When everything around you is falling, and all else fails, eat chips and salsa

chips and salsa
chips and salsa

Today I made a mini-escape from hurts this week and I drove to Harrisonville, Missouri, which is a bigger city north of my tiny, rural town (meaning out in the sticks!) of Butler, and ate Mexican. 

I posted the pic on Instagram and Twitter with the title, “When everything is falling apart around you, and all else fails, eat chips and salsa. I could eat it every single day!” I love them so much, and my husband Ray jokes that when the Mexican waiters see me coming, they hide the salsa because I always ask for two bottles. I add salt to the salsa, because I seem to crave the salt.  Today’s seemed especially satisfying.

Afterward, I went to the Harrisonville Lake and park, where I often took our children when I homeschooled them to play, for picnics, and to walk the nature trail. Today was a beautiful, sunny, spring day. It was peaceful and relaxing.

Harrisonville Lake
Harrisonville Lake

A man was fishing at the lake, and it reminded me of my hard-working husband Ray, who loves to fish and who desperately needs to fish sometimes.

“And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19, AKJV)

Two geese were near the fisherman and I saw numerous geese at the park.

Fisherman and geese
Fisherman and geese

Going to the lake and walking the nature trail was a much needed, healing balm to my soul. God spoke to my heart in many ways while I was there. Some of this I will share about here,  and some I will continue to reflect on and ponder.

The first thing I noticed as I entered the park were the beautiful flowers. Our beautiful daughters Heather and Leah especially love fresh flowers, and I thought of them.

beautiful flowers
beautiful flowers at park entrance
daisies
daisies
fuschia colored flowers
fuschia colored flowers
flower garden
flower garden

As I got out of my car to admire the lake, I noticed an older woman sitting at a bench with a dog on a leash. I wondered about her, and thought I could write about her in a future fiction book. For writers, anything is fodder. My family knows by now that anything they say or do may wind up as content for one of my speaking presentations, books, or blog posts!

woman with dog at park
woman with dog at park

Who was she? Why was she alone at the lake, except with her dog? Had her husband of many years died and she was a lonely widow? Had her children forgotten her or no longer wanted her involved much in her lives any more?

Was she a bitter, sad, depressed person, or was she simply happy and content being alone, being with her dog who was her best friend? (Maybe she was glad her husband was dead as they had a terrible marriage, and that her kids were all grown; it was time for a new chapter and do other things now!)

I watched as a grandpa who was wearing  a jacket with a veterans logo showed his granddaughter the lake and pointed to the geese, and her daddy skipped stones across the lake with her. What a precious memory. After awhile, they started to go to their car and asked the little girl, “Are you ready to go and eat now? Want a hot dog?”

The hot dog remark reminded me of my mother’s eyes lighting up when she saw me and asking me that same question many years ago, when I visited her in my college years. My mom and I weren’t close, so this is a happy memory for me. I don’t eat them much now, but kids love ’em.

The veteran grandpa reminded me of my husband Ray, who is “Papa” to our four precious grandchildren, with one on the way.  I prayed that Ray would be able to do things like this for many years with our grandchildren.

Our kids and grandkids
Our precious 3 daughters and 4 grandkids

Next, I drove over to where the nature trail was. Perfect day for a walk. I noticed the staff had put up something new on the Natural Trail sign: “Watch out for snakes.” That was almost enough to make me turn around, but I put my brave on.  If I hadn’t gone on the trail, I would have missed God’s blessings–the beauty and how He spoke to me personally.

sign about snakes
sign about snakes

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. I watched carefully for snakes, because I am terrified of them. However, I did think seeing one (from a very safe distance) might make a good picture for my blog. That didn’t happen, although I did see what I thought might be a “snake track” (a big S on the dirt trail) a couple of times.

I did notice right away in the lake what seemed to be a family of turtles sunbathing on a log.  One was swimming in the water nearby. Two bigger ones were on one side of the log, and seven others were on the other. It reminded me of our family, who has this exact number of people right now–with one grandbaby on the way in November.

turtles
turtles

The nature trail is so beautiful. I felt refreshed, while at the same time my heart was still hurting about some things that happened this week. I know healing is a process and takes time. The good news is that we are all walking on this journey of life, and God will never leave us or forsake us.  He is our healer, including our family’s. 

