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Hard Season

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And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

There can be no mistake about it. This is one of the toughest seasons of my life. It has been hard for me and all of my family. As many of you already know, within twenty-four hours this past March, Covid took its toll and both of my parents went to Heaven. Last month, in August, my younger sister joined them due to health issues. It has been a hard season.

Many days, I am in a blur, somewhere between “things are going to be okay” and “it feels impossible to move one foot in front of another.”

There have been places and times of comfort. Comfort in the confines of my own home, surrounded by reminders of family members who still remain and those who have gone on, the comfort of spending time with my husband, family, and friends, and of course, the time spent reading Scripture. The Bible is always there, waiting to offer comfort, kindness, and even when needed, correction.

Scripture also tells us about the gifts we have been given. One of the gifts given to us by God is the gift of knowing we are to continue to work for Him. He made us with a purpose. The purpose is to do good works and, as it says in Scripture, we are to always be about the business of working for Him.

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For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:20

For me, the tough season will only improve by getting busy once again, full force, doing what I am called to do. Writing, purposefully sharing His Word in Christian books, is how I am going about my work for Him. By committing myself back to His call, I am dealing with the hard season. He has given me the will, and the skill, to work for Him. This is how He is taking care of me, how He is supplying for my needs during this hard season.

He has provided each of us with gifts and work to do for Him. Your gift might be working actively behind the scenes of your church, helping your family and friends, being a caregiver for a family member, or helping others in need. When you find yourself in tough and challenging situations, you know your Friend and Savior has suffered through every human emotion. He knows what we need because He felt the same emotions when He walked the earth. Through Scripture, He provided strategies for us to deal with emotions of sorrow, grief, and loneliness. It may take time, but comfort will come. We only need to study the Word, seek, ask, and He will provide.

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No Warning Construction

Build the Holy Temple

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Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his spirit.” Ephesians 2:13

My plans were firm. I left in plenty of time to meet a good friend for breakfast. Yet not a mile from my home I ran into a road construction crew with no warning signs. There was hardly room to turn my car around and backtrack the other direction. An upset construction worker motioned frantically. I put my car window down and meekly explained there was no sign warning of any road construction. Nevertheless, I was now redirected on a different route to reach my destination.

This reminded me of how many times in my life my plans were firmly set in my mind only to have them upended. When it happens, there must be a detour or complete change of plans. Other times, just as in the closing of a road during construction, I have found myself “temporarily closed.” Being temporarily closed means one is not functioning as expected. Such was my reaction when I recently lost both parents within a twenty-four-hour period. I was closed for construction for quite some time.

It is during these closed periods of time, when everything comes to a halt, God has our complete, undivided attention. It is a time to go back to our source of strength: Scripture. And each time I have gone back to Scripture while closed for construction, the Word can reach me in a way I cannot be reached during the busyness of life. The Scripture is able to get right inside my heart where nothing else can.

Closed for construction is a signal to us that should we continue ahead, without a break, things will not be pretty. When working without God’s help, plodding forward with no break, our minds and bodies suffer. We might end up with depression, anxiety, or illness brought on by stress. Shutting down while “under construction” is necessary. When we are under construction, God can reach us.

Once we are collected and our feelings have been gathered back together with the stitching of God’s mighty hands, our lives makes more sense. We see the world more clearly, more intensely, and more in tune with God’s Word. And God’s Word is always the same. His plan for us remains the same. He uses this “closed for construction” time to assist us, comfort us, and strengthen us, so we are ready to help in His work, His plan. We are ready once more to get back to our calling: to build His temple.

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Using Christ Jesus as our cornerstone, we diligently work to build His church. We are all citizens of His community. The Holy Temple is us, the members of His community. To complete the temple, He asks us to invite others to our community; to invite others to help build His church. The next time you find yourself closed for construction, return to the Scripture, reach out to God’s community, and rely on the strength of His arms to prop you back up. Then you can return to working for Him.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28: 19.

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Celebrating Our Country

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“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land,” 2 Chronicles 7:14.

The news, whether local, national, or world news, is disheartening. Violent crime, tragedies, economic crises, fuel and food shortages, are just a few of the headlines causing most of us stress.

