I’m Your Husband

When she was 5, she dreamed of growing up to be a stay at home mom and to have a husband who took care of her.

When she was 15, she dreamed of growing up to be a stay at home mom and to have a husband who took care of her.

When she was 25, she dreamed of marrying her boyfriend who would take care of her and she could be a stay at home mom.

When she was 35, she had two preschoolers, a full time job, and a husband who was just getting settled into a career. She dreamed of the day his income could support them so she could stay at home.

When she was 45, she had two kids, a full time job, and a husband who spent more time on his hobbies than sharing life responsibilities with her.

When she was 55, she had a full time job, an adult son living at home, and a husband who began having health issues.

Now that she’s retired and approaching 65, the reality of her life hit her.

Even though she had loved her job, she never got to be a stay at home mom.

Even though she loves her husband, she never got to feel that he took care of her. And she probably never will.

She spent her life taking care of her children and her husband and her students and her pets and sometimes even strangers. Who would take care of her?

One day, as she waited outside her car for her friend to arrive, she thought once again about her dream of having a husband who would take care of her. And she struggled to accept that it wouldn’t be her husband. She thought about the ways she thought a husband should be taking care of a wife and knew her husband was incapable of fulfilling that role. He was kind, caring, funny, faithful, loving, steady, smart, supportive, and strong when he needed to be. But none of those things helped pay bills,  contact/schedule/research contractors, make repairs, or handle the numerous other responsibilities that needed to be done every day.

Suddenly something shiny in the puddle at her feet caught her eye. What was that? 0201191006 (2)Something round, like an earring? She bent over to pick it up. No, it wasn’t an earring. It was more like a ring. A gold ring. Not real gold, of course. But it was pretty. And it reminded her of… a wedding band?

“I’m your Husband,” whispered a voice in her spirit. “I’ll take care of you.”

She stood in amazement and gratitude. If she was the bride of Jesus, then that would make Him her husband. She had never thought of it that way. She slipped the ring on her little finger and gazed at it with the same mix of emotions that she had had years ago when she first starting wearing her engagement ring.

“Thank You, Jesus,” she finally said. She couldn’t find any more words to say. But maybe that was enough.

As days went by, nothing changed and everything changed. Her husband was still her husband with all his strengths and weaknesses. And she was still kept busy with contractors and repairs and finances. But now she was reminded each time she saw that golden ring on her finger that as she took care of others, there was One taking care of her. And that changed everything.

Ultimately Everyone Has to Clean Up Their Own Backyards

She hadn’t looked into her backyard for years now. She knew her dogs had been using it and so expected it to be somewhat nasty but it probably wasn’t all that bad. After all, it’s a big yard and most of her dogs were quite little.

One day she glanced that way and just knew it was time to clean it up. She called together the other four people who she provided for and talked them into helping her. It helped that she offered them ice cream and Pepsi. They ate their ice cream, drank their Pepsi, picked up the tools they would need, and disappeared through the back door. All but one that is. One found things that needed to be done in the house that kept her too busy to make it outside. She was disappointed but let it go. The other three were surely hard at work.

She gathered her supplies – plastic bags that she’d use to protect her hands, garbage bags to put the poop in, trowel to pick up the stuff up with, and her basket with her ice cream and Pepsi to nourish her when she got tired – and joined the three in the backyard. As they saw her, they each began making excuses and leaving until she was alone. Alone to handle the piles of poop that lay scattered throughout the yard. There was a lot more than she expected but she knew what she had to do and got started.

She walked across the yard about ten yards and found a huge area filled with many varying sizes of poop. This is where I’ll start, she decided. She had barely begun when 013119043228229someone called for her attention. A well dressed lady and her daughter were standing on the nearby patio. She tried to answer their questions but they couldn’t understand. They began walking across the yard heading to a small shed in the corner where they would shop for homemade items. She worried about them stepping in one of the messes but again had trouble getting some sign of understanding from them. She didn’t want to be seen scooping up the piles of poop so she considered going inside. She would just continue to ignore the mess. But no, she really couldn’t. Not when her yard was open to people coming to look at the handmade stuff. She had to clean it up.

She thought about the four people who she had thought would surely help her, especially since she took care of their needs. But they evidently didn’t buy into the reciprocal nature of giving.  She looked back at the poop surrounding her and an amazingly calm resolve filled her. She would clean it up no matter who saw her or whether anyone else helped her because she knew ultimately everyone had to clean up their own backyards.

“Need some help?” whispered a Voice she knew so well. She closed her eyes and hugged that Voice as she whispered back, “Yes, please.”