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. … There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”—Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

nature trail

I soon came to a fork in the road on the trail. We all have a choice as to how we will live our lives–to follow Jesus and God’s loving, good ways, or not. Which path will you choose today?

The fork spoke loudly to me about how I needed to change some things in my life and choose a different path…as well as others I love. 

fork in the trail
fork in the trail

I felt myself relax as I walked the trail. I intentionally breathed in the fresh air, tried to fully use my senses, and paid attention  all around me to the beauty of God’s creation.

I stopped when I saw two bees drinking nectar from a white flower bush. I wish I knew the name of the flowers; they resembled azaleas in south Georgia, where I grew up.

“One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care. Such is the quality of bees…”–Leo Tolstoy

I tried to capture a picture of them, but they were flying too fast. Probably a good thing that I went on, as I”m highly allergic to bees! As a child, I was stung by one on the bare foot, and my foot swelled up twice its size! However, I think bees are cute (when they aren’t stinging!)

bees
bees

This fork on the trail led to a bridge over the lake into a more remote part of the woods. A mom and her daughter were having a picnic in the middle of the bridge! It was so cute.  Another sweet memory. I remembered picnics Ray and I had with each other and our kids.

I didn’t want to interrupt their fun, or make them have to move by crossing the bridge, so I turned around and walked on the other path. When I saw the bridge, I thought again of the fork on the trail and the choices we have in life, and took my pic by it as  a good reminder…also of the eventual, eternal bridge we’ll have to cross one day when we die.

bridge
bridge

Later I saw the mom and the little girl, and chatted a minute with them.

She apologized for being on the bridge having the picnic, blocking my access to it, but I said, “Oh no, you were fine! That looked really fun. They grow up fast,” I said to her, and we looked at her child together, smiling.

The mom said, “Oh, I know! I have a teen now!” she said that her little girl had been a “surprise baby,” and was now 5 years old.  I said I hoped they enjoyed their picnic and to have fun. To my amusement, as I walked off, the little girl said, “I want to go with her!” and started following me. Her mom called her back to look at the turtles again.

This spoke to me about how we are to follow Jesus, and make disciples. 

As I continued on the trail, I looked up hearing birds singing, and the sunlight shone through the tall trees. The canopy of trees, their emerald green leaves dipped in sunlight, made beautiful pictures.

sun through the trees
sun through the trees

 

canopy
canopy

I was disappointed to not see a deer, rabbit, fox or other wildlife, but Harrisonville isn’t a rural town, so the animals are either not there or they hide well. I did see a couple and their child with a dog on the trail, who they said was a service dog in training for the man’s dad who was in the Army and now has PTSD. I stopped a minute to pet the dog, smile at the little girl, and tell them that service dogs are a good thing and I hope he helps his dad.

When I came to the end of the trail, I thought, “At the end of the trail. Now what?” I felt it applied to my current situation, kind of at a loss as to what to do or say.  I would have to turn back around. I also feel it applies to the end of our journey here on earth.

end of trail
end of trail

I looked around and saw a set of steps on a hill. I’d never seen them before.  Curious, I went up the stairs to see what was up there. It was a different lake, or perhaps the same lake, divided by the road. But you couldn’t see it until you went up the stairs. This reminded me of heaven.

The lake where the stairs were
The lake where the stairs were

When I turned around and walked back, this is when I saw the mom and her daughter, who had the picnic on the bridge. A few minutes later, as I went to my car, I saw them crossing the road, hand in hand. The little girl was carrying a walking stick in the other hand. I looked at them, thinking again how quickly time flies and that my children are now grown. 

The mom and the daughter went to the park area, where the little girl got on the slides, and her mom sat on a bench watching her. 

mom & child
mom & child

As I drove home, I noticed a truck in front of me with this sign: “You’re needed.” That was a great note to go home on.

You're needed
You’re needed
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Only God can fix the wreckage of our lives

wreckage
wreckage

I saw this picture on Pinterest today, saved it, and posted it on Facebook saying, “Then I must have fodder for lots of stories!”

