Dancing Shoes of Hope

December 2, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Janet Perez Eckles –

My friend came to the door to pick me up. ‘”Ready for our trip?” she said.

I looped my purse over my shoulder. “Sure am.”

“What’s with the high heels?” she said.

I wrinkled my nose. “Why not?”

“Because we’ll be doing a lot of walking in those airports. You need comfortable shoes.” She stomped her feet. “Like these tennis shoes.”

I chuckled. Few friends understand the Latina thinking—that heels make us, well, more feminine. I know it’s silly. Ridiculous really. But a desire to wear high heels is one of many quirks to which we cling.

And with no shame, we cling to silly traditions and human principles that often don’t make sense. But they’re part of us like our innate urge to sway to the rhythmic Salsa.

But deeper than that, beyond nationalities or whatever stage of life, some of us hang on to other stuff. We grip issues which are more risky and perhaps more destructive.

Unaware, we do it, we hold on to past hurts. Cling to unhealthy relationships. Stew over resentment for what we’ve lost. Hang on to anger for what went wrong. And even clutch bitterness because of broken dreams.

Have you been there? I have. It’s ugly and sad. Trying to look back at the days when I had sight could make me nauseous with nostalgia. Longing to go back. Itching to have what I did then.

With armfuls of what was in the past, we gaze at the rearview mirror of life. And, gracious, we drive right past the gate—the wide gate God holds open ushering us into a new chapter of life. The gate to the place holding vibrant possibilities, treasures to be found, and better opportunities to savor.

I learned the secret—with the eyes of my heart. Look ahead at each day as a resilient, promising, new beginning.

Time to do some spring cleaning. It’s time to let go. Broken dreams don’t have to take away our expectations. Unfulfilled plans don’t have to control our thoughts. And scars don’t have to mark our future.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come”
(2 Corinthians 5:17).

He gave us freedom and permission to look ahead. So kick off those high heels that keep you walking in yesterday’s pain. With each new dawning, our steps ahead depend on the Lord and in Him alone. That’s when life begins. A new creation is in the making. And with new dancing shoes of hope, we can salsa into tomorrow.

My Star of Reassurance

May 6, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Janet Perez Eckles –

Like fog in the morning, the spirit of Christmas was gone that year. Still, I shuffled in the garage. One by one, I pulled the bins off the shelves I’d stored the previous Christmas. While the aroma of sugar cookies wafted through the air and “Silent Night” played in the background, I began decorating.

The task was challenging because all I had left of eyesight was the ability to see lights. With the Nativity scene at the center, I placed the items which I had memorized through the years–red and green candles, musical boxes with winter scenes, and bright red poinsettias with green garland. Next, I lifted three stockings from a box, and hung them on marked places above the fireplace. Each was embroidered with our sons’ names. I ran my fingers over the letters. One read Jason, the other, Jeff, and the least number of letters spelled Joe.

Once Jason’s and Jeff’s were hung, with tears burning my eyes, I clutched Joe’s against my chest. The empty stocking seared my heart. It had been five years since the Lord called Joe home. Five years that Joe’s absence had left an emptiness we could almost touch. And five years that God’s grace wiped away portions of the grief that ached in our broken hearts.

But the healing came like the warm steam from mint tea—soft and sweet. It came in a memory: Years ago, when our three sons, including Joe, were still young, I rushed around, worked and got crabby, trying to make everything just so. As a result, little things tended to make me crazy.

One night, while everyone was in bed, I stayed up with important stuff-trying to fix a light strand that refused to shine. One burned-out bulb was the culprit. Annoyed at the glitch, I fussed. I rearranged, and then plugged and unplugged until I was so frustrated, I plopped on the couch. I looked up and glanced at the star atop the tree, shining, glowing, lighting the room.

I sighed with slight shame. I’d done the same with light bulbs that burned in my life—from broken relationships, disappointments, setbacks, failed plans and even deep heartache. But in all that mess, I missed the one who lights the way through the darkest moments. Trying to fix the strands of my life’s issues, I missed the star—Christ the Lord, who gave significance to my life and joy for my days. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16).

When that void in our heart aches to be filled, it’s The Star of comfort that makes it whole. When bitter sorrow robs the spirit of Christmas, it’s The Star of love that whispers joy. When a health diagnosis shakes our world, it’s The Star of reassurance that shines the certainty of new tomorrows. It’s the same star that never loses the brilliance of hope, one we can only embrace when all strands of life burn out.

