Friday, August 30, 2013

From the One Ringing Bell Top Twenty: Dawgs, Hawgs, and Losing


If you're joining by email, I'd love for you to click back over to my site, and see my new blog header. Took the opportunity to work on it while taking a break from creating new content. I'll be back soon though.
 
Football season is about to ramp up again here. Looks like my husband's beloved Bulldogs are ranked number five at this writing. High hopes abound for a national championship. I'm keeping the car keys handy though, just in case I need to make a quick exit one Saturday.
 
 
 
 
 
On Saturday, even though the hot sun bore down on Sanford Stadium, it turned out to be a dark day. I was there for the Arkansas Razorback’s defeat of our Georgia Bulldogs. Well, there until the third quarter, at least. I confess because my nephew plays trumpet in the Redcoat Band, the main event for me is half-time. I left shortly after the band played and didn’t see the Bulldogs rally late in the game—a rally which raised the hopes of loyal Dawg fans, but wasn’t enough to stop Arkansas’ final game winning score. 

The headlines in a local paper read “Razor Burned.” Witty, but since my husband used to play football for the University of Georgia, the headline was not well received at our house. Yes, a Georgia loss almost feels like a personal loss here and is always followed by a period of mourning and a lengthy armchair discussion of what might have turned things around.

Losing’s not much fun. When he was young, my son played on a soccer team that had a few dismal seasons. We tried to focus on the character building opportunities all those losses provided—like learning to lose with dignity and grace, understanding winning is a privilege not a right, and having the opportunity to learn from mistakes, persevere, and do better next time.

It was hard; at times, it felt like all that character was going to do us in.

There’s one thing about losing that we really need to latch on to, though. At times in life, it may feel like we’ve lost not only the game, but also the whole season. When we’re down for the count, that’s when we have to reflect on what’s important. And what’s really important are the things that last—eternal things.

Paul said to the Romans in verse 8:18 that “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” In other words as the Message says there’s no “…comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times…”

I’ve had a good many losses in my life, and I try to remind myself of this truth. It helps me to reframe —to see losses from a different perspective. It helps me keep up my hope.

The Bulldogs are headed off to Starkville next Saturday for the Mississippi State game, and we’ll be cheering them on via television. I’m hoping for a big win, but in the event Georgia loses, I’m going to TJMaxx. I’ve learned it’s best to let the dust settle before I start quoting scripture.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

From the One Ringing Bell Top Twenty: Thoughts on Suffering

This post was originally written in April of 2011 as a post for Wednesday of Holy Week and ranks near the top of One Ringing Bell's page views. I suppose the subject of suffering resonates with all of us. This is not Holy Week, but I wonder on this Wednesday if we might find a way to allow God to use our suffering to somehow bless others.

Oswald Chambers often wrote about being “broken bread and poured out wine.” I don’t know how one could possibly be broken or poured out without suffering.

Suffering is a given in life this side of the fall. No way to escape what is inevitably loaded on the train headed in our direction. The question is, what are we going to do with the cargo once it arrives?

The best thing we can do is allow God to use it to bless others. Flip it. Turn it upside down. As Joseph said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done….” (Genesis 50:20).

Yesterday, I finished a book I’ve been savoring and pondering, AnnVoskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. In it, she mentions a brother in law who buried two of his young children due to a genetic disease. She quotes him saying, “The way through the pain is to reach out to others in theirs.” And she says, “I have known ache and becoming the blessing is what deeply blesses us and this is the way He binds up our wounds. Empty to fill.”

When the adolescent unloads an arsenal of piercing arrows into our hearts, can we remember those arrows are formed from internal pain and aimed at us because somewhere inside they know we of all the people in the world will not abandon them. Can we let the arrows shoot right through, and reach out to that place of deep hurt in them?

When the spouse seems to stop seeing us, can we continue to pour out love?

When our own childhood’s deep heartaches threaten to hold us prisoner for a lifetime, can we surrender the hurts to God and allow him to use us to loose the shackles of others?

When hands we’ve loved grow cold to this earth, can we release them to eternal love and not grow bitter in our grief?



St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Fernandina

Can we allow the crucified one to redeem every hurt so that we may be a blessing?

Can we bear our blessed suffering to prisons, homeless shelters, and our own families?

It’s something to pray about.

Just after I’d written the preceding words, my husband and I went to a midday communion service. Because, of our out of state location due to Jerry’s prostate cancer treatment, we went to a church other than our own.