Wreckage. The word sounds dangerously close to “carnage.” Let’s look at the definition of both.

wrecked car
wrecked car

Wreckage:

The remains of something that has been badly damaged or destroyed.

Carnage:

The killing of a large number of people (slaughter, massacre, butchery, bloodbath).

Both mean ruination, obliteration, annihilation.

heart of ice Source: http://timoelliott.com/photos/2013/01/17/a-heart-of-ice/
heart of ice
Source: http://timoelliott.com/photos/2013/01/17/a-heart-of-ice/

Recently someone I love very much deeply hurt me and I felt very rejected in the situation. My heart felt broken into a million pieces. Shattered. I’ve cried each night going to sleep, and then often awake in the middle of the night with insomnia.

In looking at the situation, I’ve realized my life is in wreckage. And that I have often caused the lives of those I love to be wrecked.

And that the only One who can fix me is God.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalms 147:3)

Debbie McDaniel writes in her article, Finding Beauty in Brokenness: Christ Came to Heal and Redeem:

“We have a Healer. One who repairs. Who can fit the broken pieces that no longer seem to fit right into a perfect design. He works, often behind the scenes, mending, fitting together, creating a better work of art, more than we ever dreamed possible. He makes all things beautiful. Especially in the broken. All from His grace. It is real life. Jagged edges and all. They have such meaning.”

hurting woman

God can take the brokenness of our lives and turn it into something beautiful. We’re all broken.

Image source: http://www.brewingcoffeewithcathy.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/broken-coffee-mug-FINAL.jpg

Broken hearts. Broken lives. Broken marriages. Broken children. Broken families. Broken churches. We all desperately need Jesus.

Hurting people hurt others. We have to come to the foot of the Cross with our hurts and give them to Him.

Only God can heal us and make us whole. Only God can fix the wreckage of our lives. 

He is Jehovah Rapha, the God that heals. 

“Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”’ (Exodus 15:22-26, NIV)

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The Power of Names Copyright 2017
The Power of Names
Copyright 2017

I’m writing a new book now , which is the third and final book in The Cinderella Story series, called The Power of Names. It’s about the importance of your name and the many different names of God in the Bible, including Jehovah Rapha, the God that heals. Stay tuned for more details coming soon.

You can find my other books at my Amazon Author Page by clicking here.

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Our 25th “silver” wedding anniversary

The sterling silver cross necklace gift Ray gave me for our 25th "silver" wedding anniversary
The sterling silver cross necklace gift Ray gave me for our 25th “silver” wedding anniversary

This week, April 11, 2017, Ray and I had our 25th “silver” wedding anniversary. It seems like just two years, and then it also seems like it’s been forever. It has sure been HELL.

But as I pointed out in my Facebook comment, never a dull moment!

Despite our LOUD, INTENSE arguments for 25 years (yes, the WHOLE marriage; we had one tonight!), we’ve been married longer than many of our family members and friends, watching in grief as they divorced…while we have determined to fulfill our covenant with God and each other. It hasn’t been easy, and we’ve had to look to the Cross for help.

Jesus on the cross
Jesus on the cross

We’ve survived unfaithfulness to each other (both of us), bankruptcy, foreclosure of our home, stepfamily conflicts, financial crisis after crisis, multiple moves to new homes/cities, health issues, ministry failures, and much more. 

What is our greatest strength, though? We’ve never quit. Like runners in a sprint or a marathon, you keep moving forward, no matter how tired you are.

sprinters

We’ve never thrown in the towel, although we have both wanted to  many times through the years.

Ray has actually been to divorce attorneys three times because he was so fed up with our marriage! (And I’ve thought about going to one many times!)

Ray & me Holding our "faith" stone, as we wait for final approval of the VA loan for the home we're buying this year
Ray & me
Holding our “faith” stone, as we wait for final approval of the VA loan for the home we’re buying this year

By God’s grace, we’re still together, hopefully until death do us part.

