There Be Mountains

There be mountains out there which I find lovely unless I’m flying over them in a small airplane.

Instead of embracing the spectacular birds-eye view, and trusting the person who’s flying, I squeeze my eyes shut. Cowering beneath my jacket, I hold my breath waiting till we get to the other side.

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Even now, when my husband suggests flying somewhere, I ask him, “Will there be mountains?” Living on the west coast, it’s hard to avoid them.

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I prefer flying over the Sacramento Valley where the flat land is an earthen tapestry of rice fields and almond orchards. Cattle graze on carpets of green grass, and Interstate 5 stretches for miles like a runway. If need be, we could land the plane without too many bumps.

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Given the choice, I’d rather stay in the peaceful valley, but even in life…there be mountains.

Sweet moments in life might be called a Mountain-Top Experience like the breath-taking, ethereal beauty that comes after an uphill hike when we’re standing on top of the world.

But there are also treacherous mountains where the trees don’t grow and the steep elevation seems insurmountable. Only, our circumstances leave us no choice but to go up and over. Not knowing if we’ll survive the experience of….

  • Debts
  • Disease
  • Disabilities
  • Divorce
  • Disasters
  • Death of a Dear One.

Whether the mountainous problem looming before us is 5,000 feet high or a 14,000 peak….how should we respond?

  • Cower in denial like an ostrich hiding his head in a hole?
  • Pull back into our shells like a frightened turtle?
  • Forge ahead faithfully, one step at a time?

Fear—and a lack of trust—is my first response whether I’m flying in the mountains or facing life. I wonder if I’ll ever change. However, I did something on my last flight that changed my perspective.

As we took off towards the hills, I closed my eyes to avoid looking down and listened to Christian music on my iPod. Only this time, I meditated on the Biblical Truths behind the lyrics.

  • Does Jesus love me?
  • Is His grace sufficient?
  • Will He forsake me?
  • Is God sovereign?
  • Can I trust Him?

I thought about the geography of my life: Sunny beaches and lush meadows interspersed with barren deserts, hazardous mountains, and the vally of the shadow of death.

20160902_105006The ONE constant navigator and comforter in my life is Jesus. He never disappoints.

When I embraced that truth, and everthing I know to be true about God’s character and my relationship with Him, the fear vanished. My body relaxed knowing His Spirit is present within me. I opened my eyes and beheld the wonder of His creation.

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Knowing even in this…no matter what “this issue” happens to be in my life….

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1,2).

 

Do You Talk to Yourself?

I’ve been absent for a month—meandering in the wilderness.

I won’t ask if you missed me but, if you haven’t noticed, my last three blogs were guest posts. I value what each of them had to say, but I also shared their words because I had nothing to say.

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Spiritually depressed, without apparent reason, I wondered if I’d ever blog again.

Have you been soul empty? Lost the joy of the Lord?

Earlier this summer, I warned readers of Taking a Vacation from God which can lead to spiritual apathy. That wasn’t my case.

Spiritual blindness sprang up overnight. Blinded to the cause, I begged for a lifeline out of the miry pit.

Read my Bible, but His Word didn’t register.
Prayed, but my words fell flat.
Went to church, but the manna only nourished me for an hour.

I couldn’t blame my current circumstances for life was sweet. Or a lack of spiritual meat because I’d been studying God’s names; in awe of His love for me.

So I waited for the cloud to pass. My only hope in Him.

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Then Pastor Joe referred me to the book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

The author said the cause of spiritual depression can be someone’s temperament, physical ailment, or unbelief. But another cause can be a reaction after a great blessing or exceptional experience such as Elijah in 1 Kings.

Made sense. After weeks of preparing a talk, He Knows My Name, my spiritual high came crashing. Is that how astronauts feel when they return from celestial heights to Earth?

What’s the cure? According to Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Psalm 42 is the antidote.

The Psalmist, King David, is depressed by his circumstances, but instead of commiserating, he talks to himself.

“We must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ourselves to talk to us.”

Lloyd-Martin explains. “Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. They start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc.”

Do you listen to the voices in your head? Is the main voice talking your Self?

We need to learn how to handle ourselves.

“You have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’—what business have you to be be disquieted?

You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’—instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way.

Remind yourself of God. Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.”

Ending on this note: “I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.

Is this cure sure?

Well, I wouldn’t be writing this post if I hadn’t found the joy of the Lord even in this…..

 

Wilderness  photo: www.JennyWredePhotography.com

Depressed woman: Pixabay

 

 

 

Are You Overwhelmed?