The verse above from 2 Chronicles is quoted often during times when a people see their own country on a downward path. The verse was first stated by Solomon as the Temple was completed. Solomon knew his people had committed wrongdoings and, as in our own time, the people needed a course correction. In our own country and in this time, we need a course correction just as the people in the Old Testament. And, like the people of Solomon’s time, God has already chosen us. He loved us first.

Nevertheless, before our eyes we see the violence, theft, and burning of cities. We hear the angry vitriol between political parties. It seems our nation needs to be humbled. As a country we need to turn back to God, ask for forgiveness, and work very hard to heal our land. Can we do it? How do we do this? Where do we begin?

Let us turn first to young people. We see the pain, hurt, and suffering of so many in a generation raised without parents or with dysfunctional parents. We see children of poverty and violence within their own homes. We see children with material or technological substitutes for parents and happiness. We also see groups of teachers who are more concerned with one political stance or another, with one rights group or another, who attempt to influence vulnerable children who have no role models at home to advise them and teach them about God. Faith has not only left our schools, but faith has also left many homes. These children are easy prey for indoctrination.

How can a nation save itself? How can we save children who have no one to rely upon? How can we save the church in our country? And what is “church” in the modern world?

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” Acts 20:28.

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The church is us. Those of us who have the Holy Spirit dwelling within, who have accepted our Lord and Savior, who lift one another up, who help each other and praise God together. We are the church. It is up to us to get busy. We are to share the Word of God with others. As the Apostle Paul told the Colossians:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16.

As the Christian church, we are to plant the seeds, invite others to church, lift each other up, and keep our Christian values. We are to provide role models not only for our children but for children and adults who may have lost their way. Today, talk with others, think of how to make a difference, even a small difference in the life of a child, a neighbor, an acquaintance, a friend.

We are coming upon the celebration of our nation’s independence. July 4th is just a few weeks away. During this time, remember the brave men and women who gave their lives defending our freedom and our values. Remember this country was founded under the one true God and Christian values are the ones our country held dear when it was established. Teach children about the true history of our country. Do not rely on others for the education of your children and grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and children of friends. Establish the values early. As a nation, let us humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from wicked ways. Let us do our part to bring our country back.

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God’s Timing

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For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

God’s timing is always perfect according to His bigger plan. He knows when things will occur before they occur. He knows when we will receive blessings and how and when tragedies occur. He always knows how things work together for the good. No matter how hard we try to plan and schedule our lives, in the end, it is He who has control.

This is a hard lesson to learn. Sometimes the interruptions in our schedules are a mere inconvenience. Sometimes they are heart breaking. Last month was my own heartbreak. Last month my life and plans were upended.

It began last fall when I accompanied my dad to his local donut shop where he gathered frequently with his buddies for fellowship, laughter, stories, and of course, donuts. One of his buddies suggested I write a book about groups like Dad’s donut shop group. The purpose would be to teach young people about these friendships and God’s fellowship and purpose for our lives. I accepted the challenge and began right away on the book. Although I spoke often with my dad about the progress of the book, I wanted to surprise him with a copy once it was completed. I scheduled everything from the book cover design to the editing and the release date. As it turned out, God already had a plan for my dad in the month of March.

In late February, both of my parents contracted Covid. Mom went to Heaven on March 9th and Dad followed her the next day. They were blessed to be together to the very end. I never got to show Dad the book. Instead, I handed the books out at Mom and Dad’s funerals. It was a bittersweet and sad moment.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 16:9

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

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My siblings and I talk often about God’s reasons and timing of our parents’ deaths. Our parents took every recommended precaution, such as taking vaccines, staying home. They seldom left their home and when they did, they were not around people. But this virus found them. We believe if it wasn’t for the virus, one might have passed away many years before the other and it would have been devastating. It was a blessing for our parents to be able to go to Heaven together. They were able to remain at home thanks to the work of dedicated Hospice workers. They were at peace with God and each other.

As for the book about my dad’s donut shop buddies, I read it often and feel like Dad is right there with me. Perhaps the reason for the timing for me was to provide me a source of comfort while grieving. I know the book will find its way to the right hands and pray it makes a difference for our youth. I pray those who read it will understand my dad’s faith and love of our great country. I also know, because I was inspired by God’s Word as I wrote the book, the purpose will be served.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6.

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Faith Moments

Had enough winter?

