A Four-Letter Word

Three years ago, I decided to start claiming a word for each new year, a word which I wanted God to instill within me.  The first word I had claimed when I started doing this was JOY.  Last year, I picked TRUST.  This year, I picked HOPE.

I wasn’t sure what to pick this year; but when the word “hope” came up in a game we were playing, I knew it was meant to be.

Each year, I am thoroughly tested in my word.  In 2014, I had to keep trusting that God had it all under control when my father had a stroke, the business was spinning out of control, and there were a lot of unanswered dreams, prayers, and questions.

It looks like it will be no different this year.  I have already lost my dog, my brother is scheduled to see a surgeon about an enlarged lymph node which may be cancerous, and everything is pretty much going crazy— and we’re only twenty-seven days into the New Year!  So the only thing to do is sit back and let God have control.  Perhaps He wants to see if I love Him more than the most precious things around me.  Perhaps He wants to see how I respond during it all.  But perhaps He wants me to see that often my hope has come because of my ambitions, my family, or my cozy life.  So with the power of God, I will hold Christ as my HOPE.  He is the reason I live.  He is what can keep me looking forward to the future because I know He has it all under control and has the best plan, whether or not it aligns with what I think is best.  I serve a mighty, yet loving God; and that is what gives me HOPE!

 

“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”
by Edward Mote, 1797-1874

1. My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

2. When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

3. His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

4. When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Cobweb: The Unloved Kitten…. Part 1 and 2

Cobweb: The Unloved Kitten

cat 2

It all started when the family decided that we would rather have cats roaming our property than mice.The traps and mouse bait just didn’t seem to be doing the trick of eliminating those scurrying creatures; so my brother and I embarked on a kitten finding expedition.It didn’t take us long to drive to a home that had  big sign out front reading “Free Kittens”.  We parked the truck and got out to see what little fuzzy-wuzzy kittens we would be taking home with us.

We soon found out that these kittens were wild because of limited human contact.

Oh well, we figured.  We were there now; so we might as well find the best ones and see what we could do with them.

The lady that owned the kittens proceeded to try to catch the three that we picked out.  That was a crazy adventure in itself.  The kittens would run and hiss and scratch- it wasn’t a pretty picture.

When it was finally all done and said and the renegades had been captured, we had a black and white kitten, a long-haired grey kitten, and a grey-striped kitten all riding home with us in a box.

On the way back to our place, we came across another “Free Kittens” sign; and decided to check out these kittens.  At this farm, there were some young children outside playing; and they easily picked up two of the cutest little kittens that they had named Butterscotch and Princess.

Well, we just couldn’t resist a lil’ blondie and a multi-colored rascal; so we added another two kittens to our collection.

We finally arrived home without anymore stops and proceeded to make a home for the kittens in the back, unused room of our office.  We figured that we would keep them there until they got older and more used to us.  We opened the box, and the strangest collection of kittens came hurrying out.  Immediately the wild ones all fled to corners to take refuge from these strange humans.

We easily assigned names to our new pets.  Panther was the black and white kitten, Napoleon was the grey-striped, Butterscotch was the Blondie, and Princess was the multi-colored.  Lastly, we decided to call the very wildest kitten, Cobweb, since she was busy sleeking through the corners and catching hidden spiderwebs in her long hair.

Butterscotch and Princess had no trouble at all adjusting to human contact.  They were busy winding around our legs wanting attention.  After a little, Napoleon started to cautiously approach us.  Eventually we could pet him; and after that he became a little bit of a pest!  It seems he must have wanted to make up for his childhood of no affection; because he insisted on being pampered.  If you stopped petting him, he started to meow a pitiful cry until someone took pity on him and gave him more love.

So we had three for us and two against us.  Panther and Cobweb still clung to the shadows of solitude.  We kept showing attention to the others, supplying them with fresh food and milk, and showing up day after day to spend time with the group.

I started to notice that Panther would get closer and closer each time.  She would just sit and watch while the other three would be getting petted.  Their contented purring seemed to strike up a longing inside of her.

Finally, the day arrived when she made the step forward.  She cautiously approached my hand.  I slowly moved my hand towards her, afraid that any sudden movement would send her scampering away.  A smile spread across my face when I finally got to pet her.  She moved closer yet and actually started to purr!  A thrill of success and achievement crowned my heart with victory.

