Monthly Archives: November 2015

He Molds the Soul. . . Sometimes in Darkness

As a secretary for 20 plus years, I worked in uncounted offices, each one different.   One was, literally, a converted storage closet.  No windows and Lilliputian in dimensions, but it had four walls.  One office, two decades later, comprised an entire floor, with cubicles in the middle and old-school four-wall offices along the perimeter for supervisors.

Somewhere in the middle of this years, my desk was in a small reception area.  I was gatekeeper/executive secretary/gal Friday for two supervisors.  This office was deep inside a large facility – again, no windows but fortunately, a glass wall with a view to the large worker-bee area just outside.   In this office, I kept one pot of pothos.  The bright green leaves warmed the sterile office atmosphere and grew, even with only artificial light.

The little the pot lived on top of the filing cabinet.  When composing letters for my bosses, gazing up at it relaxed me and let me think.  Soon after moving in. however,  all the leaves turned their faces toward the middle of the office.  I rotated the pot, then watched its leaves time and again revert to the same slanted stance.

“Odd,” I thought.  “There is no sun, the entire place is well lit during the day and in virtual darkness all night.”

Late one evening, I headed out the door and switched off the lights. The bright red emergency light suspended from the ceiling two feet from the plant flashed on.  I knew the secret now. Each night, in the solitary night hours, the little plant strained its utmost toward the light made bright by the darkness.

Dearest Lord,

Please make my heart like that plant.  In our times of solitude each morning, mold me and incline my heart to You and Your ways only.  You are the only Light in this world.  You alone are our source and our salvation.   And when I stray from that way and You lovingly send darkness into my life, for a season, so I’ll lean toward You again, grant  the wisdom to do so quickly and gratefully.

For I know that You discipline those you love, that You are a jealous God, that Your love for us is greater than the height of the heavens above the earth, and that You want our hearts turned toward You for safety and to have sweet, sweet communion throughout the day.   Thank You for telling me in Your Word that You delight in hearing my prayers.  Please do whatever it takes to keep me close.  I love You, Lord!  Amen. 

“Taank yoooo”

For the third time I straightened the tangled thermal blanket so that the cottony softness lay gently over my grandson’s face, all the way over his blonde head.  Then I tugged the blanket in around his tiny feet and spooned him in close for a soft squeeze and two mutual “hmmms.”

A soft “Taaank yooooo” came from under the aqua blanket. I gave him another soft squeeze and whispered.

“You’re welcome, baby.  Nana loves you.”

Finally, my two-year-old grandson settled down.  When my hand, stretching lightly across his little frog belly,  felt his breathing deepen, I uncovered just his face and then let myself relax. I might or might not be able to sleep but for sure I had some good prayer time available.  The little rascal slept better if someone was with him for at least the first hour of his afternoon nap at which point, he tossed and turned (yet again!) then settled again, his eyes never having opened.

Monday through Friday, I have the greatest possible privilege  – helping my daughter with my two- and four-year-old grandsons.  I get to see these tender years, and with two children!  I’ve always said the hardest thing I ever did in my life was putting Sharon in daycare at the age of 3, when the divorce happened.

I cherish each day with them, yes, even though they are both all-boy and quite the handful at times.  I learn so much from participating in their innocent joy and spontaneity.  Can anything compare with collecting acorns in a bucket, digging in the sandpile, or building playdough cats?

But the one lesson I absorb each day is how happy they seem to be, with so little, and how totally they give their love and acceptance.

Dear Father, thank You, again, for letting me walk through these precious years alongside my grandsons.  Help me be more like them in their contentment and unconditional love.  And help me remember that my every expression of gratitude to you touches Your  heart as much as Allen’s “taaaank yooo” touches mine. I love You, Lord!”

Forgiveness. . . and My Grandsons Curls, Part 2 of 2

“It had to be cut, it was getting in his eyes, and sticking up all over.   I can’t handle it if you get this upset every time.  I told you yesterday it had to be done.   My throat feels like paper and I am so nervous I feel nauseous.  I am so, so sorry  for what Helga did and I know it hurt but she is gone and we have this beautiful little boy that we’re raising and things aren’t like they were.”

I put my bags on the kitchen counter and reached  for the mini diaper bag I used when I took my three-year-old grandson  on our daily errands.

“I am dealing with it the best I can but don’ ask me to talk about it.  I’m handling it but I can’t talk about it.”

“Mama, I don’t want you to “handle” it!  I’m going to have to cut both boys’ hair for a long time, to save money and so they won’t be traumatized at a barber shop.  But if it’s going to make me you and me both sick every time I’ll pay to get it done.”

I finished packing the diaper bag and managed a tight-lipped “I guess some wounds never heal”, the phrase that had been reverberating in my mind since the phone call.  I could hardly contain the bitterness and rage and most of all, the hurt.

