Holding the flashlight

By Snow

Last time, I mentioned that living in the same home has allowed me to spend more time with my stepson, who is a young adult. One of the projects we’ve been working on together is replacing light fixtures in various rooms with ceiling fans. While I had done some simpler projects about 15 years ago, he did not have much experience working with electricity. I handled the electrical aspects, and he helped by holding things, handing me tools while I was on the ladder, shining the flashlight, etc.

Credit: Snow

The process has been painful at times – due to a combination of my inexperience, the home builder’s ineptitude, and the fans’ sometimes questionable quality.

For various reasons, the last ceiling fan we came to was the one for his room. He asked if he could take the lead on installing this one. I must admit, I felt a mixture of both pride and trepidation when he asked this.

Within myself, I poked at my fear. It’s not like I would let him hook the fan up without turning off the circuit breaker first or by connecting the wrong wires to one another. “Of course you can!” I said. I also said a popcorn prayer in my mind that it would go well.

Later that day, he began installing the fan, while I took the secondary role. When it came time to turn off the circuit breaker, I told him to come to the garage with me so I could show him which one. “You can just do it,” he said.

“Nope, you need to do this yourself.” So we went downstairs to the garage, and he turned off the circuit breaker for his room.

At one point, about midway through, I noted how he was doing a good job installing the fan by himself, while I was pretty much just handing him things. “Yes, you’re like the little kid who holds the flashlight for his father,” he joked. I had, in fact, really been that kid whenever I helped my dad.

Until I married JC, I had never been a father. So it is a road I am navigating with much prayer. In working on projects with my stepson in particular, I realize that I am distilling information that I learned from my own father as well as other father figures I have known over the years.

My dad had various issues, as we all do to varying extents, but I try to choose from the best of him – because he did have his fatherly moments.

One of the aspects that I wish had been different with Dad, however, is that he never let me move beyond the “helper” role. I don’t learn nearly as well by watching someone do something as I do by actually doing it myself. While I have good memories of watching Dad work on stuff around the house, outside in the yard, or for the car, it has been a struggle at times to do those kinds of things on my own in the decades since his death.

This is one of the reasons I was glad my stepson wanted to lead the way on his fan. The installation itself went very smoothly. Part of that was because we were able to apply lessons learned from the previous fans and part of it was because this fan was better crafted and not as persnickety going up. Thank You, Jesus.

Near the end, though, there was a tricky part that caused him to struggle, so he asked me to double check it. “Hey, I’m just the little kid who holds the flashlight,” I reminded him before confirming he had indeed properly installed the piece.

Once we were done, he was very happy and proud of his accomplishment. He even showed off his fan and its features to his mom when I wasn’t around. He mentioned to me regretfully that, since this was the last fan, he would forget what he learned by the time he had to do one again years down the road.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” I told him. “There’s still a few light fixtures that you can swap out with new ones around here.” His face fell. “And I’m sure some of the neighbors could use your help, too,” I continued joking. He scampered off before I could add more to his imaginary task list.

The whole experience represented multiple answered prayers. It was also just fun to watch someone I love apply things I have taught him. As I said, thank You, Jesus. I am so grateful.

“Let my teaching fall on you like rain; let my speech settle like dew. Let my words fall like rain on tender grass, like gentle showers on young plants.”
Deuteronomy 32:2 NLT

Murphy vs. Jesus

By Snow

As soon as I click “Publish” on this post, I will have already equaled at the beginning of 2023 the number of Beloved Walks entries I made in all of 2022. I sure didn’t plan to write so little here last year, but I allowed a super-busy schedule to infringe on this blog. Lord willing, I will do better this year.

I am living a blessed life, full of so many answered prayers. JC and I are married now and recently moved into our first home together. We spent much of last year in the construction process – which proved to be both time-consuming and stressful. Needless to say, we chose our home for the land and not for the builder. She is ours now, though, and we are grateful for her.

In the midst of what otherwise would have been the happy occasion of taking ownership of our home, though, a beloved family pet passed away – tears of sadness instead of happiness. I found myself asking, “Why today, Lord?”

We also encountered Murphy’s Law (“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”) in full force on just about every aspect of the move and settling in. I must admit, there were times where I was angry at God for allowing yet another mishap beyond our control but obviously within His.

But you know what, I had to keep truing back to something (certain times I was more successful at this than others). Yes, things were going wrong. Sometimes, horribly so. But I was finally living with my beloved bride and stepkids. How many thousands of times had I prayed for these moments? How dare I allow any earthly problem to overshadow those spiritual blessings.

