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My First Blog Post

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

This is the first post on my new blog. I am a Christian wife, mom to three adult children and a grandmother to seven biological grandchildren, nine step-grandchildren, and four step-great grandchildren. I have a background in dancing, singing, and acting but am, presently in church choir and participate in Single Action Cowboy Shooting. My writings are all based on my experiences with a Christian viewpoint.

When Mom Disowned Me

I drove away from my parents home with a frozen heart, my mother’s words still ringing in my mind. You are no longer my daughter and you are not welcome, here, any longer. I was shocked, numb. Yet, like flint, my mind was set to leave my husband for another man, who I believed I could not live without. My husband was a good man. He was a hard worker, affectionate, and loved our children. His flaw was that he drank. He was never cross or abusive, just affected. My father always drank, too, and…so did my new lover.

My mother and I, previously, had a close relationship. We confided in each other, even when it wasn’t appropriate. I loved talking to her at the kitchen table, while we drank coffee, and my mom smoked a cigarette. I came home from college, on weekends, just to be with her. My father, being in the Air Force and a drinker, was often absent. Weekends were lonely for my mother and, since I had few friends, I was only too happy to keep her company. My mother wept on my wedding day, saying how much she would miss me. I was only moving to the next town but, to my mother, it may as well have been China. After I had children, I appreciated my mother so much more. I understood the sacrifices she had made for me because of the deep love I had for my own children. I would call my mom, often, just to talk. I valued her advice and listened to her suggestions. I loved the closeness we had and the comfort she gave me.

Looking back, I can hardly believe I made such a horrible mistake. It cost me my marriage, my home, my relationship to my parents, and ruined my children’s happy home. It also caused my boyfriend problems in future relationships. Months later, my mother called me on the phone, several times. She was terminally ill and was desperately trying to “save me” before she left this earth. Putting up my defenses, like a brick wall, I would say, “If you are calling me to leave____, I will not talk to you.” I was determined make this new relationship work, even though it was the perfect example of co-dependency, similar to my mother’s emotional dependency on me.

A week or so before my mother passed, she called and begged me not to hang up but to please come visit her. She promised she wouldn’t try to talk me into anything, but that she needed to see me. I came. Mom was weak, thin, and was having difficulty breathing. She had terrible difficulty walking down our small hall to the bathroom. I offered to help, but she refused. When mom was settled back in, I sat on the edge of the bed while she spoke from her heart. I don’t remember her exact words, but she apologized for trying to force me to stay with my husband. However, when I told her I had considered going back to him, Mom, immediately, pleaded for me to do so. Cutting her off, I said, “I don’t think I can.” We both sat there…. silent.

We said our “goodbyes”, me not knowing this would be the last time I would talk to my mother. I tried visiting her, at the hospital, but her roommate insisted that I turn around and leave. I believe Mom did not want me to see her suffer. In later years, my father also told me to go home, when he was critically ill. Wish I hadn’t listened.

I was teaching, when the hospital called to tell me my mother was dying. I remember not wanting to go, telling the nurse the school would need to find a sub for me. Hearing this, the secretary said, angrily, “Go see your mother!” So I left. When I arrived, my father was standing, on the right side of mom’s bed. My cousin, Jane, sat, holding mom’s hand, on the left. My aunt was at the foot of the bed. “How long have you and Ann been married, Jim?” she asked. “Almost 40 years. It doesn’t seem like that long, now,” Dad replied, his eyes filling with tears. We talked softly about mom’s labored breathing. The nurses had been giving her Lasix, a medicine used to drain excess fluid around the heart, but it had stopped being effective. When I mentioned that maybe they could give her more, we asked the nurse about it, who did what we asked. It was a relief to see my mom’s breathing slow down, but the priest, that had now joined us, told us mom was in the final stages. My dad, my aunt, and I all tried to hold Mom’s hand but she just dropped them. She did hold Jane’s hand, which reinforced the idea that my mother truly had abandoned me. In my absence, Jane had been present for my mother, so it made sense that mom would be comforted by her. Still, it hurt.

