Daddy called me “baby doll”

Words can hurt

Words can hurt and words can heal, as we all know.   Bullying labels from childhood can sting long into adulthood.  As a six-foot-tall teenager back in the 60s, my constant greeting from one boy was “Ho, ho, ho.  Here comes the jolly green giant.”  You can see the commercial that led to this emotionally crushing moniker at   http://yhoo.it/1KaYAHH

It took decades, literally decades, before I could accept that God did not make a mistake when He made me six feet tall.

Words can heal,  encourage, and nurture the heart

Fortunately, although I had the painful experiences common to all teens,  I also had a loving, tender father.   On the outside, and in the outside world, Daddy was a John Wayne kind of man – masculine, no-nonsense, strong and often silent.  He was the superintendent of a rock mine and in that role as a leader of men, he had to be strong.

1john wayne

But as soon as Daddy came home each night, my world was complete and my heart was at peace, just because he was there.   Daddy called me “baby doll”, a term of deepest endearment I still use with my own grown-up daughter.  And it is a strange thing – whenever I call Sharon “baby doll” I still feel Daddy’s love – and that feeling gets richer and warmer each passing year.

A father’s love – a priceless inheritance for his family

My parents both did a wonderful job raising their family.  They taught me values that have shaped my life for the good.  As a Daddy’s girl, the tender love of my father was the greatest of all possible gifts.  That love helped me accept the concept of a Heavenly Father who was loving and tender and who would take care of me and keep me safe.

This unfathomable love of God for us is described in Psalm 103, verses 11 through 14.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His [God’s] love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. [emphasis added] (New International Version)

I am grateful beyond words for an earthly Daddy who showed me what my Heavenly Father’s love is like.  And I am so very grateful I get to pass that love on to family and friends!

1montana sky

 

A Month Eating Out of My Cabinets – An Exercise in Humility

1cupof coffee

It had been such a beautiful Saturday morning!  I “awakened the dawn”, as the Psalmist David says.  For a solid hour, I sat with a cup of coffee and watched the sun rise and then dapple the trees with its rays, then shine in full brilliance.

After such a glorious start, motivation was high enough to tackle cleaning up my writing papers, a most necessary but long-delayed task.  During that dreaded process I found an unexpected bill for $100, due this month, which meant I could not do the too long delayed oil change, pay the small fee to have the ring my daughter gave me 20 years ago repaired, nor could I keep buying lots of low calorie fresh food which had FINALLY helped me take off five of the 30 pounds I needed to drop because of high blood pressure.   My happy bubble burst and I just lay down for a few minutes – to rest and to pray.

“Well, Lord, maybe now is the time to finally eat out of my cupboards until they are totally bare.  You know I am trying desperately to lose weight and losing weight with the food that I already have in the house seems impossible, but I am going to try it.  I will trust in You to either help me lose weight or else be content with staying as I am. 

Please forgive me for ungrateful for all Your generosity.  Help me fully appreciate that it is a luxury to even think about weight loss when so many are desperately trying to just stay alive.  Teach me this month, dear Lord, what You want me to learn. And thank you for reminding me of the Scripture “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” (Proverbs 24:10, New American Standard version).   Help me be strong in what is really an easy task.  And let’s have fun with it!”

To be honest, that thought about having fun with it surprised me, but then when I pray I am always surprised at the wonderful thoughts God gives.  I’m sure He laughed at that one.   Here is a record of the fun we had that month.

  • I immediately put a bag of pinto beans in water to soak.
  • I made a list of my low calorie soup ingredients, which were cheap as well as healthy and would be enough fresh food.
  • I checked everything in every kitchen cabinet and found I had more than enough to do just fine, I had:    A box of popcorn, two boxes of diet chocolate pudding, five cans of beans, four cans of vegetables, a box and a half of oatmeal, two jars of applesauce, two boxes of six-pack crackers for snacks for my grandsons, one box of chocolate poptarts (my secret super indulgence for years), five tins of smoked sardines (which I genuinely like), two packs of ground beef in the freezer,  and on and on  – you get the picture.  I had PLENTY of food in my cabinets and refrigerator.

Bottom line?  That month was just fine.  I never went hungry and even managed to stay the same weight.  And through it all I was reminded, each day, with every meal and snack that I had, that I was eating far, far better than many Americans were eating this month and countless millions across the globe.

What I initially thought was a bad thing God had, as always, turned out for my good.  I had needed a fresh reminder to be truly, sincerely grateful and to fervently pray for those struggling in true poverty.

What a kind and loving Father He is to gently nudge us toward truths we need to remember!

Trees. . . so pleasing to the human eye!

1treesPEACEFULforestSCENE

Few things are as calming to my soul as trees.  All kinds of trees, in all seasons, in all locations – they all comfort my heart and, “magically”, make me feel secure.   And I can explain why.