Credit: JC

Just living in the same home as my stepson, for instance, has allowed us to get closer than when I was a frequent visitor. He and I have worked on a number of projects around the house together. He’s learning to trust me – that I won’t bite his head off or belittle him when something goes wrong. We make any mistakes together and learn from them.

The truth is, I’m not exactly handy. I am more of a technologically-inclined person than a mechanically-inclined one. And even my technology instincts have started to wither as I become older. But, with God’s help, as well as a little Googling, I am able to figure out enough to get by. A home improvement task that should take an hour often takes me four, but I do eventually get there – most of the time, anyway.

I have never been a father before, and I now have three wonderful kids! I love them, and I thank God for them.

Each morning when I wake up, no matter what is ahead on that day, I like to gaze at my beloved bride next to me. How blessed I am. How blessed. No day that begins with her at my side can be all-bad!

So, I won’t let Murphy get me down. Instead, I will focus on Jesus. I am grateful to Him for His blessings of today and, Lord willing, the promises of tomorrow.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you throughout 2023.

“I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease.”
Lamentations 3:20-22 NLT

Someday is now

By Snow

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.

Credit: JC

“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

The Big Pause

Credit: JC

By Snow

It has been over five months since I last posted here on Beloved Walks. I’ve had a number of wonderful things happen in my life since then, yet other aspects have been stagnant. I should focus on the blessings. I try to do that, but I often fail. Instead, I think about the stagnation. Hearing from God on just about every topic except the ones that are most important. He has shown JC and me a beautiful destination, but barely a glance at the path actually to get there. It almost feels cruel, yet I know our God is not cruel.

I have journaled with pencil and paper a number of times, but even that I begin to drift away from. The more I sense the stagnation, the less I want to write. I have no desire over and over to keep writing, “It is another day. I prayed for wisdom into X and Y. I have heard nothing. Maybe tomorrow.” It ultimately serves no purpose.

This frustration carries over to my writing in general. I find that I don’t want to write here. I don’t want to share my story anymore, because there’s nothing worth sharing. Just stagnation.

Perhaps God is freezing me out because of some unconfessed sin? Yet, as mentioned, I hear from Him on other topics – just not the biggest ones. We fasted a couple months ago. It seemed promising at first with insights into the destination, but ultimately, unfruitful because there were none about the path. I don’t even like reading my journal from that time because it begins full of bright hope and ends in dark discouragement 40 days later.

I still feel that way. God owes me nothing, yet I feel let down. That is the honest truth. We are fasting again now, but my heart isn’t really in it. Last time, I dutifully kept a daily fasting journal to capture all of the insights. This time, I haven’t journaled at all. “Why bother?” I think. “It is just going to chronicle yet another failure.”

I’m tired of failure. I’m tired of the way things are, that I’m not good enough, that I’m not strong enough, that I’m not smart enough to accomplish much of anything. I am blessed to have JC in my life, but outside of her, I often feel alone. I look at the news, and so-called Christian churches are doing idiotic and harmful things in His name. They have allowed Earthly politics to infect them. I see no answers there.

Any answers will come from God and His Word. I still believe that, despite my discouragement.

Tomorrow, I face another day of sameness. Doing a job that I am blessed to have but, in my heart of hearts, hate. It chips away at me little by little. In many ways, I am inherently lazy, so that is probably why God leaves me there to rot. I deserve it until I can prove otherwise.

And yet, I don’t feel like proving otherwise. I don’t feel like pretending anymore – pretending that I care about projects that mean nothing to me. Oh, I know all the quotes about how I am actually working for God.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
Colossians 3:23

I try to do this, but I just can’t see it. Does God really want me to do such meaningless work?

Apparently, He does, for He hasn’t whispered any other paths forward into existence for me. He has only shown me a destination, so perhaps I should walk by faith and not by sight?

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.”
2 Corinthians 5:6-7

Maybe He is expecting me to take action instead of waiting on Him? Perhaps I should quit my job and have faith that He will provide?

Yet, taking matters into our own hands is not always the answer, either. When Abraham and Sarah took that approach, they named the result “Ishmael.” So, maybe that is not the way to go.

Instead, I wait. But for what?

What if the answer never comes? What if He has no intention of showing me how to proceed? At what point do I just take a step?

Beyond the job considerations, there are also housing considerations. The lease on my apartment is almost up. This has been a wonderful place to heal, but I tire of it and the area. I want to live elsewhere, but, again, what move can I make without hearing from Him on such an important decision?

I guess the default answer is to stay in place until hearing otherwise from Him. In other words, more stagnation.

How do I break this pattern?

