Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A Knock in the Night

The wheezing, coughing, and fever had become too much. There were no urgent cares back then, so the call went out in the middle of the night. The voice on the other end said, "Come on over."

So we went.

When we knocked on the door, he opened it, and said, “Just put her in there,” as he pointed to his left. So, my dad took me into the living room, laid me down, and stood by hoping something could be done. There I lay on the beautiful living room sofa feeling like a princess—albeit a sick one. The absolute best of the small town or any town doctors went to work. I had always gotten better before, and I had confidence I would again. Once more, we would triumph over the bronchitis.

Somewhere in this house, his wife was around. I never wondered then how many sick children she had welcomed into her home in the wee hours.

I do now. I imagine that kind of hospitality would never happen today. It’s a throw back to a different era, but one I am so grateful for. I also question how many physicians would have accommodated patients this way even back then.

I saw a familiar name pop up on social media a few years back. Could it possibly be the woman whose home I invaded?

It was.

The doctor’s wife and I began a new chapter of our relationship on social media.

The thing that has most struck me in her comments is that she always signs off with “I love you.”

I have since realized that love and her Christian faith shown in all she writes, was what was behind a woman welcoming a string of sick children into her home in the middle of the night—for decades. That was the reason she was willing to sacrifice her beautiful furniture in the hope her husband could help a feverish child. Her life was a life of service to her community, just as her husband's was.

So, today, I pay tribute to Dot. Thank you for all you’ve done for me and so many others who came knocking in the night. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for still being there with those affirmations of love and your bright faith. You continue to be an inspiration to us all to lead lives of service to others.

If you or your husband ever need anything in the night. Please—just knock.

And Dot, we love you, too.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other” (John 13:35 The Message).

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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

She Shed Shine

I’ve written much about sad things lately, so today something happy.

The newly renovated she-shed

In between finishing a first draft of another book, I’ve continued to work on another big project—the cleanout and redo of the studio.

It’s been a bear.

My dad built the tiny building for my daughter as a playhouse back in the day. Then as she grew older, it became a art studio/birthplace of the kittens. As young adults moved from apartment to apartment, it segued into its sad life of storage. In fact, I had not seen the floor in that building for two years. It’s miniscule, but oh, was it packed with stuff, much of it now given away with kids settled.

I have only one exterior before picture, and no interior. Just imagine the city dump and you’ve got a good idea of what it was like inside. This exterior pic was made after the kitten door was replaced with a new panel.

I had to excavate a little around the foundation because the building had settled, and we needed to clear soil from the structure. That was a lot of big fun.  

The interior walls were in good shape having only been painted a few months before the last kid transition two years ago, but I painted the floor and the whole exterior. Jerry moved the door from opening in to opening out which expanded usable space inside. As I said, he replaced the panel in the door the formerly feral mama kitty used who has now decided she likes being a domesticated feline.

I wanted a green and white stripe awning, but since this was a shoestring budget, we couldn’t/wouldn’t spring for hundreds of dollars for a custom made one which that space required. So, we came up with a way to make one from closet rods and fittings. Throw in a couple of galvanized pipe holders and we had the frame. I coated them with rust resistant paint.

When I received the awning fabric I’d ordered, I hit the sewing machine and fashioned the one in the picture using Velcro as a fastener.

My children used to ring that bell in the pic when they visited a beloved neighbor. It was black when she gave it to me years ago, so I also spray painted it black. While sandpapering it for a recoat, I noticed a shiny area. I put some work into it and discovered the bell was brass. I couldn’t believe it. I kept working until I cleaned it up and now it shines by the door.

The place is just barely big enough for a chair, a bookcase, a desk, a small chest, and a little cabinet my dad built. I wouldn’t have that much in it, but I intend on painting out there and need supplies. Even though there is air conditioning, I prefer to open the door in the mornings. With a mesh magnetic screen I’ve put up, I don’t have mosquitoes, but I do have the ventilation I need for oil painting.

View from inside through the screen

Also, I keep materials for children’s ministry out here, but I like having crayons around anyway plus, shells, driftwood, rocks my kids painted when they were small, art books, and magazines for inspiration. The posters are from a stationary company.