After we were greeted, I asked tentatively if we could come to communion since we were not members of the denomination. “Everyone is invited to this table,” we were graciously told.

As I listened to the liturgy on this Wednesday of Holy Week, I heard these words, “…give us grace to accept the suffering in this life…”

Yes, grace to accept, and grace to allow God to use it to make us his instruments.

"Empty to Fill."


Monday, August 26, 2013

From the One Ringing Bell Top Twenty: Jan Karon and Inspiration

Just recently had a new friend tell me she'd discovered Jan Karon's writing. It thrilled me so much, I had to give her Karon's Christmas story, Shepherds Abiding. I'll often have one of Karon's books on my desk. Makes me feel she's sitting with me, perhaps offering me advice or counsel. Here's another from the top twenty archives.

Been on the road a lot, so we’re listening to an audio version of Jan Karon’s In the Company of Others.

Love her. Love her writing.

In fact, I’d have to say she’s one of the top three writing influences in my life.


Her story, which I’ve cobbled together from numerous sources over the years, continues to inspire me. In mid-life, she left a prestigious job in the advertising world and moved to Blowing Rock, North Carolina to try her hand at fiction writing. Things did not happen as quickly as she thought they might (do they ever?), and as resources dwindled, she subsisted on chicken soup and used Vaseline for night cream.

The editor of the local newspaper, The Blowing Rocket, serially published her first fiction manuscript to good response, and this would became the New York Times Best Seller, At Home in Mitford.

I came to know about Jan Karon when a dear friend, Becky, gave me Karon’s book, A Light in the Window. I enjoyed it so much, I’ve since purchased and read every book she’s ever written.

During the awful period in my life when I suffered from posttraumatic stress followed by cancer, I wrote a long letter to Karon to tell her how much her writing meant to me. When the pain would almost swallow me, I’d go to Mitford and find much consolation.

You can imagine my surprise when a few weeks later, I received a handwritten note from her, thanking me for the letter. And in her P.S., she suggested that perhaps I should write a book. That postscript served to confirm something God was already speaking to my heart. So, I worked hard, and later sent her a couple of devotional manuscripts I’d put together.

A pastor’s wife approached me at one of our district meetings one evening some time later and said, “Oh, I saw you in Jan Karon’s newsletter.”

I immediately turned over my tea.

“What do you mean?” I asked trying to mop up my mess.

“I picked up her newsletter at the book store and you’re in it.”

I couldn’t wait to get home and find the newsletter on line. Sure enough, there I was, her congratulating me for getting the manuscripts written and believing Philippians 4:13, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

So, you see, though I may never meet her in person, she’s like family to me. Her note from years ago hangs over my desk, and when I grow discouraged, I think about her thin soup days, and shiny face, and I draw strength to continue on this writing journey.

Friday, August 23, 2013

From the One Ringing Bell Top Twenty: Extravagant Love

One of my greatest earthly treasures is the gift I wrote about in this post from October of 2010. My doctor friend and his wife have now moved on to a city in the Northeast where he continues to lend his expertise in radiology and women's health to many.

Just before another biopsy in 2006 which would determine if suspicious areas doctors had been monitoring were cancerous, I had to deal with several transitions. My insurance carrier changed and with it the preferred hospital. No longer would I be able to go to the facility where I’d given birth to my children, but would have to move across town to another medical center.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, it had been a comfort to me during hospital stays that on another floor just a few years earlier, I’d had my babies. Somehow, mentally, it helped balance the pain.

In addition, the nurse who’d been with me through four previous surgeries had moved to Florida. Her face had always been the last one I’d seen before anesthesia took over. I felt a little lost facing what could once more be a difficult diagnosis in a strange place with people I didn’t know.

Just a couple of weeks before my scheduled surgery, a new couple visited our church. I learned this couple, Dr. Joel Cook, and his wife Cheryl moved here because he was to be the new director of the breast health center where my surgery was scheduled--an amazing development. It turned out he would be on duty the morning of my operation, and I thanked God I would get to see his friendly face before surgery.

When I arrived that day, another dear friend was already there praying. After a reassuring visit with her, I was taken back to pre-op. The nurse said, “Dr. Cook will be in to see you in a moment. He has something for you.”

When he walked in, he held a bundle of pink and green calico fabric in his arms.

