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When Discouragement Sets In

How do you recover when you’ve had a difficult day, week, month?

I’ve had a tough week. A number of people I care about are going through deep struggles. These are just a few.

a boy supporting ukraine in a rally
Photo by Sima Ghaffarzadeh on Pexels.com
  • Our dear friend next door is nearing death.
  • My manicurist found something on her breast and won’t have a biopsy until January; and she struggles with a newly independent daughter who is becoming emotionally distant.
  • Friends from Ukraine are hurting for the ongoing war, uncertain what will happen to their families.
  • Marital struggles of a dear friend.

Don and I met Anita on the street in Menlo Park. Long blond hair, makeup on, eyes sad, she sat on a bench, shoulders hunched, with a sign saying she couldn’t pay her rent.

“Are you hungry?” I asked. She nodded. “OK.”

We were headed into Boulangerie, where we ate breakfast and purchased lunch for her. While we ate, Anita came inside to use the restroom. When she came out, I asked “Are you the woman who was sitting across the street?” (wanted to be sure). She was.

Don and I invited her to sit with us. She told us she is disabled with manic depression, diabetes, etc.

After we talked awhile, I asked “Do you know Jesus?”

“Yes I do. I pray to him every day.”

By God’s grace we were able to encourage her with some food and a bit of money to help, at least for a brief time. Just as important, I think she knew we cared. We took time to listen to her. The blessing was that we weren’t in a rush that day. Don had a doctor’s appointment in Menlo and we had a number of errands to do before my haircut in the afternoon.

It’s so easy to walk by panhandlers, averting our eyes–or maybe nodding and saying hello, then continuing on in our own little world–which I often do. I’ll never forget walking behind a well-dressed woman in downtown Los Angeles years ago. She wore a suit and high heels, and her hair was coiffed. As she passed a homeless man, she looked straight at him and said, “Good morning, sir!” No, she didn’t give him anything tangible. But I always felt she acknowledged him, thereby giving him dignity.

There are so many in need and it hurts to see their pain, discouragement, loss.

I cried a lot this week and thought ‘what’s wrong with me? I’m not usually so emotional.’

And over the next day God brought to mind two things.

First, I’d forgotten to take some of my meds for about three days and that threw me off kilter. I’m just now recovering from the emotional fatigue of the week. (Medication can be a godsend; if you’re on it, be consistent!)

Second, this scripture came to my mind.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42:11

When I get discouraged, I need to focus on praising God for all he is doing. A song says “Even when I don’t see it He’s working, Even when I don’t feel it He’s working …”

The other day my hairdresser and I talked about homelessness, about choices people make that lead to that condition (not necessarily counting mental illness which I believe causes a lot homelesness). She said “They’ve made that choice, whether through drugs, alcohol, or whatever.”

Regardless of whether or not you agree with her statement, God has given us a choice too. He’s said “I’ve done everything needed for you to have eternal life. I gave my beloved Son, the only one who has never sinned, to die in order to take the punishment for your sins. You can’t meet my standard because you’re sinful. But you have a choice. You can accept what I’ve done and put your trust in Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for your sin, or you can choose to reject my gift of hope and life. You have free will. I won’t force you.”

Another thing I can do when I’m discouraged is remember God’s answers in the past. He has led throughout my whole life. Despite loss of a husband, parents and others I love; despite challenges of working in a ghetto and threats we faced there; despite discouragements and setbacks along the way; He has always been with me, leading to the next step. He is faithful; I look back at what my God has done in the past and am reminded that His character doesn’t change. He was faithful then; He will be faithful now.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus, John 16:33 ESV

I certainly don’t know the end result for the people I care about.

But Val chose to receive Christ two weeks ago. Though her body will soon die (as we all will at some point), she has eternal life through Jesus Christ.

I can love on and pray for my manicurist as she learns more about the lump in her breast, upcoming treatment, etc.

I don’t know what the end result of the war in Ukraine will be, but pray for the country’s people, their courage and stalwart hearts.

My hope is not in peace in our lifetime.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 ESV

One day our God will make all things right. Each of us will be judged by what we have done with his offer of forgiveness through faith in Christ. Evil will be banished and righteousness and justice will reign.

That gives me great hope!

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Angels, Beauty, and Inhumanity

Our group arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia late Sunday night. My birthday. Some hadn’t eaten on the flight. Shelly, our tour guide, had checked ahead and found a McDonald’s open ’til 11. Most other places were already closed or out of power due to Hurricane Fiona, which hit Halifax two days before our arrival.