As my mother breathed her last, my aunt cried and my father choked back tears. I felt numb. I left the room and, walking down the hall, I said, ” It is hard to see my dad cry.” Jane replied, “You are the one who needs to cry. Don’t be afraid to cry!” That weekend, I went through the motions of caring for my three young children. I remember laying on one of the beds in my daughters’ bedroom, while they played, staring at the wall and crying silent tears.

As time passed, I forgave my mom for the emotional injuries she inflicted on me (like giving the china I had picked out, as a child, to a young woman she loved) and for abandoning me. I forgave her for pushing me to marry (she probably knew her life was shortened and wanted to see me walk down the aisle). And when I learned about my adoption after both parents had died, I understood why my mom, secretly, hoped I would become pregnant before marriage, so she could have another baby in her life.

In spite of the mistakes my mother made, it cannot compare to the injury I caused her or to my family. After attending a Celebrate Recovery group, I prayed to Jesus for forgiveness of how I had hurt her and how sorry I was for not being with her during her final months. I prayed for forgiveness for my infidelity and sought healing from them, which I have received. 1 John 9 tells us: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our unrighteousness. NIV. And as I asked forgiveness from my sins, I needed to forgive my mother for hurting me. Jesus says in Matthew 6:14-15: For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. I have not been able to do this, all at once, but little by little, over time.

There are times I reminisce Mom’s wonderful cooking, our shopping trips, our intimate phone calls, and her love for her grandchildren. I appreciate the sacrifices she made so I could take ballet lessons and so she could buy my cotillion and prom dresses. I remember the delicious salads she prepared for me on my lunch breaks from lifeguarding, in the summer. I remember how she loved hearing me sing and watching me dance.

There is no anger but there is sadness. I feel guilty when I see tributes to mothers on Mother’s Day. I feel sad that she suffered and died at 59 years of age. Although forgiven, I regret abandoning her, in her last year.

The one thing that sustained me was Jesus and his unfailing love for me. I am ashamed to say that I was a born again Christian when I had the affair. I truly believed in Jesus and thought I was committed to him, but I was not obedient. By his grace, he stayed with me, protected me, and gave me another chance. “It is the Lord who goes before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV . However, there were consequences for my actions and repentance was needed before God could forgive me. I am so thankful for God’s love and mercy for me and truly want to live a life in honor of him. I often fail but he always forgives and lets me start, again. He can do the same for you. All you have to do is ask. “Repent, then, and turn to God , so that your sins will be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. ” Acts 3:19 NIV.

A Painted Sky

It was almost noon, on route 303, in Arizona. On both sides of the road, I see ordinary brown desert with the scattered small, wispy, green and yellow shrubs and erect cactus. What breaks this mundane scene is the explosion of giant, puffy white clouds, close to the horizon, making a circular dome around the earth. The sky is a lovely shade of soft blue and the mountains, in the distance, are painted in pastels of lavender and navy. The only flaw in this glorious scene is a large, dark cloud, hanging like a canopy, above me. Uh-oh, sprinkles of rain threaten to erase my visage! But, no, they disappear as quickly as they came. Isn’t that just like Arizona? How I wish I could take a picture! But, having no time or camera to capture the masterpiece before me, I surrender to soaking up the loveliness before me, etching the portrait into my memory,

Hope

What does it mean to hope? Is it a wish? A desire?

This season is called a season of Hope. Why?

People have been putting up their Christmas decorations, sooner than usual. I believe that is because Covid-19 has caused depression and the decorations have added cheer. As lovely as the sparkle of the season is; tinsel, trees, and presents do not fill a sad heart. What do we really hope for? Is it to win the lottery? Get married? Attain that dream job? Or is it a peace that carries us through each day, giving us security and happiness?

In this pandemic, we can place our hope in a living God who cares for us, deeply. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NLT. Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a manger. Luke 2:7. This baby wasn’t just any baby, but God in the flesh. John 1:14. During his ministry on earth, Jesus showed his love by healing many people of sickness and disease but, mostly, by dying on a cross, in our place, for our sins. Romans 5: 6-21.

No human is capable of being perfect. We all sin and need forgiveness. When we recognize that Jesus in the Son of God and ask him to forgive our sins, he is faithful to do so. We receive the Holy Spirit and he starts to change us, a little every day, as we submit to God’s will. God promises that he will never leave us or abandon us and tells us he has plans for our future. Jeremiah 29:11.