“My wife made this for you,” he said.
 
 
 
 
He unfolded a lovely quilt with a pink ribbon appliqu├ęd on it. “These are people from our former home in Wisconsin who are praying for you,” he said pointing to names written on the ribbon.

I took the quilt and spread it in my lap, and immediately felt wrapped in love. I couldn’t believe this gift. I knew Cheryl had only known about my surgery for days, so she’d had to work on this for many hours in a short time to get it done. She hardly knew me, and yet she’d made this extravagant gift of time, talent, and love.

Throughout the hours and days ahead other visitors, nurses and doctors added their names to the quilt. When I left the hospital, the love and prayers expressed through that quilt carried me through several difficult days of waiting for pathology results. It turned out three local pathologists could not agree about the status of the cells that had been removed. Once more, just as six years earlier when I was diagnosed with cancer, the tissues had to be sent to one of the leading experts in the world. This meant even more waiting.

At last, the results came back, and the expert’s report expressed a definitive benign diagnosis.

Benign is such a wonderful word.

I’ve often thought about the timing of the Cook’s arrival in our town. Dr. Cook’s work here has since saved the lives of an untold number of women. I know the Cooks weren’t sent here especially for me, but at the time, it sure felt that way.

Cheryl’s extravagant gift makes me think of God’s love. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God? ” I John 3:1 God has never held back his love, even to the point of sacrificing his own son. “For God so loved the world that he gave…” John 3:16

Lying across the sofa in my office today is Cheryl's quilt, a beautiful reminder of how much God loves me and of how he calls me also to love extravagantly.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

From the One Ringing Bell Top Twenty: More

Sometimes folks want to know the rest of the story--especially a weight loss story. I'm happy to share that since this post in August of 2010, my sister, Tammy, has continued to maintain her incredible weight loss. She now works for Weight Watchers and conducts meetings in several areas of Northeast Georgia inspiring others to pursue their own healthful journey. Please read the online article and be sure and watch the video of her talking about her journey here.  I'm still so proud of her, and even as I read and edited this story again, I was once more inspired by what God has done and is doing in her life.

That’s my sister, Tammy, on the cover of Weight Watchers Magazine. She’s second from the bottom on the left, and I’m so proud of her.
 
 

 In August of last year she found she’d been selected as one of six winners in Weight Watchers Inspiring Stories Contest. I traveled with her to New York in September for interviews and photo shoots, and in January of 2010, she appeared on the cover of Weight Watchers Magazine. At that point she lost about 130 pounds in two years. Yes, you read that right. 130 pounds. As she says, “I lost a whole person.”

Since January she’s been interviewed by many reporters about her story including folks like CNN and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Just last week Weight Watchers posted an interview and video of her on their site. Please read it here.

She’s not only maintained her weight, but also lost an additional 10 pounds beyond her goal weight. But what you read in the magazine and online is not the whole story.

At some point in the year preceding her weight loss, Tammy found herself just trying to cling to what she felt she had left in her life. She’d had a successful career as an educator, having been up for state teacher of the year, but rarely does anyone ever get those kinds of accolades twice. It seemed at that point her career might be winding down even as her only son headed for college.

Then there was the weight issues she’d been plagued with her whole life--issues she could never seemed to conquer. She says she was up to that point a "Weight Watchers drop-out." She remembers walking into her house one day praying, “I’m just trying to hold on to what I have.” What she heard next stopped her in her tracks.

“What if I want to give you more?”

If you watch the video of my sister, you’ll immediately recognize her humility, so she’s not the kind of person to walk around asking for more. But more, is exactly what God wanted to give her.

Within a year she began her weight loss journey. About the same time she was recognized for the second time in her career as “Teacher of the Year” for her school and her county which put her in the running once more for state teacher of the year. Though she did not receive the state award, she felt honored to make it that far again. A few months later, her Weight Watchers leader asked her to submit her story to Weight Watchers Inspiring Stories. Later, out of thousands of entries across the country, she and five others were chosen.

So many have emailed her, contacted her on Facebook, or called to tell her how much her story means to them.

