Tomorrow, I will return to the office where I work for the first time since March 20, 2020. When I left my desk that day, I thought about how weird it would be not to return for a few weeks or maybe even months. Now, almost two years later, it feels weird to return at all. I have gotten used to working in lock-down mode. As an introvert, I prefer it, and, in some ways, I am actually more effective than I am in person. The world wants its “normal” back, though. Who am I to argue with the world?
Jesus blessed me many times over during those two years, and that is where I want to keep my focus. In addition to staying free of the virus, there are wonderful things happening in my life now that would have only seemed like distant dreams in March 2020 – things that I prayed would happen “someday.”
Someday, I will be married to my beloved JC, who is the love of my life.
Someday, I will be forming relationships with my stepchildren, who I love no less than if they were my very own.
Someday, my beloved bride and I will be building a home together.
There are more blessings than I could possibly list here. Every single one of them came from Jesus. Before I accepted Jesus in 2018, my life was empty. He has been re-molding me back into who He created me to be. This clay still struggles sometimes, but the Potter continues to shape it.
I thank God for Jesus and for my beloved.
Yes, I will be back in the office tomorrow – but He will be right there with me. Like He always has been.
Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you as He has blessed me.
“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.” Philippians 4:19-20 NLT
Life can be so overwhelming sometimes. Even without a global pandemic. Even without bizarre weather patterns. Without political disinformation and manipulation campaigns. Without the fabric of society seemingly being ripped apart.
Even in times of “average” trials in your family, career, and church, it can all start to be too much. Not just out in the world, but right at home. The stress. The hurt. The expectations.
What can you do when you are overwhelmed?
It only takes a moment to pray. Even if you can’t spare a minute (and, most likely, you can, if you take a step back), you can pray to yourself in the midst of whatever is happening. God always hears you.
Prayer is how we connect to Him, how we forge a personal relationship with Him. God created you for this.
Ask Him to let you feel Him, hear Him, and see Him in your life.
Find at least a couple of minutes a day to read the Bible. Keep a copy handy wherever you might have a spare moment. Yes, even in the bathroom if that is what it takes. Download YouVersion’s Bible app to your smart phone for free and you will always have the Bible with you – in multiple translations and languages.
It is imperative that you speak to Him every day and immerse yourself in His Word and His love.
You may do all of this and still feel overwhelmed. It is okay. Breathe.
Ask someone to pray for you. Family. Friend. Neighbor. Whoever. You don’t even necessarily have to tell the person your business. Just enlist her or him to pray for you to have peace or to hear from Him or to have focus or something of that nature. Or just ask, simply, “pray for me.” In two, we are more powerful:
“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:19-20
Be sure to ask how to pray for your fellow warrior as well, and do it right then. JC and I ask each other this question at least daily. Her prayers and love have helped me through many situations that may otherwise have overwhelmed me.
If you don’t have someone you are comfortable asking, then JC and I are happy to pray for you. Reach out to us.
Find the blessings. Yes, it may seem like utter chaos and negativity is swirling around you right now, but close your eyes and think of all of the wonderful things in your life, too. Focus on those. At the top of that list, Jesus loves you. Focus on the good to invite more.
Thank God for every good thing in your life. The enemy wants you to see only the negative. The enemy wants you to lose hope. The enemy wants you to feel isolated. The enemy wants you to feel alone. The enemy wants you to give up. Fight.
God is all-knowing. All-powerful. All-present. All-loving. We are not. That is why you must give your cares to God.
Whatever is bothering you. No matter how long the list. He can take anything you hurl at Him. No matter how small or large the concern. If you care about it, He cares about it. Give it all to Him. Trust Him.
I have mentioned quite a few times here that I suffered from massive anxiety before JC led me to Jesus. I have found these verses to be a particular comfort. Perhaps they will help you, too:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
If you have tried all of this and are still overwhelmed, it is time more aggressively to seek Him. You need to find a place of peace where you can better hear Him. It may be the beach. The park. That bathroom again. Whatever you can use for your prayer closet (Matthew 6:6). Listen for Him. He is there. He always has been. He loves you.
If you are saved, feel the Holy Spirit within you. Let Him guide you.
If you do not yet know Jesus, then make today the day. Accept Him into your heart as Your Lord and Savior. Jesus is pursuing you.