I am writing there now. Nothing has to be done out here though I'm still working on a couple of areas inside, but no pressure, so no distractions.  It’s amazing. Only a bird trill soundtrack. Yes, technically it still belongs to a kid, but she’s not here, and as a former lawyer I'm married to says, “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.”

The roof still needs replacing and as well as a few other little exterior repairs. It’s a work in progress.

So, the she-shed/writing shed/painting shed has a little shine on it and a new life. It’s worth it to take the time to carve out a space for something creative--someplace where you won’t be distracted and can just make it your own and messes don’t matter that much. I can’t create much without making a mess, but that’s a whole other post.

Only God knows what good may come of this little oasis. I pray that whatever is created is done so to the glory of God. It was a maker of physical tents whom God has used to helped believers work on their spiritual tents for over 2000 years who once wisely said, “Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way” (Colossians 3:17 The Message).

I am praying it will be so.

And if one of the kids moves again, I have the number of a storage unit company in my contacts. 

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Tuesday, June 1, 2021

When Sorrows Like Sea Billows Roll

When the phone goes off after midnight at the pastor’s house, it’s never good news. It’s always someone’s life has or is about to change significantly.

It was the case last night, which has made me scrap what I originally intended for today.

Our dear friend Andrea, who guest posted here only a few weeks ago about the loss of her special needs daughter last year now faces another loss--the man she intended to spend the rest of her life with died yesterday in a work-related accident.

A phrase from a hymn comes to mind, “When sorrows like sea billows roll . . ."

As we and other loved ones sat on her front porch with her in the dark hours of the night, we could have just as easily been on the bow of the ship, because it sure did feel like sorrow was crashing against her and us in mighty waves.

No one wants someone they love to ever endure the kind of pain she has faced. I can still feel the shudder of her sobs as I sat next to her. We want to wind the clock back to another time for her or jettison her to another place to get her away from this suffering. If only.

The tragedy leaves us sputtering for words and even before we finally get out the one-word question, we know there is no answer this side of heaven to “Why?”

I’ve told Andrea that the entire time I’ve known her, she has lived at 911. Her daughter’s health was so fragile long before her death, that they were always on alert for the next ambulance ride, or helicopter airlift. It was a difficulty beyond what most people ever realize exists in the world.

The next lyric Horatio Spafford wrote in the hymn I referenced above was, “Whatever my lot, thou hast caused me to say, it is well. It is well, with my soul.” He wrote this hymn in the place where his four daughters had perished when their boat went down.

The thing I know is that despite these heart wrenching losses Andrea has suffered, it is well with her soul. That is the difference faith makes. That is what helps her and us stand in times like this. In Andrea’s own words in her last post, “It is not in my own strength that I live. If it weren’t for God’s grace and mercy poured out to me, I would not have been able to exist after my daughter died.” 

It will be her faith in God and his grace and mercy that will once more sustain her and help her experience joy. I am confident of that.

I had the privilege of singing with her this past Sunday. We were a little unsure of our timing so we locked in on each other’s faces so we could sense the next move. I was so struck with how full of joy her beautiful face was, of how full of joy she often is despite her sufferings.

I will hold that face of joy in my heart as I pray for her in this time of such sadness.

I know I have written much about loss lately. But I won't apologize. That is a season we've been in. Sometimes, life is barbed, ragged, and just plain sad. But even when it is, we hold on to Jesus because He is faithful. And He will bring us round to joy, again. Just as you can see that slice of blue above those dark clouds in the picture above, the joy is there. 

The Psalmist wrote about that in a verse Andrea concluded with in her last post here, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Join me in praying for Andrea and her precious family that the morning would indeed come for them.

Read Andrea's posts, "Healing is Hers, Joy is Mine" Here and "Hope Carries Me" Here. 

