Category Archives: DEVOTIONALS

“We have nothing to fear. . . ” – Part Two

That’s become the SOP when I take my Barny back for visits to the veterinarian.  The receptionist smiles “Welcome back, Mr. Houdini!” and off we go, directly to a quiet exam room to wait for Dr. Smith.  No more noisy big back room for Barny.  He is in my arms, or in his carrier with my arms firmly around the carrier, the entire time.

God speaks unceasingly to His children, all day, every day, if we have ears to listen.  That first day and every day since when I take my fearful little Barny for his nail-trimming, God reminds me, yet again, that I do not need to worry.  I only need to actively trust Him.  I may still feel fearful, like my little cat, but so long as I stay in God’s arms—in the path of obedience—I am completely and totally safe.  And, eventually, my fear fades as I relax into God’s calming, loving presence.

Our Heavenly Father whose love for us is greater than the height of the heavens above the earth (Psalm 103), who is all-knowing, all-wise and, all-powerful has promised never, no never, to leave His children   He daily carries us close to his heart, like a shepherd with an injured lamb.

In His infinite, boundless wisdom He gives us the ability to think on one thing at a time, if we choose to focus.  He promises to keep us in complete peace IF we fix our hearts on Him.  (Isaiah 26:3)  That is often a challenging “if” for my type of personality but I usually get my mind where it should be, sooner rather than later now.

He also soothingly tells us we will face trouble each day but not to worry for He HAS ALREADY overcome the world.  By His grace, I am learning to take a light-hearted approach to problems and to see them as chances to stay close to my beloved Father.  I am learning to sense His nearness and hear His soothing whispers of love, right in the middle of my storms, just like my darling Barny.

One of the many places God promises to be with us and to take care of us always is Deuteronomy 31: 6.  In this passage, God is reassuring Joshua, who is soon to succeed Moses, who led God’s people for forty years.  The Israelites are about to enter the land promised to them, but it is a land occupied by their enemies.

Each and every day, if we are following Christ with all our heart, we can confidently face whatever fear or danger lies ahead.   We have this promise from God. And He is oh so faithful, oh so trustworthy!

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them [the enemy – explanation added], for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6 (New International Version)

Trees By My Window . . . God’s Touch on My Heart

sketch back porch burleson rd

             When my daughter was eight and I was a new Christian, our second floor apartment at the back of the complex overlooked a home with a grandfather oak and a stand of four Florida pines in the back yard.  I wrote my first poem while watching God change the oak’s silhouette into the filigree of inky black lace one day at sunset.  And those tall, thin Florida pines swaying together, yet somehow alone, in a late night thunderstorm stirred me to start my first book.

                Our next apartment was a 900 square-foot one bedroom, where we lived in from my daughter’s fifth grade through her graduation.  Outside the bedroom window stood another grand old oak of a different sort.  This one had thinner branches that caught the slightest wind all day long.

                When Sharon was 16 and began taking the car to work on Saturdays, I sat in the rocker with a cup of coffee, staring at that tree and writing for most of the day.  The gentle movement of wind through that tree made the leaves reflect the bright sunlight like so many little diamonds.   Those Saturdays looking out at that tree were the first long days I had ever had to devote to uninterrupted writing.  Writing all day helped me get over missing Sharon and start accepting that she would one day leave home..

                When we finally had our own little townhome, after 15 years of apartment rent, we had our very own grandfather oak — that we owned!   My bedroom felt like a treehouse.  My view was through broad, far-reaching branches. I felt like I was in God’s own arms for the 19 years we lived there.

                Next came my daughter’s home in Austin—which I shared for two glorious years as a live-in Nana.  Sharon’s home was surrounded on all sides and as far as you could see by old, established trees.  I smiled as I rocked my grandsons and watched the seasons truly change the leaves, for the first time in my native Floridian life.  As I did so, God was dramatically changing my heart, preparing me for the next phase of our life together.

                Today, in my tiny one-bedroom apartment not far from my daughter’s home (and my grandsons!)  I again have a huge oak right outside my window and in the distance mature trees of all kinds.  As I write each day, He always reminds me that one reason He put trees on earth is because they are “pleasing to the eye.”