Turn around. Open your arms. Jesus is right there.
I love popcorn. I have researched techniques and assembled ingredients to make it taste as close to a classic movie theater experience as possible. It actually tastes better than most of the theater popcorn I have tried in the last few years.
Being a movie fan, however, I do miss the cinema in this age of COVID-19. It seems theaters are open again, but I’m not quite ready to go back. I no longer have an actual television, but I stream some movies and TV series on my computer – which is hooked into my stereo. I also play DVDs on it. It is not exactly a movie theater experience, but, hey, the popcorn’s good! Before I was saved, I was living a wasteful life, so I am very grateful for what I now have. Simple is better.
Yesterday, I was making a batch of popcorn with my Whirley Pop – a specialized pot with a hand crank for swishing around the kernels. It normally turns out delicious. This time, it turned out burnt.
Why? Because I lost focus.
If you don’t turn the crank often enough or take the pot off the heat at the right time, you get scorched popcorn. Let me tell you, no amount of toppings can help it at that point.
Focus is important. I have been praying for focus throughout 2021. It has been a struggle for me, and not just with popcorn.
It is February 7, and this is my first post of the year. I have struggled to focus on writing. Oh, the things that I can find around here to do in order to avoid writing. If I get my apartment looking sharp, it is normally because I am procrastinating on something else – often writing.
Due to a medical condition, I am supposed to lose a certain amount of weight, but I have struggled to focus on being mindful of my food. Prior to the issue coming up, I was actually in the process of losing weight anyway. Since then, I have instead gained weight. I have also failed to consistently focus on exercise. The steps tracked by my Apple Watch document my erratic behavior. 2,329 steps on one day, but 18,701 steps on another.
One year into my new job, and I am struggling to focus there as well. Projects are piling up, and I can’t seem to get the inspiration to attack them with the same determination that I once had. To paraphrase Apollo Creed, I’ve lost the eye of the tiger when it comes to work.
I still pray and read the Bible every day, even on the days I don’t feel like it. Especially on the days I don’t feel like it. I want to focus more on His Kingdom, but I struggle there as well.
Focus is everything. If I focus on Jesus above all else, I believe the other areas will fall into place. That’s His design.
Like you, friend, I was created to do more. He expects more of me. He has more confidence in me than I do. He loves me more than anyone ever could. I can’t let Him down.
It is time to do more. It is time to focus. On Jesus. On His Kingdom. On who He created me to be.
We are allotted only a limited number of days here on this Earth. None of us know how many we get. I may have less than a day left or fifty-plus years to go.
Each day needs to mean something. In her Wounded Butterflies post today, JC quoted from Matthew 22:37-39: “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
I’ve read those words at least a dozen times before, but they really spoke to me today. As someone who has been struggling to focus, I see in those words exactly what I need to do.
Jesus has spelled it all out for us right there. It is all about love. God is love (1 John 4:16), and we must fully and completely love God. He loves us unconditionally. Despite our sins, He died for us. We still sin, and He still loves us!
He also commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. That is an interesting turn of phrase, for it is also how husbands are commanded to love our wives:
“Husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.”
from Ephesians 5:28
Ultimately, the greatest commandment is love. That will be my focus.
Thank you for reading. I want to close with a brief prayer.
Father in Heaven,
Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for my beloved JC. Thank You for true love. Thank You for these words.
I lift up all of those who need to focus, Lord, including myself. Help us to focus on You, focus on our neighbors, and focus on love.
May Your will be done in all things, with the glory to Your Kingdom.
Well, another Christmas has come and gone. My siblings, nieces, and extended family members spent a few hours together at my brother’s house on Christmas Day – as socially distanced as possible in this year of COVID-19.
I am usually the last one to arrive, but I knew someone else was still missing. I kept looking around, trying to figure out who it was, waiting for that last family member to show up.
Then, I realized who was missing.
This was the second Christmas since she passed away. While I was blessed to feel her very briefly a couple of times during the event, Christmas and other family gatherings are not the same without Mom’s physical presence.
Everything seems off. The amount of drinking has gone way up, for instance. This would not have happened in front of Mom. She almost never drank alcohol. Following her example, I don’t drink at all. I never have, and I don’t like being around it.
