Sunday, April 30, 2017

Even the Flowers Face the Sun




Funny how a simple walk up the pasture can reveal the wisdom of God.

I do well with pictures. When someone is trying to explain technical or difficult things to me, it’s better for all of us if they can paint a picture with their words, or show me a drawing. God knows this. He created me and is well aware of my idiosyncrasies and brainwaves.

As I wandered through the grass, I noticed the wild flowers. The sun was bright and lit up the pasture like a coat of many colors—yellow, lavender, blue, pink, fuchsia.

The yellow flowers grabbed my attention the most. Every one of their countless little faces, faced the sun—petals outstretched and unhindered, soaking up the life-giving rays. They took full advantage of the sun’s offering before it dipped behind the horizon.

And God spoke to my heart: “Even my Creation looks to Me, turning their backs on the shadows to receive the nutrients they need.”

My husband, Bruce and I are facing a pretty huge challenge. We’ve faced some big ones in the past, but this one’s a doozy. And there is nothing we can do about it, except stand firm in our beliefs and pray.

The flowers in their silence spoke volumes this morning. No matter how strong the breeze, they flexed and bent, but never turned away from the sun. They didn’t shake their fist at the sky and complain about the wind. They didn’t huff at the cow pies that littered their green carpet. And they didn’t scoff at their fellow flowers who seemed to be enjoying a calmer existence. They just kept their focus on that consistent sun that rises every morning to give them what they need.

I was encouraged: the winds of life are opportunities to learn endurance; the cow pies add much needed fertilizer that promotes growth; and the calm others enjoy, well, praise God they’re getting a break for awhile.

So, I’m taking my cue from the flowers, from God’s voice teaching me through His Creation: Keep my eyes on the Son. No matter what the outcome in this challenge, I know it’s all good. Whatever plan He has for us, it will be a good future, full of hope, and a great testimony of His goodness. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

And if, in a weak moment, I start to wilt with worry, I think I’ll take a stroll back out in the pasture and sit next to those little yellow flowers … just to remind me.

Psalm 25:15: My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net. (NKJV)





www.ponyexpressministry.com
www.trail-tails.blogspot.com
 

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Power of Praise




"Be exalted, O Lord, in Your own strength! We will sing and praise Your power”—Psalm 21:13.

Nursing homes are never an easy place to be. Many times they are the last destination for ones that have lived a fairly long life. Most residents are not in the minds they once knew, and all ail from one sickness or another.
 

Bruce's 93-year-old grandmother had been in a nursing home for quite some time. No longer able to stay with her family because of medical issues, she became a permanent resident.
 

Bruce, my mother-in-law Betty, and I made our way to the secured area of the facility where she resided. She sat in her wheelchair, absently staring at the floor. As we approached her, she looked up, sheer delight spreading across her face. We hugged and kissed her, wheeling her into the little living room reserved for private family visits.
 

Although happy to be sitting there together, our conversation started to get a bit strained. Grandma was hard of hearing, couldn't talk very well, and suffered from memory loss. Long silences filled the gaps in our conversation.
 

There had to be some way of communicating together.
 

Suddenly, I felt the Lord impressing on me to sing. However, I choked up with emotion as I fumbled around for a starting point. I sensed the impression again, urging me to continue. Pulling myself together, I asked, "Can we sing?" With great relief, all three of us plunged in, enthusiastically singing out the old familiar hymns: Amazing Grace; What A Friend We Have In Jesus; How Great Thou Art.
 

Grandma's face lit up and away she went! The strain was chased from her face as she sang with us at the top of her voice. The wheelchair seemed to melt away. We were all lifted up and out of that nursing home to a familiar and happy place where communication gaps and sickness don't exist. For those moments, we enjoyed the same space and the same time.
 

Intrigued, I watched her joyfully expounding on every word. She remembered the words!—words she had sung long ago that had been tucked away in silent rooms somewhere in the recesses of her mind. The melodies of those old hymns led her heart straight to those rooms, unlocking them like special keys to forgotten doors.
 

Apparently, the singing from our little room wafted through the entire wing of the nursing home, and more than one heart was unlocked that day. The nurses still talk about it. God's Presence had a profound affect on patients and staff alike.
 

