As I walked along with my one-year-old granddaughter today, I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude. I am so thankful that God chose me, first, to be my baby girl’s mama and now this baby girl’s grandmama.
I see little pieces of many generations all melded together into one beautiful work of art. Each time I see the twinkle in her sparkling blue eyes and the joy that fills the room every time she smiles or giggles, I see the perfect blend of all the goodness of all the generations who came before her, all wrapped into one little bitty joy-filled package.
It makes me sad to know that, in this broken world that just continues to get more and more broken, it won’t be long before the enemy tries to snatch the joy from her. But, as her grandmother and a Christian, I pledge to do my part to help teach her that the joy of the Lord has nothing to do with what happens around us. In fact, the joy of the Lord abounds despite what happens. Hard stop. Read that again. The joy of the Lord abounds despite what happens.
Let me keep it real, though. Unfortunately, I’m not walking around emanating joy 24/7. I’m still a work in progress, too. I don’t always succeed at feeling or expressing the joy of the Lord when bad things have happened. Trust me, our family has had our fair share over the generations, and I used that as an excuse to not draw closer to God for many years.
Thankfully, though, He makes a way to bring good out of whatever evil throws at us. He never gives up on us and that means He never leaves us. I have seen this so many times in my own life and that is why I am a full, devoted believer of Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I need to experience things personally, and, mercifully, the Lord understands that and obliges. But it’s also good to take His Word for it to begin with.
The Bible says in its very first chapter, in Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
And, in Romans, 8:28, His Word says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good for those that love Him, to those that are called according to His purpose.”
Trusting the Words in scriptures such as these is what brings us the Joy of the Lord; an unyielding joy that
radiates from us, just like it does my one-year-old granddaughter; a joy not dependent on circumstances.
Lord, I praise your patience with me as I learn from and grow in Your Word and in the Holy Spirit. Thank you for never giving up on us and for pursuing each of us as if we were the only person on the planet. And thank you for the beautiful gift of family, children and grandchildren. May You always remain at the center of our lives and may Your joy follow us throughout our generation and the generations to come.
In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen and Ehmen.
Oft times when I am driving, I choose to drive in silence; opting instead to spend time in prayer. Yesterday was one of those times.
As I headed up the interstate for an appointment in a neighboring city, I continued a prayer that started pretty much after I got laid off in November; a request for holy guidance to whatever most meets God’s purposes for me as well as my financial needs. And, though I feel confident that God is leading me and that the right opportunities are being revealed and validated, the truth is I still have moments of doubt. I’m human.
A glimpse of that humanness presented itself yesterday and I was convicted before I could even finish my opening sentence. These are the words that came from my heart, “Lord, I need You to…”
I came to a screeching halt mid-sentence as the Holy Spirit kindly flipped on the light switch for me. Was I actually about to tell God what to do? Was I really going to tell Him what is best for me? I mean He’s not a genie in a bottle. He’s not my slave. He’s not my employee. He’s the Almighty. The Maker of Heaven and Earth. The Maker of me. He’s the Alpha. The Omega. And he’s the Beginning and the End.
Thank goodness the Holy Spirit waved me down and, instead of me finishing a sentence drenched in complete obstinance, I began to profusely apologize to the Father.
What He reminded me of in that moment was this: I may want God to do a certain thing for me, and I can always ask, but what I really NEED is Him. Plain and simple. I NEED God and His plan and His will for me. Period.
If what I desire falls within that will, then nothing can stop Him from giving it to me. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. There is no chance in Heaven or on earth, that something I really need is not in God’s will for me. My job is to stay in His Presence; to follow Him and His lead and love Him with all of my heart, mind, and soul. He really does know best and He is always there for us, even when we are being stubborn.
Indeed, though my prayer session started out a little rocky, it ended with me feeling more loved, more cared for and more secure than ever. Thank You, God, for always, always being there and never giving up on my stubborn self.
Amen and Ehmen.
