SOMETHING NEW IN ‘22

Calendars and planners are plentiful this month as we prepare to input appointments and commitments onto the blank pages. Many forego the paper plotting, using their phone calendar instead. I prefer a portable planner with pages for notes and ideas, probably because I’m a writer. I love new calendars with large squares available to me when I make my to-do lists, jot down a phone number, or get an idea for a story.

The other day I heard a commercial which touted a theme of “We’re doing something new in ‘22.” I jotted it down in my planner so as to not forget it. Since the pandemic began two years ago (yes, that long ago), and I went through my cancer journey, the years seem the same. Isolation, protection, cancellation. We do what we feel is best for us individually and try to protect others. We all hoped and prayed that last year would be better, and yet this year we are still isolating, protecting, and seeing cancellations.

On January 1, 2022, I made up my mind I was going to have a good year! I wrote that on page one of my new journal. Then when I heard the commercial about doing something new in ‘22, I adopted that as my New Year slogan. I am tired of the same old same old. This morning in my quiet time, the Holy Spirit led me to Isaiah 43:19. It says, “Behold, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? I will make a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” God is about to do something new and He wants me to see it! Something new in ‘22! When I’m struggling He will make a way…a new way. When I’m in the desert He will provide a new stream.

I have been praying about several new things which have been presented to me recently and I must admit that I am tempted to say yes, but not every new thing is possible, wise, or good. We must watch, seek, and hear from God before agreeing to take on something new. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.“ The key word in the verse is ‘I.’ It’s all about God’s plans for me, not June’s plans. I can fill every block in my planner with good things and projects, but if they aren’t God’s plan for me, I’ve wasted my time. So, how do I know what to say yes to? The next three verses guide me. “Then you will call upon me, and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”

Yes, God is doing something new in ‘22 and I am watching, seeking, and listening. I want His plan for my life to be what gets written in my planner. When I seek Him with ALL my heart, He will guide me through the year as new things begin to happen.

Lull Time

I’ve heard the week between Christmas and New Years referred to as the Lull, a temporary interval of quiet or lack of activity. Anticipation of the magical Christmas morning is over, the big dinner has disappeared into leftovers, and afternoon naps come more frequently. Our home seems to want to stretch out the twinkling lights, Christmas desserts, and pajama dress code, just a bit longer, before the ear-splitting zings on New Year’s Eve, die out in the wee hours of the coming year.

Chai, our two-year-old Shih Tzu, echos the mood as he takes ownership of hubby’s new slippers, and stretches out quietly in his shaggy, cushy bed. I watch him snuggle into the softness and realize he, too, is experiencing lull time.

My lull time consists of reading one of my new books while sipping tea in a new cup, indulging in too many breakfast carbs, and denying the call of meeting real life approaching too soon. I know the end of one year and the beginning of the new one means paperwork…lots of it. I understand that trees must come down, ornaments need to be packed away, pages need to be written, and upcoming doctor visits will expose my food indulgences. But, during the lull time, I symbolically snuggle in and hug the quiet close.

This week is where I spend extra time with the Lord, reading His Word, feeling His presence, being still so I can hear His voice. Lull time puts my mind at ease and allows me to linger longer in prayer as I wait on Him. Lull time helps me prepare for busy days ahead by strengthening my spirit and building my faith. Lull time teaches me about trust and guides my thoughts. The Holy Spirit unveils what I’ve struggled with and shows me how to handle things. The answer was there but I had been too busy to see it.

My discovery will change how I begin the week after the lull. When fireworks lay silent in the dirt, when bare trees are placed at the curb, when trash cans overflow with wrapping paper and empty boxes, I will have God’s plan for me instilled within my heart. My discovery of learning to schedule regular lull time into my week, making it part of each day, with the purpose of putting Christ first in all I do, will make the coming year the best it can be.