“Well, you’re giving me a wound, too, and it’s never going to heal if you don’t really get over this.  Look, you’ve stopped all the rest of that generational stuff.  You didn’t pass on the abuse and you were the best mom in the world for me and for these babies, too.  They adore Nana.  Let’s stop this problem now, too.”

I begrudgingly opened my arms and enfolded her, still mad.  I had counted getting on whisking my grandson out the door and being alone with him for a couple of hours of silence and baby talk as we shopped so I could settle down.

I was furious with the memory and even more furious with myself for hurting Sharon.  Being trapped into confronting the conflict felt like I was coming apart inside, a feeling that had recurred during counseling with lessening frequency over the years.

“How do I handle this, Lord?” I tried to relax my stiffened body as Sharon, in a tender, loving role reversal, tried to comfort me.

“Listen, Mama.  You did an awesome job being my Mom, all by yourself, all those years,  and you are helping me and Craig do an awesome job with these boys, too.  We couldn’t do it without you. We count on you.  We need you.  I need you.”

At last came a deep sigh, a deep breath, and a heart-felt hug from me.

“I’m sorry, baby.  You know I’d rather die than hurt you.  I will learn how to handle it. . . “   If it kills me, I thought silently.

Sharon  pulled back from me, one brow arched quizzically.

“No,” I said. “I mean I will learn how to really get over it.  I will.  I am okay now.  Thank you for talking me down out of my tree.  I love you baby.”

Twelve hours later, sitting in the dark, stroking my precious, purring Barnabas, thinking silently with the Lord, the answer came.  Out of His deep love, God had arranged the only thing that would make me face the unforgiveness that still lurked in my heart.  As encrusted and decayed by the acid of hate as the rusty orange remnants of the Titanic, only He had known how to plumb that oceanic abyss.

“I am sorry, Father.  Forgive me for my reaction.  To be honest, I don’t like this at all, still, Father, and I am still mad but please help me forgive. I am willing to be made willing.  And thank You for stopping me from hurting Sharon.  I love you, Lord.”

A while later,  Barny was especially affectionate as we shared the pillow on my single bed.  He licked my hand as thoroughly as a mother cat with a kitten, rested his velvety head against my cheek, and placed one feather-soft paw on my neck.  I knew my precious little companion understood that I was upset.  This was not the first time God had loved me through the love of a cherished pet.

Our sleep was sweet that night.  And so have been the rest of the inevitable haircuts—thanks to the amazing grace God bestows on the human heart that is truly repentant and truly trying to follow His teachings.   Grace, grace, God’s marvelous grace!

Forgiveness. . . and My Grandson’s Curls, Part 1 of 2

“Please don’t be mad, Mama, but I cut his hair shorter than I was trying for.  It is just so curly it’s hard to get it even.”

“That’s okay.  Don’t worry.  I’ll be there in about ten minutes.”

I flung my phone into the empty passenger seat.   The back flew off as it bounced against the door.  My mouth hardened and my eyes narrowed as I stared at the road through sudden tears and anger as deep as 39 years ago.

My former husband, former for forty years now, had left our two-year-old daughter alone with his face-in-Christmas dinner alcoholic mother – again.  We lived rent-free in a cottage next door to his parents.  He had ignored the strongest words I had ever said to him, up to that point. “Don’t you dare leave Lori alone with Helga.  You know she gets plastered in less than five minutes.”

I did not know he had left Sharon alone.  I had assumed when he took Sharon over to visit, that he was staying with her.  That’s what I reminded him to do.

But. . . Helga had brought Sharon  back to the cottage later, alone, but it was a different Sharon.  My baby girl’s wispy, blonde curls– the silky little feathers I wove my fingers through each night as I cuddled her to sleep – were gone.  Forever.

“I just evened it up a little,” Helga said with a tentative, drunken smile as she stood in the doorway.

“Evened it up my ___,” I thought but dared not say.  I had to go along to get along for our rent-free tiny cottage.  “You cut two inches off.  My baby girl has a Buster Brown pageboy, you blankety blank!!!”

I don’t remember what I actually said as I pulled Sharon inside and shut the door.   That was four decades ago, before I learned to speak up for myself.  Regardless, that night brought my father-in-law’s scalding criticism down on me for “making” Helga get drunk again.

I don’t remember much of that dreadful, short marriage, but it gave me my precious Sharon – as well as a  thorough understanding of Al-Anon.  Soon after the divorce, I had given my heart to Jesus and Sharon and I had been more than fine ever since.  Also, many fruitful seasons of counseling had flowed through the years since then.

