God Gave Me an Eagle

I moved to Connecticut in July. That is when I first met the goose who lived down by the river. I walk along the Connecticut River daily, and this goose brought me comfort each day. I can’t be sure, but I believe God put him there just for me. You see, he arrived the same time I did, perhaps even to the day. I am not sure. No one knew why he suddenly appeared by the dock at the river near my house or where he came from, but he loved to hang out with people there,

Years ago, I wrote a book about finding a place to belong, addressing issues of identity, loss, rejection, and grief that can often leave us feeling a bit “lost.” Throughout the book, entitled “Understanding Goose,” I inserted various anecdotal stories and facts about geese, based on the true story of a goose that had lost its mate and “adopted” my parents decades ago. Geese have a strong sense of finding their way home, and they also have a mate for life. If they lose their mate, they may “adopt” a human, as if they are looking for a place to call home. I felt like the goose was a hug from God and from Wyndham, reminding me that He knew I had lost my mate and needed a place to call home. I often thanked God for this meaningful gift, as it was comforting, a continual reminder that God was saying, “I am with you here. I know, and I know that you know.” The goose was there for my first three months of transition, and then it was gone. I heard that a woman who rescued wildlife took him to a safe place. He may have been rescued, but he was a safe place for me. I missed seeing him but knew he had served his time there, reminding me that I am never alone.

This morning, I prepared for a Zoom meeting with my doctoral advisor concerning the first chapter of my dissertation. My advisor helps me know how I am doing on my project, gives helpful input, and offers encouragement. In my talk with God beforehand, I told Him how I wished I could have a conversation like that with Him, where I could more concretely hear Him, His feedback, and His encouragement. I told Him how much I appreciate the encouragement He gives, but I felt the need to hear it more clearly from Him. I thanked Him for the goose and the way it had been a “voice of encouragement” to me. I concluded, that after three months, the goose had served its purpose. I thought to myself that it was time for me to fly, and asked God if he would give me an eagle today, for that visible encouragement. I have never seen an eagle on my walks, though through binoculars I saw this one way down the river this summer while on a boat ride.

As I neared the bank of the river, I stopped…just to check. Across the river, I noticed a large bird flying, and while I hoped it might be my answered prayer…I figured it was probably a more common bird, like a hawk. At that moment, the bird turned ninety degrees and flew directly over my head. It was clearly an eagle. I have no explanation why it turned from its path and flew over my head, except for God’s love for me and His encouragement. I could hear God telling me, “I am still with you in your transition, and it’s time to fly.” I then felt tears falling down my face and thanked God for His tender care.

  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
  but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.                (Isaiah 40:29-31)

When Father’s Day Sneaks Up and Kicks You in the Gut

Anticipating Father’s Day is hard for me, and likely for many of you. I enjoy most holidays, but this one always gets me. I miss my husband, who was the safe, wise, and strong place for our kids (and me). I miss my dad, whose huge smile, kidney-chopper hugs, and overflowing Bible verses always made things feel okay. As I watch my grandkids on the ball fields, soccer fields, and tennis courts I picture Wyndham’s countless days of coaching and his constant encouragement for the underdog. He was a dad extraordinaire, sensing when his kids needed his words or hugs. He would so love watching their kids play (and graduate!). They were his pride and joy.

But I’m a lucky one. A blessed one. I had a father who loved me and showed me Jesus, and a husband who loved God wholeheartedly, loved me, and loved his family with a fierce and tender compassion. I guess that’s why it is hard to pass by the cards for Fathers in the stores without purchasing one, or why it’s sad to not think about what I will cook on Sunday.

Some of you never knew an earthly father, had an absent father, an abusive father, or could never measure up to a father’s dysfunctional demands. Wow. That is some kind of hard. I’m so sorry. Some of you lost dads early in your life, and some are watching your father’s health deteriorate before your eyes. It stinks. It really does.