  • Ray can still make me laugh more than anyone else;
  • Every time he prays over me and holds my hand, saying, “It’s going to be okay,” I know it is going to be;
  • He still turns me on;
  • He still cooks the best Cajun grilled chicken I’ve ever tasted;
  • He still loves me–which is quite a feat, considering how I am!

25 years and still going…please pray for us. 

Here’s what we did for our 25th “silver” wedding anniversary. It was a fun date!

Ray bought me a very funny card. It features a married male and female dog couple and says “It’s our anniversary.” The card seemed hand-picked by God, and made me laugh because it was so much like us.

anniversary card
anniversary card

For example, it showed the couple wanting to watch a movie together. The husband dog asked, “How about science fiction?” and the wife dog asked, “How about a love story?” Ray is a sci-fi fan, and of course I love chick flicks! 

Another hilarious thing about the card was that it read, “We still like to write each other little notes…although the subject matter isn’t always love.” It showed a cartoon of the wife posting sticky notes to her husband on a cork board with notes like, “Call the dentist,” “Grocery List,” and “Toilet keeps running.” The husband dog has stooped shoulders, and is looking at the sticky notes with an exasperated , tired expression. (Ray feels this way about my sticky notes!)

Ray said the card “nailed the notes.” (I’m addicted to sticky notes and often leave Ray little notes around the house for his “honey-do’s.”)

sticky note
sticky note

On the card, they were at a drive-through restaurant, with the husband getting the wife some food. He is asking her, “No fries, honey?” and she is saying, “No, just a cheeseburger.” Ironically, a couple of nights before Ray gave me the card, I’d asked him to go get me a Sonic cheeseburger. The card amused us both. 

Ray also gave me a beautiful, sterling silver cross necklace as my gift. Silver for our 25th “silver” wedding anniversary, and a cross as he said it is the foundation of our marriage. Amen! Ray did so good on my card and gift!

necklace
sterling silver cross necklace gift

For part of his present, I bought Ray a straight razor soap cup, that he had been requesting to go with his straight razor I’d bought him.  You put soap in the cup, and whip it to make a  good lather, then apply the soap to the face before shaving. When Ray was a little boy, he used to watch his granddaddy Hutchins shave at the bathroom mirror with a straight razor.

Recently Ray said he wanted a straight razor, from the good memories of his granddad, plus straight razors are supposed to give men a better shave. I didn’t really “get” it, but it’s a guy thing, so I bought him the straight razor, the black strop to sharpen the razor, and the soap cup.

I also have something special to give him for our 25th “silver” wedding anniversary party, which I will blog about soon!

straight razor and brush
straight razor and brush
soap cup
soap cup

For our “silver” wedding anniversary, I bought pretty silver heels for our anniversary date. Love them!

my silver shoes
my silver shoes

Ray wore a silver shirt with a silver pattern tie, black slacks, and his cowboy boots for our anniversary date. Looking good!

Ray in his silver shirt & tie for our "silver" wedding anniversary
Ray in his silver shirt & tie for our “silver” wedding anniversary

Here I am in my black dress, black wrap, the silver shoes, and wearing the sterling silver cross necklace Ray gave me.

me in black dress, black wrap, silver shoes & silver cross necklace for our "silver" anniversary
me in black dress, black wrap, silver shoes & silver cross necklace for our “silver” anniversary

For our 25th “silver” wedding anniversary date, we ate lamb gyro sandwiches with tzatziki sauce (made with cucumber), pita bread with hummus, and dolmades (stuffed grape leaves with rice and beef). Ray also had a Greek salad. It was DELICIOUS!

lamb gyros
lamb gyros
pita bread & hummus
pita bread & hummus
dolmades
dolmades

After our date, we came home and prayed together for our marriage, our children, and our grandchildren, asking God to bless us and our family and for us to walk in obedience to Jesus, and that the latter days would be greater than the former. (Haggai 2:9) It was a great 25th wedding anniversary!

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This book In PRINT at: https://www.createspace.com/6099550
This book In PRINT at: https://www.createspace.com/6099550

If  you are hurting in your marriage and you’d like to read about the 25 difficult years of Ray’s and my marriage, but how with God nothing is impossible,click here.

 

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