At the same time, I realize alcohol is how some people deal with pain. Some of my family members still seem to be in a lot of pain when it comes to losing Mom. While I certainly miss her – especially on Christmas, her favorite holiday – I know where she is. I also know she is free now, free of the earthly body that held her back in the last decades of her life.
I am blessed to have Jesus. I am blessed to have the Holy Spirit. I am blessed to have a personal relationship with God. Yes, life can be painful at times, but they help me through it by bringing me peace, filling me with joy, and blessing me with love. Yes, I experience perfect love through Jesus, and I experience true love through my beloved JC. I am so grateful.
Yes, I know where Mom is. She is with Jesus now. I have not really lost her. Rather, she is simply ahead of me on our eternal journey and interacting with me in different ways than before.
When Mom passed away, I was blessed to inherit a number of her personal items. The ones that mean the most to me are her Bible, her recipes, and her 45 RPM vinyl records.
Throughout the lives of me and my siblings, Mom baked special cookies at Christmas. Mom’s cookies were an indelible part of Christmas for us. Since I have her recipes, I have picked up the mantle of baking her cookies over the last two Christmases to continue her legacy.
Her 45s date back to the 1950s. She played and danced to them so much over the years that they can’t really be played anymore. Instead, I made an iTunes playlist of the same songs. I play her songs whenever I bake her cookies.
My apartment has memories of Mom everywhere, especially my kitchen – which includes elements of her kitchens past. In that kitchen, surrounded by memories of Mom, playing her music, using her cookie recipe, I baked seven sheets of Mom’s cookies on Christmas Eve. I say, “I” baked them, but really, I truly believe I was just being Mom’s hands through much of the process. I could feel her with me, almost the entire time.
It is hard to describe, but I feel her most often as small bursts of joy – about where she used to rub or scratch my upper back when I was a youngster. I can also “hear” her in my head at times – though usually more like a thought or a feeling than a direct voice. For instance, I knew she wanted me to give some of her cookies to JC’s mom this year. That is exactly what she would have done were she still physically here.
Mom loved Christmas and would decorate all over the house, including the bathroom. That is how I know if someone is truly dedicated to decorating for Christmas, if the bathroom is included. In the living room, Mom used to put out large, plastic figurines of an elf riding Rudolph, mice playing on a Christmas present, and a Santa Claus sleigh. There was also a Santa doll and a Santa mug. There were many other decorations over the years as well, but those are the ones I remember most from my childhood.
Last month, I was thrilled to find a Santa mug at Hobby Lobby that was reminiscent of the one Mom used to display. Larger than the one Mom had, I realized these mugs would make the perfect containers to give my siblings Mom’s cookies this year. To better accommodate the mug, I made a few of the sheets of cookies in “bite size” portions – half of the size that Mom normally made.
When I pulled the mugs out on Christmas Day, my siblings immediately connected them with Mom’s mug. They also voiced hope they contained Mom’s cookies.
The cookies ended up being hits in their new bite-sized configurations. I was told they tasted like Mom made them.
2020 has been . . . a year. None of us could have predicated how swiftly the entire world would change. My advice continues to be, look for the blessings and keep your eyes on Jesus.
Thank you for reading our little blog. Know that JC and I are praying for you.
May Jesus bless you with a wonderful, active, and healthy New Year!
“Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man. What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.” 1 Corinthians 15:47-53
Loneliness. We all suffer from it sometimes. During this age of COVID-19, some people are encountering loneliness more than ever before as social distancing seems to push us all farther and farther apart. Here are six Bible passages to review when loneliness tries to overtake you.
#1 Luke 17:20-21 “One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, ‘When will the Kingdom of God come?’ Jesus replied, ‘The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.'”
What beautiful words. Read them again: “The Kingdom of God is already among you.” In context, Jesus is referring to Himself. From a broader perspective, believers carry the Holy Spirit within us (1 John 4:13) and, thus, we represent both the Temple and the Kingdom of God. However, God is not solely within us. . . .
#2 Jeremiah 23:24 “‘Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?’ says the LORD.”
God is everywhere at all times. Whether you believe or not, you are literally surrounded by God.
#3 1 John 4:16 “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”
Who is God? God is Love, so you are surrounded by love.
#4 Psalm 147:3-5 “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. He counts the stars and calls them all by name. How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!”
