May 21, 2022 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

You do not like your job. He does not like his car. She does not like her yard. I really dislike my kitchen. Add the small things. Scuffed shoes, gray hair peeking out at the root, a belly where there once was toned muscle. Look in the mirror. Wrinkles, receding gums, loose skin. The discontentment builds. Pause to take inventory of what goals have been met, and the tally falls short. But the years are clipping along, sailing faster than it takes to get your life preserver on.

Maybe it is turning forty. Maybe it is having teenagers and remembering when my parents were forty. Mid-life crisis jokes are something we grow up with. We might smirk at the fifty-year-old who has decided to grow a ponytail, get an earring, and buy the Mustang he always wanted.

The only sense I can make of this bittersweet pilgrimage is in scripture. I turn to Psalm 84. “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (KJV, Psalm 84:11).

I keep reading.

“O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee” (KJV, Psalm 84:12).

“Define good,” I say to myself.

I meditate on the passage longer. Mentally I have re-worked it to read “no comfortable thing” rather than “no good thing.”

Costs are up. I weave a plan to compensate. I ask God to bless it. The plan unravels. I go back to the drawing board and ask God to look over the plan with me. I do not get a definitive answer. It comes out like this “it is good to wait for the Lord.” And for some reason this makes me cranky, from my gray roots to my chipping pink polished toes.

I start to analyze the situation. I narrow the problem down to my righteousness. Maybe I do not qualify for good things. Perhaps I have not walked uprightly enough. I start thinking about volunteer opportunities and supporting an orphan. And then in the quiet of my plotting a new more righteous course, I am softly reminded that my works will never qualify me for anything good. Verses packed with the truth flow from my lips as I remind myself that Christ is my righteousness. He came to save the lost because we could not save ourselves.

I ask my husband to walk with me. His quiet strength modeling meekness. God provides. Whether it is provisions or righteousness, He always provides.

And almost to punctuate this learning experience, the vise tightens. Expenses grow, the river floods, fishing trips cancel. My fisherman by trade glances at the rivers view from our back deck gauging the flows. I stand next to him, placing my shaky hand in his. He kisses me “trust God.” The river is swollen and muddy, and like all creation, in God’s hand.

I go back to Psalm 84 and think on verse twelve. “Blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.”

And while I am still uncomfortable, I know the truth. Trusting God means waiting on Him to use what looks bad, or scary, or hazy for my good. It means finding my safe spot in Him not in what I have stored up or can manufacture. It is choosing to believe God is love, when Satan tempts me, as he did Eve, to question His goodness toward me.

I choose to believe He does not withhold any good thing from His own.

Next Breath

May 14, 2022 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Makenzie Allen –

I listened on the phone as my dad’s voice gave away his excitement. “Makenzie, there is a baby raccoon down here. I need you to come get him.” Bounding down the stairs, I shoot out the driveway, kennel in hand, and hurry down the road to where my dad waited for me. I scanned my surroundings until my eyes landed on a baby raccoon pacing in my dad’s boat. As I walked home with the raccoon in a kennel, quietness enveloped me. And in the quiet, I prayed God would keep this baby alive.

The days passed slowly as I cared for Jasper the raccoon. Something had happened to his mom and he had been left alone. I did everything from giving him a bath to feeding him with a baby’s bottle. Cradling Jasper in a blanket as he held on tightly to the bottle with his perfect little paws, I resolved to restore his health. Only one problem stormed away my resolution. I didn’t control the times.

Comprehending why things happen when they do has been challenging for me. Why is God okay with people dying if He is good? If He really cared wouldn’t, He stop this from happening? Questions of this nature tend to scatter throughout my thoughts and words. Questions, when God is saying, “My child, why do you doubt Me?”

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 KJV).

I cannot pretend to know all the answers, but God in heaven does. He alone controls the times, and that indeed brings me comfort because I know He has my best in mind. Rather than questioning the Lord, I should be questioning my own trust.

“My times are in Thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me” (Psalm 31:15 KJV).