We have a choice: to seek him or go our own way. The lights on the tree and the candles in the window are all symbolic of God’s light and love. Jesus is this light and he, alone, can give us joy and peace that is beyond human understanding. I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. John 8:12.( ESV) And the peace of God which transcends all understanding , will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. Philippians 4:7 (NIV).

Our hope truly rests in the confidence we have in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. He has promised internal peace and the hope of a fulfilling future to those who believe in him. John 14:27, Jeremiah 29:11. Jesus tells us, in his Word, that there will always be trouble in this life, but that he has overcome the world, meaning that in the end, death and destruction will be eradicated, forever. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NIV.

Do you have this hope that Jesus gives? If you want Jesus to be your Savior, say this prayer: Father, God, I believe that Jesus Christ is your Son and that he died for my sins. I am sorry for my sins and and ask you to forgive me and that Jesus be my Lord and Savior. May your Holy Spirit help me to love and obey you, for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name, I pray.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you my know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people. Ephesians 1:18

A Place Called Home

Like many elderly folk, I live in one state, Arizona, for most of the year and in another state, Massachusetts,in the summer. But for me, New England will always be my home. The changing seasons and my family are where my heart is. For several months, in the summer, at a small campground, I am surrounded by green pine trees and enveloped in humid days. Coming from dry Arizona, my skin drinks in the moisture from the air, even though the humidity can make life a bit miserable for a few weeks, in July. A few times, we have stayed until October and were able to see sunny yellow, bursting orange and crimson red leaves, slowly emerge. How I would have loved to have stayed a bit longer to go apple picking, during crisp and sunny afternoons. And the snow….the fluffy, white flakes of that first snowfall, leading to the massive storms that blanket the earth in frozen crystals. Yeah, I miss it all.

Our main reason for coming “home” is to be with family. Our adult children, extend from New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts to Kentucky. We pull our heavy, residential RV, yearly, just to spend precious time with each family. Picnics, at the campground, visits to Stanley Park with it’s serene pond and gorgeous gardens, as well trips to the animal farms and ice cream stands, make up our summer in MA visits. Spending time in Vermont and New Hampshire offer calmer times with my stepkids, older grandkids and my aging, yet still alert, mother-in-law. Kentucky is our newest adventure, having met a daughter my husband didn’t know he had! Trying to make up for lost time, we took the family to the movies, shopping, and out to dinner. We also bought a few gifts for them, before we said goodbye.

As I was reminiscing about “home” the other day, the Lord whispered, “But Heaven is your true home.” Startled, I suddenly realized how much my happiness depends on my relationship with my children and grandchildren and on our next trip back to New England. The Holy Spirit reminded me that God is supposed to be my first love, the one who loves me unconditionally. I can’t expect my family to fullfil all my emotional needs. Only my Savior, Jesus Christ, can do that. When I spend quiet moments with him, his Holy Spirit comforts, teaches, and leads me through the power of his Holy Word.

When I am missing “home”, I may actually be longing for Jesus and my heavenly home. Not that missing people I love is wrong! On the contrary, God commands that we love and care for our families. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8. It’s just that other people cannot fill that emptiness that makes us yearn for something more. In her book, A Sudden Glory, Sharon Janes describes this as “a ‘glory ache’-a longing to experience God’s presence on a daily basis.” Do you experience this “glory ache”? It can be filled when Christ is the center of your life. If you ask him into your heart, he will reside in you, forgiving your sins and giving you everlasting life, in Heaven, and purposeful life, here, on earth. Jesus said, I have come so that they have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10 ESV

So then, have I stopped missing my family? No. I wish I could see them, more often. I appreciate how we have been able to travel back to Massachusetts, every summer. But… I miss all the major holidays with them, most all the birthdays and significant other days, such as school concerts and dance recitals. It hurts and there is guilt that I cannot be there. Why do I stay, then? I am here because of my husband’s health and because he loves it here. We both enjoy the Big Blue Sky, towering green cactus, mild, sunny winter days, and year round blossoming bushes. But as beautiful as these may be, they will never compare to the riot of color, in autumn, the fluffy white flakes of the first Nor’easter, the green grass of the summer, or the tree blossoms in Spring. A part of me will always love New England even though I can enjoy myself here in Sun City West, Arizona.