However, when I opened the door to my daughter’s house and looked at my grandson –his cap of ringlet curls gone– I saw my freshly-shorn Sharon and Helga.  I slammed my bags down on the counter and started to walk to the bathroom, so mad I was afraid to speak for fear I would shout or scream or  both.  I never did either and I certainly did not want to do that to my daughter or scare my two grandsons, who were already upset because I had not given them their usual boisterous hug and teasing from Nana when I walked in the door.

“Please don’t do this, Mama!” Sharon said as her eyes shone wet with unshed tears.

That Precious Deer

I held my breath.  The little yearling dear, two feet away from the kitchen window, looked right into my eyes.  His gauntness accentuated the size of his liquid brown eyes, and in those long seconds I felt a love almost as deep as the first day I held my daughter in my arms.  I love animals, but I had never felt like I was looking soul to soul into one’s eyes like I did now.

His look was so trusting, so desperate, so pleading.  I had just spent the previous 30 minutes caring for the horses, weeping the entire time, looking down toward the fence every few minutes where the deer leaned against the wire and then laid down, too weak to move.  When I had gone inside he must have come up to the house.

He nibbled on flowers and licked the concrete where water had run off from watering the collection of flowers and plants in pots.   As I kept working in the kitchen, he again came and stood close to the window and stared, again, a very long time.  The tears flowed again and so did my prayers.

We were many miles outside Austin, where I help a retired lady care for her horses.  “Oh, dear Father, please do something for that little deer.  Either heal it or take it home or let someone come take away its pain and take it home to You, Lord.  Please, Lord, please, don’t let it suffer.  It is so innocent and so trusting and so fragile. I know You love animals, Father.  Your concern for them is all throughout Your Word.”

Two days ago, my employer had said it was surely dying and probably was diseased.  She said when does had new babies they often ran off the yearlings and this seemed to be the case.  I had seen a buck, a doe and three fawns the day before standing, framed like a painting by the morning mist, walking away from their night-time nibbling toward the cover of thick bushes and trees.

I think I will see that little yearling’s eyes for the rest of my life.  Later that day, much much later that day, when I had finally managed to fully trust God to take care of His precious little deer, I finally understood what God was saying.

If it crushed  my heart to see that little deer suffer, and to know that more suffering surely lay ahead for it, how unimaginably more had God hurt to see His Son Jesus suffer?  If I felt that little animal’s soul look into mine, what had God the Father felt when His Son looked at Him and pleaded, “My Father!  If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.  Yet I want Your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26:39b, NLT).  How did God feel when He watched His pure, innocent Son suffer and die so terrible a death – all that I might know Him?

How dare I ever forget this lesson?   How dare I ever neglect any chance I have to tell another suffering human soul of the great love our Heavenly Father has all His beloved humans, the crown of all His creation?

Unjealous Heart, Chap 2, Post 11

Operating in that small kitchen proved excellent training for not only Sharon but for me as well — even before my current emphasis on not complaining.  I found the experience fertile ground in which to grow the good fruit of patience, especially when preparing a meal.

We both liked simple foods, a fact which should have prevented having to spread ingredients all over the counter.  Like so many single parents, though, I leaned toward short-order cooking of two separate meals, one of traditional children’s foods and another with foods more appealing to my adult taste and adult need for lower calorie intake.  So the end result,  preparation-wise, was identical.  I may as well have been preparing an involved, complex meal.

Cooking a typical evening meal might begin with hauling out a bag of carrots, cutting board, knife, and scraper.  The carrots had to be done first, because their preparation took up the sink and two-thirds of the counter space.  With the carrots scraped and chopped and back in the refrigerator to chill in their yellow plastic container (a former economy-size margarine container), I cleaned the counter, cutting board, and sink. Next, I hauled out ground beef, salt and pepper, eggs, milk, and bread to mix up hamburger patties.  There was not one inch to spare, and quite a few inches too few, by the time all that was sitting on the  miniature counter.

I used the ever-faithful, ever-useful large mixing bowl to mix the patties.  With two hamburgers sizzling in the frying pan, I packaged up the rest of the patties in aluminum foil, put them in the freezer, cleaned the counter, and started a can of green beans heating on the back burner.  Next, I took the cookie sheets and broiling rack out of the oven, put them on the floor by the card table, a further impingement on floor space, then arranged tater tots on a small pan and put them into the oven to heat.

I tried hard to see the humor in all the necessarily careful planning and timing and patient rearranging of bowls, food, pots, and pans.  At times, though, like tonight, the best I could manage was a caricature of a grin, a resigned slow shaking of my head, and a tight-lipped silence as I fought hard not to complain out loud.

“It’s so unfair,” I thought as I turned the burgers over and put the ketchup squirter and mustard bottle on the table.

“The Wexels and people like them have so much and we have so little and…”

As I closed the refrigerator door I saw the words, written in red, I had taped above Sharon’s first grade picture and her latest example of penmanship.  “Be patient with difficult circumstances.”