And the Word of God says:
“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:14
“If we ask for anything according to his will, He hears us.” John 5:14
Though I know in my soul that God is in control, I can’t help but feel off-balance these days. In a two-week span, I lost a job and co-workers that I loved dearly followed by the loss of my dear mother, the last of my parents. Those who know me probably remember my father was murdered when I was a child.
And, so here I sit, an unemployed orphan. Maybe that sounds a bit melodramatic, but, even at almost 60 years old, there is really no world nor age group in which that doesn’t sting. A lot. As a caregiver for my mom for the past five or so years and as one who was deeply invested in the hospice volunteer program which I had built from the ground up, these life-altering events left me shell-shocked, particularly in the slow-crawling few days following mom’s funeral planning and funeral.
I nestled myself in the joy that radiates from my beautiful grandbaby for a couple of days, but when she was back at home with her mama and daddy, I was right back in the land of the lost. I know there is plenty I should and could be doing, but I feel stuck; suspended in time.
And, so here I still sit. An unemployed orphan trying my best not to feel sorry for myself; trying my best to not be anxious, but to cast all my cares upon the Lord, as today’s bible verse from 1 Peter, 5:7 so reminds.
I know that I know that the Bible is true and that God is with me no matter what. But, because of that, I have also been beating myself up about feeling sad and lost. I guess you could say I have been grieving grief. I began to wonder if sharing such raw feelings might make myself and others question my loyalty to and faith in God?
Fortunately, I was not allowed to wonder that for long as His beautiful still, small voice rang out not so quietly in my heart.
He reminded ever so gently that I should never hide my sadness or my grief or even my momentary feelings of being lost. Our Savior, was himself, as Isaiah 53:3 describes, a “man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.”
And He, in fact, cried. Not once; not twice, but three times in scripture, He cried. Look it up in John 11:35, Luke 19:41 and Hebrews 5:7-9. Each is near the end of His life and each shines a light on what matters most to our loving God. He is “touched with the feelings of our infirmities,” according to the writer of Hebrews 4:15.
It’s perfectly okay to grieve losses. It’s a part of being human. It’s okay to feel lost, as long as we don’t stay there forever and as long as we remember that we always have HOPE in the Lord. I may not be able to see the big picture yet, and I may still feel sad and worry, but in my heart of hearts, I know that I know that God is indeed in control and has a plan for me far better than any plan I could ever muster.
I also know that I should rejoice in the many blessings that surround me—praying friends and a praying, loving daughter and son-in law that have my back no matter what; a beautiful granddaughter to carry on my mom’s legacy and name; and, above all, a Father who calls me His child and wants only His BEST for me.
As far as the job, I don’t know exactly from where my next paycheck will come, but I KNOW Him and, just as He has always done, I KNOW He will come through, making sure I wind up in the place that I am needed most.
Thank you, God.
Thank you for the incredible memories of my mom and for the knowledge that she is finally out of her suffering and in Your Presence. And thank you for always, always standing in the gaps, no matter how wide they may seem to me. Nothing is impossible for You; nor for me when I walk with You. I love you, Father, and I am beyond thankful to be called Your child. I will never refer to myself as an orphan again, because I am not now nor will I ever be without You.
–Amen and Ehmen
My mama loved hummingbirds. In fact, one of her very favorite pastimes was sitting in her recliner and watching as the little cuties dipped, dived, swooped and hovered while sipping the sweet nectar we prepared and put in the bird feeders hanging just outside her window.
She could tell you which little birdies were repeat visitors from previous years and which ones were new to the neighborhood. She could tell you which were the most aggressive and which were a little on the sweeter side like the nectar they enjoyed.
But, for me personally, perhaps the most memorable thing about my mother’s love for hummingbirds is the times when they were absent. I will never forget that day in May 2020. Like pretty much everyone on the planet, the pandemic was taking a toll on my mama, and she wanted nothing more than to see her beloved hummingbirds once again dancing in the air around the feeder. But, for some reason, sans the two that visited a few times that March when the feeder first went up, there had been no little bird visitors that year.