In the meantime, Jesus prepares a wonderful eternal home for me where I will live with him, forever, never to feel emptiness, again. Our citizenship is in Heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord, Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20 NIV For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Hebrews 13: 14.

Courage

Courage is such a strong word for a personal quality that is often misunderstood for bravery. I do not consider myself to be a courageous woman. I hate heights, scary movies, skiing, deep sea diving and any adventurous sport where I might be injured or get eaten by a shark. I also hate conflict and will avoid it, unless I explode with my own pent-up anger (which doesn’t happen, too often). There is a book, “Do It Scared,” by Ruth Soukup that explains that everyone has fears but when fear keeps you from achieving your goals and/or your dreams, it is detrimental to your growth, as an individual.

Sometimes, I know I need to commit to, or accomplish, a task but feel vulnerable, hesitant, or downright scared to do it. I might not know the steps involved, such as working technical aspects of my blog. But other times, I may be hesitant for fear about the outcome, or the possibility of increased responsibility. Someone I worked with, years ago, told me my whole life was ruled by fear. I was shocked and didn’t know what to say, but he was right. Then. Since then, I have ventured out into the world of blogging, have learned to drive our large, white, dooley truck, and plan on driving our new class C we hope to buy, next year. I agreed 6 years ago to move to Arizona, leaving my grown children and their families behind. Since then, we have lived in an RV, full time, for 4 years and bought a house in Sun City West, two years ago. Our major motivation, besides warmer weather, was to participate in the sport of single action cowboy shooting, which we had started in New England, over 10 years ago. Leaving my family, that I dearly loved was very difficult for me; heartbreaking. But it has given me opportunities I wouldn’t have had, otherwise. I did it, scared.

My newest challenge is writing. I have difficulty being consistent with it. This blog that is meant to encourage others causes my stomach to churn, and my head to ache when I can’t deliver my story, “on time”. I want to tell others how God helps me, comforts me, changes me, and how he can help them, also. Sometimes, I have the perfect story, burning on my heart, that I can hardly wait to share. Other times, I am in writer’s limbo waiting for lightening to strike my smoking brain. And many times, I am scared; scared of failure, scared I am wasting my time, scared that maybe God doesn’t want me doing this, after all. But then, I see an email or post where someone expresses the same fears and lies of the enemy, telling us we are not good enough. And that, along with Scripture, encourages me to keep going; to persevere.

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV.

And my favorite verse, in all scary situations: ” Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 NIV.

So, I must trust Christ to meet my needs, comfort my heart, forgive my sins, and to keep me on the path he has set for me. He can do the same for you. All you have to do is ask.

Father, thank you for giving me new life through the blood of your precious son, Jesus Christ. I believe you have saved me and given me gifts to use for your glory. Please help me to use my gifts effectively, not giving in to apathy, fear, or disobedience. I want to feel successful, Lord, but not if it is not your will for me to write. So, Lord, may I yield to your Holy Spirit. Give me the courage I need to apply the gifts you have given me, not just for my satisfaction, but for the good of any or all who will benefit by it. In Jesus’ name, I pray.

Summer in the Pines

The cool, green, leafy canopy hangs high over my head as I walk the worn dirt path to the small office. Campers of all sizes align both sides of the road. Full timers have made their sites their second home, having added wooden stairs, decks, or porches as well as flower gardens or hanging potted flowers. I reach the office, a small wooden building with a social hall on one side, and walk up a long ramp to the mailbox. The “mailbox” is really a large rack, laiden with assorted mail, which campers sort out, for themselves. A small, but immaculately clean, inground swimming pool is in back, surrounded by a chain link fence. Another ramp leads to a bathroom, complete with a newly installed tiled shower.

It is quiet, here, especially since Covid-19 regulations have limited visitors to two per site, per day. I am grateful we can have anyone here. I have had each of my seven, grandchildren stay, overnight. My two thirteen year old granddaughters came, first, followed by my 9 year old grandson and his 4 year old sister. Finally, my 15 year old granddaughter came to visit.

