Dear Little Book Worm (from Someone Who Loves You series)

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Dear Little Book Worm,

Your interest in books brings such joy to me. They open up worlds to you that would not otherwise be possible. So many things to see, places to visit, and concepts to learn. One day soon you will discover the greatest book of all – the Bible. It, too, will open up a whole new world to learn about. But even better than that, it will help you get to know the One who loved you enough to make sure you came to be. Read on, Little One, and discover the wonders all around you!

As Always,

Someone Who Loves You

 

2 Timothy 3:15-16 … from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

 

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.

 

Dear Caged One (From Someone Who Loves You Series)

Ever wonder why there are boundaries in your life? Are they there because someone enjoys seeing you get frustrated? Maybe someone is unhappy and wants you to be unhappy too, keeping you from all the fun things on the other side? Or maybe because they don’t want to bothered by you? Or maybe it’s an unfair challenge they want you to conquer?

Or maybe boundaries are there to keep you safe. Safe from the 15 steep steps going down to the first floor. And from the large white rambunctious dog down there that could accidentally hurt you.

Instead of looking at where you can’t go, turn around and look at where you can go. Like to the things to climb on and the big box of toys to play with and the books to look at. And the person up there with you who is always ready and eager to hold you and love you and play with you.

All you have to do is turn around.

Always,

Someone who loves you

 

 

Psalm 16:5-6 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places., and I have a delightful inheritance.

 

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.

It’s Not Always About You

Part 1

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Moxie looked up at her owner with eyes full of questions. What’s going on here? Who is that hyperactive newcomer running all over the place? Why was he brought into her world? What is she supposed to do with him? Was she supposed to be playing with him? Showing him where the food and water bowls were? Helping him settle down somewhere? Or instead was she supposed to learn something from him?

Not getting an answer from her owner, she looked back at the intruder. He was still running from one room to another stopping to sniff different items from time to time. That wasn’t too bad. But what was bad was the ear piercing high pitched bark he would make at unexpected times in the middle of all that running. And, even worse than the barks, were the sniffs. She had accepted his initial sniffing which all dogs do to acquaint themselves with other dogs, but apparently this small runt had not been satisfied with that. Or maybe his brain was too small to remember anything because every so often he would come charging up to her to begin the sniffing ritual all over again. And Moxie had no ideas left on how to handle it. She had tried being friendly, but he didn’t seem to want a friend. She had tried ignoring him but that didn’t stop him. She had tried growling softly, warning him to leave her alone, but he didn’t seem to understand that. She had looked to her owner for intervention but, even though her owner was watching, nothing seemed to change. So Moxie did the only thing left she could do – she hid. She found a safe place far enough from the small nuisance not to be noticed, but close enough where she could keep one eye on him. She didn’t trust him and she didn’t want any surprise attacks like he had done to her friend Acey. She kept her other eye on her owner, silently asking that something be done with this crazy guy and feeling bad that she wasn’t better able to handle him.

Part 2

The tired woman looked up to her Lord with eyes full of questions. What’s going on here? Who was that homeless young man running up and down 11th Street with his dog? Why was he brought into her world? What is she supposed to do with him? Was she supposed to be providing him with transportation and money? Showing him where the food resources were? Helping him find a place to stay? Or instead was she supposed to learn something from him?

Not getting an answer from God, her thoughts went back to the restless man. He was still running from one place to another stopping to check out different people from time to time. That wasn’t too bad. But what was bad was the heart piercing rude comments he would direct at different people at unexpected times. And, more personal to her than the rude comments, were his pleas to her for help. When he had first approached her, she had accepted his initial questions which were typical of the questions all people ask to acquaint themselves with other people, but those questions had quickly turned to requests for help. She told him she would do what she could but apparently this guy had not been satisfied with that. Or maybe his brain was too messed up to remember anything because every so often he would suddenly begin pleading for help all over again. And she had no ideas left on how to handle it. She had tried being friendly, providing what help she could, but that wasn’t enough. She had tried ignoring him after directing him to other resources, but that didn’t stop him from texting her. She had tried warning him subtly to leave her alone, but he didn’t seem to understand that. She had looked to God for guidance but, even though she knew He was watching, He wasn’t saying anything. So the lady did the only thing left she could do – she hid. Since she was leaving town anyway, she made sure he knew so he wouldn’t have any reason to keep asking her for help, but she monitored a few facebook groups where she could keep one eye on him. She didn’t trust him and she didn’t want any surprise attacks like he had done to others. She kept her other eye on the Lord, silently asking Him to help the man and his dog and feeling bad that she wasn’t better able to handle the situation. Should she have done more? Should she be doing more even now?

“Not everything is about you.”

“What?”

“Have you considered that this is not about you? Think about Moxie.”