I sometimes feel a little lost approaching this celebratory day. To be honest, I was happy last year to have virtual church on Father’s Day. It made it a little easier. When I feel a little lost in loss, for some reason I find it helpful to plan a special commemoration. I’m not sure why, but it helps me in my losses to commemorate and celebrate. Perhaps it will you, too. So, I plan to “share” a special meal (by myself, by choice) with the dads in my life. I’ll pick up a steak to eat, medium rare, in their honor…because that is what they would enjoy. I’ll probably talk to them a bit, telling them why I love and appreciate them. But then I will turn to another father, to the Father who is always there and who stays with me, even with these weird conversations. He never leaves and he always cares. This is my Father who never dies and is always the same, yesterday, today, and forever. I may detect a tear in his eye, too, because I know he hurts with me. I will thank him for my husband, for my dad, and for my son and sons-in-law who are fabulous dads.

I will then tell him what a good, good Father he is, even though I don’t always understand his goodness. I will thank him for staying with me in the storms, as my solid rock. I will thank him for holding me tightly with his mighty hand and lifting me up from the ashes. I will thank him for holding me close to his heart. I will tell him he is kind, trustworthy, generous, full of love, holy, self-sacrificing, and crazy creative with the world he fashioned. He is a good, good Father. He somehow walks with the living (me) while also walking in another dimension with my physically deceased but spiritually alive husband and dad, who I can no longer see. I believe they are as alive or perhaps more alive than I am, just in a different sphere. He is with them, and he is with me. Of course I can never fully wrap my head around this concept; it is too beautiful for me and beyond human comprehension.

Abba Father, I wish you a wonderful Father’s Day…it is your day, every day. And Wyndham and Dad, know how deeply you are loved…and always remembered. Every day.

A Big Transition…A New Chapter

A thriller, a comedy, a tragedy, poetry, a fairy tale, and a historical narrative all rolled into one. This is the book I am writing as I continue walking “jeaniesjourneys.” Thankfully, God is the author and perfecter of my life story (Heb 12:2), and we are writing this thing together. I’m starting a new chapter. A scary chapter. An exciting chapter. A sad chapter. A happy chapter. A chapter requiring faith. Lots of it.

For a while, I have known I would sell my house. It is time to downsize. Amazingly among ministers, I have been one of the few to stay in a house for a long time, over thirty years. My kids went through their elementary, middle school, and high school years based from this house. My grandchildren have visited my house as newborns and most recently the oldest as a high school graduate. They have slept over, played in the park across the street, and built their own memories. My youngest son, who spent his first twelve years in Romania, walked through the front door of this house as a member of our family in August of ‘98. It is more than a house. It is a home. At our wedding, Sam Laing, who now has his own health challenges, read this poem which now hangs on my wall. heap of living It’s authored by one of my favorite poets, Edgar Guest. I will include several stanzas:

It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home,
A heap o’ sun an’ shadder, an’ ye sometimes have t’ roam
Afore ye really ‘preciate the things ye lef’ behind,
An’ hunger fer ’em somehow, with ’em allus on yer mind.
It don’t make any differunce how rich ye get t’ be,
How much yer chairs an’ tables cost, how great yer luxury;
It ain’t home t’ ye, though it be the palace of a king,
Until somehow yer soul is sort o’ wrapped round everything.

Ye’ve got t’ weep t’ make it home, ye’ve got t’ sit an’ sigh
An’ watch beside a loved one’s bed, an’ know that Death is nigh;
An’ in the stillness o’ the night t’ see Death’s angel come,
An’ close the eyes o’ her that smiled, an’ leave her sweet voice dumb.
Fer these are scenes that grip the heart, an’ when yer tears are dried,
Ye find the home is dearer than it was, an’ sanctified;
An’ tuggin’ at ye always are the pleasant memories
O’ her that was an’ is no more—ye can’t escape from these.

Ye’ve got t’ sing an’ dance fer years, ye’ve got t’ romp an’ play,
An’ learn t’ love the things ye have by usin’ ’em each day;
Even the roses ’round the porch must blossom year by year
Afore they ‘come a part o’ ye, suggestin’ someone dear
Who used t’ love ’em long ago, an’ trained ’em jes’ t’ run
The way they do, so’s they would get the early mornin’ sun;
Ye’ve got t’ love each brick an’ stone from cellar up t’ dome:
It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home.