Are you overwhelmed by the news or personal issues in your life? My friend, Susan, has written a thought-provoking blog that I’d like to share. I pray her words encourage your heart. You can find more of her posts on http://Susansage.com

I have been over the last week

Overwhelmed

Discouraged

Sad

Angry at times

Never wanting my husband to put on a uniform again

But, right above my desk hangs a sign a friend painted for me. 

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Question is—do I?

Do I trust Him when pain rips through my body?

Do I trust God’s sovereignty when there is increased violence?

Do I trust He’s got this when another friend succumbs to illness?

Do I really believe He’s in control when an ambush occurs on those who were trying to protect others?

Do rely on Him fully when politics just doesn’t make sense?

Do I hold fast to faith in Him when things and people I thought were unwavering, are not?

What could you add to this list?

Truth is, pain did rip through my body under the stress of all the violence last week. Honestly, I don’t ever want my husband to put his uniform on again and go defend others. And, discouragement began to send tentacles of fear into my heart over the violence and craziness around us.

But, as God often does, He used a small phrase in a big account in the Bible. Remember in the book of Daniel when he asked not to be fed the choice foods but rather the vegetables and water. In the passage in Daniel 1:8Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), it says (depending on your translation) Daniel “resolved” or “made up his mind.”

I was teaching a class at church and that phrase hit me.

Daniel resolved . . .

Have I?

Have you?

If God is really sovereign, then He is trustworthy.

I must resolve each day to trust, just as the sign says. It’s a day by day decision, sometimes it’s moment by moment.

Either I believe He’s sovereign and trustworthy or I don’t.

What does it look like if I don’t? I’ll worry, toil over it, succumb to fear and panic, and keep allowing my thoughts to remain on the issues.

What will it look like if I do? I’ll take God’s advice. There are so many verses in the Bible that remind me what to do when I’m fearful and overwhelmed like Psalm 56:3, or Philippians 4:8, or Colossians 3:2 among many more.

Every day we have to make the decision whether we will allow the crises surrounding us to keep our focus or whether we’ll live as we, as believers, say we believe-trusting God.

By the way, just because we believe that God is sovereign and so in control, doesn’t mean difficult issues will not touch us. But, if He is sovereign, and I believe He is, then often throughout the day I must resolve to stay in that reality, not allowing the difficulties, whatever they are, to keep me weighted in fear.

As my eyes are on Him, I also need to make up my mind how I will react to these troubles. Will I act out in frustration by showing hate and negativity to others or will I allow God’s love and light to work in and through me towards others?

If you want another perspective on dealing with fear and worry, jump over to my friend, Kris Lindsey’s blog. You’ll find her http://krislindsey.com

Do I trust God’s sovereignty when there is increased violence?

Either I believe God is sovereign and trustworthy or I don’t.

Sign painted by Allie Billat at Mad Hatter Salvage Creations

Where’s the Hope?

“I’m not a very religious person,” said a young man who was interviewed on the street after the horrific shooting in Orlando, Florida. “But whatever religion you are, no matter what you believe—send it whatever—our way.”

He sighed as he tried to articulate his thoughts. “We all need it. We all need something. We all need that…hope. So just keep praying for us.”

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What is hope?

In the world’s vernacular, hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”

  • I hope our baseball team wins.
  • I hope it rains.
  • I hope you feel better soon.

However, it wasn’t hopeful, wishful thinking that triggered my brain when the man said, “Send it whatever our way.”

I yearned to tell him, “whatever it is” has a name and it’s not a “thing.”

It is Someone who loves you so much that He died in your place so you could experience a Living Hope that…

  • Exceeds expectations.
  • Satisfies desires.
  • Doesn’t disappoint.

I wanted to tell him about “Christ Jesus our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1).

And that “our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers” (1 Timothy 4:10).

Only, I wonder if the irreligious man would have listened to me because…the world doesn’t want us to tell them about the hope within us.

They want us to show them.

The employees of several Chick-fil-a restaurants in Orlando could have told the wounded victims and the people who mourned, “We’re praying for you.”

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Instead, they showed compassion.

On a Sunday—when Chick-fil-a is normally closed—employees cooked and served free chicken sandwiches and sweet tea to hundreds of people who lined up to donate blood for the wounded.

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The folks who gave their blood also illustrated a compassionate heart. And reminds me…

God demonstrated His love towards us when He sent His only, begotten Son to shed His blood for me.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples, “the world must be shown that I love the Father and do exactly as He commands.” (John 14:31 NEB)

People are watching.