Praise in the form of music is powerful and transparent, walking through any wall that has been erected and unlocking every door that has been tightly shut. It knows no boundaries. 
(Acts 16:25-26)



www.ponyexpressministry.com

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Wealth of El Chimí




I was 16 when my youth group bumped across the border into Baja California. Excitement electrified the air as we eagerly anticipated our first mission trip. 

An old Catholic church sat just over the United States’ line—our base camp for the next week. We unloaded our gear from the bus and threw our sleeping bags and duffles on the floor. We girls began the meticulous task of organizing curling irons, blow dryers, and makeup in the tiny bathroom. (We were 16-year-olds, after all.)

After settling in, it was off to practice the Bible lessons. Our group had the responsibility of teaching Bible stories to the children in the community assigned to us. Our translator coached us in speaking through an interpreter.

The next morning, after last minute instructions from our interpreter and the usual warnings of “don’t wander off,” we tromped onto the bus and rumbled into the small town of El Chimí, Mexico. I stared out the window at a ramshackle town that the upper 48s would have seen in an 1800s border town.

The sun didn’t waste any time throwing its heat, and sweat blazed trails through my makeup.

I was a long way from my middle-class life in California and butterflies did belly rolls in my stomach. New to this mission thing, I also worried about whether I’d make a fool of myself trying to teach through a translator (who was quite cute, I might add).

The bus rattled to a halt and the doors squealed open, interrupting my thoughts. We stepped down onto the hard-packed dirt street. Wide-eyed kids peeked around the corners of shacks and old stone buildings, staring at these white strangers who had come to their village.

But, true to children in every culture, curiosity got the best of them and they slowly snuck out of their hiding places. It didn’t take long for the ice to be broken as we all gathered in the middle of the street for a lively game of kickball.

After awhile I took a break in the shade of an old mesquite tree, and rested on a low stone wall. Pretty soon, my quiet perch was crowded with brown, barefooted little bodies, snuggling up to my side. One particular five-year-old ran to have first pick at the space next to me and claimed me as her forever-friend. Her soft brown eyes, the picture of innocence and peace.

My adolescent, self-centeredness melted away as I fell in love with these kids. They even made speaking in front of a group easy. My fellow teachers and I stumbled and stammered through the learning process of speaking through an interpreter, but their innocent faces were intent on every word we said.

I was also amazed at how we could communicate with them as we played. I spoke only a couple or so words of Spanish; They spoke no English. Yet, we understood each other. I began to see how the language of love crossed all borders.

In fact, I realized that the inhabitants of this little village already moved and flowed in a love that could only come from God Himself.

Dust kicked up again as one of the boys sent the ball sailing across our makeshift playground. Squealing and laughter echoed off adobe dwellings as the rest of the kids jumped up and chased after it.

As I waited for my turn at the ball, I glanced up and caught movement between the scattered adobes—a young woman walked toward her home. Her red blouse stood out bold against the tan and gray structures. I thought this odd she would wear red as I had been told that to wear this color was taboo in these parts.

I was informed later, however, that this village was so poor, old taboos didn’t count. You wore what was given or what you could find.

But something else about her struck a chord deep within me: she moved across the dusty street with such grace and poise. She didn’t walk slumped as if apologizing for her existence or where she lived. She walked proud, but not haughty: a woman who could outclass any that Hollywood had to offer.

And for all the dirt and dust in that place, she should have had at least one speck of dirt on her … or a stain, or something of that sort. But she was impeccably clean, despite the shortage of water.

When we were back at the border-church, I mentioned my observations to a youth leader. “Yes,” she said. “I know who you’re talking about. She invited me into her house.” She paused, thoughtfully. “Her home was also clean and organized, and I was shocked to learn that she even swept her dirt floors.” 

I also found out this graceful woman was the mother of my little forever-friend I’d grown so fond of. Her peace, smile, and well-being was reflected in her daughter.

The week passed way too quickly, and we said goodbye to our new friends in El Chimí.

I arrived home a different 16-year-old. I looked around my wealth and privilege. And although thankful for the many blessings I had, I felt a strange staleness toward, and a detachment of, all things material, and a sense of something more important than things.

It’s been almost 40 years since that mission trip. Since then, I’ve been invited to mansions and gawked at the gold faucets and the ornate marble sinks shaped like sea shells. I’ve had dinner in dining rooms that could house the New York Jets. And I’ve watched diamond-draped hostess’ dressed in the latest of Saks Fifth Avenue, gliding across her spotless marble floors, proud of the wealth she possessed.