Let’s just say there has been a heap of living in this home…by us, and likely by some of you who have sat at our table and in our living room. Joy and laughter have rung within these walls, as has precious time around a loved one’s bed, knowing death is nigh.

It is time for a new chapter, so I put my house on the market for showings last Tuesday. On Thursday, I sold it. my for sale sign

I have learned that home is not really a physical place, rather it is a place of rest in the deepest part of my soul; a place that only God fills. I carry home with me wherever I go. The memories of loved ones and conversations, good food and fun, arguments and conflict resolutions, soul-searching conversations and discovery, the mundane and the thrilling, sickness and health, laughter and tears….the memories are in my heart and will go with me wherever I go all the way to heaven, my ultimate home.

That said, I soon realized the stark reality that selling my home would bring. I would have to land somewhere. I prayed fervently for the best place to land… to cut expenses in preparation for my pending retirement, and to provide meaningful ways to serve and love God and people, helping as many as possible make it to heaven. To be honest, something within me questioned whether I should go to a remote place where I could tell people who did not yet know about the amazing news of Jesus. However, given the fact that I don’t know other languages and that my first priorities next to Jesus are my children and grandchildren, I knew I would stay local and contribute to remote places in other ways.

Local turned out to be about an hour and forty-three minutes from my current home. I plan to move to Connecticut, near my daughter Kristen and her family. She said it was “her turn.” While it is so hard to leave so many I love here and there are so many precious (as well as difficult) memories, I feel the Spirit’s guidance and commendation on this new chapter. Through my wonderful realtor (Kristen), I found the perfect place, ten minutes from her family, that fulfills more wishes for a home than I could imagine. Small enough to be cozy but large enough to host friends and family, full of character and charm, near water and town, and full of so many other “hugs” from God. And, to top it off, there is a studio apartment next to the house—the perfect place for Jacob. We are both excited about our new adventure.

roses in my yard

roses in my new yard, overlooking the park across the street which begins the Riverwalk.

Who knows what all will be written in this new chapter, but with God editing it I am in safe hands. I suppose the upcoming chapters will contain the various genres mentioned above, but thankfully I know how the story ends. Meanwhile, I pray that the heap of living that takes place in my new home will bring joy to many, especially to God. My friend, Susan, who is currently in Connecticut helping her son’s family as he recovers from extensive cancer surgery, rode by my new house while her son was in surgery. Just as she pulled up to my new house, she got the call that the surgery was a success. So, she named my house the “good news house.” I like that name. I think I will stick with that. Please pray for me in this transition as I move to the “good news house.”

150 Naubuc Ave

The Last Word

While “the last word” can describe a pushy eagerness to be the first and last to express an opinion, it can also be a message for another’s good, to communicate love. Sadly, the first example can be heard around us everywhere, physically and virtually.

Wyndham’s last words to me were “I love you.” Certainly, there were details of life we talked about earlier, but his last words expressed the heart of our relationship. These words are what mattered the most, to him and to me. I treasure those words. He used them daily when he could talk, but he had not been able to talk for months. So, when he somehow got these words out before he died, they were even more precious to me. While I remember so many details about his wisdom and passion for God…I remember these words the most. I carry our relationship of love with me always. His last gift to me was a diamond necklace, which he entrusted Sam to purchase. Even though he knew I am not a “jewelry person,” he wanted this remembrance so I would keep him close to my heart. And he is, always, close to my heart.

According to Jesus’ last words, He wants us to remember He loves us and will be with His sons and daughters. The fact that God’s first and last words were a blessing shows me once again the depth of His love. This moves and touches my heart.

What were Jesus’ last words? I had often thought His last words were the great commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20. But those were not His last words. His last recorded words were in the form of a blessing as He ascended to heaven.

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.
While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
(Luke 24:50-53)

Luke expounds on Jesus’ ascension in Acts as he quotes Jesus saying, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Was this the blessing Luke recorded? We don’t know. Jewish blessings usually invoke a gift or token of love, which the gift of His Spirit certainly is.

While we don’t know the exact words of the blessing as Jesus ascended, we know He raised His hands and blessed His disciples. We understand that they knew that He would somehow be with them through His Holy Spirit, though they did not yet understand how. And we know that they left His ascension rejoicing and praising God. That’s how God’s love affects us when we understand it.