Cobweb still was untrusting.  She could see that all the rest were safe and happy, but she just couldn’t give in to trust.  Eventually she started to sit closer and closer to me; she even sniffed my brother’s hand one time when it was his turn to care for them.

But she still hadn’t totally lost all her fear and mistrust.  Only time will tell if love and patience will triumph.  I am hoping that it will.  One day, I trust that Cobweb will be just like the other kittens.

Cobweb’s reactions really started me thinking the last couple of days.  She reminds me like the thousands and millions of children that have been abused, neglected, or forced to survive in the foster care system.  She has seen so much that is the opposite of love, that she can’t actually recognize love.

She hangs in the shadows hoping that no one will pay attention to her; while at the same time, wishing someone would.  She hisses and scratches the ones who approach her; because she doesn’t want to be hurt again.  Her trust has been broken so many times, and is not easily repaired.  She envies the ones that are receiving kindness, but yet she can’t seem to break down the wall that separates her from them.

Children’s faces line my mind’s eye when I think of Cobweb.  The tears well up in my eyes when I think about all the little souls that are living in the shadows of solitude like Cobweb does.

Those children are condemned or ridiculed when they lash out; people give up on them; they are the ones called by the world as hopeless and not standing a chance.

Perhaps all they need is someone who is willing to take the time—-lots and lots of time—- to just be there for them, to just be a caring presence in their life.  Not someone who forces acceptance or love; but someone who is willing to wait and wait and wait until the child slowly approaches and breaks down their wall of fear and mistrust.

It’s hard to be that person; because it hurts when the child hisses or scratches you- even though you are devoting all your time and love and attention to help them.  It frustrates you to see the child sitting in the corner and shutting the world out.

However, God is there.  If He sees the little sparrow fall, He cares so much more for those little hurting lives that fill the world today.  He wraps His arms around every child that is living in the shadows, that is trying to run from the pain.  He can see and feel their pain, and will bless the ones that are trying to help the hurting lives around them.  He will give grace to the giver, and love to the server, and fortitude to the ones that persevere.  Parents, teachers, caregivers, sunday school teachers- – – He will give you the patience and endurance to be there for “Cobweb: The Unloved Kitten” until she starts to trust and love again!

——May 8, 2014

“Cobweb: The Unloved Kitten”    Part 2

cat

The kittens grew up to be cats, and we moved them out to the shop so that they could start getting acquainted with their surroundings and browse the outdoors.  Some decided to embark upon their own adventures and travel the world, some decided to stay home and raise a family, and Cobweb decided to stay on sleeking about the place.

Then the breakthrough happened; Cobweb crept near enough to be touched.  The last stone of the wall in Cobweb’s heart had crumbled, and she was free to feel the emotion that she had held herself away from for so long.  She had finally allowed human touch and affection into her life.  It was not an immediate transaction- she still pulled back if we moved too quickly or caught her off guard, but there was ground being won in the fight for her trust.

Cobweb was laid to rest about a year and a half ago.  The best that I could figure was that she had gotten in a fight with an animal bigger and stronger than her.  But when she left us, she was no longer that mistrusting, wild, hateful kitten; instead she had become a beautiful, affectionate, tame cat that had finally experienced what it felt like to be loved and had learned how to love as well.  In the last few weeks of her life, she would follow us up to the house and sit outside the window watching and waiting until we came back outside and she could let us know how much she appreciated us.

Love is the strongest weapon that man has ever known.  To love takes effort and time and energy, to love is opening yourself for disappointment and hurt, to love the unlovable may bring ridicule and shame…but love is always worth it.  

 

Maybe you are in a situation right now with someone that is like Cobweb and seems impenetrable and unreachable.  No matter how discouraged and hopeless you feel the situation is, don’t give up!  I hate to tell you that you may never be able to see the results of your patience and tears, here on earth; but the good news is that God is still using your love in ways that you can’t begin to imagine, whether you see it or not.

Someday that wall of hate, bitterness, and fear of love may crumble in that child or adult’s life; but it will only happen because your love helped them chip away at it a little at a time.  If you give up now, the wall will only become stronger as weeds and vines entrench around it; and the person inside will hide further and further back in the shadows. 