But as I sat dining on the wealth of the wealthiest, I felt its emptiness. My thoughts drifted back to the quiet elegance of a mother striding across her dirt streets. I remembered the soft, peaceful brown eyes of my forever-friend, and the innocent, carefree laughter of her playmates. And I decided, that of all the wealth there is to attain, I would choose the wealth of El Chimí.
 

“He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage.” - Proverbs 11:28

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Like A Child


We drove onto the farm and made our way around the silo and haystacks. Distracted by an issue I couldn’t seem to find answers for, I stared out the window in silence.
 
As our horse-hay was loaded, I stepped out of the truck and chatted with the farmer’s wife. Her three-year-old granddaughter wandered over and plopped in the dirt at her feet. Suddenly the little girl zoomed in for my attention. Her bright blue eyes danced as she told me about all the ways she played in the mud, the kind of birthday balloons she wanted on October “25fift,” and … would I like to come to her party? Her little legs kept in time with her chatter as they fanned wide half-circles in the soft dirt. Faded pink toenail polish peeked through the grains of sand.
 
That beam of innocence dissipated the cloud I’d come in with. We came for a load of hay, but I left with so much more.
 
As we hit the highway, I heard God’s voice in my spirit, “Like a child. Come to Me like a child.” Funny how God’s “still small voice” and interventions can almost be lost in the distractions of life.
 
Suddenly, my problems didn’t seem all that big any more. I felt a peculiar peace that all would be well even though I couldn’t see any details. Simple direction exchanged for simple trust. My heavenly Father wanted me to approach Him with all the innocence of a little kid. No preconceived ideas. No self-righteous, religious rules. No fear. Just a belief in the love of a Father who has my very best interests at heart.
 
The secret is developing that relationship. The mystery of God’s true heart is solved as we experience Him: reading His Word, the Bible; watching His creation; recognizing His voice. And simply believing that He is Who He says He is and will care for us as His beloved children.
 
Demands and distractions of life quite often send us down the path of self-reliance. “I’ve got this,” our actions tell God. And we don’t consult Him. We become stressed out, weighed down, and pulled apart. Life becomes more difficult and complicated than it was ever meant to be.
 
When I think of Almighty God coming to us in the form of a child, lying in a feed trough with animals for roommates, humble and simple come to mind. He didn’t have to appear in this fashion, He just did. An example of how far He would go to show His love for us.
 
Like a child. Come to Him like a child.
 
“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven”-Matthew 18:4 (NKJV). 

 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Biker Bar



Funny how something simple triggers a hankering to visit unknown places and to experience new adventures. So it was when we saw the cover of a Christian magazine. Our friend, a cowboy pastor, posed on the cover with a biker, also a pastor.

Intrigued, I flipped the pages to the article. This biker-pastor sounded like the real deal, and the Holy Spirit nudged Bruce and I to visit his church … in a bar. A biker bar. Cool!

Main street was quiet in the small town of Meridian, Idaho as we slowly drove around to the back of the bar to park. We strolled down the sidewalk passing motorcycles of every style neatly lined up side by side with their back tires against the front curb.




We didn’t know what to expect. Cautiously we opened the old wooden door, letting our eyes adjust to the dark room. As we stood in the doorway, we figured we’d be as conspicuous as a neon light with our cowboy boots and hats amidst the leathers and dew rags of the bikers. And, I’m pretty sure, we were the only ones who didn’t sport tats somewhere on our bodies.

Rough-looking, tatted, leathered, rode-hard parishioners graced the dim room with their warmth. And we felt more welcome there than we had in the “religious” establishments with their new carpet and fancy digs. We found a couple of stools next to a video game and settled in with our backs against a vintage juke box. 

Before the service started, I decided to use the restroom and made my way through the crowd. As I opened the restroom door, I nearly collided with a woman on her way out. The tattoos on her face, hands and arms, her wild hair, and her generally tough exterior belied the light and peace in her eyes.

My first thought? “Whoa, I wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley.” But looking in those eyes and hearing her joyful, accepting, friendly greeting reminded me once again to never judge a book by its cover.

Most of the congregation had been rode-hard-and-put-away-wet.  But they’d also found Jesus. God’s grace had saved them from a very hard life.

The service started with a guy and his guitar. I looked around the stage and noticed a drum set and other evidence that this church had a band. And yet, there was just this guy and his guitar. You could tell he loved the Lord, but he was nervous, apologizing for messing up a song as he started over on his guitar. He did his best filling in for the worship team.