For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. Song of Solomon 2:11-12

The verse and the picture depict spring. Ahh… Just the thought of it! We watch the weather reports and see many places are still covered with snow. Others face cold bitter winds, and, here where I live, rain and more rain. It was only weeks ago the Christmas season ended. We put away the decorations and lights. However, winter continues to overwhelm many with freezing weather, clouds, and darkness.

I am one of those people who thrive in sunshine and warm temperatures. I long to be by the sea, or here in the southern part of Texas, the gulf! Winter can throw me right into a seasonal funk where I remain until the sun begins to shine again every day.

Our Creator knew we needed seasons; He created them.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years (Genesis 1:14)

Seasons are part of the passage of time and the passage of life. We know spring will soon follow winter. But for now, we can read Scriptures, enjoy our indoor time, and read books about traveling or the beach. We can bring more light into our homes and brighten things up. We can watch movies set in beautiful gardens of flowers, travel destinations, or movies set at the beach. And we can offer thanks for knowing, as we struggle through the winter seasons of our lives, spring will follow. He made it that way.

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Finishing Strong

My husband and I attend church on the island near our home. At last, we are attending church in person once again! It is such a gift to gather with other Christians for praise and worship. During the service, it is customary to offer prayers together for those who are sick or suffering as well as for those with thanks and praise reports. This is a time to listen to what is going on with our fellow Christians. It is also a time that causes me to think about our journey on this road we call life. As years go by, people we used to see in church, in our neighborhood, or even on the golf course, are now moving on further down the road of life. Prayers are said for neighbors recovering from surgeries or treatments and for those who remain in hospitals. Others have recently lost their siblings or best friends. And so we travel together on this road of life to the finish line.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it, 1 Corinthians 9:24

When I ran marathons, there was a time of hitting “the wall” when you feel as if you cannot continue to put one foot in front of the other. A common mantra at this time in the race is to “finish strong.” It was the mantra that motivated me, when I wanted to give up, to continue with the struggle and finally get my foot across the finish line.

Recently, I retired from working full time as a professor. Unexpectedly, I received a call from a publisher who informed me that a book I had written more than thirty years ago was going into a new edition. To update my publisher about my new Christian writing projects and interests, I sent him a link of my recent release, Both Sides of the Border. He emailed back with a short note, “You are finishing strong.” His remark gave me pause because I believe I have a long way to go. I am still in “training” so to speak, for my faith. There is more to learn, more to write, and there is always a need to strengthen my faith. But his comment caused me to smile. I’m not finished yet, but I am going to finish strong.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, Philippians 3:14

Paul instructed the congregations in Philippi and Corinth, and also to Timothy whom he mentored, to stay strong. He reminded followers of Jesus to approach faith as athletes approach training for a race. Stay consistent, stay focused, and finish strong so that our faith endures until we reach the final prize. And in Hebrews, we are reminded once again to continue with our fight and to not become weary or fainthearted.

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Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted, Hebrews 12:3

No matter where you might be on your life journey, whether you are just starting a marriage, a career, a family, strengthening faith can parallel your journey in this world. There is always more to learn about the Word of God. And at times, when we are weary from our journey on this road, when we strengthen our faith, it will strengthen us for the final leg of the race. At last, like Paul, may we be able to say we kept our faith, finished the race, and made it to our final prize.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith, 2 Timothy 4:7

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Storms Ahead

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“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6.

We may not have advanced warnings of storms. Tornados develop quickly and may go undetected until it is too late to move from their path. Hurricanes provide more warning but may take unexpected turns, intensify, and catch us off guard.

Storms in our lives are often unannounced. A sudden medical diagnosis or health event finds us hearing test results we never thought would be about us. A family member tells us their marriage failed or a wayward relative finds trouble around every corner. The sudden death of a family member rocks our world to the core. An unexpected, a health crisis may not even seem rational to us. But life happens according to God’s plan and calendar. Not ours.

It is clear that storms in our lives can make us hold on more tightly to our faith. When things are looking down, Christians look up and ask God for help with a marriage, support for challenging relationships, or talented surgical hands for a loved one’s surgery.