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Dazzling Details of One Day

Occasionally, I come to the time I write this blog, and find myself staring at a blank page. It’s been like that this week. We’ve been in a season of loss, but as you may have seen on my social media, we lost a spiritual giant in our lives a few days ago, Rev. Grady Wigley. We feel a little deflated, so I’ve prayed for God’s help to write what he would have me write. I decided to pull out files from the year I first met Grady and review them. 

Grady’s service yesterday was on Pentecost Sunday. I first met him on Pentecost Sunday exactly forty years ago (I don’t feel nearly as old as that sounds). I was at a pivotal point in my life, coming out of a dark place just having fully surrendered my life to the Lord less than a year before.

As you saw on social media, because of a connection to my then pastor and his wife whom Grady had married, after learning I was moving, my pastor recommended I attend Grady’s church and contacted him to let him know I was coming. Only God knows the full extent of how that one suggestion changed my whole life. My first piece of mail at my new apartment was from Grady inviting me to church.

In a bulletin I've saved from that church visit, I see that on that long ago morning, Grady preached on Acts 2:17, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." That scripture is all about the extraordinary ways God would communicate with his people. We see that played out in the scriptures with God often moving through dreams and visions. For many years now, dreams have been one of the ways God speaks to me, bringing healing, consolation, and guidance.

Also, in the church bulletin, there’s a notice about a Focus on the Family class for parents. I would later write for a Focus on the Family parenting magazine for several years. At that point I only kept journals, being a writer had only ever been a dream.

Also in my files, I found an Upper Room Magazine from that time and flipped through the pages. I read the devotion I would have read on that first Pentecost Sunday in my new home and can’t believe it was written by Dr. Tommy Tyson. Oh, my. Tommy Tyson, an evangelist who would also later become a spiritual mentor as we would have opportunity to get to know him in a personal way. He was also connected to many others who have become mentors both personally and through their writing including Dr. Mark Rutland, Francis MacNutt, and Madeleine L’Engle.

And of course, one of my highest honors is that I would be privileged to have my own devotions appear in the pages of the Upper Room Magazine.

I see in just that initial Sunday in the new chapter of my life, that God was giving me clues to my future. I catalog everything. I guess I’ve always been writing a book. But these details help me understand that if we pay attention, we will often see God’s powerful work. He’s in the dots that seem random at first but connect in an intricate way to form wondrous patterns in our lives.

I've written here before what my beloved neighbor, Dwain Chambers, says, “Remember God is at work in the fine print. God is at work in the parentheses.”

One of the most interesting notes in that first bulletin is the list of ushers that would serve. As I read the list, I am amazed to discover on that Sunday, Jerry Varnado was one of them. 

My first recollection of Jerry is from several months later when he gave his testimony on laity Sunday—this lawyer who had an amazing encounter with God after tragedies in his life. It would be a year before we had our first date and now, we are married more than thirty. It’s possible Jerry welcomed me that first Sunday, shook my hand and told me he was glad I was there, perhaps handing me a bulletin or an offering plate. God smiled knowing what was in store. 

I had so much anxiety about moving to a place where I didn’t really know anyone. I listed questions in my journal on the day before my move, “What if I get fired?” “Where will I go, then?” but my biggest concern was “What if I let God down?” I know now that we can’t really let God down.  We let ourselves down. God’s not on a roller coaster like the people we know. He’s always the same and his love for us never changes. But I go on to respond to these doubts. “Then I remember, today, He gives me strength.  I must abide in Him and die to my wants, knowing that always I’ll be His and He’ll be mine. I love Him, so.”

Forty years later, I still love Jesus so, and give Him thanks for the amazing life He has given me. Yes, we have faced hard times of every variety but for all these years He has been faithful and as I write with tears streaming down my face, I am so incredibly grateful. Where we are today is in large part due to our spiritual father, Grady, who was there at the beginning and  whom God use to lay a foundation at that crucial time in my life and in Jerry’s life. He showed us what the love of the Father looks like.

 None of us knew it was in preparation for a lifetime in ministry. But of course, God did.

First I had no words for today, and then there were way too many in this rambling post like a dam breaking because of my new discoveries and rediscoveries of that first day in what would be my new home. I've gone from a heart deflated to a heart overflowing. Friends, if you’re facing an unknown, know He’s already there, preparing a way, connecting the dots, just as He did for me.