Beside swimming, there is not much to do in our retirement community, but my grandson was able to amuse himself, outside, when he was here. Picking up small, fallen tree branches from the pine covered ground and holding them on either side of his head, he said, “Look Grammy! I’m a deer!” and later, “I’m a moose!” My four year old granddaughter sat at our brown painted picnic table, sorting out matching picture cards. Earlier, she had picked up a sparkly, then a smooth grey rock from the ground for safekeeping.

I had purchased a paint by water book for the kids, before they visited, which was a big hit. Both kids painted about 5 pages, and I was able to keep one from each child to display on my fridge. This, along with dry erase boards, coloring books, and a scratch off hangman book, kept the kids happy when we weren’t swimming. Of course, we did swim in the little campground pool, using our foam noodles as floats or make believe snakes.

I thought the little one would have trouble sleeping in our trailer, overnight, but her brother, lovingly, brought her to the bathroom around 2 a.m. and encouraged her to go back to sleep. Later, my grandson confessed he did not get much sleep that night. I was surprised that he took such good care of his little sister, without waking me, but then reasoned he felt responsible for her, not being home. Still, I was quite impressed with his care and concern for her.

We took them to Golden Corral before returning home. Covid-19 rules were in place. Servers scooped our selections on our plates, as we were not allowed to touch the serving spoons. I did touch one, by impulse, and it was quicky replaced with a clean one. The kids chose pizza as their main meal. We wished we had taken them to a pizza joint, instead. Oh, well…

But, today, is a quiet day. What started out to be bright and sunny day with puffy, white clouds, has turned out to be a cool, cloudy afternoon with a possibility of rain. Earlier, I had taken my Bible, outside. Clearing the picnic table and bench of some dry, pine needles, I sat down to pray. An overhanging cloud kept me comfortably cool until the bright sun burst out, causing me to seek shade. I hoped no one would notice as I chose to sit on my neighbor’s deck, under their low, canvas awning. A charming, low, white fence partially surrounds the deck, making it look like a little porch. There is even a table with two lawn chairs, which I felt compelled to use. I knew I had no permission to sit there but I couldn’t resist the idea of continuing my devotional in comfort. A verse I wrote in my journal reflected my mood. “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise for he is good to me.” Psalm 13:5-6.

Two weeks have passed since that day under my neighbor’s awning. We just had my 15 year old granddaughter stay overnight. The first thing I noticed was her newly cut bob, dyed one half blond and one half dark brown with purple highlights. It perfectly framed her pretty round face, which showed a blush when I complemented her. I was just getting used to the two toned color when, later in the day, she announced that she was going to change the blond to orange. I had hoped she would change her mind, but I heard, this evening, that Lilly has already colored it. Oh, well, hair grows.

While she was here, my granddaughter showed me how to make a mexican style chicken meal with white rice, corn, shredded chicken, taco sauce, and diced tomatoes. I had hoped we would cook, together, and I appreciated the change from my husband’s and my rather bland diet. I didn’t ask for help with the dishes (I never do when my grands are here) so my granddaughter was free to pick out a show on the TV. Unfortunately, she picked a recorded video game which takes place after an apocolypse. There were man eating creatures, as well as “infected” zombie type people, that needed to be killed for the players survival. My husband and I were horrified by the killings, and tried to talk our granddaughter into a different show. Finally, on the second day she put on a TV show about teenage witches which was even more horrible than the video game saga! Seeing how grossed out we were, she finally settled on a new Disney cartoon show. That, was about witches, too, but the characters were cute, at least. The content of these shows concerned my husband and I. My sweet, innocent granddaughter is being indoctrinated by messages of revenge and the occult. She was surprised and offended by our reactions to her choices, so I gave her several hugs, telling her how much I loved her. Still, my granddaughter was unhappy that I did not like the Disney show and I felt bad that I did not have the opportunity to share my faith in a positive, loving way.

The following day, I took a walk around the park. Wishing my teen granddaughter’s visit had been better, I peered up at the tourqoise sky, watching the tops of the pines sway in the light breeze, I prayed for forgiveness and guidance. Guilt from not being able to share my faith, effectively, weighed on my heart. My earlier efforts had come from a desperate, not a trusting, place. As I poured out my sorrow, I asked the Lord for guidance and found solace in Psalm 25:17-18. ” Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away my sins.” And finally, “Guard my life and rescue me, do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.” Psalm 25: 20. I know I am forgiven because his word tells me so. I can rest, knowing God the Father will work all my circumstances out for good.