Pleasing to the eye

In telling us about creation, God says in Genesis chapter 2, verse 9:

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.” (New International Version). 

I have always loved the outdoors, though I’ve been a city dweller all my life.  Maybe that’s one reason I’ve always loved trees – they are a part of nature that is in cities and yet remain much as they would be in the woods.    Their branches reach outward from a trunk in the same way, their leaves sway with the wind in the same way, and they stretch their branches up toward heaven in the same way.   Trees do this whether they are in a city or in a wilderness where no one but God sees them.

The Bible tells us that God called all that He created “good”.  I believe God thinks trees are beautiful, too.  I believe that they are pleasing to His eye, just as they are to mine.  Our all-powerful Father in heaven, our Creator and the Creator of the universe, could have made earth obtain its oxygen in an invisible manner.  But He chose to cover the earth with beautiful flowers, bushes, and trees. . . majestic, glorious, upward-reaching trees.

1autumn_trres_PANORAMIC

Whether you live on a mountain with a panoramic view all around or, like me, in an urban area with one tree outside my window, I pray you will pause and let the beauty of trees bring you pleasure, as God intended.  Let them remind you to lift your heart towards heaven, just as the trees lift their branches to heaven.

“The heavens declare the glory of God. . . ” (Psalm 19:1, NIV)

Together with all of creation, let us praise and glorify and love the wonderful One who made us and gave us such a beautiful earth to call our temporary home.

1TREE_ONLYONE_LOOKING UPINTO IT

 

The Best New Year’s Resolutions – Gratitude and Trusting God

obstacle

Christian Values and Goal Setting

My personality type constantly plans and sets goals, sometimes to excess, I admit.  Below are two good links about making goals and plans.  My two main goals for 2016 are to be more grateful and to trust God more.  (Along with trusting God, of  course, goes worrying less!)  I encourage myself often by remembering that nothing is impossible with God.   As Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit to the LORD whatever you do and your plans will succeed (New International Version.)

This fist link regarding goals is entitled “Personal Goal Setting:  Planning to Live Your Life Your Way.” Although this webpage is not about setting goals as a Christ follower, you can adapt it for goals related to your life with God.   http://bit.ly/1LabpRU

The next link entitled “Five Tips for Setting Christian Goals” focuses specifically on spiritual goals.   I found it personally highly  useful and thought-provoking.  http://bit.ly/1Zw3B6P

And Have Fun Planning and Anticipating!

dog jumping obstacleIf you have ever watched the amazing things dogs do during obstacle course competition, one thing is clear:   the dogs are having a great time – doing what they are meant to do.  We, too, are made to be overcomers.  Let’s enjoy the journey!

Trusting God

Dear Father in heaven,

I ask that You would graciously guide each of us, as You promise in James 1.   As we trust You, give us wisdom in setting goals for the next year.  Help us not to get  caught up in the process or  start depending upon ourselves.  Rather, keep reminding us that You are  in charge of our lives and that You have everything in control.  All we need to do is serve you with our whole heart, and soul and mind and trust You for the results.  We love You, Jesus!”

 

Trusting God – Easier Said Than Done!

Trusting God vs. Overplanning

planning papers 2015

This last week I’ve had extra time to work on my blogs because my teacher son-in-law has been home to help with childcare.  I confess I’ve gotten myself overwhelmed by too much planning.  How can I improve my blogs, how can I EVER get comfortable with Facebook and Twitter?  How can I find more time to write and do all the peripheral work related to blogging without sacrificing these next few  precious preschool years with my grandsons? The answer?  I cannot, of course.

Family First 

All my writing is about how to “focus on your family”, which is the God-directed duty of every parent.  I can reduce my family time and try to bulldoze my way to success. Or, I can choose to trust God and keep priorities in line.  Just as He has worked every single thing in my life out for my good (Romans 8:28!!) so He will continue to do so.

It Does Take Faith!

I admit it takes faith to spend hours with the family when I still have not done so much that the expert bloggers recommend.  But I know, day by day, God and I are taking huge steps, and I am learning to “build my  author platform” so that eventually  publishers will be interested.

God NEVER Leaves Us and He NEVER  Forsakes Us – NEVER!