When they look at Christians, do they see a talking head? Or a disciple of Christ who loves God and does what He commands:

  • Prays for our enemy.
  • Loves our neighbor.
  • Serves one another as unto Christ.

Sometimes, I’m tempted to feel hopeless when I’m going through a crisis. But Romans 15:13 says,

“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope.

Like the distressed man said, “We all need hope.”

So let’s pray and show the world the radiant hope within us even in this difficult time.

How Do You Handle A New Normal?

My friend could walk and feed herself a year ago.

She could hug her husband, hold her grandchildren, use her mobile phone, drive a car. Pull the bedspread over her shoulders when she was cold at night.

Now Vicki’s life is a new kind of normal.

Physical therapy, medical appointments, caregivers, pain pills, temporarily living with her husband in their married daughter’s home, learning to walk by faith and not by sight.

Doctors predict improvement, but rehabilitation is a slow process. There are never guarantees in life, but there is gratitude. And Vicki is the first to praise God’s mercies and provision in this new normal.

My friend, Terrie, and I visited our mutual friend. A married couple also came. We gathered around the dining room table to eat pancakes, talk, laugh, listen, pray. Tried not to cry.

But it was no small matter—and I doubt it went unnoticed—that a stranger sat among us. The caregiver tried to be inconspicuous as she fed Vicki, waited for her to chew, and swallow. Wiped her mouth and held a glass of orange juice to her lips.

Before we left, Terrie offered to massage Vicki’s feet with lotion.

Vicki smiled. “That’d be great. Thank you.”

Terrie sat on the floor in front of the wheelchair. She removed Vicki’s tennis shoe and compression sock. We mentioned the blue polish on her toenails. My eyes watered (thus the blurry photo) as I watched my friend gently massage and caress Vicki’s feet and the calves of her weak legs.

I thought of the woman in the Bible—who’d been forgiven much—washing Jesus’ feet with her tears; drying them with her long hair.

Did my two friends view this foot massage as a humble, sacred moment?

I snapped a photo to remember how quickly life can change. A visual reminder that no act of kindness is too small if we want others to know that we care.

I wondered how Vicki felt, confined in a wheelchair, allowing people to feed her and massage her feet. Did she swallow her pride? Mentally beat her breast, ‘Why me, Lord?’ Or did she feel loved and cherished?

I can’t speak for Vicki—and wouldn’t share her thoughts if I knew—but I can say this.

From the time we met, this soft-spoken woman’s been a prayer warrior. I’ve seen her rely on the Lord Jesus to sustain her in previous trials, and her stalwart faith hasn’t changed.

Vicki told us that her grandson called her “a Bible-reading Grandma.” She can’t hold her Bible now, but God’s Word upholds her.

For years ago, Vicki chose to immerse herself in scripture. She learned to trust in a sovereign God long before this storm blew into her life. And by God’s grace, she will not be moved even in this.

How To Cope with Pain & Adversity

Today, I saw my neighbor at the grocery store. “How’s your wife?” I asked, standing in the canned vegetable aisle.

“Hanging in there. She still has another month of recuperation.”

I wish I could say his wife is the only one who entered the new year with a major injury. But I know multiple people who are recovering from broken bones and surgery.

Other friends live with chronic pain, depression, and debilitating diseases like Parkinsons, and in one woman’s case—terminal cancer.

C.S. Lewis said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Have you—or someone you love—been roused by pain? Patience worn thin?

When Job was tormented by grief and agonizing pain, he implored God, “Why am I suffering?” However, he refused to follow his wife’s advice and curse God.

Instead, he said, “‘Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In this, he did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10)

My mentor, Loretta, calls this …

Job’s Intolerable Compliment—God trusted Job to honor Him in his circumstances.

Even Jesus prayed on the night of his arrest, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow….Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet, not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:34-36)

Honoring God in our adversity begins with the heart. Accepting and trusting God’s sovereignty.

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Several of my friends deal with chronic pain and health issues. They pray for the absence of pain. They believe God has the power to restore their health, but they agree—for whatever reason—God’s allowed poor health in their lives.

They’ve come to a place of submission.

  • Accepting what they cannot change.
  • Acknowledging God’s eternal purpose—to use everything—to teach and mold us into Christ’s image.

One friend said, “When I’m in pain, I cling to God. Sometime I wonder if my faith would be as rich if I’d been a healthy woman.”

She admitted, “Some days, all I can do is pick up my son from school and put dinner on the table. On these days, it’s my choice to…

  • Get angry and kick myself; feel like a failure.
  • Compare myself to healthy friends; feel resentful.
  • Have a pity party; feel sorry for myself
  • Give myself grace; accept this is all I can do.