The lady thought about when she had recently agreed to dog sit a puppy for a friend. The puppy had come in with all his puppy energy, charging around the house curious about everything, stopping to chew or sniff whatever caught his attention. After his owner had left, this puppy had looked for her, stopping to bark from time to time as if calling out to her, then running around the house searching again. Moxie, one of the lady’s dogs, had kept looking from the puppy to the lady then back to the puppy again as if wondering what was going on. The lady had watched as Moxie accepted the puppy’s sniffing, at least for the first few times. She had watched as Moxie tried unsuccessfully to play with him, and then had watched as Moxie tried to ignore him. “It’s OK, Moxie,” she had said. “The puppy is not going to be here long. He just needs a place to be for a while.”

“So, was the puppy there for Moxie’s benefit?”

“No, it had nothing to do with Moxie.”

“Who was this all about, then?”

“It was about the puppy.”

“Right. It was about the puppy and his needs. Not about Moxie at all. She didn’t have to do anything. Yet her presence, especially her willingness to let the puppy sniff her, added to the puppy’s socialization. So even though you didn’t bring the puppy into Moxie’s world for her benefit, Moxie did play a small role in the puppy’s social growth.”

The lady nodded. She could understand that.

“It’s the same with you and the homeless man. It wasn’t about you. It was about him. I allowed him into your world for his benefit. Your presence, especially your willingness to help, added to what I’m working in and around him. You played a small role in what I’m doing.”

But then God smiled teasingly.

“But you know I am the Master at multitasking. And although this was for the man, I am using it for your good too. Now get some well deserved rest, my daughter, and leave the man to me.”

And so she did.

At First Glance

She was surprised to find the cracked sidewalk, cracked for 6 months now. She was used to seeing the broken and dead trees, the blue tarped houses, collapsed buildings, and piles of debris. But a cracked sidewalk? How does a hurricane crack a sidewalk like this?

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She was so perplexed by those cracks that she barely noticed the small insignificant cluster of flowers growing nearby. At first glance they appeared to be nothing special.

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But as she walked closer, the colors of the flowers became brighter, catching her eye. She stopped to really look at them, stepping even closer, and was amazed at their beauty.

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Isn’t that just like God, she thought. Even in the midst of overwhelming destruction, His grace and love – His beauty – can be found. Yet often it’s hidden in what appears to be insignificant places and easily missed by those who are too busy or too hardened to look.

“Lord,” she prayed with a smile. “Wherever you lead me, let me never become too busy or too hardened to see the grace you plant along the way.”

And That’s How It Happened

It started with a rock. Not just any rock. This one was a painted rock. Someone had painted a flower on a rock and left it near a walking trail.

And she found it while walking that trail. It made her day!

A message on the back asked that she post a picture of the rock in a Facebook group. Which she did. And when she did, she discovered that there were many, many painted rocks being hid and found all over the city.

So she began looking. But no matter how hard she looked, she couldn’t find one. Not one in an entire year. She gave up.

But then one day, when she least expected it, there was another rock near her walking trail. On it was a message that she knew came straight to her from God. She hugged it to herself and continued on her walk.

Surprise! She found another rock. With another awesome message that lightened her heart even more.

By the end of her walk, she had found four rocks!

Now she knew she was supposed to rehide those rocks somewhere else so that other people would have the joy of finding them, too. But she also knew there was no way she would give up those special rocks.

The next time she took a walk, she found several more rocks. And kept those, too. But along with the joy of finding, a little touch of guilt began to creep in. If she was finding and keeping all the rocks, then what would other people be able to find?

She could rehide them.

Nope, that wasn’t going to happen. Each time she looked at them, she felt the same joy that she had felt when she first found them. How could she give them up?

She could squash the guilt. After all, the rocks were there to be found. Right?

Only she began to feel like Scrooge hoarding his gold.

So what could she do?

She could paint her own rocks to hide! Then each time she found one, she could replace it with one of hers so she wouldn’t be stealing anyone else’s joy.

She began with simple designs such as ladybugs, the beach, hearts, and flowers. But then she discovered paint pens!

Now she could easily write messages on the rocks like those first ones she had found. Now just any messages though. She would write motivational messages to hide in her devastated town to hopefully make the finder’s day a little brighter.

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And so she began painting and writing. And hiding. And as she hid, she hunted.

And she discovered the birth of a new ministry. One of encouraging others when they least expected it. And leaving certain rocks in certain areas as she felt God leading her.

And she discovered something else. She discovered that she couldn’t out-give God. The more rocks she hid, the more rocks she began to find!

And that’s how she got involved in both a new ministry and a new hobby.

The most amazing part? It got her mind totally off the depressing devastation around her in an inexpensive, stress relieving, life giving way!

Dear Little Lion (from Someone Who Loves You series)

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What do you see as you stare at that lion? Do you see the strength and courage that a lion has? Do you see the power behind that face? The energy and demand for attention? The ability to roar and be heard – yet just as capable of soft mews and purrs, delighting in gentle play and shared cuddles with loved ones? Do you see the fierce loyalty a lion has for its pride? How very quiet and patient it can be when focused on a goal? Do you see the incredible confidence a lion has, believing that there is nothing that it can’t do?

Do you see yourself in the face of that lion?

I do.

Always,

Someone who loves you

 

Proverbs 30:30  lion, mighty among beasts, who retreats before nothing

 

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.

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