Who is God? God is the Healer. God is the Creator of all things, including the stars. The stars are for everyone. He put them there for all to see, including you.
Stop. Breathe. Feel Him. He is with you.
God is Holy. Yet, we are full of sin. How, then, can He be with us?
#5 Hebrews 10:10 “For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.”
Yes, the Kingdom of God is already among us. . . .
#6 Matthew 25:37-40, 44-45 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.'”
No, you are not alone. Be the person that helps, not the one who looks the other way.
One of the things I noticed when I first moved into my apartment last year was the weirdness of the floors. In both the kitchen and the dining area, the faux wood floors seemed to retain food crumbs and other spillages on a massive scale compared to places I used to live. Even after I put a little area rug in place, the problem persisted. Had I really become such a slob overnight?
I wondered about that and thought back on my old life. I sweep and vacuum far more now than I ever did at my old house. Why, then, did the crumbs seem so rapidly to accumulate? My former spouse cleaned the floors even less often than me, so it certainly wasn’t due to her previous efforts, either.
What was so different about my apartment? It took me over a year to solve the mystery. When the answer finally dawned on me, I must admit, it made me sad.
I don’t have a dog anymore.
For almost my entire life, I have lived with a dog. Food crumbs were never an issue because by the time they traveled from my plate to the floor, there was a scampering of paws and, SLURP, gone! One of my speedier dogs would often arrive before the crumbs even made it to the floor. She was lightning fast and her food-drop radar was laser-perfect. Of course, she tended to stay in the vicinity anytime there was even the possibility I might touch food.
So, no, I did not become a slob overnight. Apparently, I have been one all along, spoiled over the years by my dogs. Some dogs are more special than others, really touching your heart, and my two most recent dogs certainly fit that category. One passed away in 2013 and the other I gave up last year in my divorce. I don’t want to give energy to the games my former spouse played by rehashing them, but she did things to ensure I didn’t get to say goodbye to my little pal. Fortunately, JC saw that coming, and I said goodbye to my dog in advance just in case. Thank God. I also wrote her a goodbye letter at some point, though I don’t remember the exact timing of that. That might have been after I had already moved. Not to mail, of course, but just to express what I was feeling inside.
When I realized why the crumbs were there, the sense of loss when it came to my dog came flooding back. This dog had been a constant companion to me and helped me survive what became an increasingly negative environment in my old house. She and her predecessor were no doubt spiritual warriors at times. They certainly helped me in innumerable ways.
I wondered if I should adopt a dog. I would basically have to add her or him to the lease and pay additional rent. Not to mention all of the other expenses that come along with being a responsible pet guardian. The financial aspect is only a small part of the consideration, though. While it would be tight, I could probably finagle it.
Another aspect is I have come to like the freedom of knowing I can drop whatever I am doing, go anywhere I want, and stay as long as I want. Now, in this age of COVID-19, I have rarely taken advantage of it, but it is a nice option to have. Another thing is not having to venture outside 7 or 8 times a day for little walks. I don’t know, maybe that is just laziness, or maybe I am becoming set in my ways after living by myself for a relatively short while.
I think the largest consideration, though, is that I do not know where my life is going to take me after the next two to three years. I believe that adopting an animal is a true commitment. I would consider her or him a family member. Though I know who will be with me on the journey, I don’t yet fully know what our lives will look like, where God will lead us, and whether that new destination could accommodate a dog. I have not prayed deeply on this, but to the extent that I have, I don’t think this is the time for me to adopt a dog. In fact, that time may never come again.
In many ways, despite knowing the timing is wrong, I wish I could adopt a dog now. When my sister’s little dogs come running up and “attack” me, slobbering kisses all over my face, I realize how much I miss being around dogs. When I first moved in to the apartment complex, I would approach some of my neighbors’ dogs to pet them, but, of course, now, social distancing keeps us all apart.
I’m not really going anywhere with this post, other than to say, give all of your pets a hug. You never know where life will take you. Enjoy them, because I do feel they are true gifts from God. Remember to pray for them, too, because they may be using up their energy defending you in ways you can’t even imagine.
Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.
“For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine.” Psalm 50:10-11
God provides such blessings, if you will only meet Him. I fail at this so often. I know there are so many gifts I miss out on because I get distracted by other activities.