Her attitude echoes another friend’s words. “When I’m in pain, I try to pray like Jesus, ‘Father, Thy will be done.’”

Perhaps like me, you don’t deal with chronic pain. Maybe your adverse situation is unemployment or dealing with a loved one’s drug addiction. If so, there’s a lesson to be gleaned from Job’s Intolerable Compliment.

Honoring God even in this…..

 

Photo: JennyWredePhotography

When Death Interrupts Life

My uncle died Friday night.

Lying in hospital, his one strong hand clung to the woman he loved. His pale cheeks wet from my aunt’s  teary butterfly kisses.

My uncle had suffered a Stroke weeks earlier, but on Friday—the first day of spring—I didn’t know his frail body was shutting down….

While I played Florence Nightingale to my outdoor plants—amputating dead limbs, nurturing them with life-giving water.

Springtime—the smell of fresh-cut grass, a sky the color of robin eggs, yellow buds unfurling in the afternoon sun.  My Friday was pregnant with new life around me and joyful possibilities.

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 What a stark contrast to my uncle and aunt’s reality. Death’s chill shadow loomed over them as the life they knew and shared concluded.

And yet, even in this…gut-wrenching pain of letting go….Hope was present.

Hope is the balm that soothes the burning sting of death.

 “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. BUT Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Death can’t be sugar coated. “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.” (Lyric from Empty Chairs at Empty Tables)

However, my uncle and aunt believed “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day….”

And their FAITH is what the Bible describes as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

This world isn’t the end all. There may be mysteries we can’t explain. But God has given us His Word, and His Promise, that death will be swallowed up in victory.

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The Columbine seeds I scattered in my garden last year now rise from the earth, but in a new form. The clover-like foliage and lavender bell-shaped flowers are more beautiful and fragrant than its seed.

So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

Because Christ lives, we live too!

That is the sweet reality for those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in His name.” (John 20:31)

*Other scripture  cited is from 1 Corinthians 15

Photos by Jennifer Foster

Why the Hesitation?

How’s your heart? Are you overwhelmed? Dismayed?

That’s how King David described himself in Psalm 143.  And that’s how I felt when I woke up.

Though the winter sky was baby blue, and the sun’s rays shimmied between the bare tree limbs.

I blamed my mood on a head cold. And yet, sometimes, it’s difficult to pinpoint the reason I’m anxious or depressed.

Thankfully, God knows the human propensity to allow circumstances and emotions to overwhelm us. That’s why He used King David to pen Psalm 143.

Words written centuries ago, but relevant today—in this exact moment—because God’s Word is able to clear the negative voices in a congested head. And point us to a better way of living.

My feral cat was also in a mood.

Stuck outside overnight, she sat on our front porch rail, waiting. Watching me through the kitchen window while I brewed a cup of tea.

When our eyes met, my cat arched her back and meowed. I opened the door, stumbled towards my desk as she weaved in and out between my feet.

Unlike most mornings, my feral cat wanted more than warmth and food. She paced back and forth, rolled on the wood floor. Then she sat by my desk chair, staring at my lap. It’s rare for this independent feline to cuddle, but I saw the debate within her eyes.

Meanwhile, I just “happened” to open my Bible to Psalm 143. It’s the same passage I underlined fourteen years ago when I dealt with anxiety and winter blues. Only this time, I paused at verse 5.

“I remember the days of old. I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.”

Remember. Meditate. Muse.

On what?

  • My circumstances?
  • My emotions?
  • My thoughts?

No, we’re told to…

Remember God’s Work.  Meditate on the great things the Lord has done. Not only for mankind, but in people’s lives…in my life.

“Dwell much on what I did, as well as what I said. Remember, ‘I touched her hand, and the fever left her.’ Not many words, just a moment’s contact, and all fever left her.” (God Calling)

Lord, please touch my heart so my mood melts into nothingness.

I glanced down at my cat who watched me with the same hesitation that I came before the God. Afraid to ask, as if I was unworthy, or He had greater things to tend to than “my mood.”

I tapped my robe. “Come here.”

Cat ears flinched.

“What? You don’t trust me after all these years?”

My audible words convicted me. Wasn’t this God’s attitude towards me when I hesitate to come to Him? Hesitate to ask?

What keeps folks from wanting more of God, or receiving all He wants to give?

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Before I could answer my question, the cat jumped on the desk and settled beside my Bible. Soon, she curled on my lap, purring.