Blessings in My Saucer

Tears flowed unashamedly as I sat quietly in church listening to a precious friend sing an old song, “Drinking From My Saucer.” The lyrics pierced my heart and caused me to understand the true meaning of all the blessings I’ve received from God.

The first line of the song, I’ve never made a fortune and it’s probably too late now, is true for me as I approach my seventy-seventh birthday. We live in a modest home and our needs are met, along with extras along the way. Being self-employed in the construction business, it’s often feast or famine. The first line of the second stanza agrees, ain’t got a lot of riches and sometimes the going’s rough.

The gist of the song is that it doesn’t matter that You don’t have riches or material things. If you have Jesus, that’s enough. I’m thankful for all the blessings He’s poured into my cup of life. There are so many that my cup overflows into my saucer. I can get by with what’s in my saucer because of the cupful of blessings He continues to send through my life.

But listening to Debbie Patrick sing that beautiful song, my heart was also pricked when I thought about opportunities I may have missed to share my blessings. Was I too busy to pray for someone hurting? Was my day too full to call and check on someone absent from church? Did I complain or grumble about how bad things were last week? I thought about the storms I recently went through and wondered if I stood firm enough in my faith, trusting God to take me through it, so others could see Jesus in me.

So in the span of time it took for my friend to sing that song, I asked God to help me not complain when the going gets tough, because I’m drinking from my saucer, for my cup has overflowed. As it keeps filling I will keep sharing. I’m rich enough because I have Jesus, and that’s all I need.

Giving means more than buying expensive gifts. Giving your time, support, love, forgiveness, and prayers, comes naturally when your life- cup is overflowing. How does it continue to overflow? Walking with Jesus, serving Him, and drinking from a saucer of overflowing blessings, while giving out what’s in your cup. You can’t out-give God. The more He pours into your cup the more you have to give out.

The Waiting Game

My two-year-old Shih Tzu , Chai, loves to greet people when they come in the door. When he was younger he welcomed guests with his exciting actions; such as jumping on them, wagging his tail, slurpy kisses, and running circles around them. I knew I had to discourage his exuberance so our training began. I taught him to wait (in a sit command which he already knew). Then, I gave him a treat and repeated the word, wait, while I went out the door, rang the doorbell, and came back in. If he obeyed (it took repeated practice), he was rewarded with another treat and “good boy” commendation. If he moved from his sit/wait position there was no treat, although I did pet him, saying, “Let’s try again.” It took about a month before he was consistent in the waiting game.

Now, when my husband comes home from work and Chai hears the truck in the driveway, he runs to the window with tail wagging. As I approach the door and tell him, “Daddy’s home,” he runs to his place on the carpet and sits, waiting for Nick to come in. When the door closes, Chai welcomes him home eagerly. He does have lapses if he’s overly excited, but if I remind him to wait he knows where to go. Chai loves to please me. He knows a reward is coming when he does. Sometimes it’s a peanut butter treat and “good boy” acknowledgement, and other times it’s a simple hug.

I have been thinking about Chai’s training and obedience lately as I’ve gone through times of waiting. God has worked with me a long time, trying to teach me to wait on Him. When I listen and obey, He rewards me. If I lapse, the training is repeated with more opportunities to learn from experience.

I love pleasing God. I know that when I obey what He tells me, God is pleased and He will bless me in many different ways. Sometimes I’ll receive a treat from unexpected sources after waiting patiently for a season. Other times, God winks at me through a friend’s kindness and generosity. Many times my reward is being able to help others.

When Jesus became my Lord and Savior, I received the greatest reward—eternal life, a gift from God. I am not always obedient. I often get impatient after my prayers are seemingly unanswered, but God is faithful and never breaks a promise. Heaven waits for me as I wait for God.

The Joy of Surprises

I have been working diligently on the third book in my Legacy series. Some scenes come easily while others resist my efforts and disappear like invisible ink. Today’s writing went well and my characters gave me a lot of worthy material.

