Category Archive: Connections

The Waitress

woman wearing gray top
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She walked to our restaurant table in Florence, Kentucky. Blonde, pony-tailed, heavily tattooed, our waitress answered some questions and then, somehow, told us her life story. I don’t even remember how that happened, how she opened up. But over her next several trips to our table, Leah spilled out one of the saddest stories I’ve heard–and I’ve heard a few.

  • Her brother was born of an incestuous relationship between her mother and her mother’s father.
  • Her mother sold the two children for drugs when they were little.
  • Leah had been on drugs for several years, but had been clean for about three years, trying to make a new life for herself. She broke up with her boyfriend because he wasn’t committed to staying clean.
  • She’d had three cars in the last two months, and the one she had now needed repairs.
  • Her brother wanted to have a sexual relationship with her, which she refused. “I’m here to protect you, not to be your girlfriend.”

We asked if she knew God, and she said she did. “I talk to him every day.” Did she know Jesus? “Yes.” But she didn’t have a Bible, wasn’t in a church as far as we know, so I don’t know how deep her understanding of God’s nature and of Jesus’ forgiveness went. I told her that no matter what her past held, she is precious in God’s eyes and that he loves her. We were able to leave her with a Gospel of John (she said she’d buy a Bible that weekend), with some other information about how to know God through Jesus, as well as a very healthy tip, saying we wanted to bless her.

We’ll likely never see Leah again except, we pray, in heaven.

But what a divine appointment! Had we been busy chatting ourselves we may never have connected with Leah as we did.

Jesus asked questions of the people he met.

“Do you want to be made whole?” (Good question!) Is it possible that some would rather wallow in their self-pity, their dysfunction, their addiction, than be made whole?

He engaged the Samaritan woman at a well. She would come when the townswomen were not there to gather water. As a woman living in adultery, she could not join in their laughter and gossip. But Jesus was there. After they had spoken for awhile…

The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”

Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

John 4:25-26. NKJV

How often do we stop long enough to listen–to the one who wants to tell her story; the one who struggles to find words because of brain cancer or dementia; the one who must weep before being able to speak; the one who hungers for someone to really hear them? Listening requires being quiet, not speaking quickly (which for me is the easier course of action).

We have a Father who is always ready to listen.

Casting all your care on him, for he cares for you.

I Peter 5:7 NKJV

And the Father has given us each other, to listen, be present, and help as he leads.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

I John 4:11 NIV

Listening takes time. I confess that I often move from one thing to another without stopping long enough to listen. I’m working on that. I want to be available for those divine appointments God brings my way; to listen closely enough to him that I know when to slow down or stop, pay attention and love someone along my way.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry …

James 1:19

What divine appointments have you experienced recently, or in the past? I’d love to hear.

Journeying

I’m enjoying time with Don and dear friends from the other side of our beautiful country.

Friday, on a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark in Kentucky!

Saturday, in Branson, MO watching a marvelous and incredibly well-done performance of a musical of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection. It didn’t hit me emotionally as I anticipated, until the Resurrection – and then I welled up. “That’s my God!”

More to come on all that. Here are a few photos of trip memories so far.

With our friends Fritz and Frank Buschman, their daughter Kim, and her adorable three children aged five, eight, and ten, we took our own boat ride up the Ohio River in Cincinnati.

Roebling Bridge, prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge, during the day … and at night.

And, below, the home of Daniel Carter Beard, founder of the Boy Scouts.

We have so much history in this beautiful country of ours, and seeing more of it is a joy and privilege.

Do you have a favorite state, or meaningful site, from your travels within America?

NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US

Jan died Tuesday morning. She told me awhile back that the doctors said the cancer that lay dormant for a few years had returned with a vengeance. She had six months or less to live.

We met Jan, our next-door neighbor, before we ever moved to our current home. She phoned to say the fence was broken and ask if we would split the cost of repairs. Of course we agreed.

After we moved in, we often met Jan walking Sophie, her golden Lab, while we walked Paige. After Sophie passed, Jan’s daughter gave her Harley, a handsome black Lab. Jan’s pockets always carried an abundance of Charlee Bears, which she freely shared with other dogs along her walk. First Sophie, then Harley, was “just perfect”. She loved these canine companions dearly.

close up of dog relaxing on bed
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Don and I prayed for opportunities to serve her, and to share the love of Jesus with her. One day I asked, in the context of the conversation, if Jesus was her Savior.

“Yes, He is. I talk to Him every night.”

Jan continued walking Harley ’til about two weeks ago, when she simply was too weary to continue. Harley went back to Jan’s daughter and was reunited with old buddies there.

Over these months we took baked goods, flowers, replaced light bulbs, sent cards and assured her of our prayers, so grateful to know Jesus was on this journey with Jan.

Monday morning Don and I read Romans 8:38-39:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

sky sunset person silhouette
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I felt those verses were for Jan that day. We hadn’t seen her in a week, so didn’t realize how quickly she had declined. I wrote the scriptures in a card and called to see if we could bring it over.

