgive (like trying to get red ink out of a white shirt) there is nothing impossible with God.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.       Psalms 103:11-12 (ESV)

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Start the New Year off by spending time in prayer and reflection. Let’s open up the closet of our heart and ask God to do a deep cleaning. Sometimes that deep cleaning takes a long time because first we need to recognize our fears, failures and faults in order to let Him work on those areas. The process isn’t easy but it is freeing and satisfying. Let this prayer of David be yours :

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.        Psalms 51:6-10 (ESV)

 

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Soul Care for the Holidays

Soul Care for the Holidays

The Holiday season can be stressful and exhausting!  It does not need to be that way! First we need to realize it is only a season!  Approximately 6 weeks of non-stop advertising and extra to-do’s added to the calendar. Everyday we have choices and can control the chaos to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The bottom line to enjoying the holiday season is an attitude of being grateful instead of greedy . We as well as our children get caught in the trap of consumerism. We DON’T have to match up to Martha Stewart – the queen of everything practically perfect…. Or have a Magnolia house. First of all we don’t have their staff! And TV is not real life.

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What are the most important traditions for you and your family?  Put those at the top of the list!  Carefully consider other events before saying yes.  Don’t try to do it all or you won’t enjoy anything yourself. If Mommy (or Daddy) isn’t happy then nobody is happy!

Have limits and lower expectations that everything will be Hallmark perfect. If you have  small children and especially if you have children with special needs ,you may have to say no to too many extra activities.  Don’t feel guilty. No time to bake? Buy cookies. Limit the visiting hours and try to maintain a regular bedtime. One year we just couldn’t get our family Christmas letter done and didn’t send any cards. Nobody died because of it.

If this is a particularly stressful or financially tight year for you then only decorate the Tree, The Mantle or table and the front door. The tree represents – eternal life and Jesus the Light of the world.  The Mantle or table decoration is right in view for you while the front door is what others see and where you enter and exit everyday.

Plan and limit your shopping. It is too stressful to push through the crowds of people to”find the perfect gift”. I have been so happy with online shopping. Truly watch your spending and set limits there too. Getting into debt over gifts is not a satisfying feeling afterwards.

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Stop and take a deep breath – seriously. Breathing helps clear our minds, calm our racing thoughts and lower blood pressure. Think about it for a minute– do you hold your breath when upset???

Make sleep a PRIORITY –  Take cat naps if necessary – I am finding a great benefit to it. Have a coffee or tea and take a 5 minute power nap – it really will refresh you!

I love the idea of  “no politics” at the table. Sharing funny stories or remembrances is a much better way to enjoy and connect even with difficult relatives. Take a walk, play a board game or watch a classic movie together instead.

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Take advantage of FREE things. Driving around the neighborhood to view different lights and displays is fun!  Enjoy a local holiday parade (or Macy’s on TV).  Play music: slow to relax or fast to pump you up to finish a task. Music is an international language that directly speaks to the soul!

Most important DO NOT neglect your time with God!  Read a Christmas devotional or one Chapter of Luke each day for the month. Read the real story of  Thanksgiving. Learning about their first winter and harvest meal will make you grateful! Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birthday and why He came.  Don’t focus on the chaos and big to do list. Ask God to help you count blessings and not focus on difficulties. He will fill your heart with peace, wonder and the joy of the season.

 

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God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

God rest you merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay

Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day

To save us all from Satan’s power, when we have gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy – O tidings of comfort and joy!!!