He's all in the dazzling details.


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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

When you want a place of safety

The wren family that recently put my studio clean out on hold for a while finally got the little ones flapping out the door.

I resumed my decluttering this week, and I roped Jerry into repairing a cat access door so the birds wouldn’t be able to come back.

But when the door was down for repair, the wrens had put the word out in the Wrens Gazette that they’d recently come into possession of an excellent condo, free for the taking. Someone else showed up with a leaf in his mouth ready to nestle in.

There I stood in the open doorway with Mr. Wren and I in a showdown.

I won but barely. He left begrudgingly and we hurried to close up the condo.

I get it. Who could blame him for wanting to put his family high in the rafters out of the rain and wind? I hope he didn’t take it too hard.

We’re all looking for a place of safety and they’re awfully hard to come by in this old world. It’s tempting to think if we could just build our nest in a particular location that we’ll be free from sorrows and pain.

The Psalmist wrote, “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar” (Psalm 84:3).

Right up near the altar of God is the only place of enduring safety where our hearts can find the consolation and solace that truly lasts no matter what else is happening, because there is no hard times insulation.

And any thing that appears to be so is only a mirage.

We are all going to face difficulties. The difference in how we deal with them has to do with where we’ve made our nest.

I’m embedding myself right at the altar.

There’s plenty of room.

Join me, won't you?

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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

A Great Cloud

We’ve recently lost several important and remarkable people in our lives.

Debra became part of our congregation early in Jerry’s ministry. She came to us from the Peace Corp where she served in Ecuador. While with us she earned her Master and Doctorate Degrees and went on to a lifelong career in education at the high school and collegiate levels.

She had many talents, only one of which was needlework. When Jerry and I were married, she crafted an exquisite and intricate cross stitch sampler with our names and wedding date. It has hung on our bedroom wall our entire married life.

While with us, Debra participated in the choir, Bible studies, and served in several church positions no matter what else was going on in her life. She never looked for recognition. When I think of her, I’m reminded of her selfless faithfulness to God.

I had never met a cowboy before, but that’s what Tim was when he walked into our church when Jerry was a student pastor. He, his wife Alice and daughter, Rebecca were the first people Jerry ever received into church membership.

Tim was humble and quiet and yet his presence in any gathering carried weight. In time, he and his family bought a property which they turned into an incredibly special organic farm where he also developed a process to grind corn using his mule, Luke. The result was Red Mule Grits which he shipped all over the country. His products were served in some of the finest upscale restaurants in the world.

Whenever we had a church meeting, many professional people from all walks of life gathered and spoke on various issues, but when Tim stood to speak, a hush fell on the room. We all realized, we needed to listen. Because Tim had something exceedingly rare in this old world—wisdom.

I will remember him Tim for his sage and poignant words that often saved us from error, and I pray God is raising up someone else with those same qualities.

Our friend Evelyn was also a person who did not announce herself, yet her gift of encouragement helped sustain many. Though we only knew her for a short time in the latter years of her life, her influence was profound and will last well beyond the span of her years. She’s someone I would have hoped to spend more time with, but circumstances did not allow. I will count on catching up with her in heaven.

Gwen, the wife of my husband’s former law partner gave us many gifts. We will especially never forget her gracious hospitality that made it possible for Jerry to have a specialized cancer treatment while staying at her out of state vacation property.

Also possessing a master’s degree, her list of accomplishments is long in civic leadership and church service.

Whenever we received a note from her, its eloquence made it seem as if it were destined for the pages of a literary novel. That’s the kind of person she was. If you had opportunity to even brush up against her, you would know she was extraordinary. And yet, she too, carried herself in a quiet way. One of my favorite facts about her is she competed in the Miss America pageant in 1948 as Miss Georgia. She was a real beauty all her days—inside and out.

It has been such a great privilege to have known these exceptional people. When I reflect on these lives, they are as different as you could possibly imagine, and yet they all have commonalities. They were people of great faith and substance, yet they did not shout about their own importance.