 

Love doesn’t ram the wall, but love isn’t afraid of it either.  Love is standing at the wall and sending cookies over; love is praying to God for sunshine to illuminate the dark forest on the other side; love is spending tears as you hurt and are hurt by the hidden person; love is not paying attention to the remarks that passerbys sneer; love is simply standing there with your hand outstretched and letting the person on the other side know that you are there and will wait for them as long as you have to; love is not afraid to touch the unwashed, grimy hand when the other person finally reaches out; and love does not give up when the hand pulls back and disappears again- because love knows that there is no stronger force on earth.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

 

Hospital Rooms and TRUST

Hello once again blogger friends!  I know that I have been absent for quite some time, and just maybe you missed me;)  The past two weeks I’ve been living in the mixer (or that’s at least what it felt like at times). 

On Good Friday, my mother and I took my father into the emergency room because he had been experiencing dizziness, vomiting, numbness, and headaches since that Wednesday.  We all thought that it was the flu or a sinus/ear infection, but a MRI showed that he had actually suffered a pretty major stroke.  I felt as if the wind had been knocked out of me.  Strokes are for elderly people that I don’t know, not for my forty-nine year old father.  My mind raced- would he ever be able to walk again? would this keep recurring? how long would he have to be in the hospital? how could we run the business without him? what would happen to the bills? would he ever be “normal” again?  I tried to be optimistic and cheerful for Mom and Dad’s sake, but the sobs lodged in my throat threatened to suffocate me.

Four or five hours later, we moved from the emergency room to a second-story hospital room.  I notified Dad’s family that we would not be attending the early Easter dinner that was scheduled for that afternoon and then tried to get some rest while waiting to hear from the doctors.  The nap didn’t go well, and neither did hearing from the doctors.  Finally the neurologist stopped in at 8:30 that evening, but he still couldn’t tell from the cat-scans, MRI, and ultrasound what had caused the stroke.  He did say that Dad was very lucky that his symptoms were mild for the damage that had been done.  I call it the Hand of God.

I left Dad for the night and headed home quite worried yet, but very thankful that Dad’s speech and thinking had not been affected.  I hurried through my work Saturday morning so that I could be with Dad again for the rest of the day.  When Mom and I came in to the hospital, Dad just held onto Mom and wept.  I stood back, feeling helpless.  I rarely every saw my strong father cry.  He was always there when I needed someone to lean upon; and now here he was, lying in a hospital bed, weeping, and unable to control his balance and use of his left leg.  Gradually the sunshine, the beautiful country scenery outside the hospital room window, and Mom and I cheered him up and gave him some hope again.

Easter dawned bright and beautiful.  I couldn’t sleep so I got up early and baked some cupcakes to take in for the hospital staff on Dad’s floor.  This time our arrival was met by a much cheerier father, who was quite proud of the walker that therapists had given him.  He was also relieved to have some of the feeling and use of his left leg back.  We had our own little Easter service in that hospital room surrounded by beeping noises and medicinal smells, but it was more special than ever because we were together.

The hospital finally released Dad on Monday, and we proudly took him home.  Things were different.  Dad had always worked before the sunrise and after the sunset, but now he tired quickly and rested often.  I noticed a good change though, somehow being helpless in that hospital room had given him time to think about how precious each moment is…and he became more relaxed and able to enjoy everything more fully.  Meanwhile my brother had stepped up and taken charge of the business, making important decisions and working incredibly hard to do both his and Dad’s work.

That was almost a week ago that Dad came home, and a lot has happened between then and now.  Dad started attending therapy and doing as much work as he could to build himself up little by little.  He now has moved from the walker to the cane, and doesn’t tire nearly as quickly as before.  He still has trouble with his balance, but God has done amazing works of healing so far so I will keep praying for full recovery.  The doctors still aren’t sure of the cause of the stroke, but Dad will be going in for more testing in two weeks. 

There have been friends and family that blessed us with visits, cards, help, support, prayers, phone calls, and emails during the past two weeks.  There’s a song that says “You find out who your friends are” (Tracy Lawrence), and that really is true.  God has put His arms around my family and I through the people beside us.