I smiled, not much, but a little, and with that, the tension began to ease.  I shook my head and laughed, this time a real laugh, as I turned down the heat under the burgers.

“If I hurry,” I thought, “I can get one of our special cheesecakes in the refrigerator before Sharon finishes her shower.”

What I mean by “God helped me”

When I was a new Christ follower, so many  years ago, I often wondered what some of the Christianese I heard meant.  People said things like, “God told me” or “the Holy Spirit really came down last Sunday in service”.   And, even though it’s been more than three decades, I am still not sure sometimes when people use certain phrases.  So, I quite often just ask.

I want to explain what I mean when I say “God helped me” with this website and with http://www.unjealousheart.com

As the Bible commands, I tithe (which means to give  ten percent of your gross income to God).   I also give other offerings beyond the tithe, and I give to the poor.  (I am saying that NOT to brag but to explain what the Bible says do with our money – because it is ALL God’s money anyway!)

I honestly do not remember if it was my idea or I heard it from someone else, but I also tithe my time when I am working on the writing.  How do you tithe time?

Well, for every sixty minutes I have to spend working, I pray six minutes out of those sixty minutes.   No, I am not “legalistic” in that I keep track to the second – because occasionally while I am praying I get such a great idea (that I know comes from God, not my own intelligence for sure!) that I stop and begin working on it.

Technology and learning new software are particularly difficult for me. I have the typical dreamy artist disposition and technical details frustrate me.  I just want to write!!!!  So it has been a huge education in patience and trust for me to tackle making two websites as well as everything else that writers have to do in this new world of publishing.

But, I prayed every time I sat down at my computer, and God has done miracle after miracle for me.  No, I don’t mean He supernaturally moved the computer keys or anything like that.  What I mean is I would google how to do something, then painstakingly follow the steps and, almost every time, it worked!  Surprise, surprise to me!

I also was blessed to have the good sense to call for help from the Godaddy and Aweber support teams, both of which are prompt, professional and friendly.

This is also the same way God “helped” me get through grad school.  How loving and faithful He is!  He gives us dreams and then helps make them reality as – or in proportion to how much – we trust Him.

Bless you, dear readers, and dare to trust God to help you with things you fear you cannot do.  He delights in helping His children!    As Paul tells us in II Corinthians 12:9 ,  God says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

May we say with Paul, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

The God of Angel Armies is by My Side!

So much to do – working on the website and everything connected thereto.  It takes me hours. How I wish I could just pay someone else!  Then there is writing posts for this blog, doing a fresh entry for the unjealousheart.com website, helping each day with my grandsons, maintaining my  relationship with God as top priority (which is really first in line), and then the unceasing demands of daily living – exercise for my back, groceries, errands, laundry, paying bills, cooking, cleaning  – and somehow getting adequate sleep so I can think clearly.

Dear dear Father, only You can enable me to get all this done, but I know You will.  I do not have the strength of youth, like I did during those blessed years when Sharon was home and I stayed up late and got up early to write.   Proverbs 3:5-6 is just as true today as it was  20 years ago.  I know that!  

And though, externally, my standard of living is about the same, it is infinitely richer, deeper, and satisfying. I know You better, and I trust You more.  I automatically treasure the unseen things – giggles from my youngest grandson, surprising wisdom from my older one, spontaneous hugs from both of them, and the relief on my daughter’s face when I walk in the door each morning to delighted cries of “Nana!  Nana’s here!”

Only rarely do I feel the poison of jealousy and envy now, like I did so many years ago when I wrote “Unjealous Heart”.  When I do feel envy, I confess and squash it immediately by counting my blessings and focusing on what I can do for those in my path at the moment.  And the same with fear and self-doubt.   The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, “the God of angel armies” is by my side.  Whom shall I fear, as Chris Tomlin sings. http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=WDZYYWNX

God has promised to guide my steps as – or in proportion to how much – I trust in Him with all my heart.  I’m glad it’s too confusing to figure tjhis all out for myself because it makes me lean closer to Him.

“I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the       wicked.”  (Psalms 84:10, NIV)

Yes, Lord, I would rather live close to You and be poor than have “riches untold”. You alone can satisfy!  You alone care for my soul and have a unique plan for my life and You are – still –  working all things out for my good! Thank you, Jesus!

Update on posts from fredafarmer.net

Hi –  I finally fixed the subscription problem.  So. . . you should now receive blog posts from www.fredafarmer.net on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

If you do NOT receive these posts, please email me at fredafarmer77@gmail  so I can fix the problem.

To catch up on the posts that were not sent to you, go to http://wordsofhopeandhealing.com  and you will see them there.

Thank you for your patience with this non-techy writer!