Not many attributes are more fulfilling than trust. Love always trusts and so, in order to love the Lord, I must first trust Him. People of old were commended for their brimming faith, as it says in Hebrews 11. Looking at past relationships between God and man, one can’t help but see the promise lying just underneath the surface. Bubbling and bursting forth, radiating out of men’s faces in smiles, in eyes, in actions. Daniel, Esther, Noah, Mary, all from different backgrounds but sharing common ground, they trusted in the Lord with all their heart.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5 KJV).

Jasper filled his lungs with the gift of God’s grace for the last time. In the same way, each breath I take is a gift and all I can do is trust God to give me the next.

Time Out

May 9, 2022 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

My daughter just called me Satan.

Not in so many words, but the “Get thee behind me, Satan” sentiment came through loud and clear. And too late. Off in Abilene, she is doing a great job of making lifestyle changes, shedding close to twenty pounds. She called and asked for her Easter basket to be healthy instead of the normal overflow of chocolate. Yes, we unashamedly still do baskets and probably will until we have a new generation to take over the children’s roles.

I complied, but with company in the house for the holidays, I filled the three candy dishes scattered throughout our living room. As strong as she has become, that inconsideration did not do her in. However, eight other adults scooping out Cherry Sours by the handful and heaping seconds of chips and salsa onto our plates brought her down with a crash.

She lay face down across my bed and moaned about my bad influence. After I laughed, I apologized. So much for being a supportive mom. Thoughtlessness and my own gluttony undermined us both.

A glimmer of proper parenting broke through, though, when I reminded her that all was not lost, or regained, and we could start fresh the next morning—Easter morning, perfect day for renewal.

Perhaps, this provision, at least in part, inspired God’s creation of time. As an eternal being, He exists beyond seconds, days, years, millennia. But all of these units bestow opportunities for His children to start over, with His grace removing the errors of the past. With each day and awakening, the world rouses to the prospect of new beginnings and do-overs. Each season, each year, each decade, nature reflects these chances. With technology, we’ve even broken down our days into innumerable measurable moments that provide starting points for restitution, rejuvenation, and restoration.

Sometimes our needs require us to move in both the space and time continuum, to use science-fiction lingo.

When I was a sophomore in high school, poring over the signatures in my new yearbook, I found the inscription, “To the girl I cheated off of in chemistry…”

What? I never gave that guy permission to copy my paper. Unfortunately, he probably knew that I had allowed others that privilege. I was too chicken to stand up for what I knew was right and didn’t want to be labeled even more of a goody-goody than I already was. A precedent had been established. A slippery slope breeched. I didn’t know how to halt the slide.

Until we moved.

Torn away from my home and friends by one more military decision in my father’s Marine Corps career, I found a silver lining in this opportunity for a clean slate. I could re-establish my integrity.

Not every weakness demands a move of a thousand miles, but some do. Thank God for the feet, yards, miles and the minutes, hours, and years He puts between us and our sins.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12 NIV).

Comment prompt: How will you take advantage of God’s do-overs? When?

Cutting the Unbiblical Cord

By Diane Mayfield –

I never dreamed giving our daughter away in marriage would be so difficult for me emotionally. It has been. I’ve struggled with this reality for almost two years. The gap between my intellect and my emotions on this leg of life’s journey has been expansive.

My daughter is an intelligent, spunky, outgoing, lovely young woman who married a great guy that we all enjoy and love. They are creating their own life together as husband and wife. Hooray! This was always our dream for her, part of our equipping her for God’s plan. I rejoice in this and praise God for what He’s done in allowing my husband and me parent this delightful young woman.

So, what’s the problem?

The problem is that my heart isn’t where my mind is. After thirty years of being a big priority in this woman’s life, I am second fiddle and it hurts. I know, I know. This is what I parented her for. I’m trying, but until today, my efforts were not succeeding. I’m weary of the battle. I’ve struggled with feelings of betrayal, loneliness, rejection, disappointment and anger. I misinterpret many things because I’m reading them through eyes that are blinded in so many ways.