I went to my physical therapy session and my therapist asked about my book. I shared how easily the words flowed onto the page and that I was getting closer to the end. She asked if this would be the last book in the series. My response was that it probably would be unless “something” surprising happened in the next few chapters. It wouldn’t be the first time my characters surprised me and lengthened a book.

There is joy in surprises. It could be a moment of unexpected conversation that turns into a life-changing decision. It may be meeting with a complete stranger who changes the dynamics of a home. Perhaps a rescue dog appears out of nowhere asking for love and finds it among the most unlikely people.

As a writer, I feast on surprises brought about by my characters when I least expect it. I plan for certain things to happen but occasionally they take me on a detour. So today I wonder if Legacy’s Truth will be the final book in the series. Time will tell. I need to be open to whichever direction they take me instead of clinging to the plan I had.

We make plans too, setting goals, and looking ahead. We might plan to retire next year, get married, accept a new position, or other big decisions. Sometimes God intervenes and at some point in a chapter of our life, He may appear with a joyful surprise—a detour which takes you in a different direction.

God might call you into a ministry instead of allowing you to retire. the person you plan to marry may not be the one God desires for you. You might have a major career shift with fantastic opportunities.

God writes the story of our life. He alone knows how each chapter progresses and how the story ends. He doesn’t leave us in a mundane life, He loves adding joyful surprises along the way and breathing life into our story. If we stubbornly cling to life within our comfort zone, refusing to accept His surprises, we will miss the joy God wants to create in our life.

In my books there are different types of surprises. Some appear as a result of tragedy, while others are simply a gift or come from unexpected decisions. The same has been true of my life. I’ve learned to accept them, knowing God has only good things planned for me. He is the author and finisher of my faith.

Nooks & Crannies

Nooks & Crannies

I fell in love with English muffins years ago when I visited my Aunt Pearl in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The first morning after my arrival we sat in her small kitchen with a cozy cup of coffee (before I discovered the exciting flavors and benefits of hot tea). Auntie gently pulled apart the halves of a biscuit-looking bread. “Do you like English Muffins?” She asked, showing me the split discs.

I was amazed at what I saw; a catacomb of nooks and crannies throughout the bread. I confessed I’d never tasted it. Auntie popped them into the toaster and soon the unique aroma wafted through the kitchen. She placed the halves on a pretty plate and brought butter, jam, and jelly from the fridge. When I spread a small butter pat on the muffin, I watched as it melted and disappeared into the crevices,, exuding a tantalizing aroma. I added a bit of strawberry jam, observing the same process. One bite and I was hooked. The outside was crunchy firm, and yet the inside was soft and flavorful. Aunt Pearl and I spent enjoyable mornings during my visit, with her giving me pearls of wisdom about life.

Today as I had my quiet time after waking earlier than usual, I toasted a fresh English muffin. As I spread the butter on my toasted treat, I watched how it melted into those nooks and crannies, finding a place to settle. I was reading in Colossians and found this in chapter 3, verse 16; it says in part, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.”

I pictured God’s Word dwelling within the nooks and crannies of my heart and mind, filling me with His richness and wisdom. With God’s Word permeating me, I have what is necessary to share with others, what He has taught me; ‘pearls of wisdom.’ His Word is always fresh, providing me with a firm faith. He often whispers a soft, comforting word to satisfy an anxious spirit.

Next time you’re in the store pick up a package of English muffins. Enjoy one as you seek the Lord’s wisdom for your day.

Cancer Cairn

Years back I created a cairn, a man-made stack of rocks. Cairns have long been used to mark trails, provide direction, and serve as a map. Modern cairns have become more of an art form rather than trail guides.

I created my cairn to remind me of places in my life where God changed the course I was on. Each rock was chosen carefully from places I visited, selected because of shape, color or inspiration. One by one, the stack grew and ultimately became a map of the season I was in at the time.