The whole experience mixed my comfy little world up pretty well, even though it really wasn’t nearly as major as what some people go through; but I had life going the way that I wanted.  I had the year scheduled out for what I would be doing, where I would be going, and what dreams I would be accomplishing.  God looked at me and said that I really wasn’t trusting and relying upon Him; so He mixed things up a bit.  The family and business need me for right now, and I really have no major future plans anymore except to go day by day with God leading the way.  I realize now that I was putting far too much importance on some very trivial things, when the most valuable things in my life are right around me- like a caring and sacrificing mother, a loving and creative father, a brave and wise brother, friends who are strong for me when I am weak, and most of all a Savior Who died on my behalf and then is willing to walk step by step with me through whatever happens if I trust Him. 

My word that I picked back in January for the year is TRUST- kinda appropriate don’t ya think?   

Anyways, just thought I’d explain my absence=)  You’all have a wonderful evening!

The Year’s Hardest Word

ImageLast year I decided to take a word and claim it for the year- just one word that I wanted to work on and have God accomplish in me.  A word that (whenever I heard it, read it, or saw it) would remind me to cultivate this special quality.  Last year’s word was JOY.  This year’s word is one that I will struggle with all year and possibly still struggle with even when I move onto my next word.  Let’s see if I can even get this word out- TRUST!  Why is this so hard for me? 

I’ve been starting to realize how self-reliant I have become.  Life seems easier if you do not need to depend on anyone for anything.  No worry about being hurt or taken advantage of, no worry of dreams not coming true.  Then God struck me with the fact that I haven’t been trusting others; but even more importantly, I haven’t been trusting Him.

“Child, you have been fighting your way through life trying to get what you want- when you want it- on your own power.  You have held me off from guiding your footsteps, and you have held off people who would walk beside you.”

“But, God, seriously, I used to trust You and others; but then I got smart.  I mean, why would I bother with people when they only end up leaving me or rejecting me?  And as for You, well that’s another subject.  You know what I was supposed to be doing with my life by now, but here I am, still uncertain about what the future holds for me.”

“Oh, so you think that you can’t trust Me because I did not make life go exactly like you thought it should.  You think that because you’re an author, you can write the best plot.  My Dear, you have so much to learn.  If you would only let go of the pencil for a little, I could script a story that would blow you away.  See, I’m good at that, very good.”

“But what about all those people who allowed You to script their lives and they ended up dead in a prison camp, ambushed by killers, burnt at the stake, or suffering from cancer.  That’s not how I want my life’s book to read- ‘MarJanita, faithful follower of God died ? from enemy explosion as she was trying to rescue children from the war zone.’  I want it to read- ‘MarJanita, celebrated and accomplished writer, musician, world-traveler, and philanthropist will now be making her appearance at the Giant Center to give a speech on her latest book The Three Keys to Open the Door of Success.'”

“See, that’s what I have been trying to tell you.  You can’t trust because you think you know what is best, but you really don’t.  No offense, but you’re human, you’re not God.  Your understanding is limited.  What you don’t realize is that when I write someone’s story I write it in mystery-novel style.  I don’t write plain comedy, because although life is fun it is also serious.  I don’t write plain romance, because sometimes love is hard to see and you need to come to Me to find it.  I don’t write plain tragedy, because there is also joy in life; and I don’t write biographies, because that would mean there is an end to the story.  I write mysteries, but I won’t reveal the ending until you’re sitting here with Me and I can personally read it to you.  I am trying to do something very special; I only wish you could see that.”

“Okay, I’m starting to understand, but why do I need other people?”

“When have you read a story with only one character in it?”

“Um…well…never?”

“That’s right, because life would be pretty lonely if there was only one star in the show.  Yes, you will get hurt when you open your heart to others, some will only be with you to see what they can gain.  Others will find someone else to walk beside and move out of your life.  But enjoy the moments when they are right there in your story walking through life with you.  Loving and being loved are the richest blessings you can find.  To be without that is a tragedy indeed.”

 

So, I finally tried to let go, let go of my wishes, my dreams, and my hold on life and what I love.  And God took the pencil from my hand and started to write.  In the last few weeks, He has shocked me with what He has written.  I like to think that I can create some imaginative stories, but God can script things that we can not even begin to think and form on our own. 