I can no longer stay up late and get up early to do the writing, as I did when Sharon was little.  However, over the years God has graciously shown me the effectiveness of prayer and faith and  committing all that I do to Him.  God has no favorites.  And just as He enabled George Mueller to accomplish a lifetime of miracles through prayer alone, He will help me with the writer’s life to which He has called me.  Below is a link to a description of this amazing believer’s life.  I read an entire book about him years ago.  I have always remembered, that, as this link says:

 “God answered his prayers. The needs of the orphanage were met each day. Sometimes a wealthy person would send a large amount of money, or a child would give a small amount received as a gift or for doing chores. Many times food, supplies or money came at the last minute, but God always provided without George telling anyone about his needs. He just prayed and waited on God.”

http://bit.ly/1NIky6u

By God’s unfathomable grace, may we all spend more time in prayer about our work for God!  As the hymn at the link below says – He never fails, He yet prevails!  Have faith in God. . . have faith in God!”

http://yhoo.it/1QQqjW2

 

Merry Christmas – and Happy Birthday, Jesus!

If you are like me, Christmas brings back childhood memories and, so often, Currier and Ives pictures of Christmas, like the beautiful one below.

currier and ives christmas 1

However, I am sure that no one will have a completely perfect day today, like we long for when we see such happy, wholesome scenes.

We do have reality.   Kids (and adults!) will get cranky waiting on the Christmas dinner,  brothers and sisters will fight over the new toys, someone will say something hurtful, and on and on with our all too human imperfections.   That is reality.

The far greater reality is that Christmas is about Christ, the greatest gift  that has ever or will ever be given.  Reality is that God loved the world so much that He sent His son Jesus to be our Savior and our Redeemer, to show us the way to live as God would have us live.  (That’s the famous “John 3:16” verse.)

How wonderful if we cultivate a grateful heart — in the midst of Christmas day imperfections.   We can, if we choose, focus on thanking and praising our loving Heavenly Father for loving us so!

nativity

Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank You for sending Your Son Jesus into this broken world, to show by His example how we are to live.  Help me to be a channel of Your love to everyone I see.  Help me please You with the “words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart” on this, the most beautiful day.   Happy birthday, Jesus!  I love You!

Psalm 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (New International Version, 1973)

Cardinals on My Christmas Card – A Loving Pat on the Head

My daughter sent me the most beautiful Christmas card ever this year.  She knows I have loved cardinals for many years.

cardinal card 2012 from b

Inside the card was a photo of my daughter, her husband and my two darling grandsons, 2 and 4 years old.   Just getting them all together and looking good and sitting still for 10 seconds all at the same time and all together for that photo was a true labor of love, I know.

Her personal note (which is, uh, personal) was also beautiful and the kind that delights every Mother’s heart.  How blessed I am!   But just being reminded that she notices what I like and remembers and gets and does things to make me happy is a priceless gift in itself.  Again I say, how blessed I am!

So. . . why do I adore cardinals?   For two reasons – one, they always remind me of my earthly father, Fred Farmer (yes!  I was named after him : – )    He passed away many, many years ago,  creating a hole in my heart that only God could heal.    Daddy liked cardinals and always pointed them out to me.   Anything my father liked, I liked, too of course.

The Northern Cardinal is listed as one of the 100 common birds in Tennessee, my Dad’s native state.  So I’m sure he saw many growing up, just as I did growing up in Florida.

cardinals in snow male and female

Of course, the ones Daddy saw were possibly seen in snow, like the picture above.  And snow just hardly ever happened in Central Florida!

The second reason I love cardinals is that they remind me of my Heavenly Father’s unending love and presence and tender care.   I gave my heart to Jesus in 1981, and Daddy passed away in 1986.  I think somehow in my mind, the two thoughts and all the feelings associated with cardinals and Daddy and God were woven together in my heart.

All I know is that ever since I met Jesus, when I see a cardinal, even a fleeting glimpse, I feel like God has just given me a loving pat on my head and said, though not audibly, “I love you, Freda, and I am taking care of everything.  Everything is going to be okay. ”

It never, ever fails.  I can be in the bluest of moods or frustrated or stressed or whatever other negative thought pattern we humans so easily fall into, but the sight of a  cardinal works a true miracle in my heart.

Dear Father in heaven, thank You for loving me and reminding me in so many, little ways constantly of that love.  Thank You for such a wonderful earthly Daddy.  You know Daddy was a big and strong “man’s man” but he was so tender and gentle with me.    I know his love prepared a place in my heart for Your love, Father.  Thank You, Lord, for my father and for the way cardinals remind me of both of you.  I love You, Lord!”

cardinals

 

What the World Needs Now. . . A True Fortress

autumn leavesI

I was pondering what would be appropriate to say about Christmas in general, as the days of mid December fly by.  Here in central Texas, the golden and red-hued leaves are starting to fall off the trees, all at once it seems, as the wind blows, and sometimes blasts, through the branches.

In the last post, I included a link to a video by Christy Nockels and Janna Long.  I think the best thoughts I can offer you today about Christmas are in the link below.  In it, Christy Nockels sings a beautiful rendition of the classic hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God’, which is based on Psalm 94:22.

