Laughter IS the Best Medicine

“I’ll need a few groceries at home.” My sweet 96-year old mother had taken a fall, and I’d brought her home for the weekend to recuperate with Don and me.

“We can stop for that on the way to your place,” I responded. “What do you need?”

“Let’s see. Grapes, a nectarine or two, and lettuce.”

“What kind of lettuce do you like?”

“Oh, what’s the name … it has long leaves and starts with an ‘F’. I can’t think of the name, but you’ll know it when you see it,” she assured me.

I parked the car and walked into the produce section of the Stop ‘N Go market. Grapes, check. Nectarines, check. I wracked my brain trying to come up with a lettuce that began with the letter “F”.  Then it hit me.

I paid the bill and returned to the car, giving Mom the bag and her change.

“You know that lettuce that starts with an ‘F’?” I asked. “Could that be Romaine?” It was. She chuckled, and I roared with laughter. So, Fromaine it is!

Our friend, Dave, was helping Don by power washing the house. I’d gotten home from taking Mom back just about the time the guys needed lunch. I made tuna sandwiches and served up Parmesan Crisps (yumm!) and grapes for them. Later that day our friend Susan arrived to spend a few days helping me pack–again. What a friend! When I started preparing dinner, a chicken and mushroom dish, I recalled that Susan is allergic to mushrooms.

Looking around for a good alternative, I saw one of my tupperware containers in the fridge. While I didn’t recognize the meal that was inside, it looked good and fresh. Besides, my mind has been in a bit of a whirl around moving, so I figured I’d just forgotten what was in that tub. I took out about half of the leftovers and put them in a bowl to heat.

As Susan and I sat on the porch glider at the end of the work day, Don and Dave joined us. Dave was eating out of a tupperware container before biking home (a fireman, he eats regularly to maintain his energy). It looked familiar.

“Oh no!” I gulped. “That’s YOUR food! Dave, I took out half of your meal for Susan because she’s allergic to mushrooms. We haven’t eaten yet; let me get the rest for you!”

“No worries,” he said graciously. “Grace has dinner ready at home. This is enough for now.” And indeed, Susan enjoyed half of the meal Grace had prepared for Dave that day!

Sometimes you just have to laugh or cry, and that was a day for lots of laughter at our mindless mistakes. I’m glad our God has given us a sense of humor, that He doesn’t love us any less when we mess up, and that He encourages healthy joy.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

What’s the most recent situation in which you laughed at something silly you did?

 

 

What Kind of Friend?

Two and a half million people on Red Flag Alert due to fires. That’s just about the population of Chicago, at 2.6 million! California is suffering from some of the worst wildfires we’ve had.  Other states are experiencing terrible floods. Lives, homes, cars, goods and sentimental treasures are being lost forever.

In III John, the Apostle says:

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God.”

We have an opportunity to do that with those who have lost so much, in some cases everything. Right now, many are praying for and helping those in the Carr and at least a dozen other California fires, who are devastated by loss of loved ones, homes, in some cases, everything. Loss of life has included two firefighters, two adults and two children. Cal Fire reported that by Thursday morning, the blaze had destroyed 1,060 homes, 18 commercial structures and 477 outbuildings. The fire is larger than the city of San Francisco! Thousands have had to evacuate their homes. We have friends in the Redding area, as I imagine many of you have.

I was glad to read that of eight evacuation centers currently open for Carr fire evacuees, five are churches and one is a Christian university.

Don and I often talk about how many of our friends are hurting in one way or another. Physical pain, financial needs, disasters, broken loves or friendships, loss of loved ones. True friends support, challenge, comfort, affirm, walk alongside, pray, and help. If you have this kind of friends you are rich or, as I said after meeting friends of my husband’s, “I feel fat with friendship.”

Over chicken tacos and enchiladas mole on the Capitola Esplanade this week, a dear sister in Christ helped give me perspective on a sticky situation. I knew my attitude toward another was neither healthy nor Christ-like. My friend reminded me that God doesn’t stop loving us when we make choices that are displeasing to Him. He understands our frame, our family of origin, our insecurities and fears, and the growth of our faith; and in His love He continues to pursue us. I need to be like Jesus, and to reflect Him to the person about whom I have concerns. At lunch, my girlfriend walked beside, not criticizing me, but challenging me in how I think about and relate to another. I need friends like her!