She was so disappointed, and I was disappointed for her. So, on the morning of May 15, 2020, as she sat sleeping in her chair, her face turned towards the window as if she had fallen asleep looking for her little friends, I began to pray and asked God to please send her a hummingbird to brighten her day.
Sure enough, just a few hours later, as I delivered her some lunch, she was beaming as she excitedly announced she had finally seen a hummer! Was it a coincidence? Absolutely not! That was all our loving Creator. When I told her about my prayer, she sat smiling for hours, a few tears of joy trickling down her cheeks. You could tell she felt His love. I did too
The birds disappeared again after that day, but I think that, too, was by design, giving Him another chance to show the two of us just how much He really cares about us. Fast forward to July of 2020. Mama had not been feeling good for several days and I was very worried. She had some cold symptoms and, of course, COVID was top of mind. So, as I was outside on my lawn tractor mowing the grass, I began to pray fervently.
I asked God for protection for her, for Billie and the sweet baby we had recently learned she was carrying, for my brother who was fighting cancer, and for me and all my family and friends. The pandemic had been so overwhelming. As I prayed, I also asked God if He could send us a sign that everything was indeed going to be okay. Then, I decided to be even more specific. I still remember the words that came from my heart: “Lord,” I prayed, “please let mom see a hummingbird. When I have asked before, You have always faithfully sent her one, so will you please send at least one more?”
I came back in the house and honestly forgot about it until the next day when I went into her room to check on her. As I stood in front of her asking what she wanted for breakfast, she began to grin from ear to ear.
“Oooooh, I forgot to tell you, I saw a hummingbird yesterday. It’s the first one I’ve seen since May,” she said. “It was just the one, but he seemed to really fill up at the feeder and hovered in front of the window for a while.”
I could hardly speak. This time tears rolled down my face as I told her about my prayer. We both felt Him whispering in our ears, “It’s going to be alright. I’m here.”
Today, the day after we laid her to rest, I still hear those words, “It’s going to be alright. I’m here.”
I love you, mama.
As I stood outside this morning, I got a sense of déjà vu. My body did not move an inch, but my heart and mind whizzed through this past year to a day last November that looked pretty much just like today. The sky was clear and blue, and the air was just the right amount of cool.
The morning of your memorial, I remember leaning against my car and taking a few deep breaths, drawing in the peace that surrounded me. It was if nature itself was taking pause to salute your life. The leaves twisted and twirled to the ground, landing in silence. The birds held their whistles, and the squirrels and chipmunks treaded so softly across the leaves, you could almost hear their breath. The peace welled up from within and exploded without.
That same peaceful silence returned at your celebration of life service. Again, nature seemed to take pause to salute you just as the men dressed in their Navy blues slowly raised their white-gloved hands in patriotic gratefulness and reverence. Soft sniffles and cries became the audible sounds of hearts not ready to say goodbye and perfectly harmonized with the faint and gentle sounds of the water moving across the rocks in the river below. Your river. Your home. A pandemic may have caused the change of venue from the memorial chapel to the riverbanks of your own backyard, but I’m here to tell you it was absolutely perfect.
I can also tell you this, big brother. When the sound of that bugle began filling the silence with Taps, it was one of the most moving moments I have experienced in almost 60 years of life. The melodic notes that once signaled the end of the soldier’s day perfectly and gracefully signaled the time to symbolically lay you to rest. A silent hero, humble and true, your work on earth was now done and done well at that.
I know it has taken me a little while to be able to put pen to paper, but sometimes when something overwhelms me, it just has to marinate inside a bit. Today, the day before the anniversary of your passing, I want to say thank you, big brother, for being just that—a big brother. Thank you for standing up for me when I was too young to stand up for myself. Thank you for being there every single time I needed you as I became an adult. When life slapped me down, I always could count on you to help pick me back up. I hope I was able to do that for you in at least some small ways over the years. Thank you for opening up to me and for the special bond that we shared as adults. And thank you for being good-looking, especially since I am realizing more and more just how much we actually favor
Most of all, however, thank you for your heart and for your dedication and loyalty to your country and to your entire family.