Her story has inspired me as well. When I’m carrying on in my maintenance mode, God is whispering more. More of him, more alignment with his purpose, more of his glory in me, more hope…more.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” Ephesians 3:20 
 

Monday, August 19, 2013

From the One Ringing Bell Top Twenty: Puzzling

Three years ago, we moved our son into a dorm at the University of Georgia. In his second week of school he had an accident. It didn't exactly warm this trying-not-to-be-a-helicopter-mom's heart. That son is now a senior. He hasn't fallen out of any more loft beds, but he does balance working a part time job with a demanding professional program at the university. Couldn't be more proud and couldn't be more confident that God does indeed watch over his life. From the One Ringing Bell Archives, this post ranks in the top five. (I think folks love the picture of that bandaged hand!)

I’m a little behind on blog posts because as my husband would say, “we’ve been up to our eyeballs in alligators.”

One of the alligators is pictured below--my son’s very swollen, bandaged hand. In his second week at the University of Georgia, he fell climbing into his dorm loft bed with wet feet.( I thought that bed was too high). He'd just left our house minutes before that evening to return to the dorm.

After almost a whole day at the emergency room, we found he has a hand bone broken in two places and a corneal contusion. His eye is completely swollen shut.
 
  

Tomorrow he’s having surgery to have pins inserted to bring the broken bone back into alignment in his hand. Fifteen years of soccer with relatively few injuries and he falls climbing into bed. Puzzling.

Just days ago I wrote about praying the scripture from Psalm 121:8 that God would keep my son from all harm and watch over his life. Now this. Did God nod off?

No, he didn’t nod. He saw this coming long ago. Beth Moore says if God doesn’t give you what you want, he gives you something better. I believe that. And I believe that my son’s injuries could have been so much worse. He could have had a serious head injury. He didn’t. He could have lost his vision. He didn't. He could have lost the use of his hand. He didn’t.

Romans 8:28 says “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.” I don’t know why God allowed this fall, but I know he will use it. So, I have my eyes set on the something better God is going to bring from all of this.

Meanwhile he’s sleeping on the futon. Maybe permanently.

Friday, August 16, 2013

From the One Ringing Bell Top Twenty: Flashing Lights, A Long Night, and Thanking God for Sight


I will not soon forget how unsettling this health scare was last summer, but it helped me have new insight into what so many people with vision problems are going through.

Due to the sudden onset of symptoms, for twelve out of the last twenty-four hours I faced the possibility that I might be headed for serious vision loss. Aware of something peculiar in my vision late yesterday, when I turned out the lights last night, peculiar threatened to turn into panic when what seemed to be neon lights flashed in my right eye. A retinal tear or detachment loomed as a possibility.

I couldn’t rest and descended downstairs to read, to find a quiet place with Jesus. Without even realizing it, I found myself reciting Psalm 46 aloud:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, thought the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…”

One of my favorite verses in that Psalm is this one: “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”

I thought of all the things I do which wouldn’t be possible without my sight. Well, yes, it was just the one eye, but I'm a little selfish, I'd like to keep both the windows to my soul.

It’s true that those without vision often see the world better than those who have 20/20 eyesight. I think of Fanny Crosby’s testimony, “Perfect submission, perfect delight, visions of rapture now burst on my sight…Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine…” And I thought of several friends and family who live everyday with failing eyesight.

No one signs up for that road, but God’s grace and mercy are undeniable in blind Fanny Crosby’s work and in the lives of many I know who daily and bravely face the possibility of a future without vision.

As I sought peace, I came to those last few verses in Psalm 46, “Be still, and know that I am God…”

I returned to bed,put in my ear buds and listened to several songs, but this one in particular blessed me so. In the midst of any trouble we’re in, declaring our love and praise to God helps take our eyes off our problems and ourselves and put them on the only One who is good. Finally, resting in his care, I drifted off to sleep.

This morning, I’m sure I had to be one of the first callers to my doctor’s office. When I told the receptionist about the flashing lights, she asked how fast I could get there. I assured her I’d be there in five minutes. Never thought I’d look forward to getting my eyes dilated.

It turns out there was no evidence of a retinal tear, and the symptoms I’m experiencing seem to be due to changes in the vitreous gel in the eye.

Thank you, Jesus.

The flashing lights might take months to abate, but I’m not complaining.

It turns out that God within me did indeed help me “…at break of day…”

Right now, I’m watching a Brown Headed Nuthatch (currently on watch lists) arriving for the suet just outside my office window, and I’m giving thanks for the very sight of him.
Brown Headed Nuthatch



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

From the One Ringing Bell Top Twenty: The Case of the Vanishing Tulip Bulbs


Continuing with my top twenty posts from One Ringing Bell, this one was near the top of the list of almost 400 entries. At the time it was posted, we'd been dealing with several difficult challenges, one of which was my husband's cancer diagnosis. Just had to find a little humor in the midst of all the pain. Our dog Lucy was happy to accommodate.