We knew it without being told.

In these days of endless selfies, social media drama, and living loud, Debra, Tim, Evelyn, and Gwen had nothing to do with any of that. But the impressions they made are deep and long lasting. More than what they gave us that hangs on our walls, it’s what they gave us that hangs in our hearts that has made the real difference. Each of them in their own way has profoundly changed our lives and the world and taken their place in the great cloud of witnesses.

Oh, how I wish we could take a page from their book. Or better yet, take a page from THE book that each of these dear people embraced.

As Eugene Peterson translated Hebrews 12:1 “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed . . . “

Let’s not forget where we’re headed either and keep our eyes on Jesus. Let’s allow Jesus to give us the perseverance and power to help change our world as well.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

"Y'all Have Fun"

“Y’all Have Fun”

For the first twenty-one years of my life, I often heard the phrase, “Y’all have fun.” They were words spoken by my grandmother whenever we were parting. I’m confident they were the last words I ever heard her say.

I’ve pondered over the years the why of that instruction.

I’ll never know for sure because she died when I was in college, and I didn’t think to ask her while she was still with us. But I have a theory.

It’s an understatement to say my grandparents did not have easy lives. They raised nine children and took on one more during the heart of the Great Depression. They made their living as sharecroppers and then later as mill workers starting work before dawn keeping at it until dark. When I stayed with them as a child, my grandfather in his late seventies and eighties still rose at 4:30 to tend a garden. My grandmother would can vegetables and dry apples. They raised flowers to sell. Her own mother died when my grandmother was fourteen and she then became the woman of the house raising her siblings. Another reason her life was difficult.

My grandparents in their garden

I believe she wanted for her children and grandchildren a life that would not be so arduous—a life that would include more fun. For me, when I think of the time spent at her house, that in itself was fun. On hot summer days, we would rock on the front porch and drink RC Colas or Grape Nehis as we watched cars pass. We’d wind through the garden paths and gawk at the brilliant dinner plate dahlias that loomed over us, stick our noses in country rose blooms and inhale their fragrance maybe pick a few. As the day faded into the evening, we’d go back to the porch to watch fireflies sparkle in the dark. Those activities would probably seem to kids today the most banal thing they could think of, but they were wonders to me and my sister.

Our grandmother was a woman of whom it could be said she never raised her voice—an oasis of calm. I've written here before of her admonition, "You have to bite your tongue" and how I wish I had tattooed it on my forehead. Her stories like making a dress out of the curtains a la Scarlet O’Hara make me smile. She gave us so many wonderful memories which still bring us joy.

Fun often falls to the bottom of the list around here and as I was speaking with friends recently, I was reminded of what my grandmother used to say. We need to be intentional about having fun to stay balanced in our lives, to keep our joy.  After a year like we’ve all had, it’s even more necessary. Solomon reminds us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under Heaven . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4).

So, here’s your instruction for this week. Have a wonderful Mother’s Day, and please remember the words of my grandmother.

 “Y’all have fun.”

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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Lucy and Holding On

If you receive One Ringing Bell through email, Blogger has notified me that service will end on July 1. If you’d like to continue with the mail service, for now, I’ll be sending out links via my newsletter service which you may sign up for on my website HERE. Many thanks for reading through the years.

“Go get the paper, Lucy.”

These words are said almost daily at our house. Then the big eighty-pound chocolate Aussiedor flies, as much as a ten year old dog can fly, and fetches the paper—a trick I taught her when she was a puppy.

She trots back to the door, a treat in mind.

If the Lucy video fails to load, you may go HERE. 

What you don’t see in that video is she’s learned that her humans can get distracted and forget to give her the dog biscuit she’s earned, so she holds onto the paper until the very, very last minute to be sure a treat is in the human hand.

Smart girl.

It seems almost every day and from every direction this past week, we’ve received news of serious and difficult situations that require much ongoing prayer. I’ve been reminded of Lucy's holding on and need to take a cue from her so that I, too, hold on and persist in prayer.