It was not long after Gary died, that you were diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a frightening disease on its own, but completely devastating when combined with all the other health issues which had plagued you for decades, most of which were probably attributable to Agent Orange.
I watched from the sidelines as you fought like your life depended on it. Of course, your life did depend on it. But, IT wasn’t the real reason you did anything that you did. You fought these diseases with every fiber of your being, not for yourself, but for others, like your wife, and mama, both of who had already been battered by overwhelming loss.
You valiantly fought and bravely endured, just like you did on the blood-drenched soil of Vietnam.
Once a hero, always a hero, I guess.
I love and miss you, Stan. Save my seat at the table.
Writer’s Note: The following is a true story of God’s faithfulness and kindness in the face of a difficult time in life. It is a true story of answered prayers and of people allowing God to use them. If you ever feel a nudge from above or have a thought that perhaps doesn’t exactly make sense, follow your gut. There is no telling what story God wants to write. Amen and Ehmen. –Brenda.
Erin had long dreamt of her mother seeing her walk down the aisle in her wedding gown. She dreamed of her mom sitting on the front row and watching as she said “I do” to the man they have both grown to love so much.
But there was one huge problem. Her beloved mother is terminally ill and likely won’t make it to the October wedding they have been planning.
Enter Serenity Nurse Case Manager Erica and CNA Nicole. A week earlier, they both were at the patient’s home to check up on her and, as she showed more signs of decline, they discussed her situation with Erin. Seeing the devastation that registered in Erin’s eyes as she realized her mom probably wouldn’t get to see her get married, Erica and Nicole made a suggestion.
“Why not get married next week here in the living room,” Erica inquired.
With Erin’s agreement, Erica and Nicole got busy planning the July 1 event. They shopped for decorations and flowers and called in Robbie, Serenity’s chaplain, to officiate the ceremony. They also called me, the office’s volunteer coordinator, to arrange for a wedding cake which volunteer cook-extraordinaire Barbara was happy to bake.
Everyone was thrilled to help make this special day happen, but no one more than me. Afterall, I had already seen first-hand as God divinely intervened to match this beautiful family with Serenity in the first place.
Rewind to a Friday morning just a few weeks earlier when my phone alarm twirped and tweeted a reminder that I had a long overdue eye appointment later that day in Macon. Realizing I had completely forgotten and already booked my day with patients, I made a mental note to call and cancel and went about my day.
After visiting patients in Byron and Lizella, I made my way to Macon to see my next patient, but on the way, that patient’s wife called and asked if I could delay my visit by an hour. About that same time, a second reminder for my eye appointment popped up on my phone, reminding me not only of my impending appointment time, but also that I had forgotten to cancel it. About that same time, I also realized that I was just a few minutes away from the doctor’s office. Fate seemed determined to get me into that exam chair.
I headed over to the appointment and jumped out of the car to head inside. After closing the car door, however, I felt a nudge to reopen the door and grab my Serenity nametag. I always take it off in the car because it makes the seatbelt more bothersome and, though I obviously didn’t need to wear a name tag to go into a personal appointment, something just told me that on this day, in this office, I indeed needed it. Not one to ignore such nudges, I obliged and clipped it onto my shirt as I walked inside.
After being shown to the exam room, I was soon joined by one of the doctor’s assistants. The assistant, who introduced herself as Erin, sat at a nearby desk and began asking questions to gather information. She paused, however, when she turned and faced me.
“You work with Serenity,” she asked softly. The question consisted of only four words, but her tone made it obvious that there were a lot of feelings behind it.
“Yes, I do. Do you know us?”
“Well, I, I guess you could say that,” she stuttered quietly. “My mom has cancer and her doctors feel it is time to call in hospice. They suggested either Serenity or another hospice here in town.”
“I have been reeling ever since they uttered the word hospice, and I had no idea which one to call. In fact, I prayed all night last night, pleading with God to give me a sign and help me take the right next step,” she continued, tears welling up in her eyes. “You are obviously that sign.”
As I listened to Erin’s words, I knew at once that the events that brought me into the office and the still, small voice that led me to put on my nametag, was far from coincidental and I eagerly shared with them with Erin.