The Crime

Tulip bulbs, full of the promise of spring, were cruelly stripped from this sad flowerpot.


After analyzing crime scene information, and who had access to the flowerpot, a group of four suspects has been apprehended.

Suspects

The Innocent Looking Cat


The Shifty Eyed Squirrel
(the Shifty Eyed Squirrel was so shifty we couldn't get a mug shot, so a stuffed facsimile is standing in)


The Web Footed Brown Dog Digging Machine


The Love of My Life


The Case

The Love of My Life has been quickly eliminated as a suspect because I’ve never known anyone who hates shovels …and dirt as much as he does. Also, I’m not sure he’d know a tulip bulb from a turnip. Besides, under the circumstances, even if the sweet thing had dug them up, he’d get a quick pardon from me.

The Innocent Looking Cat has shown a predisposition for digging in the past, but only when necessary and very selectively. The call of nature has never taken her into my flowerpots.

The Shifty Eyed Squirrel has a prior conviction for tulip stealing, and he rose quickly to the top of the suspect list. The Shifty Eyed Squirrel tried to make a statement, but it was difficult to understand him, as his jaws were engorged with sunflower seeds. Turns out that’s his alibi. He was hanging from the pear tree by one toe while his hand was in the squirrel proof birdfeeder at the time of the tulip theft. Also, after further examination of the evidence, it has been determined that it’d take the Shifty Eyed Squirrel and about ten of his colleagues to move this much dirt.

That only leaves one suspect: The Web Footed Brown Dog Digging Machine.

Convicting evidence was found when forensic tests determined that material taken from between the teeth of the Web Footed Brown Dog Digging Machine was indeed tulip bulb. Also, traces of flowerpot dirt were found around her toes. An open and shut case.

The Sentence

Oh, yeah, the sentence. Well, right now, she’s lying in the den on a big comfy fleece blanket. But we only gave her one toy to play with, and she’s definitely not going to get more than two bowls of food tonight. And we might make her sit in the back seat when she rides in the car. And…

I think the picture is clear. This is the first spring with the Web Footed Brown Dog Digging Machine, and it looks like it’s going to be tulip-less in the back yard. Probably going to peony-less, iris-less, daffodil-less, and pretty much anything that blooms-less.

Puppies or flowers? Puppies or flowers? Somehow, puppies always win out.

The next case on the docket is "The Mystery of the Wet Toilet Seat." I dread collecting all the evidence on this one, but things are not looking good for the Extra Thirsty Web Footed Brown Dog Digging Machine.

Proverbs 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine...

Monday, August 12, 2013

From One Ringing Bell's Top Twenty: Randall Wallace, Secretariat, and Cancer

In my last entry, I announced I'd be running a few of my top posts from the almost 400 I've written over the last three years. This one from February of 2011 was posted about a month after my husband was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. I have the joy of sharing that now, two years after he finished his treatment, his test results continue to show a decline in his PSA. We are so grateful.

Here at our house, we’re in an all too familiar holding pattern waiting for test results. My husband Jerry, recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, had a bone scan last week and a cat scan yesterday. We won’t know until next week whether the tests will tell us what we want to hear--that the cancer is confined to the prostate making him eligible for a wider range of treatment options.


Meanwhile we’re trying to keep our minds on “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…excellent or praiseworthy…” (Philippians 4:8)

To that end, we rented Secretariat this past weekend.
 
 
 
 
 Sadly, life has been in such an upheaval here, we missed it when it was in the theatres. We watched the movie not once, but twice, and we may watch it a third time. In addition to the pure enjoyment factor, as a screenwriter, I can justify watching so much by calling it research.

I, along with most of the other writers and film folks I know, hold Secretariat's director, Randall Wallace, in high esteem. Among his other credits are The Man in the Iron Mask, We Were Soldiers, Pearl Harbor, and the Academy Award winning Braveheart. Wallace shares openly about his Christian faith and the way it influences his work.

In an interview in Duke Divinity School’s, Divinity Online (He was a former seminary student there), he talked about a statement made by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr which was life changing for Wallace. “Niebuhr said that the genius of Jesus of Nazareth is that he found the holy not among the monastic, but among the profane. It reminds me that life is to be lived, to be plunged into, rather than withdrawn from.”