So this year, I’m going to try to be okay with my life being a mystery novel.  In my novel there will be comedy, tragedy, romance, and suspense; but I’m going to have to wait for it all to come together until I reach Home- and I’m going to try to be okay with that because I will TRUST!  Blessings to you as you continue to let God guide you as well.

Proverbs 3:5-6

King James Version (KJV)

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Tangled Web

ImageIt was the same as always.  I rolled my eyes as the dear woman beside me proceeded to tell a story once again.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like her or her story; the fact was that I couldn’t believe a word she said.  What made it so bad was that there was truth mixed in with the lies she constantly spun, making it hard to know what was right and what was wrong. 

I cringed as he drew near me.  I knew that I would suddenly be told the honest truth about myself.  He seemed to always have a way of being upfront and truthful about the way I dressed, ate, sang, or simply lived…this usually resulted in that tearing within my soul that hurt pretty deeply.

 

The daily prompt post for today is
Is it possible to be too honest, or is honesty always the best policy?

 

How exactly am I supposed to answer that?  This is something that I myself have struggled with on many occasions.  What happens when your friend asks you if you like her hairstyle?  Or what happens when you speak the truth, but it jeopardizes someone else?

I have to go back to the verse that says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!”  

ImageEarlier, I gave two examples of people I know.  One is always on the borderline of white lies; the other is on the constant tirade of honest truth.  Yes, the last one takes things a bit extreme; sometimes his honesty would have never even needed to be spoken.  But if I was going to need an absolute answer that I could trust, I would go to him because I trust him.  Honesty goes hand in hand with trust.  Tell someone a lie or hide the truth, and you slowly chip away that valuable bridge of trust that has swung between your hearts.

As a Christian, I also go to what the Bible says about honesty.  

Proverbs 12:22 ESV /

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.

 Proverbs 16:13 ESV /

Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right.

 Proverbs 11:1 ESV /

A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight. 

Nowhere in the Bible does it say anything about being “too honest”.  In fact, Proverbs 11:1 is saying that we are to be honest, even in our work and giving and selling.  If God is so concerned about honesty that He tells us to be fair in every detail of life, I would think that He would agree that there is no such thing as “too much honesty”. 

Yes, there are people who say things they would not need to say.  There are people who use the truth as a cover to hurt others.  We should know better than to use honesty in this way; for God tells us to love our neighbors and treat them with love and respect.  That means that we speak honesty in a loving way, not as a tool to destroy. 

What about when honesty compromises your own or other’s safety?  I am reminded about the struggle between Corrie ten Boom and some of her family members.  Corrie believed that she did not have to be honest when it came to safety; while Nollie and Cocky disagreed.

THE HIDING PLACE BOOKNOTES

CHAPTER SEVEN – Eusie

Summary

Even though Peter had come home, he was still not safe, because German soldiers were using a method of forced servitude that the Dutch called the “razzia.” They would perform a lightning search and seizure of all the young men they could find and transport them away to work in munitions factories. One night, it happened in their neighborhood, and Peter and his older brother, Bob, rushed into Nollie’s house, looking for a place to hide. Nollie put them in her secret spot in the potato cellar under the kitchen table. When the soldiers burst down the door, they demanded the boys’ younger sister, Cocky, tell them where her brothers were. Without missing beat, she said they were under the table. When the soldiers lifted up the tablecloth, Cocky began to laugh, and so did everyone else. The soldiers, feeling humiliated, left, and the ten Booms spent the rest of the evening feeling both grateful for their safety and arguing over Cocky’s insistence on telling the truth. Nollie stood by her daughter and said, “God honors truth-telling with perfect protection!” 

Being honest doesn’t always have such good results.  Sometimes honesty can truly hurt you, but I have come to the personal conclusion for my own life that I would rather err on the side of truth and keep a reputation of trust than frown on too much honesty and have ones around me feel unsure of my allegiance and commitment to what is right.  I believe that this is a decision that each person must wrestle through so that they truly know for themselves whether honesty is the best policy or not.  Thanks for joining me once again!  

“Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!”
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/daily-prompt-truth/
Sir Walter Scott