I still struggle at work. I realize, ultimately, we all work for God – but I have a hard time reconciling what I do as really being His work. I do acknowledge it as God’s temporary plan, as He is providing until I make it to the next step on His path for me. Though I understand I have spiritual assignments there beyond my job-related tasks, work can sometimes feel like such a distraction.
Work was extremely busy this week. Hectic. I was working extra hours, sleeping little in order to sign in and start as early as 1:30 AM. Some of this is because we are in our busy season, and some of it is because I was not working very efficiently in the weeks leading up to these deadlines. So, I had to pay for being distracted away from work on previous weeks by allowing work to be my main distraction this week.
Finding balance has lately been difficult for me. My quiet time with the Lord suffered this week. I still spent time with Him each morning, but it was less than I would have wanted. I also did not get back to exercising, as I had planned to do. It feels like I can’t get everything back in balance again. I can get one part of my life going at a time, but not all of it.
On the plus side, I am writing again, which fills me. The challenge is that on a week like this, I want to be writing instead of working.
This is a mess of a post. Perhaps I’ll clean it up in editing. Or maybe not. This blog, after all, has always been about raw truth.
I also worry about how this new world the virus has forced upon all of us is affecting me. I am an introvert, but I had become stronger about dealing with all the rest of you humans over the last couple of years. I feel some of that slipping away, as I spend more and more time to myself.
And, to be clear, I love having time to myself. I love working remotely instead of in an office. But as I step my toe back out there in the world, it begins to feel scary all over again. Part of me never wants to go back to the old normal. So, I have to be careful not to let that kind of fear start to overwhelm me again as it once did.
For I have Jesus now, and no amount of social distancing will ever force Him away from me. He is always there, it is only that I need to stop and listen for Him. I need to stop and meet Him. I can’t ignore work or other responsibilities, but I must focus first on Him. He is the priority, for without Him, all of this is meaningless.
“Meaningless” — my above words remind me of Ecclesiastes. I believe “meaningless” must be used at least two dozen times in that book! That is one I struggle with, as it seems like such a downer. I see now, though, (and I mean, literally, right now), that it essentially points to Jesus. Everything really is meaningless without Him.
“I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:13-14
“Chasing the wind” is a great turn-of-phrase. I definitely feel like I am doing that sometimes. Perhaps you do as well. At those times, we must remember to re-center ourselves and focus on Jesus.
Let us pray.
Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for peace. Thank You for love.
Please forgive us our sins, including those we do not see.
When we are pulled too many directions, please help us bring balance back into our lives. Help us to see what really matters, spreading your Word and eternal energy to our sisters and brothers here on Earth.
Help us to focus, Lord, on Your Son. Let us feel Him guiding us along His paths for us. Let Him shine His light through us.
Lord, pour us out and fill us up with You. Give us Your vision, Your strength, and Your wisdom.
Thank You, God.
In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.
“The more words you speak, the less they mean. So what good are they? In the few days of our meaningless lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? Our lives are like a shadow. Who can tell what will happen on this earth after we are gone?” Ecclesiastes 6:11-12
This verse speaks to me today as well, for it puts me in the mindset of, where is this post really going? The more I write, the less sense it makes. What is the purpose?
Anytime I write here, I do have a purpose, though. It may not always be clear, and I may not always achieve it, but I always have that purpose in mind.
Is my life meaningless, as the author of Ecclesiastes suggests above? No, I can’t agree with that. I have Jesus. I have true love. I know joy. I want others to experience those blessings, too. I love the way Paul says it:
“I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!” 1 Corinthians 9:23-24
I do agree with Ecclesiastes, though, in that our lives have few days. How many do we waste? We can’t have them back once they’re gone. Life here on Earth is fleeting.
I believe in eternal life. I believe when we die, it is only the beginning. Eternity awaits. For those of us who know Jesus, it is an eternity in Heaven, the Perfect Place.
However, there is something else I think about of late. Something I have been pondering during this strange time of COVID-19, when there has been more time to think (outside of this particular week, anyway).
While it is true that the blessing of eternity awaits, that is, obviously, a very different life than the ones we live now here on Earth. Our time on Earth is not even a blink compared to the eternity ahead of us.
That should make this time, this life all the more valuable to us.
This life, the one we have now, on this troubled, messed up planet that we know and love so well, this life is special because it is the only time we are here in this form.