His voice may not have been American Idol quality, and maybe he more than once fumbled around on his guitar. But what touched me was his heart—it lit up the room. I smiled as God revealed, yet again, that the performance is not as important as a person’s heart.

We all joined him in one accord, singing “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.”  How appropriate. I caught a movement to my left, and an old biker rose from his chair with something in his hand. An American flag dew rag adorned the top of his gray head, and his long ponytail swung down over the biker colors of his leather jacket. He lifted the object in his hands to his lips and the sweet, earthy tones of a harmonica filled the room. He played in perfect time with the guitar and voices.

It was simple, raw.  And the Holy Spirit infiltrated that old bar. Tears welled in my eyes as the peace of God soothed my hurting soul. All the disappointment from dealing with other “worship” teams and churches with their critical, performance-based attitudes melted away. This is how it should be, I thought. This is how God always intended it to be—simple, yet powerful.

The old biker danced from one foot to the other in the joy of the Lord as his harmonica sang. And then he lowered his hands and quoted Matthew 18:20, “Where two or more are gathered in My Name, there will I be.”  And we all knew that Jesus stood with us in that dark, musty, beer-stained biker bar. 

The rest of that day continued to be one of the best times we’ve ever had with fellow believers. No pomp or parades. No ruses or airs. It was uncomplicated. It was genuine. It was Jesus.


The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen (2 Corinthians 13:14).




Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Concert in the Cookhouse



I stomped the cold from my feet and rubbed my hands together, feeling warmth creep into them. Fog billowed from my breath and from my horse’s nose. I put my foot in the stirrup and swung my leg over the saddle. “Yow, that’s cold!” I squeaked as I sat in the seat—at 7:00 in the morning the temperature hadn’t risen out of the teens.

My husband, Bruce and I were invited to this fall roundup by our friend Bo, a seasoned buckaroo (Nevada lingo for cowboy). Hundreds of cattle grazed across thousands of acres in the rugged, unforgiving mountains of northern Nevada. Several volunteers, stockholders, and hired buckaroos worked together to gather these cattle for shipment to their winter feeding grounds.

Bruce and I sing Christian Country music and travel full-time on the road with our two  horses. God had given us this awesome opportunity to ride with these folks, and we jumped at the chance. However, he saw an even bigger picture than merely volunteering to help with the cows.

                                      No Wimping Out

Saddles creaked and horses champed their bits as we waited for the foreman to assign groups of riders their sections of land. The goal was to drive or "sweep" the cattle from the high country and meet at the bottom pasturelands at the same time … or nearly. Most of these cows are as wild as the country they run in, and this type of gathering keeps them moving forward. 

While gazing across the haphazard landscape, I was grateful for the instruction we had received from Bo about the cattle and country. I realized we were living examples of Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds … encouraging one another.“ Bruce and I were strangers to this place, but the Lord had prepared us for this job through Bo. Receiving our section assignment, we spread out to cover our area.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” Philippians 4:13 flew from my mouth as my horse and I plunged down the side of a steep draw to gather cattle at the bottom. At the same time, “Whoohooohoooohoooo!” echoed across the mountains as the buckaroos revealed their location. I urged my horse around the cattle and drove my mini-herd through the small canyon.

We rode narrow mountainside trails that appeared to be carved by a goat and skirted bogs and boulders to keep the herd tight. I picked grit out of my teeth and blew a breath of relief when I saw Bo with his cows at the meeting point. We joined Bruce farther down the mountain.




                                         No Offense Taken 


Bruce and I have learned that the opportunities the Lord gives us are not just to minister to others. Opportunities also arise to knock the bark off us.           

“You’re late!” bellowed the foreman as he raced by us on his horse. Startled, Bruce spun around in his saddle and stared after him as he thundered past and disappeared down the prairie.

We knew there had been some confusion concerning the instructions of the day, but it appeared we were blamed for something out of our control. Our blood boiled. Angry words churned inside us: “How dare he!”; “It’s not our fault!” We rode in an indignant fog for about a mile. Then, like cold water on a hot flame, the Holy Spirit’s still, small voice impressed, “Let it go.”

We realized it was foolish for us to ride in offense, recognizing Satan’s temptation to tear down the relationships we had already built. Swallowing our pricked pride, we decided not to take the bait and continued our search for the cows in our section.