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses … Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice. Proverbs 27:6, 9

Another friend who is going through significant challenges and trusting God’s purifying work in her through it all, sent an email, which I share with permission …

Just picked up your most generous and thoughtful card, and wept. It was literally a kiss of encouragement from the Lord.  I needed His loving touch today. Hit bottom last night feeling overwhelmed with physical pain and the pressures, and going it alone. You know, the kind of helplessness that turns your whole being, heart to Jesus. The weeping remained this morning.  Weeping and trusting as God does His Handiwork.
While picking up mail I mustered the courage to call Kay and ask for a hug. No words, just a hug. That hug pierced that aloneness and unworthiness like a knife ….. And then came your note.  I can hardly express what both actions of love mean.
…And as I’m realizing on a deeper level, it’s also in relationship with trusted others that we walk, share burdens and joys and sorrows and sin. We lift one another’s arms. I’m ashamed to say how easily pride and business distracts us from both.  Or our own brokenness, insecurities, fear keep us from doing this.  A tool of the devil, since we are admonished to confess and bear with one another, comfort one another …  
We can be true friends as we listen, pray, hug, give, encourage, or walk alongside. And we can let others, including strangers, know they are not alone, that we care for them and their needs. Many churches will offer opportunities to give to those who have lost much in current disasters. Other organizations, and even workplaces, will do the same. Let’s ask God to guide us as to how we can best be friends to people we haven’t even met, but who need affirmations of love, a “kiss of encouragement from the Lord.”

For a link on what to do if you should be caught in a wildfire, go to https://www.worldvisionusprograms.org/disaster_response_wildfires.php.

If you have other ideas of how we can help those in the wildfires, as well as friends who are hurting, I’d love to hear them.

Renovation–Mind and Soul

Overwhelmed!

 

Boxes are piling up in hallway and bedrooms. Rugs rolled up. Piles being made for give-away or sale. Our friend, Susan Jones, and I packed quite a few boxes this week. We also took several bags and a large garbage-size bag of linens to Cityteam in hopes others can use what we no longer have room to store. With Don, we drove to our new residence twice, finalizing specifics with the contractor, picking up and ordering more supplies for our remodel. Meanwhile, Don switched out the old French doors and is re-framing the new ones in our current home. It’s been a busy week and I find myself dealing with a low-grade headache much of the time. My neck tightens up when I’m stressed, and both Don and I feel a bit overwhelmed.

But we are actually ahead of schedule for project completion and the next step of painting the new house. Reviewing ideas, choosing colors and appliances with Don is fun. We think a great deal alike, so decision-making is relatively easy. And we are deeply grateful for friends who are helping along the way – with preparing the yard and house for sale, with packing (more friends ahead for that too)!  What a blessing! But by evening I’m exhausted.

I’m glad God never gets weary or tired like I do … that He keeps faithfully working, remodeling my life, without collapsing at the end of the day!

We were reminded in our reading this morning to keep our focus on God, our strength, our wisdom, our peace. In Jesus Today, Sarah Young writes:

“Find rest in Me alone, dear one; your hope comes from Me. You have a restless mind. It skips and scampers about continually, rarely taking time to be still. Listen, and you will hear Me saying, ‘Come to Me.’ I am the only resting place for your mind that will truly satisfy and strengthen you. Take time–make time–to direct your thoughts to Me. Whisper My name and wait in My sacred Presence. You are on holy ground.”

“Then Moses said, ‘I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and sad, ‘Moses! Moses!’ And (Moses) said, ‘Here I am.’ Then (God) said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.'” Exodus 3:3-5 (NKJV)

I’ve never read that scripture in quite the same way before. Moses saw the burning bush. He could have walked right past; but he didn’t; he turned aside to look, and that’s when God spoke to him. Would he not have heard God had he not stopped to pay special attention? How often do I not stop to rest, to wait on God, to hear Him, and thus miss what He wants to tell me, impress on my heart?

I needed this reminder today. I plan to keep my focus on Him today and trust that when I get overwhelmed, rushed, mind skitting hither and yon with my “to do” list, I will remember to stop and refocus on Him, the One who gives me hope and peace.

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” Psalm 62:5

Where do you need hope today? Can you stop and refocus, letting God take your burdens, clarify your mind and renew your soul, spirit and body? Have a blessed week, trusting in Him!

 

He Sees the Sparrow Fall

I heard Don walking toward our office.

“There’s a deer in the yard. I think his leg is broken. We should probably call Animal Control.”