In years past, we used to use a phrase in the church called “praying through.” It meant to continue in prayer until we saw God move. This doesn’t mean that we try to manipulate God into getting the answer we want, because so many times, the answer will not be exactly what we had in mind, but it does mean we don’t offer up a quick prayer and go to the next. We are changed through our intercession. I’ll say that again, WE are changed through the prayers we pray for others.

As we're on our knees, transformation occurs because we are emptied of our own desires and allow them to align with what God has in mind.

The Amplified version cites Jesus’s words in Matthew 7:7 this way, “Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.”

God reminded me again this week, that some of the most incredible things I’ve seen God do had nothing to do with my own actions, but how He acted when I was able to persist in prayer.

So, my friends, let’s keep holding on in prayer. I know there are some who may be feeling things are sliding off the mountain right now, but God gets the last word. Let’s pray through and see what He will do. 

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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Hope Carries Me

Some of you may remember a post about a year ago, in which my friend Andrea Flanagan Edmunds wrote about losing her eighteen year old special needs daughter, Presley. Today, after a year of grieving in addition to living through a pandemic as a mom and teacher, she is back to share about her journey. She exudes the strength and joy of the Lord and I am confident her post today will be helpful to anyone dealing with a similar tragedy. Welcome back to One Ringing Bell, Andrea, with much love. 

One hour. That’s how long doctors gave my daughter to live at birth. My family and friends hoped and trusted that God had a plan for Presley despite her tragic circumstances. I clung to her life verse, Jeremiah 29:11, a promise of “hope and a future.” Presley went on to live for a precious seventeen years, seven months, and nineteen days. A total of around 154,584 hours. 

On top of Presley’s passing a year ago, we have experienced covid, which has been a barrier between my family and the up-close love, hugs, and support that one in mourning usually receives. My family faced many difficulties this year, but God keeps His promises. My hope in Christ continues to carry me.

Meriam-Webster defines hope in one way as “to cherish a desire with anticipation” and in another “to expect with confidence: TRUST.” I trusted during the darkest periods of my life, and though there have been many challenges, God has not disappointed me. I have found his word true in Romans 5:3-5: “...we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” 

Hope does not disappoint!

I know that I am not alone in my grief. This past year so many have experienced loss of some sort, and like me, have shed many tears. Maybe you, too, have lost a child or someone close. Maybe it’s been a financial loss. Friends, have hope in the Lord.

My personal takeaways from reflecting on this one-year anniversary of sorrow and loss may help you at this time. They are:

 1)      The God of hope is with me. “The Lord is close to the                 brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm      34:18 NIV). Prayers and love washed over me, helping to mend         my crushed spirit this past year. God uses people around you, His      word, and His presence to save you.

2)      Hope allows rest. Grief without hope weighs heavy on our heart and soul; it can weaken your spirit. Matthew 11:28-30 promises gentle “rest for your souls” if we only come to Him, for His burden is light.

3)      Hope in the Lord never disappoints. We can face tomorrow without fear, but with fresh mercy! Romans 5:5 says “Now hope does not disappoint...”  And in Lamentations 3:22-23, His “compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” 

4)      Hope brings joy and peace. Knowing Presley is in heaven gives me peace. Romans 15:13 reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” 

5)      Hope carries me. It is not in my own strength that I live. If it weren’t for God’s grace and mercy poured out to me, I would not have been able to exist after my daughter died. “...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31). 

I have hope He will also do this for you.

Since April 22, 2020, I have been grieving Presley’s absence. When I worked in Brazil teaching English as a second language, I found the Brazilians have a phrase that encompasses what I feel. In Portuguese it is “Tenho saudades.” The translation is “I miss [her].” The meaning is so much more. I read an article by Celinne da Costa that described what my heart was feeling. She writes “I believe that the magic of this word lies in its bitter sweetness. How good it is to love someone or something so much that you could feel a part of your heart missing when they’re gone.”  My grief is bittersweet. 

