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.

You Call That Help? (from a dream – totally symbolic)

Was it a cavity? Did she need to have a tooth pulled? Braces? She didn’t know. She just knew there was something wrong with her teeth. They didn’t hurt, but she could feel something was off.

She had tried everything she could. Brushing, flossing, rinsing – nothing seemed to help. So she decided to take the next step and scheduled an appointment with Dr. Worldlee. Dr. W was considered the best around for his expertise and patient care. Surely he would be able to fix the problem.

The next week she was nervously sitting in the chair, white napkin clipped around her neck, waiting for Dr. W to arrive. A glance around the room revealed an assortment of posters advertising treatments for different tooth problems. She had had to bring her baby when the babysitter cancelled at the last minute and could hear him through the open doorway, babbling with the receptionist.

“Good morning!” Dr. W said cheerfully as he walked through that doorway. “How are you today?”

“I’ll be a lot better,” she smiled. “as soon as this is over.”

“Relax. It’s going to be OK. You’re in good hands,” he said as he glanced at the x-ray on the computer monitor. “Hmmm….”

“Hmmm?” she asked, her eyes getting big. Hmmm’s are never good.

“Oh, not to worry. It seems your x-ray shows something is off, but not in enough detail enough to show me what it is. But I know what will give me that information.” He opened a cabinet door and pulled out a dark jar. The label was too small for her to read so she watched carefully as he opened it. He reached inside and wiggled his hand a little. When he pulled his hand back out, there were several brown bug-looking things crawling on it. He plucked one off, then shook the rest of them back into the jar, replace the cover, and returned the jar to the cabinet. With the bug still grasped with his fingers, he approached her.

“Open up,” he said. “This will give me more information.”0226190724 (2)

Clamping her mouth shut, she shook her head. She had heard of this “treatment”. After swallowing it, that little bug would burrow itself inside her in order to provide more information which would be displayed on the dentist’s computer. But she had also heard that that wasn’t the only information the bug provided, and that once a bug was inside a person, it frequently led to more complications which sometimes became life threatening.

“Don’t worry, it doesn’t bite,” he reassured her. “You probably won’t even feel it.”

She shook her head again. “No, thanks.”

“You really need to,” he said, a bit more seriously. “Everyone does, sooner or later.”

“Not me.”

She tried to get out of the chair, but the dentist pushed her back down as he motioned to someone outside the room. She knew he was recruiting help. One way or another, by cajoling or by force, she knew he was going to get that bug in her mouth if she stayed in that chair. But how could she escape?

“Wait!” she cried out, keeping her teeth clenched together. “I’ll do it. “But.. But…” She tried desperately to come up with a logical reason to leave the room. “But I need to go get some water first.” She motioned to the water fountain behind a large lady making her way towards them.

“You don’t need water. This will just glide down your throat.”

“Yes I do. I have a very strong gag reflex. I have to have water to swallow anything or else I will just throw it back up. It will just take a minute.”

“I’ll get you some water from this sink.”

“No! I mean no, I need the water to be cold. Like the fountain water in the waiting room.”

He looked suspiciously at her but agreed to let her get up. She walked to the fountain, pulled out a cup, and began filling it. As she did, she glanced at the front desk to check on her baby and gasped. He wasn’t there! Where was he? What did they do with him? Then she heard his cry. It was coming from the little room she had just exited. She threw the cup down and ran back into the little room in time to see the dentist attempting to put something in her son’s mouth. She knocked it from his hand, grabbed her son from the receptionist’s arms, and ran from the room. She made it all the way to the front door sighing with relief as she reached out to push the door open. But before it opened, the large lady grabbed her and began pulling her back towards the little room.

“It’s OK,” Dr. W said as he walked up. “We can do it here.”

She shook her head, keeping her mouth tightly closed, knowing if she didn’t, he would take advantage of any opening he saw. She looked around for help from the other people in the room, but they were pretty much ignoring her. Those that watched seemed more interested in watching the drama than in helping her.