Our bus driver, Bill, pulled off the highway to go to McDonald’s. As Shelly got to the door at 10 pm, she found the lobby locked. Someone inside came to the door and Shelly told them they’d said they were open ’til 11. They were–but only through the drive-through. Imagine getting a big touring bus through – into – breaking – the drive-through!

Frank VanderZwan, our wonderful tour leader, and a group stood around the front of McDonald’s, talking about what to do. A young local couple overheard them.

“Give me your orders. I’ll go through the drive-through and pick them up for you,” said Adrian. Note: this was an order for 26 people!

The Bible talks about angels in our midst. Sure seemed to us that Adrian and his partner were angels that night. They ordered and picked up the food, then didn’t want to accept payment for it, although Frank insisted. Their kindness made our weary, hungry travelers’ day!

What a great start to our tour of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and to the lovely people we met there. As we toured we saw lots of downed trees from the hurricane, and know that other areas were hit much harder–areas we had to avoid. Shelly worked hard every day to reschedule our itineraries based on safety and availability of power. She found wonderful and interesting alternatives to our planned itinerary.

According to Atlantic.ctvnews.ca, there were still 8000 without power in Nova Scotia and PEI two weeks after the hurricane (it’s now three weeks out).

But we had some highlights showing both God’s immense creation as well as man’s inhumanity to man.

The Hopewell Rocks are part of the Bay of Fundy, which has among the highest tides in the world. In the picture on the right I am looking down from the stairs leading to the ocean floor below. You can see the size of the rocks by the little humanoids walking around. We had to arrive early enough to get onto the sand before high tide, when that ocean floor is covered with water – a rise of 46 feet! One of the highest tides in the world.

If I recall correctly, the water rises to about the middle of the rock on the left. It fully fills the hole in the center rock. Notice the ‘bear’ on the right!

Most of us walked down the 99 steps (curiously, it’s 101 going up!) to listen to our guide tell about this phenomenon.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to climb back up, but walked along the ocean floor to a path leading to another parking lot where we met the bus.

Memorial church at Acadian Museum

We also visited the Acadian Museum, which showed how the Acadians (descendants of 17th and 18th century French settlers in parts of Canada) were mistreated. They were ethnically, geographically and administratively different from the other French colonies as well as what is now modern-day Quebec. Consequently, the Acadians developed a distinct history and culture. During the French and Indian War, the British suspected the Acadians of supporting France, although most remained neutral.

As a result, about 11,500 Acadians from the region were forcefully deported fromt he maritime region. About one third perished from disease and drowning. Most were deported to various British American colonies and placed into forced labor or servitude. It’s a tragic part of Canadian history and Canada is working to make reparations.

Our trip was educational in more ways than we expected. We were grateful for our tour leader, guide, driver, and local guides. Seems travel opens our eyes in new ways to things we may have been unaware of before.

What’s a memory from a trip you’ve taken that has stayed with you? Why? I’d love to hear.

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It’s a God Thing

Ahh, the sound of surf pounding the sand. Of children’s laughter floating up to our balcony. Of wind swaying the palm branches. The blues and greens of ocean and trees, shrubs and grass.

View from our balcony

As I write I’m watching a bright yellow outrigger come up the beach. Delightful!

We arrived in Maui Thursday, fatigued from a wonderful earlier trip and the preparations for this one. Friday afternoon we napped until awakened by a very loud fire alarm! At first I thought it was only in our room (but no fire) but then looked out into the hallway to see lights flashing. Soon there came a’knocking, knocking at our door–and at everyone else’s.

“We’re evacuating the building. Please leave your room and go out to the beach.”

Gathering our passports and credit cards, we took the stairs down to ground level. As we walked toward the beach we saw water raining down from a third-story window. Evidently there was a fire in that room, and the sprinklers were doing their job.

“Why don’t we get a Coke at the Grill,” I suggested. Don agreed.

We found a table and sat. With the building evacuating, there were quite a few people there. Don said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could have another couple join us.” But we didn’t see that opportunity.

Within a few minutes another evacuated couple took the table next to ours and we began conversing – sports, what they’d done while here, etc. Then Don mentioned an old Giants pitcher who had been in Don’s Sunday school class and became lifelong friends of his. Conversation was interesting, and I noticed the woman’s cross pendant.

Randy and Jane

I leaned over.

“I’m going to be kind of forward here, but may we join you? We’ll all hear better.” (They had four chairs at their table, we had three.)

Jane and Randy invited us over. Almost immediately, Randy looked at Don.