I am an indecisive person, but adding in this wait to hear from God into every major decision is just taking what was already a slow process and bringing it to an apparent halt. Before, I could at least, eventually, after much thought and analysis, decide something. Except maybe for jobs. I was never great about deciding to leave those on my own. I tend to fall from one job I dislike to another. I stay at a place until the job is literally gone, sometimes for 8 or 10 or more years of misery. Then I take the very next one offered to me. Oh, I yodel about how this time will be different, and I will finally find a job that means something to me, that I love. Then the next corporate job comes along and I take it and the misery that comes with it. Bills must be paid.

This is a useless and negative post. I imagine the three people who read this blog are like, “Finally, a new post!” and then are disappointed to find this. It is simply how I feel.

Maybe tomorrow.

The chump at the pump

By Snow

JC lives near me, and one of the ways I enjoy serving her is fueling her car with gas when I can. To facilitate her excursions this weekend, I wake up early on Saturday and brave the cold to fill her car as a surprise.

For the longest time, I wouldn’t drive anyone else’s car due to my anxiety. However, JC’s car and I get along just fine. Speaking of anxiety-inducing situations, her car prefers gas from a perpetually-crowded filling station/convenience store near us that we’ll call “Lala.” One of the reasons I like to fill up her car prior to 6:30 AM is Lala’s multiple pumps almost always have lines if you go much later than that.

There are also these signs at each pump proclaiming, “Please free this position when finished fueling. Thank you. –The Customer Behind You.” Lala is a high pressure environment for someone with anxiety! I am the same way with self-checkout at grocery stores. I won’t do self-checkout if there is a line to get to them. (Actually, I wouldn’t do self-checkout at all if stores would stop relying on them and fully staff their cash registers with actual human beings.)

Anyway, Lala is starting to get busy, but I get there early enough where I find a free pump. I check the little arrow on the gas gauge to remind me that her car’s gas hatch is on the driver side rather than the passenger side like mine. I pull in, maybe a bit far from the pump, but not too bad, and otherwise line it up as best I can. I turn off the car, put the keys in my coat pocket, and get out to fuel.

Whew, is it cold! Sometimes, Lala’s pumps are persnickety with credit/debit cards, but it accepts mine just fine this time. I open the gas hatch, insert the nozzle from the pump, and begin fueling. It only needs about half a tank, so it doesn’t take long before the pump automatically shuts off. I give it one more squeeze to make sure and put it back on the pump. I shut the gas hatch. On the pump screen, I decline to take a receipt. I then wait to ensure the transaction fully clears out.

I pull out the car key from my pants pocket and climb back in the vehicle. I shut and lock the doors. I look in the rear view mirror. No one behind me. Good.

I start to put the key into the ignition. The car’s dashboard lights up, but the key will not fully go in. I pull it back out and try again. Same thing.

I remember JC saying something about the car not always fully going into the correct gear. Maybe it isn’t in Park. However, when inserting the key, the “P” lights up. As far as I can tell, it is in Park.

I then start turning the steering wheel. On my car, I remember my key getting stuck in the ignition when the wheel didn’t lock properly. Maybe something similar is happening in reverse. I freely turn the wheel back and forth.

No effect.

My heart rate begins increasing.

I look in the rear view mirror again. Still no one there waiting for me to free the position.

I look at the convenience store. Would an attendant come out and yell at me about blocking a pump for too long?

I don’t know what to do, so I call on help.

From Google.

On my iPhone, I type a description of my situation in the search. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that anything that happens to me in a car, it’s already happened to others and been written about on the web and cataloged on Google.

However, all of the Google search results are about how to get a stuck key out of an ignition. None about how to get a resistant key into an ignition. No help.

I try the key again. No go.

Panic.

Maybe I have the wrong key. I grabbed my own car keys this morning as well. I look at the key fob and see a scripture key ring I bought a few months ago. Yes, right keys.

More panic.

I try once again. Car dashboard lights up, but key won’t fully insert.

I don’t dare check the rear view mirror. I imagine having to push the car out of the position so the customer behind me can fuel.

Finally, I decide to call JC. I wake her up and explain the situation. She is thankful for me fueling her car, but she has not encountered this key scenario before. She asks if I am using the right key. “Yes, I already checked that,” I say.

I look at the key again anyway. I see a Chevrolet emblem on the back of the fob. It is my car’s key. Not the key for JC’s Ford. I reach in my coat pocket and pull out JC’s key, which has a different scripture key ring, and start the car. As I drive away from Lala, freeing the position for the (possibly non-existent) customer behind me, I sheepishly apologize to JC for waking her up.

Why am I telling you this story? To illustrate a couple of my mistakes.