But the verse above from Deuteronomy is not speaking of an unexpected storm. This verse takes place as Moses is nearing the end of his life. God told him he would not cross the Jordan, but Joshua would be the one to take the Israelites to the promised land. God knew the times ahead would be difficult. Joshua would have wars with nations and for many years the wars continued. God foretold of these storms. He knew trouble was ahead. It was part of the bigger picture. God knew that on the other side, after the struggles and the wars, the Israelites would be better because of the struggles. They would claim their promised land.

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of troubles; he knows those who take refuge in him. Nahum 1:7

For over a year now, the world has dealt with an unexpected storm. No one saw it coming. No one knew our lives would be shut down and changed dramatically. But as the verse above states, we were not forsaken by God. He stood with us as a nation and slowly we are getting our lives back. Of course God could see the bigger picture.

“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” Psalm 33:11.

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Much has been written about the time of this pandemic. Interestingly, a common theme among Christian’s writing or speaking about the pandemic is one of a great revival in our country. The pandemic is viewed as a time when Christians, and for the first time perhaps, many non Christians took refuge in God and asked for strength and protection.

The pandemic caught us off guard. We were not prepared. But is there another storm ahead that we should pray about? Is there a coming storm in our country? Can we see it in the road up ahead?

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” James 1:19.

Are we prepared for the large numbers of helpless people who are streaming into our country with medical issues and no economic support? Can we address this coming storm with Christian hearts and be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger? Are we praying that our nation can be kept secure? Are we praying that no harm would come to the people entering the country and no harm would come to our country? Have we prayed for our own neighbors, who might be placed in harm’s way?

“From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth-he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do,” Psalm 33:13-15.

God knows our hearts. He knows our feelings about the events of our times. Unfortunately, all issues in today’s world are politicized. Once again we must think about how Christian’s are to live. We are commanded to love our neighbors and that includes all of our neighbors. This means protecting each other and individuals who cannot protect themselves. These issues are complex. People within our country and those streaming across the border have real reasons to be concerned. We all should be. Solutions will come to those who are quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Let’s begin by praying and then, with God’s guidance, talking to each other.

If you are concerned about these events, consider all of the issues and resources available. Let’s not turn off our ears to viewpoints that are different than our own. No solution will come from that. Rather, let us be attuned to our faith in God and in mankind. As a people, we can do better. We can listen more intently and speak more respectfully.

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My new release explores the situation on the border through the lives of two women, one in the United States and one traveling across Mexico with the hope of entering the United States. When they ultimately meet, their lives are changed forever. Below is the trailer for the book followed by the link to the book on Amazon.

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Start the Dialogue

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart,” 1 Samuel 16:7.

These flowers are considered by some to be wild and by others to be weeds. Perhaps they interfere with the growth of our own plants. They may intrude on our carefully landscaped flower beds or gardens. They may sprout up into and between the blades of grass of our beautifully sodded yard. Our clean lines between grass and shrubs or flower beds may look ragged when these wild growing plants find their way into our yard.

To change our human perspective of these common plants, we should take a look with a different lens. These were created by God for a purpose. These plants provide nourishment for other creatures. They weave the ecosystem together in different climates. They are, in many cases, stronger against the harshest of weather than our carefully planted seeds and bulbs. These are to be appreciated as His creations.

This year, my parents’ yard surprisingly had a large row of bluebonnets show up for the first time. These wildflowers perfectly lined their circular driveway. My dad’s interpretation of this event was, “These had to be planted by God.” He was right.

Humans are the same way. We are created for a purpose. We must survive on our planet and live our lives as God desires. This means all humans, even those we don’t understand or those we feel don’t belong in certain situations, should be shown kindness. The verse above from 1 Samuel is one in which we find Samuel looking for the new king. Samuel looked at each of Jesse’s older sons, thinking surely it would be this one. To Samuel’s surprise, God selected the youngest son, David, not yet a man. God told Samuel that He saw David differently than Samuel did. God’s view was through His lens that looked inside the heart of David and knew his potential. We too must look at each other with a different lens.

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For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with the inscription ‘To an unknown God.’ So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship-and this is what I am going to proclaim to you now,” Acts 17:23.

This verse is another wonderful example of using a different lens. This comes from the story of Paul when he was in Athens. The people of Athens believed in false gods and had statues of false gods which they worshiped. Knowing the beliefs of the Athenians were extremely different than Paul’s belief in God, Paul did not begin talking with the Athenians by accusing them of being bad people because they did not understand God. He did not lecture or try to force his words upon them. Rather, Paul found a common ground and began to ask questions about their depiction of an unknown god. He used this as a starting point. Because he carefully began the conversation they were receptive to learn more about God.