My two 13 year old granddaughters, who visited earlier than the others, are great friends beside being cousins, so I always pair them together when they visit. It was cloudy the first day but they ventured into the pool, anyway. Using my red noodles, they blew plumes of clear pool water and splashed around, trying to keep warm. Shivering, they both climbed the stairs, wrapped their towels around themselves, and said they were ready to go back to the trailer. I made supper, while the girls put on a video game from U-Tube. The constant killing bothered us and Grandpa suggested the girls choose something else. Little did we know, then, that another game, worse than this one, would be played, weeks later. Around 11, grandpa and I turned in for the night. Hearing giggles and feeling the trailer rock, a bit, from movement, I fell asleep.

The next day was hot and sunny so I joined the girls in their play in the pool. Using our noodles, we blew clear flumes of water in the air. Then using the noodles as a seat, we floated lazily while I listened to their stories. I noted how the girls were more sedate than in the past, not splashing and jumping off the sides like the the little ones love to do. Still, they seemed to enjoy themselves and I was content with that.

After lunch, I took the girls to the Christmas Shop at the Mills Shops in Granby, Connecticut. Wearing our multi-colored masks, we opened the door to several heavily decorated Christmas trees. One was decorated for Halloween, but the others were decorated for the traditional holiday. Sparkling ornaments glistened in the low lit room. Each tree was trimmed full with ornaments from clear crystal to blown colored glass. Walking down a narrow hall, illuminated with tiny colored lights, we admired the nativity sets, of various sizes, and blown glass hummingbirds hanging on metal trees. I saw a figure of Santa Claus kneeling at the baby Jesus’ manger seemly hidden on a lower shelf, in the corner. I wondered if the owner was fearful of someone being offended by its message and was peeved at the prospect of that. Moving on, I admired the glinting miniatures of breakfast food, cowboy toys, rocking horses, snowflakes, and animals. It was then that I noticed the girls had lost interest in the ornaments and were admiring the squishy toys that looked like frosted doughnuts and cupcakes. I bought them each one and then left for home. Road work caused a bumpy ride home. We took advantage and let our voices vibrate, laughing how silly we sounded.

Not all our grandchildren will come to visit. Our grandsons, two who have autoimmune diseases, are being strictly guarded against Covid-19. I understand the parents’ concern but we are well and will return, soon, to Arizona. I have little hope for a reunion with them, this summer. However, I hope I have made some good memories with the grandkids who came. I am grateful for the time I have had, and look forward to times ahead with them and the rest of our family.

Deeply Rooted

 Keep your roots deep in him, build your lives on him, and become stronger in your faith, just as you were taught. And be filled with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:7 (GNT) My husband and I have been living in Arizona for almost two years.  We have a pretty home with a lovely walled in yard, surrounded in oleander bushes.  Since we leave Arizona, in the summer, I asked a friend if and how much we should water them when we are away.  She told me it is better to water once or twice a week for an hour, rather than watering them every day for 20 minutes.  Since the soil is sandy and dry, the water will sit on top never getting to the roots. Unless the drip of the irrigation system is slow and sustained, the roots will grow upwards toward the water, becoming shallow and eventually fall over and die.

Our time with the Lord can be like this, too.  When we are baby Christians, a few minutes in Bible study might be enough. But as we mature, we need more time to soak in God’s Word to become deeply rooted in him. It is not only reading the Bible, but meditating, studying, and perhaps memorizing it that helps us grow into the mature Christians we were meant to be.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have great success. Joshua 1:8 (ESV)

Spending time, daily, with the Lord can be difficult, especially when life demands our attention.  However, when we do take that time to “be still” and allow God to speak to us through his Word and in our prayer, we are blessed with peace and a sense of direction for our personal lives.

All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy: 3:16 (NIV)

What is holding you back from spending some quiet time with God?  How much time have you spent on Facebook or Instagram, today?   It is so easy to fall into the trap of scrolling social media, or responding to instant messenger, instead of making daily Bible Study a priority.  Like any discipline, it takes commitment to develop a time to spend with Jesus. Find a cozy spot, void of distraction, where you can give him your undivided attention.  Yes, there may be interruptions, but most of the time you will be blessed as the Word “soaks” into your mind and heart.