She got back to work and was surprised at how fast the cleaning went with Him to keep her company. And she discovered that as she worked on some piles, other piles seemed to disappear on their own.

“Thanks,” she whispered.

“Glad to help,” He whispered back.

As they continued to work together in comfortable companionship, she thought, “Well, maybe we don’t have to clean up our backyards completely by ourselves. I may not be able to count on other people helping me when I need it. But I should have remembered there is One I can always count on.”

 

(Based on a dream, December 14, 2018)

Wait, I Think I’m Praying This All Wrong

She was tired.

Tired of looking at her messed up house.

Tired of contacting contractors.

Tired of waiting on contractors.

Tired of talking to contractors.

Tired of researching contractors.

Tired of talking about contractors.

Tired of thinking about contractors.

Tired. Tired. Tired.

“God,” she prayed over and over. “Who do I pick? There are so many scams and bad contractors around here since the hurricane, how do I know which one to pick? Please, give me wisdom.”

But no answer came.

Then, one day a thought hit her as she took her morning walk.0118190433 (3)

“Wait,” she said to herself. “I think I’m praying this all wrong!”

“God,” she prayed. “Fix my house, please.”

“Finally,” He answered her.

And immediately an enormous weight was lifted from her shoulders and her steps became lighter. It felt to her as if sunshine was breaking through the gray sky and everything began to look better. It felt so good!

“What an amazing concept!” she thought. “Letting my heavenly Father take care of my needs instead of me trying to work it all out myself!”

Malformed Pieces

“Uh oh,” she said as she picked up the next tiny plastic piece. “This one won’t fit.” She dropped it into a growing pile of malformed pieces and picked up another one. “Perfect!”

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Usually the repetitive task of fitting the tiny pieces into their places on the sticky grid gave her mind a chance to relax as it daydreamed about problems and goals. But this time as she placed the well shaped piece carefully on the grid, a thought interrupted her wandering mind.

“When you don’t let God trim off your rough edges, you won’t be able to fit into His design as well. Not only won’t you fit within your boundaries, you will bother those around you.”

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She stopped to consider that. “It’s true we all have baggage we bring into our relationship with God, things from the past we hang on to even though we no longer need them just like this tiny piece still has a piece of its manufacturing process attached to it. And I know I fight each time He wants me to let go of something. Maybe there’s a bigger picture to Him wanting to trim me. Maybe sometimes it’s not so much about me as it is about His bigger picture,” she thought, freshly determined to be more cooperative the next time He starts trimming.

She got back to work, still musing on the importance of being trimmed. Then another thought entered. What about all those other pieces in that pile of malformed pieces. There’s more than one reason a piece can’t fit correctly on the grid.

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She picked up the black piece. Totally misshapen.

“Like when we refuse to let God do anything in us. We are still saved – still a piece – but pretty much useless in the design.” She thought about what she had been like when she entered her relationship with God, and she was very glad she wasn’t anything like that anymore. Transformed was a very real fact in her life, unlike that poor piece.

And the tan one?

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“Hmmm,” she thought about the two pieces clinging to each other for a few minutes. “My relationship with Jesus is a very personal one. When I walk with Him, I have to do it alone. It’s just me and Him. He wants me to cling to Him, not anything else. He can surround me with others just like each of these pieces are surrounded by other pieces, but I cannot insist on having someone in the same place I’m in. It just doesn’t work.”

She put the malformed pieces back into their pile and picked up the next perfect tiny plastic piece. As she placed into the design, she breathed a prayer.

“God, form me to fit the spot You have chosen for me. Help me to let go of what holds me back so that I can become part of Your big, amazing design.”

And her heart swelled with peace and contentment, knowing God heard her prayer.

 

(Disclaimer:  I am not promoting this brand of diamond painting. Actually, there’s another brand that I find superior to this one, but this was the only brand that had this specific design and so I went with it.)

Devastation or Beauty:  Where Does Your Mind Dwell?