Interestingly, the first recorded words from God to humankind were a blessing (Gen 1:22) and the last words from Jesus to humankind were a blessing. Learning from Jesus, I want my first and last words to communicate love. Because He loves, I can give love. I want my words to be a blessing to others. To communicate love.

This causes me to ask myself: What are my first words to others when I see them or greet them? What do they communicate?

What are my last words? What do they communicate?

Remembering that Jesus loves me and is with me brings me great comfort. His love allows me to show love to others.

A Jewish blessing is found in Numbers 6, describing God’s heart toward His people.

GOD spoke to Moses:

“Tell Aaron and his sons, This is how you are to bless the People of Israel. Say to them,
GOD bless you and keep you,
GOD smile on you and gift you,
GOD look you full in the face and make you prosper. (Numbers 6:22-26 MSG)

I love this blessing. I love the thought of God blessing me and keeping me. I thrill that He would smile on me and gift me, looking me full in the face. Amazing. God’s love touches my heart and gives me great joy. This blessing has been put to song, which has become a great encouragement to me. I pray as you listen, this encourages you as you remember God’s heart toward you.


One Word

As my granddaughter, Lexi, was sitting on our kitchen counter on the morning of her fourth birthday she was discussing with her parents the upcoming birthday dinner which was to take place that evening.  (Her family is living with us, while waiting to move into their new house.) Though the extended family had celebrated her birthday the previous weekend, her immediate family was going to celebrate with her that evening – her actual birthday.

It has been our custom, through the years, to celebrate each family member’s birthday with “one word” sharing. We share a word that to us describes the birthday person. Then, we explain why we chose this word.  Knowing we would not be available to join the family that evening, Lexi (still on the kitchen counter) said, “Nana and Papa, since you won’t be at my dinner tonight you can share about me now if you want.”

I love (and learn from) the vulnerability of children.  We smiled, and easily found words of encouragement to share with her.  It was easy to find words to describe her sunny disposition as she sings through life.  I think I used the word “sunshine,” or perhaps the phrase “joie de vivre” (joy of life.)  I can’t remember- as there are so many fitting choices.  I was reminded, by her request, how much this little tradition means to her.  And truthfully, no matter who we are, I believe it is always meaningful to hear people share encouraging words about what we mean to them.

For some unknown reason I woke up at a ridiculously early hour the next morning.  As I lay awake, I wondered if it might “encourage” God if I shared my word(s) for him. I know God doesn’t need courage put into Him (encouragement,) as He is perfect – but He does tell me He wants to hear from me…he wants to know how I feel about Him – incredible as this seems.  Though He always has been (so it was not a birthday) I began – and shared with Him word after word that described Him to me… Almighty, glorious, Father, rock, wisdom, timeless, eternal, disturber, comforter, magnificent, creator, redeemer, friend, strong, tender, perfect, joy, light, huge, meeter-of-every need, power-beyond-what-I-can-fathom (some “words” must be hyphenated)… I fell asleep with a smile on my face.  I hoped God was smiling as well.

Today I am across the ocean from my “normal” habitat.  This was the view from my morning prayer walk.  IMG_4430 Honestly, God’s creation is so amazing I could scarcely find the words to pray…so this particular morning I just sang praises.  Despite the less than perfect tune, God filled my soul with joy. Whether the view is from a dark room at night or whether from a meadow overlooking snow covered mountains – God is worthy of praise.  What are some of the words you would use to describe God? Likely, He would love to hear them.

  The Lord is my strength and my song;

        he has become my salvation.

    He is my God, and I will praise him,

        my father’s God, and I will exalt him. Ex. 15:2

   I will praise you as long as I live,

        and in your name I will lift up my hands.