“And you weren’t supposed to be my patient, but the other girl had to leave,” she said, exhaling a deep sigh of relief as she experienced her prayer being answered in real time.
Erin signed her mother up with Serenity the next day and, as is so often the case, the Serenity team quickly became like family to her and her mother. They care for the patient’s every need and aid and advise Erin all along the way, including helping throw her this beautiful impromptu wedding so that her sweet mama could see her say “I do.”
And what a perfect ceremony it was.
Though disease has diminished Erin’s mama’s ability to communicate verbally, it was obvious that she was deeply touched. There was a glisten in her eyes and an almost palpable air of love that circled bride and groom as they took her hands into theirs.
“We can never thank you all enough,” Erin said, leaning in to kiss her mama on the cheek. “Thank you for letting God use you and for being the answer to my prayers.”
God, I hear You calling and I’m trying desperately to catch up with You; to walk beside You, to synchronize my steps with Yours. But, I’m continually running into obstacles.
As if on cue from satan himself, out of the shadows step the demons of doubt, fear and deprecation. They stand in front of me and block my path, arms locked together as if to engage me in a game of Red Rover.
“Red rover, red rover, send Brenda right over,” they chide, demonic laughter filling the air and assaulting my confidence and my faith. I can’t help but shiver as their Goliath-sized shadows hijack the sun’s warmth as well as its light. It becomes a battle just to see.
And, yet, their purpose is dreadfully clear. They have come to intimidate, threaten, frighten, scare, bully, coerce, terrorize, daunt and taunt me; to keep me frozen in place and far away from the purpose that You prepared for me before the first word of Creation was ever uttered.
“Red rover, red rover, send Brenda right over.”
My mind starts to reel; to unravel like a runaway spool of thread. I can either run away and live the rest of my life knowing that I gave up on You or I can face this thing head on. I breathe deep and step back a few steps so that I can gain more momentum. There is no way I’m giving up, I mutter to myself. I will simply close my eyes and run with all my might, straight through their arms and into Yours.
But, oh sweet Lord, the growls of my opponents are becoming louder and more obnoxious. And, as much as I want to walk with You–to fulfill my purpose–I can’t help but notice how grotesquely strong they look. How on earth will ever be break their hold, I ask myself, and, with no immediate answer, I shrink back in defeat without ever taking a step.
Defeated. Beaten. Overwhelmed and overcome. I look down at my feet frozen in place as the enemies’ taunts crescendo in victory. They win. Again.
The only thing I have left now is to pray. But I don’t even know where to start. I am so ashamed that I once again let the enemy defeat me, to hold me back. With the words “I’m sorry, Lord” rising up through my spirit, I begin to hear a still small voice. It is a warm, familiar and very quiet voice, but still somehow louder than the enemy’s raucous heckling. I immediately recognize that it is You.
“Get up, child,” You whisper sweetly. “Get up, but don’t try to run with all your might; this time, child, run with Mine.”
Your words, gentle and powerful at the same time, send a surge of encouragement and pronounced strength coursing through my spirit, mind and body. I rise up into a crouch position just like that of an Olympic sprinter and, with the sound of cheering angels ringing in my ears, I open my eyes. I see the band of demons still outstretched before me and I see their mouths moving. It sure looks like they are still talking trash, but the words filling the air about me are beautiful, peaceful, encouraging.
“It’s over, It’s over, Brenda come on over.”
I can no longer contain myself and, even though I still see the demons, I take off running toward the beautiful sound. And, as I run faster and harder than I dreamed possible, the heavenly cheers grow louder and louder and the demons grow smaller and smaller until I finally burst though their evil stronghold with the fortitude and power of a wrecking ball.
I hold up my arms in victory and as the dust settles around me, I see You standing there in all your Glory. You smile a knowing smile. You’ve been here all the while; waiting on me; cheering me on.