As some of you know, my town was hit by Michael, a strong category 4 hurricane, (wind speed just 2 mph less than a category 5) in October. It’s been just over 2 months and devastation is still seen everywhere. Many businesses are still not reopened, and many of those will never reopen leaving many people jobless. Long lines and completely filled parking lots plague the few department and grocery stores that have opened. Contractors and their workers’ vehicles flood the streets so making a quick trip anywhere is no longer possible. Blue tarped roofs are seen everywhere as well as downed and broken trees, debris piles taller than the cars driving past them, and a multitude of damaged buildings. Some areas of town are still without electricity and internet. Many people who lost their homes either had to move away or are living in tents because there is no housing left. Schools have to share facilities since many schools were completely destroyed. There is not one building, one lot, or one person in our town untouched. Instead of concentrating on Christmas, many are exhausted from navigating insurance and contractor paperwork while trying to avoid the many scams that pop up in situations like this, jumping through FEMA hoops, or trying to find a job they can walk to since their cars were damaged along with their homes. Very few Christmas lights can be seen, and parents are desperately trying to seek ways to get some presents to their children. The more fortunate ones compete for the toys still available at Walmart, but many more don’t have the finances and have to stand in lines for many hours to get a chance to pick out some donated toys. Even worse, a good number of people have had to resort to begging strangers for help because they don’t have the transportation or health to even get to the toy distribution sites.

On the other hand…

After most volunteers and relief agencies have left, we are still being surprised with truck loads of toys, blankets, jackets, and other supplies arriving from people living in other towns near and far. More than a few Facebook groups have been created solely for the purpose of providing help to those who need it from insurance and contractor concerns to housing and shopping question. Quite a few people both local and distant have formed networks to ensure every legitimate need is taken care of to the best of their ability. Some people have opened their yards/land to house displaced people living in tents providing them safety, meals and hot showers. Many new friendships have been created and neighbors are watching out for each other now that fences no longer separate them. And the beauty of God’s creation can still be seen from the dazzling night sky (much clearer now since we have fewer street and commercial lights) and the breathtaking sunrises/sunsets (less trees = more view of the sky) to the delicate blooming flowers and the gorgeous beaches.

As I think about the people I’ve met and the people whose Facebook posts I’ve read, I wonder why so many are depressed and angry while many others are hopeful and encouraging. I don’t think in this case the answer can be found solely in their relationship or lack of relationship with God. It’s true that for many Christians, their faith is giving them the strength to keep moving forward. Yet I know just as many strong Christians who are depressed and hurting as non-Christians who are positive and optimistic. No, I think in this situation the answer might lie more in their heads than in their hearts. Where do their minds dwell? The devastation all around that is real and not going away any time soon? Or the beauty that is also real and not going away? Each is just as valid as the other. Yet for some reason it’s way easier to dwell in the devastation than to see past it to the beauty.

Maybe when we pray for people in devastated areas – not just here in Panama City but throughout the world – we could add a short sentence before our amen. It may not seem like much, but it might just make all the difference.

“Father, open their eyes to the beauty that is still around them.”

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Devastated pavilion surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation at St. Andrews State Park, Panama City Beach, FL, taken on 12/24/18 by Linda Schnepel

 

 

 

To Be Able To Curl Up and Sleep Like a Dog

Perfect, she thought as she looked at the bear leg she had just finished making. She dropped it into the tub and picked up the next leg, already stitched and ready to stuff.

She had spent the previous day at her sewing machine stitching a seemingly unending pile of bear parts while her embroidery machine was kept busy stitching out names, dates, and short poems. By the time she had finished it was dark and she was stiff. At least that’s done, she had thought as she stretched her back muscles and headed to the kitchen for a quick dinner. She had imagined how good it would feel to climb into bed and go to sleep in the quiet, empty house.

But that didn’t happen. No matter how hard she tried, her mind wouldn’t stop thinking of all the things she still needed to do and her body couldn’t get comfortable. Finally, hours before dawn, she gave up and got out of bed. She carried the tub of bear parts and embroidered fabric to the comfortable rocking chair, turned on Netflix to continue her binge watching of Cheers, and began the tedious process of stuffing the bear parts, hemming the seams by hand, and clipping the embroidery threads.

Now it was getting close to noon and she was only half way through the bear parts. Sighing, she began stuffing the leg she was holding and let her gaze wander over to the dog laying so comfortably curled up on the nearby couch.

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And she began to feel envious. Why couldn’t she just curl up and sleep like that? Why was sleep so hard for her and so easy for this dog?

Maybe it’s because the dog isn’t worried about the future.

But I’m not worried, she thought. I just have so much to do and not so much time to do it in.

As she continued to stuff and stitch throughout the afternoon, she thought that if she could finish stuffing all the bear parts before dinner, she might have time to attach the arms and legs to the bears before bed. It will make for a late night, but maybe that would make it easier to sleep. Then tomorrow morning she’d get up early and begin working on the pillows. I’ve got to get them done by tomorrow night or I may not have time to work on them again for days, she thought.

See?