All of a sudden, her baby let out a scream. Startled, she turned her head just in time to see the large lady’s hand move away from the baby’s arm and the dentist slip a bug in his mouth. She quickly stuck her finger in the baby’s mouth, pried the bug out, slung it to the floor, and stomped on it. Picking up her foot, she saw the bug still moving so she picked up a nearby statue – a really heavy one – and smashed it down on the bug. Then she raced for the door, got it open, and escaped into the fresh air outside.

The last thing she heard before the door closed behind her was, “That won’t hurt it. You can’t get rid of it that way.”

She ran to her car and tried to unlock the door but the baby was struggling to get down and she dropped the keys.

“I’m sorry. Let me help.”

She jumped. It was Dr W! He had followed her outside. She tried to back away but he apologized again. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I was just trying to help. Here, let me hold your son so you can get the keys and unlock the door.”

He wasn’t holding anything and sounded so sincere that she agreed and handed her baby to him. She bent down to retrieve her keys, inserted one into the lock, and turned it. As she heard the click of the door unlocking, she turned back to the dentist and her son just in time to see Dr. W hold a syringe full of a brownish liquid above the baby’s eyes. As quickly as she could, she knocked the syringe from his hands, but not before he was able to hit the plunger. The baby wailed as the brownish liquid filled his eyes.

She grabbed him from the dentist and ran back inside to the water fountain and began filling and emptying cups of water into the baby’s eyes. After a few minutes, the baby calmed and she stopped splashing to look at it. His eyes were red and swollen.

She walked back outside where the dentist was still standing near her car. She yelled, “Now I’m going to sue you! Just wait until you hear from my Lawyer!”

He answered softly, “I don’t understand your resistance. I was just trying to help.”

“Yeah, right,” she said angrily. “You call that help? Your kind of help just makes everything worse. I’m going to the One who can really help. A real Healer.”

After securing her son in his car seat, she got into the driver’s seat and turned on the car engine. She had to get to the Doctor as soon as possible. No telling what damage had been done to her son’s eyes. But she knew if she got there soon enough, the Doctor would know how to heal it.

This Doctor knew how to heal anything. And no need to make an appointment. He was always available.

She smiled. Yes, the Doctor would know what to do. If only she had gone to Him first. So much distress could have been avoided. Well, next time, she vowed, she would.

 

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.

Don’t Worry. Be Happy.

She was worried.

Again.

Even after being assured that Jesus was taking care of her as a husband cares for his wife.

She believed Him.

But she couldn’t see how He would take care of all the many things that needed to be taken care of.

And she couldn’t figure out what her part was.

So she worried.

What was she supposed to do to make sure her roofing contractor did a better job than all the horror stories she kept hearing from people in town who’s contractors did bad or incomplete work?

What was she supposed to do to make sure mold wasn’t secretly growing in her house? She had already asked several companies to check and had gotten answers from totally mold infested to no mold at all.

What was she supposed to do if her car’s extended warranty company wouldn’t cover the transmission her dealership said it needed?

What was she supposed to do if there wasn’t enough money in savings for all the house and yard repairs that insurance wasn’t covering?

What was she supposed to do about her son?

How was she supposed to get everything that needed to get done finished when there wasn’t enough time to do it all? Who was she supposed to disappoint?

“God,” she prayed one day as she took a walk. “I know You said You were taking care of me. I just don’t understand how. Someone has to make phone calls and set up appointments and budget spending. How do I not stress about all this when I’m the one who has to do it? How does this “You taking care of me” work? I’m so tired. I’m ready to give up. But then nothing would get done and I’d feel even worse living in my house in the condition that it’s in…” she trailed off as weariness and depression filled her.

But then something caught her attention. Something white in an area where white didn’t belong. She stopped to take another look. Yes, there was definitely something white on that tree. She went over to investigate and found that someone had wedged a painted rock in a knot hole. She couldn’t believe it. She had looked for painted rocks for a year without finding one. And now, without looking, she had found one. And not just any painted rock. She had found a rock painted with a message straight from God.

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Her heart raced as she took His gift and hugged it to her chest. God was listening. And God understood her worries. Yet, He was gently reminding her that she didn’t need to worry because He was in control and working out everything for her – even down to getting someone to paint that rock and have it hidden in time for her to find it at that exact moment.

“Thank You,” she told Him, her heart swelling with gratefulness. “You give the most amazing gifts!”

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