Who Knew? Glad I didn’t.

Last year our family celebrated Christmas in Germany. We spent time with our son-in-law’s family who lives there, holding hands around the dinner table as we prayed. We toured Hanover and the Christmas market, rubbing elbows with happy strangers. We gathered in packed cathedrals and sang worship hymns.

“The World is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”― J.R.R. Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring)

No masks. No social distancing. No fear or thoughts of catching a deadly disease.

I’m glad I didn’t know a world-wide pandemic would hit us like a tsunami in 2020. I’m glad I could live in the moment. Clueless to the new normal that would change life as we knew it.

I’m glad I rang in the New Year and hugged my folks in Texas without worrying that I’d unknowingly expose them to a disease I may or may not have. I’m thankful I didn’t know I wouldn’t see them again until November.

In early February, my husband and I flew to Georgia to celebrate our grandson’s first birthday. If you’d told me that our traveling days were over, our church services would Have to stop meeting in person, we’d rarely (if ever) see our friends, and I’d have to stop cooking/serving the homeless–I wouldn’t have believed you.

When I attended our local theater to watch a play in early March, I didn’t know that live theater would disappear indefinitely. School, sports, and ALL outdoor events like our county fair would be canceled.

Thank goodness I didn’t know in January 2020 that …

My prayer list for sick, dying, depressed, and unemployed people would grow longer.

My 15-year-old kitty would have to be euthanized.

My son-in-law’s parents wouldn’t be able to travel to the U.S. to visit.

One of my family members would need to move in with us.

My mask would become a new accessory, hand sanitizer my new lotion, and toilet paper a thing to be hoarded. The list goes on and on. Right?

But today is December 1, and I’m decorating my house for Christmas with more fanfare than normal. For everything bad that happened, I have a gratitude journal and a blessings jar to remind me of everything good that happened this past year. For one thing, my 89-year-old dad survived a major heart attack. My mom couldn’t even go into the hospital to be with him.

I get to choose each day how I see my cup. Half-full or half-empty? But I prefer to see my cup as full and overflowing because my attitude is the ONLY thing I can control. And our attitude affects our emotions and how we respond to this pandemic.

I’m especially thankful that when I don’t know what’s around the corner….God knows. He’s not only waiting on the other side, He’s with me in this moment. He’s shown me the things that I thought were important ain’t so important after all. God’s also stretching my stiff-neck ways to make me more pliable, and toning my flabby faith muscles so I’ll trust Him more.

God has a bigger plan for my life and yours. He’s not concerned about our happiness and entertainment as much as our character and the salvation of our souls. God wants us to love others and show mercy. He wants us to seek Him rather than His gifts.

Who knows. Events in 2021 might make 2020 look good. But for everything I don’t know about tomorrow, I Do Know that God Doesn’t Change.

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins (1 John 4:9-10)

One day we will see our Savior face to face. “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!” (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus).

Until then, the Lord is our anchor. Our hope. And all the more reason to celebrate this Christmas with renewed focus on what matters most! Faith in the risen Savior, Family. Friends.

How are you coping with this pandemic especially during the holiday season?

Photos: K. Foster

How To Ruin a Bad Mood

I’m in a bad mood. 

Just when I thought 2020 couldn’t get worse—the entire west coast became an inferno. My flammable neighborhood is within spitting distance of some of these wildfires. And the smoke is so horrendous that I’ve developed a smoker’s cough.

I’m not alone in this.

Some of my friends had to evacuate their homes. Others fear for the safety of their loved ones who are firefighters. School kids stuck at home, due to the pandemic, are now stuck indoors due to the poor air quality.

People who grumbled about wearing masks in public, now wear masks outdoors so they can breathe. Even restaurant owners can’t get a break. Customers have to dine outside, but who wants to eat in the smokey section?

So yeah, I’m in a bad mood.  

When COVID-19 entered the world and rocked my personal axis, I considered myself a patient soul, but … my patience is treading thin ice.

Living in uncertain times (indefinitely) is difficult even when we try to be patient, grateful, eternal minded.

I’m also tired.

Tired of encouraging others to keep “a stiff upper lip” while I mask my sulky expression.

Tired of people glaring at me over their masks and standing six feet away like I’m a leper. 

I could shake this bad mood if I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or, know for sure there’s an end to this tunnel. And I don’t mean heaven.

Even so, I asked God to use the events of 2020 to teach and change me for the better. I didn’t expect Him to reveal the dross inside of me. There’s nothing pretty about it. And yet, if I want to be more Christlike, I need the Refiner’s fire to purge the worthless rubbish.  