See what? She shook her head as she finished stuffing the last bear leg as the sun went down. She wasn’t worried. She was just trying to get it all planned. So much to do. And not just her sewing. She also had laundry, cleaning, and writing. How would she ever get it all done in the next two days?

See?

That question again. Why? She WASN’T worried. If she didn’t plan it out, she’d end up not finishing them in time. So her mind had to stay busy working out the details. That’s not worrying. Was it?

What was the dog doing earlier today?

She was curled up and relaxing.

Looked cozy, didn’t it?

Yes, I would love to just curl up and sleep like she does.

Why don’t you?

Because I have so much to do! And besides, it wouldn’t do me any good. I can’t sleep even when I try.

Why not?

Because my mind keeps thinking of all the things I have to do and my body won’t relax.

Sooo… you spend all day thinking of what you have to do, and you spend all night thinking of what you have to do?

Um… I guess so.

What would happen if you didn’t think so much?

I wouldn’t get done.

Really?

Um…

What are you getting done while you toss and turn all night?

Nothing?

That’s right. Nothing is getting done. So what if you just let Me handle all those thoughts at night? Then you could curl up and sleep just like the dog. And get the rest you need.

You?

Don’t you trust Me? Don’t you think I could do a good job planning your day? 

Yeah, but…

You trust Me with your life. You trust Me to keep you safe and to provide for you. Can you trust Me in this area also?

She thought about the dog again as she ate dinner. Should she let go of the plans she so tightly gripped and allow God to handle them for her? It really would be nice to be able to curl up and sleep so easily and comfortably. But how would it work – God making the plans?

I’ll tell you what to do and when to do it. All you need to do is relax and listen for My voice throughout the day. I’ll keep you on track to meet every deadline. Will you trust Me?

As she attached the arms and legs to the bears later that night, she thought about all the times she had put her trust in Him over the years. He had never let her down. In fact, things frequently turned out a lot better whenever she did give them to Him.

As she got ready for bed, she made her decision. Yes, Lord. I will trust You, I give you all the things I need to do and ask You to plan out my day tomorrow.

Wow, she thought. It’s amazing! It’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders! Now all I want to do is curl up and go to sleep!

And she did.

 

Isaiah 30:21

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

 

1 Peter 5:7 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 

Dear Determined One (from Someone Who Loves You series)

Dear Determined One,

I see you there, no longer content with the limited view allowed by lying in your bed. I see you there, working so hard to sit up so that you can see a much larger part of your world.  You have learned that there is more in life than what you had once thought and you want to see it all. So you work on it day after day, never giving up even though you see little progress. What you don’t realize is that the progress happens inside first, hidden from everyone, even from yourself.  As you exercise, little by little, your inner self is strengthened and built up until one day you make it to that sitting position that you were so determined to achieve. And I will be there with everyone else celebrating your victory! Don’t give up, sweet girl. When it’s time, it will happen.

Always,

Someone who loves you

 

1 Timothy 4:8 Amplified Bible (AMP)

For physical training is of some value, but godliness (spiritual training) is of value in everything and in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.

 

Do you hear God speaking to you in these letters? If so, it’s no coincidence.  As I write to my new granddaughter, I can hear God speaking to me. And my prayer is that you can also hear Him speaking to you for He loves us even more than I love my granddaughter.

 

The Guys in the Yellow Shirts

She walked outside early that day to get a head start on the heat. There was a lot to do – way more than she or her husband was capable of doing in a day. And before long the temperature would be in the high 80’s making it even harder to work.

She looked at her yard.

 

Several large trees had been blown down, roots pulled up out of the ground leaving large holes. Other trees with broken trunks were lying across the sidewalk. A set of bare trees with broken branches were leaning towards their neighbor’s house. There were many large branches, wooden fence boards, and shingles scattered across the yard. And leaves everywhere!

She looked at her tools. One hand saw. One large pair of shears. One smaller hand shears for pruning. One wheelbarrow. A rake. And a shovel.

How in the world would these simple tools help them clear the huge mess? Sighing with resolve, she knew if she didn’t get started, the mess would only get worse as the grass grew to cover shingles and nails and other potentially dangerous things. She decided to start with the fence boards. They wouldn’t need any tools and she could drag them to the street. At least most of them. Some were still attached in large sections and would need to be cut into smaller pieces before she could move them.

As she dragged the fence pieces, her husband got the hand saw and began sawing the fallen branches into more manageable sizes, pulling them to the street and tossing them into a separate pile to cooperate with the city’s request to keep the debris sorted for easier removal later.

They worked in silence for about an hour, then her husband called to her. “Can you come help?”