While at Duke, a professor, the late Thomas Langford, helped Wallace find his way. Wallace says, “Dr. Langford said to me, ‘The greatest calling is not necessarily to the ministry; the greatest calling is your calling. One is not nobler or truer than the others’”

“That was such tremendous advice,” said Wallace, “The idea that I was not betraying my God or my parents…by wanting to be a writer, that I was fulfilling my calling, and that he would root for me just as much, and care about me just as much, if I was not in school.”

In a CBN article, Wallace says about his faith, “My faith isn't built on my own understanding of things. My faith is built on the idea that, or on the experience that, life is greater than I can imagine it to be.”

This is reflected in the line he wrote for Penny in Secretariat, “This isn't about going back. It's about life being ahead of you, and you never know how far you can go unless you run at it."

Wallace says he’d like the audience to take away “not just to live, but to live passionately; to live with joy and exuberance.”

In the same article, Wallace is asked about his statement, “a championship heart is a normal heart until it hears and responds to the call of a miracle.”

Wallace responds, “Yes. Well, that's what I think, that all of us are made in a miraculous way, that to live at all is a miracle. To love is an even greater one. It is love that makes the normal extraordinary."

Those of us who feel called to write have much to learn from Randall Wallace.

And the messages he espouses are pretty good for a man facing cancer, too.

So, Jerry, are you listening?

You, Jerry, have the heart of a champion. You proved it on the University of Georgia football field as a one hundred and sixty five pound player on Vince Dooley’s first three teams. You worked hard and wound up playing first-string defensive end for a SEC championship team. You proved it when you left a successful law practice and the life style which accompanied it to follow God, obtain a seminary degree, and become a pastor.

Jerry, listen to your heart. As Wallace says, “run at it.”

And here in this profane thing called cancer, together we will allow God to help us find something holy.

Thank you, Randall Wallace, for following God's call on your life.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A One Ringing Bell Retrospective

Over the past three years, I have written nearly 400 posts for One Ringing Bell. I appreciate those of you have kindly joined me for this journey. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Beginning on August 12, and for several weeks after, I'll be revisiting my most popular posts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Please join me as we look at the top twenty posts at One Ringing Bell. I'll again resume with new posts in September.

Those of you who have commented through Facebook, email, or here on this blog--it means so much. You are a blessing, and thank you for reading.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

If it's looking really cloudy


Computer issues again this week.

With my laptop out of commission, I took up another project which I’d been preparing to do for some time—sorting through photographs. In order to do this, I had to sit on the floor and dig through a very deep cabinet for those overflowing boxes that’d been stashed away for years. I felt a few twinges in my back, but by Thursday, I had to get out the heating pad.

 I was determined to complete the first leg of the project, though, so, I went back to the job yesterday.

One minute, I was visiting with a friend in my den, and a few hours later, I was in such pain, I had to crawl to the bathroom.

Today, I’m wearing one of those heat patches, and using a cane to get around. It’s a lot better than crawling.

I keep thinking about what I read in Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for his Highest a few days ago.

He begins with saying, “Clouds are always associated with God.”

 

 A few photos of the English countryside I found while rifling through our snapshots

“It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials. Through every cloud He brings our way, He wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child— a relationship simply between God and our own souls, and where other people are but shadows.”

I’m not a fan of pain, but there’s nothing like it to make you run straight to Jesus.

Chambers references a verse in Nahum 1:3 which reads, "...clouds are the dust of his feet."

Pain, disappointment, grief, or any number of other experiences can make the clouds feel so thick, we can hardly put two feet in front of each other. (Or two knees as the case may be.) But when we can’t see anyone else, He is there.

Last night, I remembered the verse, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). “Come near,” I kept sensing the Lord saying. “Come near.”

God and I in the clouds.

And if you’re in pain today, it’s God and you in the cloud, as well, in whatever circumstance you may find yourself in.

Just come near to Him.

It’s going to be awhile before I sit on the floor to sort pictures again, but that’s okay, right now I’m sitting at the feet of Jesus.

I have a friend who’s very crafty and puts herself in check by saying, “People are more important than projects.”

So true.  And more important than all is the time we spend with Jesus.  Just wish I didn’t have to go into back spasms to remember that truth.  

 

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