I went to the back deck to look and sure enough, a beautiful fawn was struggling to get to her feet. She tried so hard to roll from her side to her feet. But every time one of her legs would buckle underneath her and she would fall back, getting weaker with every attempt. It hurt to watch.

I called County Animal Services, explained what we saw and asked for their help. The fawn lay on her side (which I learned is dangerous for deer because their sternums get blocked), panting and shaking with what appeared to be shock. I thought about taking her water but resisted, knowing my approach would probably only terrify her more. Within thirty minutes an Animal Control officer was there. He threw a towel over her eyes to calm her while she bawled in pain and fear. The officer couldn’t feel a break in her leg, but there was a bruise on her face. She had likely been hit by a car and had head trauma. He carefully picked her up to transport her to a local vet. Had the fawn lain there a few more hours, I think she would have died.  

Oh, it hurt to see this animal in pain, frightened, unable to help herself.

I know deer can be destructive–they’ve eaten some of our plants and flowers and we get ticked off. We also try to plant deer-resistant flowers. But these creatures are still beautiful, graceful creatures of God, and watching/hearing her pain went deep.

And if I hurt when an animal with whom I have no relationship is in pain, how much more must our Father grieve when he sees our pain? How deeply he wants us to come to him with our needs, hurts, fears. When we strike out on our own, we often make the situation worse. When we turn to him for help, he can bring beauty from ashes (last week’s post, http://carolshope.com/2018/07/beauty-for-ashes/).

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) 

He understands our pain. Scripture tells us that when his friend Lazarus died, Jesus wept (John 11:35).

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

If God cares for the tiny sparrow enough to know when it falls to the ground, how much more does he know when we are in need of His divine intervention, His loving guidance, His complete forgiveness?

Question: What is heavy on your mind and heart today? I encourage you to take it to Jesus and allow him to lift your burden.

BEAUTY FOR ASHES

 

Demolition began Monday! Don and I purchased a home in a lovely over-55 community called “The Villages” just over two years ago. With a plan to stay in our beautiful Soquel locale for another two years or so, we rented the house in San Jose to several short-term tenants, the last of whom moved out a week ago. Now we’re preparing for our own move within several months.

Don and I arrived at the house early on demo morning to let our contractors in to begin work on our kitchen and master bath. The house looked clean, with everything in place.

By the end of the day the kitchen was totally torn apart (photo right), with wood strips, shavings, sawdust, and countertops on the floor to be removed and dumped. What a change in that one day!

Our lives can be demolished just that quickly if we’re not careful. In the case of our  “new” house, the demolition is occurring for the purpose of bringing about new life. Sometimes the same happens to us. A physical or emotional tsunami hits without warning. Stress, loss due to death or illness, or poor choices can have the effect of seeing our lives splinter and disintegrate.

But God has promised to “restore the years the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). This scripture first resonated with me when I read a biography of Senator Harold Hughes. An alcoholic who was ready to kill himself with the loaded rifle at his side, Hughes felt God’s touch. Choosing to live for Christ from that moment on, Hughes spoke about how God did indeed give him a full and productive life of service to God and country. From desolation, our faithful God can bring a fresh, new reality.

I felt despair when my first husband passed away. I was shattered, lonely, aching. Couldn’t think straight. Couldn’t concentrate. Got on the wrong freeway–in very familiar territory–four times in two weeks because the wheels of my brain just weren’t connecting. But God gave me this scripture from Jeremiah 29:11 almost immediately after Jerry’s passing: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.” With time, the love and support of family and friends, and a helpful grief recovery group that reminded me I was not alone in my crazy-making, the slow healing process began.

We can choose to stay in that lonely place, crushed, broken-hearted, closing ourselves off to those who would love us and walk with us. And when we do, we can’t heal.

Or we can allow Jesus to bring ” … beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3)  Another translation speaks of a “garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” That spirit of heaviness can be cloying, overwhelming, suffocating. Healing doesn’t often occur overnight, but over time as we take three steps forward and two back; or sometimes, three forward and four back … but if we keep trusting our God, He will bring the healing for which we ache.

So, as Don and I watch our house being rebuilt from a baseline of demolition, I want to remember that God is doing that kind of work in my life, and in the lives of those I love, as well. As I allow Him to tear down old strongholds, as I confess sin and receive His forgiveness, He is faithful to complete His good work in me–to build something new and pleasing to Him–until He comes to take me home for life in His presence, for all eternity.

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,

    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
   to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

   to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
   the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
   and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
 They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

Isaiah 61:1b-3 (NIV)