“What do you need?” she called back as she stopped dragging a board to wipe the sweat from her face.

“Help me get the rest of this branch to the street.”

She carefully walked over to him, looked at the branch,

“You think we can move this?”

“I think so.”

“OK. Let’s try.”

They each got a good hand hold on the branch and began dragging it. Or at least attempted to. The branch was heavier than they thought and no matter how hard they strained, they could only move it an inch or two at a time.

“Could you use some help?” came a man’s voice from the direction of the street.

They looked up, startled, to see a man in a yellow shirt standing outside a car parked next to their growing pile of debris, smiling at them. On his shirt were the words “Helping Hands”.

“We sure could,” answered her husband. “Do you have a chain saw?”

“We have lots of chain saws.”

“We?”

“Yeah,” the man answered, pointing to a long line of cars behind his. “We’re all from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we’re here to help.”

She stared in disbelief. There must have been at least half a dozen cars and trucks, all filled with people in yellow shirts who were jumping out, picking up a variety of tools, and heading for her yard.

They quickly got to work sawing and dragging and chopping. She watched for a little while then went inside to hide her tears but continued to watch them work from an upstairs window. She was awed at their efficiency and cheerfulness as they worked.

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After awhile she rejoined her husband in the yard.

“This is a miracle,” he told her. “This is nothing short of a real miracle.”

She nodded agreement as the leader of the group brought over a slice of a tree.

 

“We like to leave a little something to the people we help,” he said as he handed them a slice of the large uprooted oak tree that used to stand in the middle of the yard.

Tears in their eyes, she and her husband explained how they had bought this oak tree when it was tiny and half dead from a hardware store and had enjoyed watching it grow over the years. She was surprised at how much comfort holding this small slice of the tree brought her.

Within an hour, her yard was clear of all the fences, branches and tree trunks they could manage. The leader approached them again. “Sorry we couldn’t do the set of leaning trees or the broken giant pine tree. You’ll probably need to hire a licensed contractor for those,” he apologized.

“No, no, no!” they said. “You don’t need to apologize! You’ve done enough! More than enough!”

A group photo was taken, hugs were exchanged, and then just as quickly as they had arrived, the group of yellow shirted angels left to look for another family to help.

There was still a lot of work to do such as picking up the shingles, searching for nails hidden in the grass, moving landscaping rocks and potted plants away from damaged gardens, and digging up few fence posts that had survived but without all the branches to work around, it would be so much easier and faster to get it done.

Tears slipping down her face, she thanked God for His love and care. She hadn’t asked Him for help with the yard, but He knew what they needed and provided it anyway.

What an amazing group of people!

What an amazing God!

The Unicorn on the Ceiling Fan

She sat back in the recliner thoroughly enjoying the chance to relax in the silence of her daughter’s almost empty house.

She thought about her life the past month – the devastation to her whole town by the strong almost category 5 hurricane, the maze of insurance claims she and her husband were having to navigate, the abundance of contractors wanting them to sign away their benefits, the multitude of needs being posted each day by desperate people, the crowds and long lines at the few stores that had managed to reopen, the mountains of debris along every street, the power lines still laying on the ground in areas where linemen have not yet had a chance to work, the horrendous traffic as residents and volunteers and contractors try to get from place to another, and her growing need to be in more than one place at a time. She wanted to be at home helping her husband deal with all the decisions that had to be made and working towards restoring their home. But just as much she wanted to be here with her daughter with her new baby while her son-in-law was working out of town.

As she thought, her eyes wandered around the room, taking in the drawn shades providing privacy, the assortment of baby furniture, the black and tan dog energetically chewing on a rawhide bone, the small porcelain unicorn sitting on the ceiling fan, the beautiful new teal area rug, the…

WAIT!  Was that what she thought it was?

She looked back at the ceiling fan.

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Sure enough, there was a small unicorn sitting right up there just above the revolving blades.

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She stared up at it. What was it doing up there? Who would have put it up there? It’s so out of place it was hard to believe that it was actually there. It should be on a shelf, or on a dresser, or even on a window sill. Certainly NOT on a ceiling fan!

And then she thought how much that little unicorn was like answered prayers. We think we know where the answers should be, but many times we will find them in completely startling and unexpected places, often surprising us with God’s sense of humor.

She chuckled to herself as she thought about how amazing her God continued to be. No matter what struggles and decisions she was facing, no matter how bad things looked around her, He always managed to find a way to make her smile. And frequently in the most unlikely places – just like that unicorn on the ceiling fan!

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