The Racial Divide

When the news first came out about officer Dereck Chauvin pressing on George Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes, I was stunned and then angry. As I watched the video and heard George cry out, “I can’t breathe!”, I turned away, in horror. Every time I thought of George’s ordeal, I cried. I cried for the loss of this man’s life. I cried for the horrible physical and mental anguish he endured. I cried for the senselessness of it all. Weeks later, I learned this man was a criminal and then, later, that it was all a setup by BLM. What matters is that a man died a horrible, senseless death.

It weighed on my heart and images of the arrest burned in my mind. Many white people were deeply affected by the arrest and subsequent death of George Floyd. One black woman said that they had been dealing with poice brutality, for years, and was puzzled why it should matter, now, to the white community. I was stunned but, after some reflection, I knew. When police shootings of black men were on the news, there were reasons given for the shooting that seemed reasonable but that the black community vehemently denied. I often did not see much of what happened on video, but this time was different. Whether the arrest had gone awry or not, the video that played, repeatedly, on the news created an avalanch of emotion that was to change the way police were allowed to arrest and a wave of sympathy for black people, in general.

I wanted to do my part. What could I do to make things better? My tears showed compassion but tears do not bring change. Neither does pulling down statues, burning buildings, shooting police, and innocent people. True change comes from a willingness to acknowledge what we are doing wrong and from a sincere desire to act differently. In thinking about this, the Lord gave me three reasons for racism: pride, hatred, and fear. I had always thought of racism as prejudice, an untrue vision or understanding of another person, based on the color of their skin. Now, I see it is far more than that. God revealed to me that pride in oneself can lead to disdain for others. This is not to be confused with healthy self-esteem. We need to feel good about ourselves in order to be productive and to feel good about others. But when we start to feel better than someone else because of our looks, intelligence, or place of residence, that pride becomes poison to ourselves and others. More importantly, pride ruins our relationship with God, himself. “The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong. ” Psalm 5:5 The Apostle Paul said, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” Romans 12:16

We are not all equal, in the eyes of society. Some of us are richer than others. Some are more talented or have more intelligence than others, but God looks on our hearts, not on outward appearances or our physical abilities. (1 Samuel 16:7) We are all equal, in value, in the eyes of God and so we need to value others, as ourselves. “And he made from one man (Adam) every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined alloted periods and boundaries of their dwelling place.” Acts 17:26

We are to treat others as we want to be treated, but we cannot do this if we hate or fear people different than ourselves. It may be easy to be polite to a stranger you have never met, but it may be difficult to be respectful to someone who has hurt you or looks like someone who has. I do not mean to minimize trauma, here. What I am referring to is when we group all people from a certain race as bad or perilous because they look similar to those we see who commit crimes. I recently read an article, written by a black man, which said he was afraid to walk in his, predominately, white neighborhood for fear people would think him dangerous. Another black man stated that an elderly woman almost fell off the sidewalk, trying to get away from him. What a horrible way to feel! Do you feel threatened when a black or hispanic man crosses your path?

“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” Proverbs 10:12

So, our answer comes through love. Jesus said whoever does not love their brother or sister (meaning any fellow man), whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 1John 4:19-20 How can we love people we fear or do not know? We cannot love them through our own power. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit are we able to “love” them. We do this through fervent, humble prayer. We do this by not punishing innocent people of color (or whites) for the actions of others in their race. We do this by being kind to all people. We do this by reading his word, the Bible, to give us the discernment we need to stand up for what is right. Because, in the end, we will all have to give account of our actions. Romans 14:12. As Christians, we are called “to be the light” so that others will be drawn to us and, hopefully, to God. Matthew 5:16 With a world torn from sin and hate, we can choose to love, through God’s strength and grace for his glory and our redemption.

Our Annual Cross Country Trip

Being that my husband and I are originally from Vermont and Massachusetts, respectively, and that our families still reside there, we make an annual trip in our fifth wheel trailer from Arizona to Massachusetts every summer. This year was a little dicey with Covid-19, and having left our trailer at our RV park in Mass, drove with just our truck. This year, I flew home for a week during the holidays but, usually, we do not see family for 8-9 months.