I haven’t traveled much lately. The pandemic, then cancer, put the brakes on my travel jaunts, so collecting actual stones hasn’t been possible. I realized though, that I could create a cancer cairn artistically on paper. I wouldn’t have to fight trying to balance the rocks, glue, or finding the perfect shapes. It is still a work-in-progress, as I sift through the past year and a half.

God reorganized my life when cancer entered, and the months that followed could never have been planned or orchestrated by me. His hand was on me throughout all my treatments. Each of the treatment rocks on my cairn point to a new direction.

One rock depicts the medical team God provided, and it reminds me that they were personally selected by God to minister to me. A round rock represents my family who encircled me with love and prayer. Other various shaped rocks remind me of dark days, bright ones, friends, pain, joy, and much more.

My cairn will have 12 stones of remembrance, based on Joshua 4:2-3, when God commanded Joshua to choose 12 men who would each choose 12 stones to remember the miraculous River crossing. They were to tell future generations about God rescuing them. To the Israelites the pile of rocks was a reminder of how God acts on behalf of His people. To everyone else they were simply a pile of rocks.

My cairn reminds me of how God changed the direction of my life, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s a reminder of His love for me.

Lesson from My Garden

Springtime ads for gardens popped up in our newspaper and I decided to take the plunge. I convinced my husband to build an elevated raised bed planter so I wouldn’t use what energy I had, stooping and bending to plant veggies. Once he had it built he went to the Home Depot and purchased soil, compost, and plant food. Seeing the filled planter made me joyful, so we went back and bought plants. It didn’t seem like many when I had them in the dirt. Cucumbers, bell peppers, pepperoncini, zucchini, yellow squash, and one cantaloupe. I also bought two different tomato plants and seeds for radishes and carrots.

Fast forward several weeks and I had a jungle on my hands. My first attempt at raised bed gardening revealed my inexperience. Spacing is important. The cucumbers, zucchini, and yellow squash leaves are huge and they spread all over the other plants. My radishes and carrots didn’t stand a chance. The cucumber plant was quite prolific and my tomatoes were loaded (I did plant them in a separate wooden container). The yellow squash began blooming and produced several fruit but insects devoured them leaving me with only two edible ones. The zucchini fared better. My pepperoncini gave out nice peppers, and I’m still waiting for the bell peppers and the cantaloupe to develop. The tomatoes have started ripening and are so sweet.

Daily I inspect the plants, ready to wash away insects if necessary. I snoop among the foliage for hidden veggies, twist off yet more cucumbers, and snatch a couple more red tomatoes. Then today, a surprise! Hanging over the side of the planter was the beginning of my first cantaloupe, about the size of a lemon. How did that happen? I check that area every day, and there was even a growing cucumber close by. How did I miss seeing the cantaloupe as it started growing. My focus was elsewhere. Even passing that spot, I was looking for cucumbers and peppers. My search for cantaloupe was within the covering inside the planter, not hanging over the side. It wasn’t where I expected it to be.

My life has been crazy over the past year and a half. Much has been overgrown, crowding out other things. Things I planted seem to have taken root, but some covered up other areas, making it hard for me to see what was important. Hard, that is, until one day I looked and there it was, clear as could be. The fruit in my life, the love that God has for me, and His purpose for me. As God reveals who I am to encourage and come along side of, I will nurture, love, and care for them. To me, things might look haphazard in my life at times, but God is the ultimate Gardener and has it under control.

I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor and plan to continue my gardening adventure. I’ve learned to space things out a bit and not try to include quite so much in a small space. But God taught me to see through His eyes, not mine, and to keep my focus in the right place.

My little cantaloupe on the right!

Shattered Pieces

The year of the pandemic will long be remembered for shattering lives in so many ways; globally, locally, and personally. It’s safe to say that no one was exempt from the changes which came about as a result of the COVID-19 Virus infestation. Like shattered china, our lives will never be the same. We all desire things to go back to the way we were, but it’s not possible. Yes, one day we won’t have to wear a mask, social distance, and refrain from hugging those we love. Businesses will rehire, reopen, and welcome groups. Families will enjoy gatherings with grands and great-grands for holiday meals. Travel will resume via highways, cruise ships, and air. Yet, we will not be the same people we were in 2019.