    [5] My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;

        with singing lips my mouth will praise you. Psalm 63:4-5


  Praise the Lord, O my soul;

        all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

    [2] Praise the Lord, O my soul,

        and forget not all his benefits–

    [3] who forgives all your sins

        and heals all your diseases,

    [4] who redeems your life from the pit

        and crowns you with love and compassion,

    [5] who satisfies your desires with good things

        so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  Ps 103:1-5









Everybody Needs a PT

The surgeon, speaking to us, told us we won’t want someone who is just “sweet and nice” to work with Wyndham.  He said we will want someone who will push him well beyond his comfort zone – to things he thinks he can’t do or fears doing.   This was the surgeon’s description of the needed physical therapist.

Yes, as stated in the previous post – God is in charge of the design, working and intricacies of the human body, and  we are responsible to do our part in the healing process…but the road to full recovery also involves help from someone else.  This person has experience and knowledge of how things are supposed to work and helps to teach, train, encourage, dispel fear and promote trust.  In my husband’s physical healing and growth process this person is known as the physical therapist.

So, when the therapist showed up there was a sense of “gulp, well, here we go…”…as who really longs to get uncomfortable and invite pain?  However, even though it hurt,  the benefit of the time was immediate and deeply appreciated.  My husband was on the stairs, was doing a little dance,was on his toes and was doing all kinds of painful activity.  Afterward, he was so much more confident that his knee would actually hold him. He made a lot of progress that he wouldn’t have made without the extra “push” and the training from the PT.  There are certain windows of opportunity to retrain the muscles…and that window of opportunity is now.  The trainer will come back again and again…and then Wyndham will go see the trainer  (Physical Therapist) regularly as he strives to make progress – little by little and day by day. IMG_4215

As I watch and anticipate this continuing process…I realize that while the knee is a pretty important part of the body, it (even the titanium bionic version) will not last forever.  However, our souls will.  Why in the world then, would we not surround ourselves with regular visits with a spiritual “PT” – who I’ll refer to as a “Perfection Trainer.”

I could fill the page with scriptures that teach us our need to have others in our lives.  Consider a few of my favorites:

    We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. [29] To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. Col. 1:28-29

    Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. Col. 3:16

    Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. [16] From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15-16

    But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13

    And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. [25] Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

I’ve been a Christian now for 45 years – baptized as a teen.  Throughout these years God has always been faithful to all his promises.  As for my part… yes it is hard work with ups and downs,  as I’m still a work in progress.  I know the love, support, training, correction, encouragement and guidance I have received from others is invaluable – individually and also collectively as I regularly meet together with my brothers and sisters.   I am so grateful for those who help me overcome my fears and help me to be more like Jesus.   I  intend to aggressively continue to  surround myself with those who offer these things to me (as I will never outgrow the need)- and also to continue to offer them to others as well – as I long to be faithful  to my God  and his family to the end.

How aggressively do you seek out “Perfection Training?” Do you seek it as Paul describes in Colossians ” with all his energy that he so powerfully works within me.” ??

While the knee may be okay without it, the soul won’t.








Leaving a Mark

As I prepare to write, I stand amazed at how quickly and thoroughly our new puppy has impact wherever he goes.  In about ten seconds time he has chewed a box, tried to pull out the computer wire, chomped on the trashcan, brought out a towel, carried papers away and various other “accomplishments”.  I am confident he is leaving a mark every place he visits, albeit not always a positive one. (It’s a good thing he’s so cute)

While still a baby, and not yet trained, this tiny little furball can alter numerous situations around him quite quickly and decisively.  It is dumbfounding to me.  (I’m also becoming a strong advocate for crate training)

I pray, as I go about my day today, that I can “leave a mark” (a good one), on people and situations with whom I come in contact.  I am confident that this can’t happen without prayer, thought, focus and initiative.  Hebrews 10:23-24

    Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. [24] And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (emphasis added)

If I am not alert to the presence of God in my life I can just go through the day, leaving little or no mark.  I can sometimes be like a phrase I once heard, “Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit.”