                                     The Bigger Picture

It was a good thing we let it go. Later that day the bigger picture unfolded—a stockholder asked Bruce and me if we would give a concert in their cookhouse.

The next evening as we set up our sound system next to the kitchen counter, we thanked the Lord that we had overcome the challenges from the previous days. When you ride in someone else’s world, you either earn their respect or you don’t. This was the ultimate reason God sent us here.

One by one, the entire crew filed into the warm cookhouse while the smell of fresh coffee and homemade cookies drifted through the air. They took their places at the picnic-style tables or lounge chairs along the wall. One old cowboy even relaxed in his own recliner.

We began with a lively hymn medley and continued through a list of songs as the Holy Spirit led. The demeanor of the more hardened ranch hands softened, their toes tapping to the beat. One rambunctious buckaroo had wanted us to sing one of his favorite country songs as we rode with him through the aspens the previous day. We didn’t know the song but, when the concert was scheduled, we determined to learn it. We sang it that night and dedicated it to him. He couldn’t believe it. His eyes brightened, and his heart opened to God’s message in the other songs we sang.

We watched in awe as the Holy Spirit moved through that bunch. Alcohol was passed from one to another, but one by one, weather-worn hands waved it away. We hadn’t said a thing—we just sang.

We intended to end the concert within an hour to respect the crew’s early morning call, but they didn’t care a bit about hitting their bunks early. Their stomping, clapping and laughter rocked the cookhouse. And by the time we wrapped up the hour with what we thought was our final song, shouts of  “Encore! Encore!” resounded around the room—even the rougher ones were giving us the thumbs up.

A buckaroo’s girlfriend slowly raised her hand. “Can you sing 'Amazing Grace'?” she requested.
“Absolutely,” we replied, as others nodded in agreement.

As the words and melody wound through the crowd, the peace of the Holy Spirit wrapped around troubled souls like a warm comforter. Tears streamed down faces; eyes stared off in deep thought; heads bowed, some nodded.  God’s grace and power were palpable in that old building.

We finished the last song, and no one wanted to leave. Groups of two and three gathered here and there talking, laughing, eating cookies, and sipping coffee.

The ranch foreman hailed us as we loaded our sound system and music gear into our truck. “Thank you,” he said. “We needed this. It gets really tense here around this time.” He smiled. “And, hey, you can ride with us anytime, and you’re more than welcome to sing here next year too.”

We are honored to answer God’s call to face the challenging tasks that introduce us to the ones living along the trails less-traveled. No one is too far from God’s gracious hand. As Acts 13:47 encourages: "For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ’I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” We pray that those stockholders, buckaroos, and volunteers never forget the love of God they experienced in that old 1800s cookhouse on a lonely road of Nevada’s high plains. 


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Beauty From Ashes




“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified—”Isaiah 61:1-3.

The morning sun flecked the curtains as shock waves coursed from my chest to my gut. The events of the prior day, November 24, 1980, had not been a bad dream. The nightmare was real.

My classmates and I smelled smoke from a distant fire and figured the mountain backcountry was burning again—like it always did during the high, autumn winds. But when the smoke drifted over our school, apprehension rose. Rumors ricocheted through the hallways, “Structures are on fire at the base of the mountains!” My home stood in those foothills. My hands shook as I called my family from the school phone—no answer. I panicked and raced for my truck.

Patrol cars blocked my way home, so I detoured toward my grandma’s house. Gripping the steering wheel, I drove through the smoke and screaming wind. Loose pets and livestock darted between buildings and across the road. I inched my way through the chaos, fearing the worst.

As I pulled into the driveway, my family met me on the front lawn. Thank You, God. They’re alive, I breathed. But my brother's two words said it all: "It's gone,” he whispered. And I knew, in one afternoon, we had become homeless, losing nearly everything but the clothes on our backs.

With nowhere to go, my dad, mom, brother, and I crowded into my grandma’s two-bedroom, one-bathroom house.

                                       Do Unto Others

As I drove to my grandma’s after school, I glanced down at the passenger side of my El Camino—everything I owned now fit on the seat. 

As I opened the front door, piles of trash bags met me in the entryway. “They’re filled with clothes,” my mom said, pulling them out of the walkway. It was surreal to be the recipients of charity. Life isn't supposed to be this way, I lamented.