When we experience major trauma, something changes inside, unseen to others possibly, and maybe even ourselves for a time. I know! God allowed Breast cancer to accompany a pandemic into my life. Both appeared slowly at first and then isolated me, shattering my daily activities, ability to write, and take proper care of my home. For a time!

But God….

When my china ornament fell and shattered, I was devastated. It was given to me by a dear friend for my Tea Tree at Christmas. I knew I could glue the three severed sections back together, but I also know I would forever remember the crack lines each time I looked at it. It will still be loved but it is changed. But God taught me a principle through the little teapot. I can gather those pieces and create something brand new from them. They can be made into a piece of jewelry, or adhered to a tea wreath. It will never be the same teapot but it will become a new creation. It has the same structural pieces, but will be made into something new.

I love how Scripture describes hopeless situations throughout the Old Testament especially, and then I read, “But God….” when things get shattered God gathers the pieces and makes something new. He picks up what’s broken and creates something more beautiful.

My life has changed, and I dare say yours probably has too. I no longer hold in high priority many things I did before. Things don’t have the appeal they held before the pandemic and Breast Cancer entered my life. People matter ten fold over where they were before. I’ve always loved people and enjoyed time spent with friends and family. Now, God has filled me with more empathy, compassion, and love than I dreamed I could have. Every person has a story and their story wants to be heard. God has increased my listening skills. Going through cancer treatments humbled me and gave me an inner appreciation for taking better care of the body God gave me, along with heartfelt thankfulness for the awesome medical team He put together just for me. My love for God exploded last year as I watched Him work for me, in me, and through me and others in my life. I am forever changed. My old life was shattered but God took the pieces and did what no one else could do! I am a new creation.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Rest

Several people have asked me how I rest when faced with difficult circumstances so today I spent time reflecting on this topic. The verb, rest, means to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength. When I look into Scripture, I find that rest is the sense of security and peace that flows from a right relation with God through obedience to his Son, Jesus Christ.

Before I can experience God’s rest I need to examine what causes unrest in my soul. When I was first told on June 10, 2020, that I had breast cancer, I was devastated, distraught, and filled with unrest. I didn’t want cancer in my life. I hated how it was going to change my life. I feared for what it would do to my loved ones. What I didn’t know or expect then was that God was going to teach me how to enter into His rest.

Day after day, I found myself moving deeper into prayer, allowing the Holy Spirit to take those tear-filled supplications to the throne of God. As time passed, help arrived in ways I can’t explain except that it was Devine intervention. Each was an answer to my heart’s pleading. My faith and trust in God grew and exploded, resulting in a sense of peace, knowing I was safely being cared for. I spent countless hours in God’s Word and Joy filled my soul. I had found God’s rest even though I still had cancer, still had horrible side effects from treatment, and was unsure of the future. I rested on days I had no strength, was in pain, and couldn’t eat. I praised God for those days of rest because it helped me regain my strength, both physically and spiritually. In the midst of my cancer I knew The Lord was there with me. I could allow Him to carry me. I kept that image in my mind and it allowed me to truly rest.

Today I am cancer-free, praise God. I still enter into His rest to maintain my strength for the next challenge that will surely come. Satan doesn’t like victory stories so I expect to be tested. He can’t have my soul because I belong to Jesus, but Satan can try to destroy my testimony by wreaking havoc in my life. It’s important to rest in The Lord in preparation for whatever may come. It can be health challenges, financial trouble, relationship problems, fear over world situations, or loss of loved ones. But we can still rest and rejoice in the Lord. We can be a testimony of God’s love, power and strength.

As Habakkuk 3:18 says, “yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Rest and rejoicing begins with:

Receiving Jesus Christ as Savior.

It comes by prayer.

It grows by trust.