One of my friends, when I was a young Christian, used to greet me excitedly saying, “Did you have a Jesus day?  Did you have some Jesus conversations?”  This would always get me thinking, because when I consider the life of Jesus, and read again and again the accounts of that life I am utterly amazed at Him, and called so much higher.  Everywhere Jesus went…every person he spoke to, every situation he was in …he made a difference.  He left a mark.  The sick were healed and “casual conversations” led to decisions that altered eternity for men and women.  When Jesus spoke with individuals they felt heard and understood- loved, and often very challenged.  He spoke with authority.  He also cried with compassion.  He was dependent on his relationship with the Father.  He spoke the truth that resonated with hurting, troubled and complacent hearts.  He made huge “dinner parties” from mere leftovers, kept to what was truly important over the urgent and showed us what love really means.  He did this in an unparalleled way -by giving his own life for those who disregarded him and spat in his face, including me.  Yes, I am amazed.  I pray I can leave some mark today that reflects Jesus in me and points someone to him in a life-changing way.

Matthew 5:16

    In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

1 John 2:6

    Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

Yes, our new puppy leaves a mark everywhere he goes.  Like him, I pray to leave more of a mark where I go… and challenging as it is, I pray it will be more like Jesus than Denver….having  a “Jesus day”, that brings Him to situations and conversations I encounter, one person at a time

Col. 3:17

    And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Hebrews 13:20-21

    May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, [21] equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


Snippets of Love

The Christmas cards almost didn’t go out this year due to “communication stuckness”.  This is a ‘condition’ that sometimes affects me.  It happens when there is so much to say, or so many things to catch up on that I don’t know where to start.  Unfortunately, the result can mean that I “get stuck”.  

My husband tells me my brain seldom rests…I’m always thinking about something which can lead to “information overload”. Then, my communication can get out of sync with what goes on in my head and cause “communication stuckness”. For example, when my mom was still living I made it a goal to write her weekly. At first I used “snail mail” but later we communicated by e-mail.  Since she was deaf for many years she relied on written communication.  I thought about writing her nearly every day, however too often I would get “stuck” when actually trying to follow through on that intention. Often it seemed there was so much to say that I would not know where to start – so that I wrote less often than I wished.  My sister suggested that instead of trying to write “more” less often – I could write “less” more often….perhaps a few sentences several times a week.  She suggested that I could even forward an interesting or humorous article that I’d received from someone else.  It was more important that I say something to let her know I was thinking of her.

At times I can find the same challenge of “overload stuckness” in my communication with God.  I think about Him throughout the day, and communicate often in my head (and heart). However, I can get “stuck”  when I feel there is so much  to pray about that I can’t even remember it all – and feel  it would take hours each day just to mention everything I need and want to pray about.  I know that communication with God in prayer and in hearing him through the scriptures is the most important part of my life – so I want to overcome the “communication stuckness”  that sometimes occurs.

I am grateful for the instruction and challenges in the scriptures.  1 Thes. 5:16-18 states:

    Be joyful always; [17] pray continually; [18] give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I learn from this that throughout the day I can  give  “love snippets” of gratitude ….. shorter expressions of love to God throughout the day.  He wants to know I am thinking of him.

I also realize that communication  takes preparation, watchfulness and devotion.  It takes hard work and discipline as described by the term “wrestling” in the scriptures below.

Col. 4:2     Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Col. 4:12   Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

I’m going forward with a plan to help me overcome “communication stuckness”-  so that I can be a better “prayer wrestler”…. more devoted, watchful and thankful.  I crafted a little organizational tool to help me with this.  It’s a simple laminated bookmark with an “assigned by me” topic for prayer focus each day.  For me, when there is a lot of information to pray about and act upon I get lost and stuck without organization.  I’ve found it helpful to have specific days for specific focus.  I plan to use this to accompany the snippets of communication throughout the day.

I can also learn to be more effective in communicating my appreciation to others more often by using shorter snippets instead getting stuck in overload.  It is even “okay” to simply sign my Christmas cards with the short note  – “Love, the Shaws”. If I tried to write more I might still be stuck, pen in hand, with a pile of envelopes by my side.