I embraced it as I, with eyes focused on The Star, hung Joe’s stocking along with his brothers’. It’s not empty anymore—but filled with sweet memories—his wit and laughter, his hugs and kisses. The Star changed all that. Jesus, the “Morning Star” dispels our darkness, dries our tears, and repairs strands we cannot fix.

What Might Soothe Their Wounds

January 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Janet Perez Eckles –

Some months ago after a visit to my doctor, I stopped by the receptionist counter. “Is this all I need?” She placed papers in my hand, “Sure is, have a great day.” Her tone rang with tenderness.

“Thank you,” I said, leaning toward the desk. “Stay as sweet as you are.”

After a few moments, she said, “That is the nicest thing I heard in a long time.” Her voice choked.

I’d not said anything profound or particularly complimentary. But I was touched, really touched but also intensely enlightened.

How could a few words evoke such reactions in others? How can our tone accompanying our words stir a response of gratitude, or even a reaction of admiration and gladness?

Words hold power, often greater than swords in our hands. Those words that slip from our tongue, those letters that we string together in emails, those responses to telemarketers or drivers on the road, even to those we love  either plant a sweet scent of encouragement or drip dark gloom into someone’s day.

A friend of mine begins her emails with: Hello dear sweet Janet.” A warm wave of delight caresses my heart when reading her greeting. And in turn, prompts me to ripple that same feeling to someone else.

Conversely, confessing my faults, I’ve had moments when the words I poured out spurred ugly regret. Words to friends, hubby and even my children. And while turning the pages of the album of my heart, I wonder what words ring in my sons’ ears, or echo still?

Not long ago, I asked them. “Hey guys, do you remember the notes I used to Scotch tape to your pillows?”

“Got every one of them. I saved them mom,” my oldest son said.

“I remember the notes that you’d put in our lunch boxes,” chimed my twenty-five year old.”

They remember, I thought with delight. Like a soft Fall breeze, gladness swept over me. They may have forgotten moments when I blurted instructions, quick demands, and harsh scoldings. But something prompted me to spend those few seconds jotting simple words on a piece of paper and stuff them in their lunch boxes. Perhaps it was an attempt to fill the role of a good mom, or to make-up for my feelings of inadequacies, insecurities.

Or just a tug at my heart, wanting them to know they were loved, really loved.

As they got older, longer notes that expanded on life’s insights, admonishments and praises for their achievements waited for them on their pillows.

Words whether written or said, can transform and turn wounds to healing, dark moments into hope, defeat into victory and even despair into joy. Struggles and fears abound, they did for my sons. And also swirl in the lives of those we touch. The words we sprinkle might just be the balm that soothes their broken world.

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:1).

Five Ways to Find Security

June 4, 2019 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Janet Perez Eckles –

I frowned. “SCUBA diving?”

“C’mon, it’ll be lots of fun,” our friend said.

“Crazy idea,” I said, “especially for a blind person.”

But our friend, a certified diver, gave details of the depth of the ocean. The gear used, training involved and the levels of oxygen needed.

“Too much stuff!” I said. “I’d rather relax in the sun, listening to a book on CD.”

Later, I reflected on the incredible depth of the ocean. But even its deep waters have their limit.

What a contrast to the depth of God’s love that has no limit. And with no end, we can navigate with only the desire of our hearts.

But the problem is that as we swim in the hectic and hurried style of life, we forget. Dealing with my blindness, I myself sometimes forget the dimension of His love. The profound compassion and His unending faithfulness toward those of us who splash in the waters of adversity.

And while on that journey, here are some questions to check our level of security:

  • If we truly understood how deep His love is for us, would we fear anything?
  • If we knew the profound level of His faithfulness, would we fret over details?
  • If we had a true understanding of His mercy, would we still feel condemned when we’ve sinned?
  • If our minds could comprehend His power to sustain us, would we tremble at the unknown?
  • And if we understood who we are In Christ, would we succumb to self-pity?

When we’re in the sea that roars with heartache, or face the waves of burdens that keep coming, let’s plunge into His Word and ponder on the beauty of the journey, breathing in the freshness of His grace.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (Psalm 46:1-3).

Father, thank you for allowing me to navigate not in the darkness of pain, but in the light and freshness of your promises. Help me to remember to wear the equipment of trust for my soul, and the tank of faith for my heart as I set off in the journey. In Jesus name.

Anxious About the Dash

February 18, 2019 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Janet Perez Eckles –    

I squirmed in my seat when a speaker said, “When you walk through any cemetery, you see three things on each tombstone: the birth date, a dash and the date of death. Out of the three, the most meaningful is the dash, for it represents your life.” After a pause, he asked “What are your dashes filled with?”

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