A few weekends ago, I was hurt once again. I was horribly hurt and tired of it. I made assumptions and started telling myself untruths. I created quite a story inside my head, leaving my stomach in one big knot. The chatter in my head went something like this. “Well, I failed. I attempted to build in family values but they are not there. I don’t matter. I’m nothing.” The assumptions and lies went on and on until I was sliding into a deep hole of darkness. After venting to God and my husband, maybe not in that order, I moved on with the day.

Then I saw a cord-like image in my mind floating in the air. It was an umbilical cord. An umbilical cord provides support and sustenance between the mother and the baby until the baby can sustain life on its own. What I had created in my imagination was an “unbiblical cord” between my daughter and me. It was time for surgery.

I surrendered that day to God, the Master Surgeon. He cut away the emotional “unbiblical cord” that I wanted to maintain. I might have moments when I try to reattach it out of my fear and loneliness but I am certain the Holy Spirit will remind me of the surgery performed this day. The only umbilical cord I need now is the biblical one. It’s the one that connects me to God through Jesus.

Then came new vision. While rocking my six-month-old grandson, God opened my eyes to the woman my daughter had become. In my mind’s eye I saw my darling daughter delighting in her nephew as she played with him. She bent down to soothe his tears when he cried. No longer did I see my daughter, but a young woman, truly separate from me. In that dark room, rocking that precious child, light came to my blinded eyes.

With the “unbiblical cord” gone, I can now enjoy a different connection with a beautiful young woman who just happens to be my daughter. A different bond is forged between two separate children of God.

I hesitated to share this story with you. I do so because I suspect someone else might be going through the same thing but feeling too embarrassed to admit it. I never dreamed I would find the reverse “leaving and cleaving” so hard. One of you might be in that place too. If so, my hope for you is through the gentle work of the Master surgeon and healer you too will have the “unbiblical cord” cut. Then you and your family member or friend can start a new journey, separate, but joined together in a new relationship.

Comforted by Snowflakes

April 26, 2022 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Makenzie Allen –

Snowflakes fall and I wonder if there is a pattern only God can see. Up in heaven, does He scatter them just so? Or does He toss them into the wind and let them spiral any way the invisible pull takes them?

I just finished reading the book of Job. One of my favorite parts is when God demonstrates His power by asking Job a series of questions.

“He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth’. Have you entered the storehouses of the snow? Stop and consider God’s wonders. Do you know how the clouds hang poised? Where were you when I laid the earths foundations?” (Job 37: 6, 14, 16 and 38:4, 22).

And just as I am humbled daily by God’s wonders, Job was humbled as well. The thought that God measures out the waters and tells the winds where to blow, well, it is humbling. What a powerful God we serve.

Job asked God many questions about his struggles. “Why is this happening to me? I have honored you in all my ways. Where are you Lord?”

Job did not get a response from God for quite some time. He felt utterly alone and broken. No earthly possessions were left for him, and his spiritual life took a beating too. Tattered rags and dirt clung to him as he wept for the loss of loved ones, for the long days spent apart from God. Yet in all that time, Job never tossed his faith to the wind. His hands might have torn at his clothes in mourning, but his heart never tore God from His rightful place there.

After many long nights spent without sleep, Job heard from God. Happiness was a key component to that meeting I’m sure. God told Job of the many wonders He had made, of how He alone controls the seasons and the great beasts of the earth. God has it under control. Waves roll, thunder ignites, but God is ultimately in control.

Up on His throne, God can see the big picture. No puzzle piece looks smooth and whole on its own. But God uses every one of those pieces in our lives, making for a pretty stunning picture in the end. God has our jigsaw puzzle lives figured out. Little by little, He is putting that puzzle together, you and I just get to marvel at how it comes out.

As the snowflakes melt on the tip of my nose, I look up to the sky. If God has storehouses for the snowflakes, and plans for these frozen water droplets whom last all but two seconds, surely He has a plan for you and I.

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