This year, in thinking about communicating snippets of love more often, I tried something special while getting my cards out.  I highly recommend it if you choose to send cards (a personal preference thing).  As I quickly stamped each card, I thought of my favorite memory with the addressee and then thanked God for them. ( I didn’t take time to write those memories,…otherwise, I’d still be writing and no cards would have gone out.) After I had done this I felt very full and blessed to have such wonderful friends and family in my life


Anatomy of Encouragement

Luke 18:17   I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Over the Thanksgiving weekend we gathered for our annual Shaw family photo.  As the family grows – this is no small feat.  In fact, when you look at the picture and see everyone’s big smile, you will have no idea how much time has gone into capturing that one moment. There were likely blinks, tears, frustration, laughs and distractions before the perfect pose was captured.  While awaiting the “photo shoot”  I  was reminded of God’s call for us to encourage one another.  This reminder came as I watched a situation unfold between two of my grandchildren.  It began with a pout.  I believe the snapshot of this pout will say more about my granddaughter’s attitude than words can tell.  (I will refer to my grandchildren by the number in their birth order.)  # 3 was not feeling particularly encouraged about the upcoming photo shoot.  Can you relate?  I can.  When we don’t want do something we can often keep our expression from showing our displeasure…but the inside of our heart reveals a pout similar to this.

We all get stuck at times and need others to encourage us.  Often crucial, however, to our “getting happy” is for someone to notice and to care enough to speak with us when we need some attitudinal adjustment  – and accompanying encouragement to move forward in a positive way.  This is where #4 came into the picture.  He loves his cousin and was genuinely concerned with her unhappiness.  So, he went to her and spoke with her.  Hebrews 3:13

    But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

While #3 is too little to sin…she was still softened in her heart and attitude by some words (I didn’t hear what he said to her but it helped a lot) from her little cousin.

I reflected on how much I can grow to be more alert  to another person’s discouragement, unhappiness or bitterness that can lead to hardness of heart.   I know for me it begins with taking the time to consider others above myself.  Philip. 2:3

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Most often, intentions are good….but busyness can blind me to things that are going on in others’ lives.

It takes time and thought to consider.  May I always be more like my grandchildren…noticing… and taking considered action to encourage – as well as being quick to respond to encouragement given.

Hebrews 10:24

    And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

After the “encouragement encounter”….#3 was immediately ready to go. 

(thanks to Vanessa Embling for all the photos)

Carried Close to His Heart

Isaiah 40:11

    He tends his flock like a shepherd:

        He gathers the lambs in his arms

    and carries them close to his heart;

        he gently leads those that have young.

I think of this verse as I watch my husband carry Jordan in and out of the house, first thing in the morning and  last thing at night.  This new routine is causing some back soreness, but we think it’s worth it. This caretaking of our invalid dog is teaching me many lessons.

Saturday morning I had a good cry –  a deep sob is more accurate.  It had been two days since Jordan had eaten or had drunk water.  He would and could not stand.  Wyndham and I concurred that we would wait until Monday to decide whether to put him down, but I felt the inevitable was approaching.

I had made him scrambled eggs, meat, and chicken soup – and offered them all to him.  He had no interest.  Then he surprised me. Saturday night, on a whim, I tried feeding him Ritz crackers with peanut butter on them.  Apparently, that hit the spot.  He at the whole roll of crackers.  Yesterday he had about 4 hamburgers, a chocolate chip cookie (his favorite…and chocolate hasn’t hurt him in his 14 years) and drank a lot of water.   Last night he stood up.  This morning, I cooked some ground beef (with  some mashed sweet potatoes added) and he ate it all from my hand.  Then, after being carried outside he stood up, did his business and wagged his tail.  It seems he truly is getting better!  Whether or not he will fully recover is still unknown, but I’m encouraged.

Meanwhile, I think about the fact that he is our dog.  A perfectly wonderful dog mind you; but I do realize he is not quite human.  I think about the tender loving care he needs right now and how eager I am to give it.  And I am a very imperfect human.

I can’t really begin to grasp the love God extends to me.  It floors me to think that I am made in his image….thought of even before I was born (Psalm 139) and that he gathers me in his arms, close to his heart as the scripture above states.  Shamefully, I worry about too many things.  Next time (likely later tonight) when I’m tempted to worry about something I need to remember how I feel about my dog… remember God’s loving care for me, his sheep.  Nothing is too big (or too little) for my God.

Matthew 6:25-27

    “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? [26] Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? [27] Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

Luke 12:22-26

    Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. [23] Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. [24] Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! [25] Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? [26] Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?