The bitter: Presley passed away from this earth. She’s not here for me to care and love on her. My heart is broken. The sweet: Presley is in heaven without pain or sorrow, fully whole and able.  My pastor, Jerry Varnado at her celebration of life, summed up this bittersweet. He said, “On earth, Presley was a little girl with special needs. Now in heaven, she is just a special little girl.” 

I love how The Message writes Psalm 30:5. “The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.” 

The trust I have in who God is and in His promises gives me joy and hope. God’s hope carries me through as the days of crying my eyes out surely will give way to days of laughter.

Andrea Flanagan Edmunds is a mother of three and teaches fourth grade. She enjoys reading with a pup by her side and going for treks in the woods. 

Andrea's post from 2020, "Healing is Hers, Joy is Mine" HERE.



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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Unlikely Story of How a Daytime Talk Show Changed a Life

I’ve been reminded recently that we need to be telling the stories unique to our experience. Because if we love Him, God wants to use everything in our lives for good (ref. Romans 8:28). He has given us those experiences to encourage others.

One of these stories in my life happened years ago when I directed a crisis pregnancy center. Our goal in that ministry was to offer women abortion alternatives. We didn’t pressure anyone but tried to support them and give workable alternatives to ending the pregnancy.  

A young woman I’ll call Maya, in her twenties, came in wanting information. A single Mom already, she had issues with her first pregnancy and expected this one to be no different. I spoke with her, but I could tell she was overwhelmed.  When I accompanied her to a doctor, he thought it best she consult a specialist in another part of the state that could provide medical care at no cost.

Later, when I tried to phone her, she didn’t take my calls. Usually when I encountered radio silence, it meant a woman had opted for abortion. But I, with a group of prayer partners, continued to pray for her as well as others we were working with (names were not shared, only circumstances).

In a few weeks Maya reappeared at our door wanting assistance. I asked her to come in and take a seat.

“What happened to you?” I asked as she settled in.

She said, “I was going to have an abortion.”

I leaned forward in my chair. “What stopped you?”

“My grandmother learned about my plans and persuaded me not to do it, so I came back. But I’m scared. I’m afraid I might die having the baby.”

At that point, I didn’t have children, but even with my limited knowledge, I could sympathize. So, I committed to walking through the process with her, so she wouldn’t be alone. The father of the child was nowhere to be found.

I tried to encourage her as she was a believer, but I could see fear aimed to swallow her.

When the time came for her appointment with the specialist, we sailed along the highway, yet things in the car weren't so smooth. She was anxious, so I tried to distract her and asked about her dreams. I found she had educational aspirations, but was concerned about how another child might affect them. Despite her grandmother's intervention, I still continued to be concerned whether she would actually follow through with the pregnancy.

Later at the medical facility, while waiting for her appointment, a daytime talk show played on a tv near us. I’d never watched it, but I associated the host with programming of little value. But today, this show featured several women sharing how they were told they would die if they had their babies. I couldn't believe it. Then the host would have the children born to these women walk out on stage. As we watched story after story unfold, Maya nudged me. “Did you have someone put that show on this television.”

I was shocked she thought I had that kind of power. “No, I don’t know anyone here. This is just the show that’s on television today.”

We continued to watch until her name was called.

Later we talked about the timing of the tv show. We both agreed it was no “coincidence” but God intervening to let her know things were going to be okay. Maya was afraid she would die because of what happened in the last pregnancy, but from that point forward, she had newfound faith in God's guidance.

Sure enough, when the baby was born months later, there were no complications.

We stayed connected for a long while, and I saw pictures of that beautiful child as she grew. I was able to find educational opportunities for Maya to help get the ball rolling, but Maya did all the work, and went on to get her degree.

When I reflect on all that came together that day—the timing of the appointment, the timing of the show, the content of the show—I shake my head in wonder. God wanted to let Maya know in an unforgettable way that He was with her.

I learned something from that experience, too. Sometimes we underestimate what God can use. I would have never guessed a program I deemed of  such little value would be used by God in such a mighty way. That experience taught me to never underestimate God’s ability to use whatever he chooses to accomplish his purpose.

That’s my story today. What’s yours?

“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” (Romans 8:28).

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