During our first year in Arizona, we lived in a fifth wheel trailer at Pioneer RV Park, in North Phoenix. Feeling the pangs of leaving our entire family, for months at a time, was emotionally difficult for me so we stayed at the park for only 4 or 5 months. But the next year, we stayed a bit longer and the next a bit longer. Now that we have a home in Sun City West, we leave sometime in June and come back in the fall.

The first year we visited Arizona was for a national single action cowboy shooting match. We had started in St. Augustine for a match held there and, after a month, traveled to Phoenix. The best route from Florida to Arizona was rt. 10. Miles and miles of deserts, dotted with small, green scrub brush made the trip seemingly endless. Fuel stations were 100 miles apart and, except for some attractive rest areas, the terrain was monotonous. Heavy winds through Texas created problems, slowing us down to 5mph, in one place, and causing major damage to our slide in our first (not present) trailer. What I did like were the frequent, long trains that passed us, on either side, the purple-blue mountains, in the distance, and the vast blue sky, surrounding us. Although we are grateful to have had this experience, we do not wish to travel this route, again.

After some trial and error, we have decided that rt. 40 is the best way to go. Traveling through metropolis states has it’s advantages, such as better roads and plenty of restaurants and rest areas. Some of these rest areas were closed this year but, fortunately, we had to use the side of the road, only, once. We were nervous about eating inside any food service places, so we ordered take out, instead. After a uncomfortable first night, sleeping in our truck, we finally agreed to finding a hotel on two different nights. Unlike other years when we stopped at different gift shops to stretch our legs and buy a few things, we drove all day, each day, only stopping for fuel and food. The hotels were a welcome break.

One particular year, on route to Arizona, we started on rt. 40 and, for some reason, turned onto rt. 20. The weather had become treacherous and warnings were being broadcast in two welcome centers we stopped at. I was a little concerned and prayed we would not have an accident. My prayers were answered when we found a Wal Mart to pull into for the night. The next morning, the parking lot attendant told us it was good that we stopped for the night and that there were accidents up and down rt. 20. When we did get back on the road, we saw cars and trailers, one after another, flipped over on the sides of the road. Some were taped off, which my husband said signaled fatalities. We were stunned to see the tragic outcomes of the storm and were grateful for our safety. I truly believe God took us off rt. 40, which had been more treacherous. I believe he helped us find a safe place to stay for the night and have never forgotten his providence. I always say a prayer when we start a new day of travel for God to keep us safe on the road and ask him for help when I drive. Except for a bad sensor, we have never been stranded on the road and I thank God every time.

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you, Do not fear or be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Our trip, this time, was without incident but was nowhere near as fun as some of our earlier trips have been. Many of the gift shops out west have all kinds of merchandise from clothes to Native American jewelry as well as artwork, dolls, moccasins, clothes, and other toys. Some of the shops include little restaurants where you can buy breakfast, lunch, or ice cream. We used to welcome these stops as a way to break up the monotony of our trip. With Covid at the helm, our goal was to arrive safely and soundly.

The other missing piece to this trip was my lack of taking pictures of the fantastic scenery, especially through the lush forests of Arkansas and Oklahoma, the steep, rocky mountains of New Mexico, and the copious flowering plants dotting the vast desert terrain. It is sad that this magnificent tableaux has become commonplace and unappreciated. We hope, next spring, to own a smaller RV, a class C, hopefully under 30 ft. so that we can travel for our enjoyment and not just out of necessity. I hope my appreciation for our surroundings will be renewed, along with my desire to photograph our travels in words and images.

But for now, we are here in a small western Massachusetts park called Southwick Acres. Surrounded by pine and oak trees, our camper is partly in shade and conveniently located across from the laundry shed. Two visitors at a time are allowed to visit and I am hoping to have the grandchildren overnight, as in the past. Our families are 60 to 90 minutes away making it necessary to arrange meeting times. If we are able to buy that smaller camper, we hope we will be able to camp outside our kids’ homes to spend more quality time with them. My prayer, for now, is that relationships will renew or strengthen and that some will heal. May we continue to make memories that will warm our children’s and our grandchildren’s hearts in years to come. My fear is the year we will not be able to do so.