In the middle of this stress-filled world we live in, at this time of year when so many are troubled by what they do not and cannot possess, what better thought can there be than this simple unalterable fact:   the God Who created the universe is with and tenderly watches over His children?  He truly is our fortress, no matter what comes.

Let this video help you keep your eyes and your heart on our loving Creator during times of personal unrest and distress.  And remember the comforting words of Jesus to those who have decided to follow Him:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. [emphasis added]”   (John 10:27-28, New International Version)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRQp1bUJkBE

Expectations . . . Blessing or Affliction? Part 2 of 2

The sadness I so often felt at Christmas I knew was in large part because of unrealistic expectations.  It had been that way since my childhood.  It was time to stop that habit of mind!

I now understand and deeply appreciate all that both my parents did for their three children.  They both sacrificed and gave selflessly of their time, energy, and resources so that their children could have advantages they did not.  Through just plain hard work and common sense and thrift, they raised our family’s standard of living year by year.

When I was two years old, we moved to the lovely little antebellum town I grew up in.  My parents had to really pinch pennies at first but by the time I was in elementary school (back then that was fourth through sixth grades), our family was well established and respected in our little community.

However, about that same time I began to notice differences – in cars, clothes, houses – all the trappings of wealth or lack thereof.  My family was working class, and I always wanted more and better toys then clothes, radio or whatever at Christmas than I got.

I never knew, until late in high school, that the parents of some of my classmates – the very ones who wore the “groovy” Villager skirts and penny loafers and flaunted Gucci purses and every other gadget and gizmo that was advertised – did not pay their bills.  Some of them also had other, more serious financial problems created by excessive spending.

My family was working class but our bills were always paid, we always had an abundance of good, healthy food to eat and all the clothes we needed and then some.  I learned even later that some of the small business owners in town had been forced to close their shops because the folks who appeared in the society page owed thousands to the plumber, the contractor, etc.

Once I became a parent, then a single parent, I understood the sacrifices my parents had made.  However, for all these years, even with all the writing about gratitude, this little poison of jealousy at Christmas time has been hiding in the dark corners of my heart.

Dear Father in heaven,  I can only ask for Your forgiveness.  Forgive me for this sin of coveting, or desiring, what other people have.  Forgive me of being ungrateful – after You have been so very gracious and faithful each day of my life to provide so generously for my every need and those of my family.  Thank You, for shining the light of truth into my heart and freeing me from the bondage of jealousy. During this season, when we celebrate the greatest gift ever given – Jesus, Your very own Son, help me keep my mind on You.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalms 19:14, New International Version)

Below is a link to a video by Christy Nockels and Janna Long  that embedded this attitude even deeper in my heart.  May it do the same for you!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKfhlHoemPI

 

 

Expectations . . . Blessing or Affliction? Part 1 of 2

christmas wreath and star 2015

I looked at the glittering star and wreath my four-year-old grandson Ben had delightedly helped me hang on the wall.  I felt a twinge of sadness and knew I had to get to the root of it.  Ben and I had had a delightful time decorating a few days ago.  Why was remembering it now making me sad?

My first thought was that all the decorations were from the Dollar Store.   Such a contrast with the pricey items lining the aisles in every store!  Next, I realized I had subconsciously envisioned covering every available surface of my tiny apartment with glittering tinsel and garland and bells and wreaths.   Ben and I had made two trips to the Dollar Store and had quickly spent the ten dollars I had allocated, which was all my budget allowed.   However, the ten decorations looked few and far between to my adult eye.

Then, thankfully, common sense and a grateful attitude prevailed.   Ben could not yet perceive the difference between our decorations and those in the mall windows.

Not only that, for a solid hour last Tuesday, Ben had been in charge of the decorating project, which satisfied his emerging leadership qualities..  As we opened the packaging, we discussed the best placement for the wreath, the star, the bell door knocker, the huge red bow, the two soldiers, the two red skates and the  “candy sticks”, to which we tied the jingle bells.  But Ben made the decisions, with confidence and big smiles each time.

As I had done with his Mom, I had taken the little I had and make it seem much to his innocent eyes.  As we celebrated our decorating with some shared crackers, Ben’s eyes sparkled as he looked around.  He said things like, “I really like the shiney star, Nana” and  “I have a soldier and stocking and Allen has a soldier and a stocking.  Thank you, Nana.”

If you look at the picture again, you will see the star hangs next to the plague that says “Enjoy the little things in life. . . for one day you will realize that they were the BIG THINGS.”  Truth was literally, written on the wall.

I had to face the fact that I had had unrealistic – and materialistic – expectations.   Aye, there was the rub!  And, I reflected, it had been a problem ever since childhood.   How had I let it go on this long?  And how much joy had been stolen each year?  I knew I had more mental cleaning house to do.