Lord, thank You, for never giving up on me, even when I give up on You; for having faith in me, when my own faith waivers. Thank You for sending Your spirit to intervene when the enemy lines look too strong to break through and for helping me to stand firm when I feel weak. Thank you, Lord, for Your willingness to keep reminding me that, with Your help, I DO have the strength and power to run full steam ahead into Your will and purpose, for it is there that You dwell and it is there I wish to dwell also. With all that I am, I praise You. Amen and Ehmen.
As I lay in bed trying my best NOT to wake up early this morning it was as if God started tugging at the covers. The tighter I pulled them around my shoulders, creating a cozy little comfort zone, the harder he tugged. He often does this when I have been absent from our special morning time together for longer than I should or if I’m dragging my feet on something He has asked me to do. God’s not big on earthly comfort zones and, though I usually fuss about it at the time, I really am thankful that he doesn’t let me kick back too long.
This morning it was about digging deeper into some things I just keep putting off. Truth be told, I often put things off, sometimes for a very long time, years in fact. Fear of failure and rejection, says I. Disobedience and distrust, says He.
As I lay there silently arguing with him and preoccupying myself with a game on my phone, His still, small voice grew louder to the point that I could no longer ignore Him and, just as I gave in and put my phone away, I heard him whisper the name Jonah.
Jonah? Like the guy that got swallowed by the whale? That Jonah?
Jonah, I heard again, as I reached over to pick up my Bible. Flipping through the Old Testament, I finally landed on the book of Jonah and began to read. And the more I read, the more I began to understand. Never in my life had I seen myself in this particularly story, but here in this moment, on the pages of my own bible, Jonah, it seemed, was synonymous with B-R-E-N-D-A.
Like Jonah, I have been running from certain aspects of God’s calling on my life and, as I read his reflections as he was entombed inside the belly of that great fish, I felt compelled to read the words aloud.
Jonah, Chapter 2
1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. 3 You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. 4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ 5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit. 7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. 8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. 9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’ ” 10 And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Honestly, I think I have been in the belly of a whale for a while now. And thank God. Thank God that he hasn’t given up on me; that he still finds me worthy of my purpose.
One way or another, He will get me there. Who am I to complain about the mode of transportation?
I’m coming, Nineveh. I’m coming.
Amen and Ehmen.
This morning, as I realized I had once again got sucked into checking social media and playing on my phone in general, I opened the Bible app in an attempt to resuscitate my quiet time with You. I found today’s verse, pictured here, most captivating and have decided to use my time this morning putting it to the test. I can’t wait to see what You reveal. So, without further ado, the blank page is yours…Amen and Ehmen
Dear, Sweet, Stubborn and Loveable Child of Mine,
I love you. That should go without saying, but I like to say it anyway for a couple of reasons. One, and most especially when things get hard, My children often forget this.
And, two, love is the key that unlocks everything on heaven and on earth. It’s the foundation for all that is good, right and holy. It’s the driving force behind all creation; the very blood that pumps through My veins and powers my heart for all creation, most especially you and all of humankind, past and present. Without love, there would be no heaven or earth. There would be no you.
Spend some time today meditating on what My Word says Love is. “Love is patient, love is kind. 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 records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Start by looking closely at the word “always,” Child. The dictionary defines this word as meaning at all times and on all occasions, forever, which is true. But look at the word closer. Not only is my love for you timeless and eternal, but I also thrive in expressing it in all ways as well.
Indeed, love is in everything that I do. Everything.
In the things that make you smile and the things that make you cry. The things that bring you joy and the things that bring you pain. Everything that I do; everything that I allow in your life is wrapped in love.
Make a note though, Child. While all things are wrapped in love, all things that bring you heartache and pain do NOT come from love. They ARE transformed by love and given back to you as a gift.
What you do with that gift is up to you. You can let it collect dust on a shelf, never unwrapping it to reveal the gift inside, or you can do as I have always intended—unwrap it and use it! Share it with the world; use it to help bring others into My Kingdom.
To do anything less has tragic consequences which mourn My soul.
I love you, Child, and I trust you will do the right thing. I made you. I know you. And I believe in you. My gifts will never be wasted on you.
Go forth and be fruitful. Go forth in love.