I fumbled with the plastic tie on the nearest trash bag. Stuffed inside were blouses from the ‘60s, skirts from the ‘70s, torn jeans, and stained shirts—a virtual circus of clothes. Bag after bag revealed more of the same with only a few of the items fit to wear. As a newly homeless 17-year-old, this felt like rock bottom.

But a funny thing came over us as my mom and I numbly eyed the clothes now piled on the living room floor—a spark of God-given resolve. One by one, all articles of clothing became fair game as we picked our prize and headed for the back bedroom. Reappearing in a puffy, lime-green blouse—complete with stains on the front—I sashayed into the living room with chin in the air and hands on my hips. "How does this look?" I beamed. “I’m so in vogue, don't you think?" 

"You look mah-velous, dear,” Mom chirped as she disappeared into the "dressing room." Out she strutted in bell-bottom jeans with a tear in the pocket. With pivot turns and a flip of the wrist, she wore Christian Dior on a Saks Fifth Avenue runway.

"Those jeans just become you, dahling!" I applauded.

In the midst of our antics, someone knocked on the front door—a childhood friend had sent me a package.  Tucked between the tissue paper was a note and a model horse. But it wasn’t just any horse—it was King, her prized possession. I embraced him and read the note: “I know your entire horse collection burned,” she wrote. “King was my favorite, and now he belongs to you.”

My friend’s selfless gift helped soothe the pain of receiving others’ rejects. Luke 6:31 (the golden rule) became my new motto, and I vowed to always give the best I had when another's need arose.

                                          Helping Hands

My best friend, Dorothy, and I slowly walked together up the long driveway. My once beautiful childhood home stood lifeless, the concrete shell standing in the midst of white ashes. Gaping holes where the windows once set now stared blankly at me like a ghost. As my hands flew to my mouth, I felt her arm resting around my shoulders.

In the days that followed, friends, family, and even strangers stood shoulder to shoulder with us. They sifted through rubble, brought food and wearable clothes, and replaced photos that burned. They prayed and consoled us as we cried.

A rancher had caught my horse as she galloped through town, graciously trailering her to the safety of his corrals. My plea for her in the local paper united us.

Actions comforted more than wordy platitudes of, “You can rebuild.” Or, “At least your family didn’t die.” The Good Samaritans sympathized with our shock and discerned what we needed, sometimes without asking. We witnessed God’s Word walking as our town worked in harmony to help all 280 families who had lost their homes.

After a few weeks and frayed nerves in my grandma’s little house, our prayers were answered for another place to stay. A friend phoned my mother. “I don’t know if you’d be interested or not,” she said, “but some friends of mine are going on vacation for a month and need a house-sitter.” Within a week, our family moved into their lovely, two-story house. 

The day before the owners returned, a rental house became available on a lake in the mountains. And we realized that God had not forsaken us; He was restoring us. We stayed in the rental for a few months until my dad, a general contractor, built a house for us in a nearby town. 

                                     It’s The Little Things

The aroma of popcorn and chocolate chip cookies drifted through the air as raccoons loafed on our rental’s deck rail, and squirrels peered through the sliding glass door.  We eagerly anticipated this community of critters that scampered across our deck to indulge in our weekly handouts.

Finally, with popcorn bowl in hand, Mom slid the door open. The temptation was too much for one young squirrel—he blasted through the gap like a rocket. Squeals and popcorn peppered the air.

Up the walls, over the counters, bounding over the couch, that squirrel flew like his tail was on fire. Mom grabbed a broom as I ran in circles, flailing my arms at this fly-by furball. We nearly collided as he squeezed between us and shot up the curtains.

Before the white flag waved, we somehow corralled him and he careened out the door. Mom slammed it shut and slid down the frame in hysterics. We laughed so hard tears flooded down our faces.

These characters of God’s creation appeared at the perfect time—a merry heart indeed does good like a medicine.


                                        No Longer a Victim

Life hurts sometimes, but God is faithful to His Word. I found that time does not heal, but God does. He abundantly restored us, honoring our trust in His promises and in Him.  He also helped me break the bonds of materialism, which remain broken to this day.  As 1 Timothy 6:17 encourages, I can enjoy the things God has given, but never cling to them for hope and stability.

He gave me a newfound compassion that rose from the ashes to help me comfort others suffering loss. I can now come alongside them with the hope of Psalm 27:13: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”