                “And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye [emphasis added] and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:9 NIV)

                Thank You, dear dear Father, for giving me eternal life, through loving and knowing Your Son Jesus.  And thank You, Father, for sending your Holy Spirit.  Thank You for the way He moves in my heart, just like the wind through the trees.  I like how You explained in John 3:8 that the Holy Spirit is like the wind.   I feel His gentle, loving touch, but I don’t understand where He comes from or where He goes.  I just know He is right here with me, as I look at this beautiful tree.  I love You, Lord!

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?

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!

Grateful in the Face of Setbacks

I knew something was up as soon as I saw the envelope addressed to me in my own handwriting.I held it up to the fading sunlight and saw the postcard, a form rejection notice from a prospective publisher for my children’s book.

“Thank You, Father, that You put it in my heart to gather a list of possible publishers when I first sent this off.  It will go right back out, tomorrow, to the next one on the list.”

The full day had brought on fatigue.  I was up at 5 a.m. to write, then to my daughter’s to pick up my four year old grandson at 8:00, then to three stores for quick errands, then to the gym where he had exposure to other kids in a daycare setting while I did the grueling workout necessary to keep the weight at least stable, then my daughter’s home again, in time for Mom to wipe him down and put him in a fresh shirt for nap, then an hour and a half alone time with my two-year old grandson and, finally, one blissful hour of lying down for a nap, snuggling with the pure sweetness and innocence that is a sleeping toddler.

When I got up, a voice mail from my veterinarian said to take my panicky Tonkinese back in for one more ear packing.  Each visit traumatized Barny so much he hid for an entire day in the closet.

Thank You, so very much, dear Father, for sending another Tonkinese, the only mink one listed with the Texas Tonkinese Rescue program.  He could be my beloved Thellie’s twin.  And thank You for sending him several months before Mom passed.  Cuddling him is such a comfort when the tears come.  Thank You for an understanding veterinarian and her staff.  Thank You that he is healthy.”

“Thank you, Father, for the privilege of writing this blog, showing my spiritual failures and all.  Please help it help others.”

Though it was 33 years ago, I remembered precious early evening times with Sharon.  In fall and winter, we got home just before dusk fell.  We talked about the evening news while I cooked and then as we ate dinner at our card table in the tiny kitchen.  Twilight, I guess, will always be my favorite time of day for that cherished reason.

Thank You for teaching me then to be grateful for all things, even in the midst of setbacks and hard times, no, especially in those times.   You keep my attitude healthy and keep me close to You.  Thank You for training me to be aware of complaining.  Please continue reminding me to take time to thank You for blessings as countless as the stars in the velvet sky.  You’ve truly showered blessings  over me and Sharon and  her family.  I love You, Lord. . . so much!!”

Say “Thank You” . . . while you can

A man who was my mentor, a good friend, and my boss for seven years passed away this week.  I sent a  card, but I desperately wish I had called to tell him thank you, one more time.  He was an important influence in my life and was the reason I chose to pursue a Ph.D. in Educational Research and Measurement.

He was my first professor  in graduate school, and he helped me see statistics was not so hard after all, which was a game-changer for me.   He was in charge of the department with which I did some contract work after graduation before eventually being hired full-time.

I looked at  the beautiful video of his obituary through tears.  I saw photos of him as a young boy, teenager, new husband, new father, then pictures of times with his wife and their two girls as the girls grew up, got married, and had children of their own.  There were so many touching photos of him with his grandchildren, and the joy on his face was so very evident.

The video began and ended with scenes of the ocean, gentle waves washing into the shoreline, then receding back to their source.  He had loved the water, and lived near it, all his life.  The last photo was a shot of him standing on the balcony of his home on the water, waving.

I had told him thank you many times during the years he was my professor and then my boss.  But I so wish I had taken just five minutes out of my busy days to say thank you and to remind him of how much he had shaped my professional life.

What a lesson for me – to grab each chance to express appreciation and love to those around me.  Life, as the Bible says, is indeed like a mist that vanishes in an instant.  Our days on this earth are so short.

Dear Father,

Please help me to give more of my time and my heart to showing love to others.  Help me seize each opportunity to express the love You put into my heart for other people, whether they are in good health or not.  Forgive me for not reaching out one more time to say thank you to my mentor and friend.  Comfort his family and his other friends and colleagues, and turn their thoughts toward eternity.  I love you Jesus.  Amen.