Content; unafraid.

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Not unlike her mistress, now resting in God’s capable Hands.

Let me hear Thy loving kindness in the morning; for I trust in Thee...” (vs.8)

Broken Lives in Search of Glue

She told me, “The man committed suicide.”

Just couldn’t live on this planet one more day.

I didn’t know him, but a knot forms in my gut while I wonder about the people in my life.

Is someone in despair? Would I recognize the signs?

 

I’ve talked with people who tried, without success, to help a loved one…

Change his behavior. Make her happy. Seek counseling. Point them to the Lord.

Forever haunted “If only I had done this, said that.

Haven’t we all been there?

Been the person with good intentions who knows what’s best for another person. Only the other person won’t listen!

We stand there with a tube of super glue in our hands. Looking at the mess of a person; fallen and broken. Realize that even Humpty Dumpty’s men couldn’t put him back together again.

 

So how do I help a human being who doesn’t care enough to—”help me help you.”

And why do I presume to have the answers for someone else when I can still see the jagged scars where I tried to super glue my own broken pieces back together?

Fact is, there’s only one answer that will help.

One Truth that endures  when we find even ourselves in quicksand because the enemy who “seeks to lie, steal, kill, and destroy” loves to…

Chip at our self-esteem. Break our spirit. Convince us.

  • “This is good as it gets!”
  • “Who cares?”
  • “What’s the point?”

Until we’re broken, and feel beyond repair………….

That one Truth—Jesus Christ—says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Then true to His Word, Jesus lifts us from the pit of sin and self-defeat and does the IMPOSSIBLE.

Jesus picks up the broken pieces. Puts us back together again, and reassures us:

This isn’t as good as it gets.

 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Someone cares.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1John 4:10)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35)

There is a point; an eternal purpose.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” (Romans 8:28-29)

Even when we don’t feel God’s love, or comprehend His purposes,

Even in this….fallen world filled with broken promises, broken marriages, broken lives that break our hearts…and makes us weep.

Jesus tells us to “Come, and find rest.”

Are you broken?

Is your heart breaking for someone else?

Then Come!

Thankful I Don’t Have

IMG_5310Although I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, I also praise God for the many things I don’t have:

Terminal illness

Delinquent child

Empty food pantry

Rat eating my kitchen pipes…like a year ago

Some readers may be dealing with these issues, or worse. So forgive me if I step on toes. And yet, when I’m trudging through the messy circumstances of life, I believe….God’s grace pads my life in ways I can’t imagine.

Crises diverted. Grief avoided. Unspoken prayers favorably answered without my knowledge.

Doesn’t God deserve gratitude for covert blessings too?    

During imperfect days, sprinkled with more discomfort than joy, it’s natural to grumble, “Why me, Lord?” Then I hear the news, or receive a prayer request, and realize the multitude of evil and sorrow that God spares me from each day.

My perspective changed back in the day, when my five-year-old son fell from the Monkey Bars. While I kissed the bruised bump on his head, he whimpered, “Why did God let me fall?”

I responded, “Let’s thank God you don’t have a broken neck.”

It’s not just viewing a half-empty cup as half-full. It’s naming names.

Praising God that I have good health doesn’t have the same powerful imagery as thanking Him that I don’t have breast cancer when my mammogram comes back normal.

That’s because I remember driving my bald-headed friend to her chemotherapy appointment. I listened to her miserable groans afterwards. I’m thankful I still have my friend.

I’m also thankful I don’t have to walk in her shoes…at least, for the time being. But even then, God willing, I’d be glad I didn’t have to go through cancer alone.

Three weeks ago, I sprained my ankle. No big deal comparatively speaking, but rotten timing. I was scheduled to travel in two days to visit my daughter. As I lay on the floor, wreathing in pain, I wailed, “No! How will I drive to the airport? How will I get from my parked car to the terminal gate?   

I hobbled to my couch, placed an ice pack on my elevated ankle. The more I mused on my clumsiness and misfortune, the more gratitude bubbled and spilled over, soothing my taunt nerves.

Thank you Lord, I don’t have a broken ankle. As I massaged my bruised hip, I sighed, “I’m not a spring chicken. Thank you, Lord, I don’t have a broken hip bone.   

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A positive spin weaves threads of have and have not into a tapestry of thanksgiving. And gratitude enables us to look at life like a two-sided coin:

The blessings we have,

The battles we don’t have to wage in this moment.

It’s a win-win~~no matter how the coin lands.

What are you thankful for that you don’t have?