One of her daughters answered the phone. “She’s unconscious, on morphine, but you’re welcome to come talk to her.”

Entering Jan’s room that afternoon, we saw her unconscious form. As we stood at her bedside I took her hand and said, “Jan, it’s Carol and Don.” She seemed to try to respond as her lips moved, without sound. “We brought you a card, and I’ll just read it to you.”

I read the verses aloud. Medical professionals say hearing is the last sense to go, so I wanted these scriptures to be in her heart and mind as she transitioned. “NOTHING will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Unknown to me, two of her three daughters had entered the room and listened. As I told Jan “When you see Jesus calling you, just go to Him – just let go.” Her daughter murmured, “yes.”

Jan let go Tuesday morning at about 6 o’clock.

Isn’t it just like God to give us a scripture that we’ll need for something that very day? Don and I were so glad to see Jan and say goodbye, tell her we look forward to seeing her again at Jesus’ feet.

And yes, walking out our garage doors feels empty now, just knowing our Jan is no longer here. And yet we rejoice knowing she is in the presence of Jesus Christ, Lord, Savior, Messiah. And because of God’s provision for our sin through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we will see her again.

Thought: if you have a loved one in a coma, or near death, keep talking to them, asking God to allow your words to sink into their spirit.

post by carolnl | | Closed

Grateful!

SOVEREIGNTY. That’s my word this year. I’ve reflected on it often this past week. Focusing on this characteristic of God has helped keep me grounded.

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. Psalm 71:5

It’s been a full week!

Productivity: I worked on submissions to an agent and another person for critique at the end-of-month West Coast Christian Writers’ online conference. Spent hours refining, condensing, and finally sending on Friday, which was my deadline. I’m praying for helpful feedback and direction as to next steps with the novel I’m writing.

Self-Care: Got my hair cut and colored–yippee! As one of my cousins said, “makes me feel pretty for a few minutes.”

Health: Don, meanwhile, had a root canal and his second Covid vaccine. He’s doing well, no symptoms from either.

Communication: I had a great phone conversation with Susan, a delightful FaceTime with a cousin in Canada, and an in-person meet-up outside with three Bible study friends, one of whom was in from out of state.

The next day Marilyn led us in a study of Psalm 86, so timely.

Teach me Thy way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear (honor) your name.

Psalm 86:11

Our small group met to discuss Daniel’s faith when thrown into the den of Lions by King Darius of Persia, who asked “Is your God able to save you?” and was thrilled when the answer was “He is able, and He did!”

And finally, we had a family zoom call yesterday during which Don’s grandson and his wife revealed the gender of their expected second child! Blue it is, and we are eager to add another great-grandson to our family!

What a great week. Busy, focused, productive, meaningful interactions.

I know we still have a long way to go with COVID-19, that other obstacles and trials will come our way, but somehow the sunshine this week (in our part of California) has felt like the newness of Spring, the freshness of new life, the hope of eternity. And I am thankful!

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. Psalm 73:8

What’s helping you deal with isolation, loneliness, and anxiety? I’d love to know, and to pray for you.

Rich Soil

I attended the recent West Coast Christian Writers’ Conference, online, October 8-10. The cost was low; and the conference was well planned with a balance between pre-recorded instruction sessions and interactive Zoom game breaks and lunch chats.

I enjoyed seeing several familiar faces and appreciated each morning’s devotions, led by one of the planning team.

Jan Kern’s devotion from Isaiah 55:1-3 spoke to me. “If you are thirsty, come–there is water for all–come closer–my words give life!”

And Kathi Lipp spoke on Rooted Marketing. Yup, marketing – an idea I dislike strongly. Let me research and write a book, but don’t ask me to market myself. However, Kathi put a different spin on this word when she reflected that the purpose of marketing is to show readers the possibilities in:

  • The Work – what the reader can expect
  • Themselves – what they can learn of or about themselves. Writing leads us to great possibilities: and
  • Their God – Expand the readers’ view of how God interacts with us. She spoke of redwood trees which have shallow roots, but intertwine their roots beneath the soil to strengthen and support each other. As writers we build those interconnections by serving others in a way that strengthens and builds them up.

There were other presentations I enjoyed and learned from. But let me close with this awesome example Kathi gave of being generous with each other, of being rooted together like those huge redwoods. Keala, the singer, was nervous. Watch the change in her demeanor as she connects with the man in the purple hoodie in the second row. He was hired just for the day – wasn’t in the movie at all – but was so generous with his support. Watch how his subtle interactions with her bring her alive. It still has me in tears even after watching it multiple times!

So you are part of my audience. I cherish your prayers as I continue writing my novel (working title OUT OF RUSSIA). Pray that I will write for God and serve my readers in ways that bring out the best in them.

Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen Your people. Fill their souls with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in their hearts. May love be the rich soil where their lives take root. May it be the bedrock where their lives are founded so that together with all of Your people they will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. 

Ephesians 3:16-18, The Voice

Bless you, my reading friends!