When we are with others with whom we disagree, perhaps we are tempted to force our own beliefs upon them. People should believe the way we believe. If not, and we don’t find a common ground, we give up, shrug our shoulders, and maybe even walk away.

How can we find common ground with people who believe things we don’t? How do we look at others through a different lens? How can we appreciate all people, believers and nonbelievers, and have meaningful discussions to promote a better understanding of our world? How can we be examples of God’s love? The media is jammed packed with people who disagree, yell, and even commit violent acts toward those who are on the other side of a viewpoint, political belief, or faith. As people who believe the command given to us by Jesus to love others, don’t we need to follow Paul’s example and start a conversation?

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Friendships in Hard Times

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Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Last winter, before the CoVid quarantine, we took a trip south to escape the cold, wet weather. We traveled for ten hours and returned to our previous home city to visit with friends. It was as if we’d never left. We were greeted with open arms in the homes of our friends and our church. We were invited to dinners and lunches, and a couple of rounds of golf. We attended our former Bible Study and were absorbed into the warmth of our church friends.

Friendship is something that lives within your heart. And in the past, we talked to our friends each day face-to-face, not realizing what a gift it was to be able to do so.. Nowadays, we are visiting through FaceTime, telephone, zoom, chat, or messaging. We’ve had friends offer to pick up grocery items for us, friends who dropped of gifts “just because”, and friends who made face masks for us. We’ve had driveway visits from friends who pull up, emerge from their vehicles, and stand out in the drive for lengthy periods just because we miss seeing each other.

Friends spend their time together talking, laughing, listening, and supporting each other. True friendships have an additional characteristic of feeling like you are “at home” or anchored and secure in the world. Scripture reminds us that friendships serve a purpose of lifting each other up and supporting each other through rough patches. The verse below, from a letter to the Romans written by Paul, reminds us of the importance of loving and showing honor to others.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10

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And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

The love we have from our Father and His Son is the greatest love we will ever know. It is placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This love dwells there, waiting to serve, to comfort, and to guide us in our everyday lives. The friendship with our Father is the ultimate. There will be no greater friend and no greater love. And, as an added blessing, God places worldly friends in our lives, too. I am so thankful.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever Hebrews 13:8

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Love

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We love because he first loved us 1 John 4:19

Things have been pretty crazy lately, in my life and in the world in general. There have been many personal challenges and deadlines I need to meet. Health issues, work issues, issues, issues, issues. When we feel like all the balls we must juggle are in the air at the same time, we might get testy. I know I do. And those are the times we might feel we aren’t very lovable. That is me lately. I have felt pushed and rushed and pulled from all sides. Too much to do and too little time as the saying goes. It can make one grumpy.

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Today I wondered, if I am not very lovable here with my loved ones, I must look awfully unlovable to the outside world. Neighbors, friends, and acquaintances might take a second glance and wonder, “What’s going on with her these days?” “A lot, in fact, probably too much,” would be my answer.

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In reality, I wouldn’t give up any of my writing projects, pastimes, or other things clogging my calendar. But maybe this is the time to consider adjusting some of these demands to take time to relax and to take time and think more about the bigger picture rather than projects and appointments. I am fortunate to have a considerate husband, understanding family, but more than that, I am blessed because He loved me first. This means He knows, He sees, He understands, and through all the turmoil, He loves because He always has. He loves us first. He loved me first. I didn’t have to choose Him, He loved me first. This still amazes me.

And because He loved us first, we can love others and they will love us back. That is what love is.

Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever Psalm 136:26

No matter what we are going through, the demands, conflicts, and issues, His love endures. Period. He loved us first and He loves us always. Isn’t that incredible?


If you would like to read a story about four humorous life long Christian friends who stick together through tough times, you will want to pre-order a copy of “Sabal Palms and the Southern Squall.” See how a hurricane touches the lives of these women when Devine Intervention intertwines their lives with the lives of a lost man, a wayward son, a runaway daughter, and a New York hit man. Pre-order is available on Amazon. Release date: April 5th.

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