“Take away the dross from the silver, And there comes out a vessel for the smith” (Proverbs 25:4).

I’d rather God purify my heart with a cooler method, but dross removal takes heat.

“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10).

My mentor, Loretta, describes how she endured the furnace of affliction when four of her family members died in a twelve-month span.

“I hated the night. Dark thoughts and death consumed my mind. When morning came, I had no energy or desire to get out of bed. I’d stick my leg out of the covers and say, ‘Father, I can’t. Help me! That’s when I learned that when I can’t, He can. God’s strength is perfected in weakness. God enabled me to get out of bed and get on with my day.” 

Loretta Chalfant

When I consider what Loretta endured (and how people are suffering now) I’m challenged once again to follow her advice,

“I get to choose, like Job, how to respond to my circumstances. I can either bend and let God work in my life and change me. Or I can resist and lose out on His lessons.” 

Time for me to surrender what I can’t control and bend so God’s refining fire can work . . . even in this bad-mood day.

You can read how Loretta learned these faith lessons in my book Lunch with Loretta: Discover the Power of a Mentoring Friendship.

Photo: Karen Foster

You Okay?

My grandson toddles toward the lonely playground. He’s eighteen months old and this morning, his sights are fixed on the metal swing set. 

I watch his precarious baby steps as he navigates the gravel path. Best that I stay within arm’s reach in case Grandson falls. Sure enough, he stumbles.

“You’re okay. I got you!” 

I grasp his outstretched hand before his knees scrape the ground. Then, I lead him by the hand while we walk to the swing set.

After I settle on the swing, I lift Grandson to  my lap and wrap my arm around his waist. He leans back, fearless and content as we swing higher and faster.

This child trusts me with his safety. No whining or wiggling to suggest he’d rather be anywhere but here. Ohh, to be a carefree child!

Throughout my life, I’ve seen the Lord’s mercies. He repeatedly rescues me from danger and cushions my falls. So I know his eye is on me, and his Spirit guides me. But,

I want to trust God more. To be content with the here and now when life’s events feels like nettles in my socks.

Whenever I hear—pandemic, protests, politics—my body stiffens. I grumble about social distancing, quarantine, masks, my canceled appointments—hair today, denied tomorrow.

I raise my hands in protest rather than prayer.

This isn’t the summer vacation I bargained for. This isn’t the retired life I’d anticipated. This isn’t the lifestyle I’d envisioned for my grown children. I want to see my parents without fear of infecting them with COVID19!

Dad says, “Could be worse!”

Today is worse.

It’s nine a.m. and I’m drenched in sweat as the mercury in my outdoor thermometer inches toward a hundred. I can tolerate the heat, but rolling power outages and Red Flag Warnings (to evacuate our home) are in effect while the not-so-distant wildfires paint the sky ash grey. Yesterday, the foothills looked like they were puffing a cigarette. Today, they’re a chain-smoker.

I inhale deep, before the winds shift south and the air smells like a stale smoking lounge. I worry for the firefighters. I ponder what I’d do if my house burned down.

My body is swinging in the breeze, but my disposition is teetering on the edge of a miry pit. God intervenes like the doting Father that he is.

“Karen, you’re okay. I got you.”

I want to believe you, Lord, but…. 

From where I stand on planet earth, it feels like you’ve abandoned your creation. Not that I’d blame you. A time out, with our noses on the wall, might do everyone some good. But right now, I’m not feeling okay. 

God knows me. And yes, he is patient. He brings to mind what my mentor, Loretta, has told me repeatedly. The eternal perspective that has pulled me up by the boot straps on more than one occasion, and helped me forge ahead by God’s grace. 

She’d point to the pandemic, the wildfires and the nettles in my socks and tell me, 

“Every circumstance is an opportunity for God to teach and change us.” 

Change us? How?

To become more like Christ—more loving, compassionate, kind, patient, forgiving, willing to serve, prayerful.

I inwardly squirm. “I don’t want to learn these lessons the hard way. Can’t I sit in my recliner and read the Bible and be changed?”

My grandson points to the sky, bringing me back to this sweet spot.

I follow his wide-eyed gaze.

“That’s a Red-Tail Hawk,” I tell him. “Birds use thermals to soar without flapping their wings.”

My grandson isn’t old enough to comprehend everything I say, but he’s taking it all in—his surroundings, my words, the tone of my voice, my actions. He’s getting to know me as well as life.

Spending time with someone will do that, you know. 

Grandson scoots off my lap and heads for the tall metal slide. He’s been there before. And he’s not afraid. He knows that grandma will be right beside him. 

 That’s a God lesson . . . even in this!