The Second Commandment tell us:

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.”
Exodus 20:4-6

I thought this was one of the “easy” commandments. Obviously, I only worship the Lord. Only fools worship idols.

Yet, where did I first turn when I needed help? Not to God. But to Google. As with all false idols, Google provided no real answers.

Despite my shortcomings, God still tried to help me. That scripture on my key ring? It is the verse that JC used in 2018 to help me significantly lessen my anxiety, including while driving:

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10

When JC gave me her spare car keys, the verse key ring I chose for them was Romans 8:28, a mantra for us both.

I saw a scripture key ring attached to the fob that wouldn’t work and assumed it was the correct one. Oh, if only I had a taken a second actually to read the verse! It would have 1) calmed me and 2) made me realize they were the keys to my car and not JC’s car.

God was trying to talk to me and help me, but I was not listening. This time, I realized it later. I wonder how often it happens and I remain oblivious to it?

I ponder, why didn’t I turn to God when the car wouldn’t start? God had even helped me in almost that exact situation before! Back in 2019, my car was having a mechanical issue. At another gas station, I fueled up my car but couldn’t get the engine to start. That time, I was smart enough to pray to God for help. Immediately, an attendant named Al came out. He recognized the sound my engine was making when failing to start and patiently told me the exact steps to start the car. The car started right up. God is much better than Google. JC and I still pray for Al whenever we pass that gas station.

So, why did I go to Google first this time and not God? I honestly don’t know. Not as an excuse, but I have been struggling at work lately, particularly last week. I was still off kilter going into this weekend. I am doing better now, and I want to thank JC, Mark, and others for their prayers.

So, again I don’t have the answer, other than, I obviously need to pray more about my relationship with God. And stop breaking commandments!

Thank you for reading, friends. May Jesus bless you.

Credit: Snow

The cog who blogged in a fog

By Snow

I continue to struggle. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. I still can’t focus, especially at work. It all seems meaningless. I want to be doing other things, things that actually matter, or I want simply to be relaxing. When I am whining to her about my job, JC often reminds me that I actually work for Jesus and refers me to verses like:

“Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
Ephesians 6:7

Paul was referring to ancient slavery, but I accept that his words apply to the modern workplace as well. I can’t say I live up to them. This is, perhaps, my biggest failing since I was saved. In fact, my enthusiasm for work declined around the same time I met Jesus. Before that, I would pull 60+ hour weeks because it seemed important.

But it all seems meaningless now. I am supposed to keep in mind that I am working for Jesus, but does Jesus really care which of 8,000 data fields are ported over from one system to another? For that matter, does anyone? I sure don’t. I feel like a cog in a meaningless machine that ultimately produces nothing.

I had to postpone a “critical” meeting at the last minute today because I was not prepared. I was not prepared because I waited until an hour before the meeting to begin my preparations. I am a procrastinator by nature. My biggest failing is that my procrastination usually works out just fine – often more than fine. I shove a ton of effort into minimal time and receive praise for it by people who assume I spent 20 times as much time on it. Today, it caught up with me. The meeting will now take place next week. In between a dozen other meetings for 8 other projects I don’t care about, I will attempt to prepare. I will attempt to pretend I care.

I don’t even have energy to write this post. This is not even a real post. Just mindless writing. The origin of “blog” is “web log” – an online journal. So, I guess you are just getting my raw thoughts today. Dear Diary, I am a worn down Christian. I am lazy. I am ungrateful.

Outside of blogging, to the extent that counts, I actually don’t journal very often anymore. I find it draining in its imperfection. While it is neat to look back on them sometimes, I usually can’t force myself to make the effort. I find it impossible to journal proper details on a consistent schedule, so I don’t bother. I suppose I pray most of my internal whinings to God instead now. I also whine to poor JC, as I mentioned.

I don’t know that any of this really helps, though. At the end of the day, I still have to go back to a job that I really don’t care about. I can put on a positive smile and pretend I am all happy and grateful to be working, but I am really dying inside. Little by little.

There is no answer. All I can do is pretend. It feels all too familiar, though. I used to pretend my way through my first marriage:

  • “Everything is fine.”
  • “It is supposed to be like this.”
  • “It will get better.”
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

It wasn’t fine. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. But it did get better, when we divorced. Once that marriage was out of my life, it was indeed better. Much better.

So, this is perhaps the worst post I have ever published here. Rather than submit any reader that has made it this far any further to these useless ramblings, I will just sign off for now.

I don’t have any answers. All I can do is give all of this to God.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

Credit: JC

Disrupting chaos

Credit: JC

By Snow

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.

Remember, you are a child of God (1 John 3:1-2)! You fight from victory (John 16:33).

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.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.