“You mentioned Sunday school. Are you a Christian?”

“Oh yes!”

And off we went, sharing lives, challenges, joys and faith in Jesus Christ. What a gift, a God thing, as we visited for several hours until we were able to return to our rooms. Meeting and developing a friendship with this couple from Tennessee was a good gift from the Father.

Our waiter said he’d gone behind the restaurant and, when the firefighters opened the patio doors of the room, smoke just billowed out. I hate to think of what that couple or family found when they returned to their room–as well as the people in the two rooms below that were impacted by the fire sprinklers!

My point? In the midst of any and all circumstances, God is at work. He may be encouraging others–and they us–people we may never see again on earth but with whom we’ll share eternity! He may be showing kindness to stressed waiters, waitresses or others through us. He may be drawing someone to Himself through our love and words.

Saint Augustine said “Preach the gospel always; using words when necessary.”

I’m a wordy girl. I guess that’s why I write. And I am learning that words are not the only way to show God’s love, that the Holy Spirit is always at work and I need to trust Him and get on board with what He’s doing rather than ask Him to help me with what I’m doing!

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17

Communication

You may have already seen this, but in light of the fact that Don and I are scheduled to fly into Halifax today, with Hurricane Fiona having arrived yesterday, I thought a little levity might be in order this week.

This dad and son are certainly communicating! I love it, and hope you do too.

Blessings, safety and love to all!

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Heroes

Brian Rogers, Commander of American Legion Post 858

He phoned about a month and a half ago.

“This is Brian Rogers of the American Legion Post 858. Don is part of our Post, and we want to honor World War II veterans at our September meeting. Will you join us?”

We agreed, and Brian asked Don questions about his 26 months of service, including 16 months during the occupation on Okinawa toward the end of WWII, and the cleanup operations after the war.

The day was amazing.

Paulette and Al – Vietnam Veteran

We arrived at the Post, met Brian and talked with a few other people. As people gathered, we took our seats at tables under red and blue umbrellas. John and Al, Vietnam veterans, and Al’s wife Paulette, joined our table. There was a wonderful sense of cameraderie. Men and women who served in WWII, Korea, Iraq, Vietnam, all served our country. And we learned that Paulette and Al are also Jesus followers. What a joy!

As we walked to the tables we saw a group of high schoolers practice carrying framed flags to the front table. After Don and I sat down, four of the girls came over and asked how we were doing. They all wore yellow t-shirts with NAVY on them, so we asked about their goals.

ROTC Students

The Honor Guard, these NAVY-t-shirt students, and Boy Scouts are part of their school’s ROTC. Of the four girls who came to speak to us, two want to become pilots, one to be in another area of service, either Navy or Air Force. All were excited about helping protect our nation.

Lunch was hot dogs or hamburgers, chili, chips, eggrolls, cookies, and sodas or water.

As the anthem of each service branch was played, Brian asked those serving under the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard to stand when their theme song played. I was proud of my dear husband as he saluted to “While the Army Goes Rolling Along.”

Then Brian, current Commander of the Post, and Tito, who began the VSSA, handed out the framed flags.

Note Don’s, second row middle

Of five surviving WWII veterans, two were present – Don, and a 100-year old Coast Guard service member (right). Flags were also given to the families of WWII servicemen who passed in the last year.

We were deeply impressed by the services provided by the American Legion, through the Veterans Supportive Services Agency (VSSA). Tito, who started the VSSA, talked about how they fought to get congressional approval for American citizenship for those Filipinos who fought with us during WWII.

Now they are beginning a campaign to gain more support for deceased veterans’ wives. When their husbands pass away, these wives are often left pretty destitute.

It was a meaningful day. Meeting other veterans, and especially these students who are focused on joining the military, encouraged our hearts. So often we hear of divisions within our nation; yet there are those still willing to fight for the freedoms we enjoy. And whether or not you are a conscientious objector, I have a great deal of respect for so many who were, and are, willing to sacrifice to keep our nation free.

Don and John, a Vietnam vet, posing with the Jr. ROTC’ers

My confidence is not in America, our government or leaders. We are all fallible. My confidence is in the Son of God, who gave Himself to pay the penalty for my sins and yours.

One day we will all stand before the Great Commander in Chief, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Jesus Christ. He will judge us, not on how good or bad we’ve been, but on whether we’ve accepted his free gift of eternal life through his death and resurrection.

If I was so touched by this ceremony, how much more do I want to have something to give back to God in worship when I stand before him.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17, NIV