Not a scratch

Credit: JC

By Snow

Fortunately, I had locked the door. She was erupting on the other side of it, trying to force herself in to the home office that had become my sanctuary. For years, I had felt trapped. In my marriage. In my job. In my life.

I had known for over five months that my toxic marriage needed to change. I actually wanted it to end, but God had told me not to suggest that, but to take a slower path. I was reluctant, but obeyed.

I had been praying throughout the day of and in the weeks leading up to a difficult conversation about my requested changes. The end result was that my spouse decided to end the marriage anyway.

I was at peace. As she hurled insults and false accusations against me, I answered them calmly. The calmer I was, the angrier and louder she became. The angrier and louder she was, the calmer I became.

I was secure in who I was. I knew what I had done and had not done, and God knew as well. What anyone else thought was really beside the point.

The sheer rage on the other side of the door told me to keep it sealed. While I certainly would not have hit back, a physical confrontation would have done neither of us any good. I had been trapped in my marriage for years. What was a few hours more in my little room?

Less than eight months before, in that very same room, on the verge of suicide, I had accepted Jesus. I was a new person now, and I was filled with His peace. Even if my old life was in the hall yelling at me.

I stayed awake that night with the door sealed, even partially barricading it. Just in case. I spent the time praying, informing my loved ones, starting to pack for a now inevitable move, and shutting down my credit cards. I would be my spouse’s debt mule no longer.

Eventually, things settled down. As things do. That was the last real day of my marriage. The remaining eight months were primarily spent on legal transactions to undo the whole mess. As I have mentioned before, I ignored or missed several warning flags when getting married. It was the biggest mistake of my life, and I am grateful that Jesus has given me a second chance to experience the life He intends for me.

Yes, I once thought I was trapped. That my fate was sealed. Only through faith did I learn that Jesus was there all along, working behind the seal.

No, I was never truly trapped. For God was always with me.


“The king was deeply troubled, and he tried to think of a way to save Daniel. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to get Daniel out of this predicament. In the evening the men went together to the king and said, ‘Your Majesty, you know that according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, no law that the king signs can be changed.’ So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, ‘May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.’

“Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. When he got there, he called out in anguish, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?’ Daniel answered, ‘Long live the king! My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.’ The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.”
Daniel 6:14-16,19-23

Crumbs

By Snow

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

Credit: JC

Like a shadow

By Snow

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.


Heavenly Father,

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.

Amen


“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.

This is it. This is our one chance.

What are we going to do with it?

Chase the wind or run to win?

Credit: JC

What should your loved ones know?

Credit: JC

By Snow

Though I don’t plan to die anytime soon, I also acknowledge that is ultimately up to the Lord. Therefore, I recently assembled a document of information my loved ones need to know. Loosely based on a printed workbook JC gave me a couple of years ago (yes, I procrastinate), I had to type mine in Microsoft Word because I enjoy constantly reanalyzing and changing things, which a handwritten version would not really accommodate very well.

I am not sure what I expected it to be like, but it turned into a very emotional process at times for me. This type of document essentially represents your last communications, in this world anyway, to your family and friends. Many cold but necessary things are captured. Bank accounts, life insurance policies, and the like.

I sprinkled other things throughout mine, though. Little notes here and there. Some to whoever happened to be reading, others to specific people. I also added some of my favorite Bible verses. Much prayer went into my document.

Near the end of the exercise, I decided to add some concluding thoughts. I considered as I wrote, what if I really did die today? The emotions flooded me as I realized what a blessed life I have led. I found Jesus (or, rather, He found me). I experienced true love. And so many other wonderful aspects.

I also know where I am going when I die, thanks to Jesus. The fear of the unknown future after death or, as William Shakespeare so eloquently called it, “the undiscovered country” (Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1), no longer has a grip on me. I am going to the Perfect Place, Heaven, to be with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Whether I go in five minutes or fifty years, He has a place for me.

On a more practical side, I discovered a number of things while gathering the material. First, it took me far longer than I expected to pull together the information. Which, to me, completely justifies the exercise. If it took me 30 hours to find all of this stuff while knowing, in general, where to look and how to access it, I imagine it would take loved ones at least ten times that long if I did not provide them this kind of assistance. And some things they would never find or even know to seek.

I also learned that I had failed properly to fill out paperwork when updating one of my old retirement plans, so beneficiaries I thought I named earlier this year were actually not present. I also found I had failed to name beneficiaries at all on my life insurance policy through my new job. On that one, I thought for sure I did – but apparently my mind wrongly checked off this task as “done” when I named beneficiaries on my new retirement plan. I still get a headache now thinking about it. Fortunately, this exercise helped uncover these discrepancies, as it is much easier to resolve such things while living – or so I am told.

If you do not already have a document like this in place, I highly recommend you do so. Be sure to store your document in a secure location and let at least a couple of trusted people in your life know how to access it.

You can find various forms online (I enjoy creating my own documents, one of my quirks), but here are the kinds of information you might want to include (some may not apply):

  • Your Personal Information (legal name, aliases, date of birth, place of birth, social security number [if applicable], home address, phone numbers, email addresses, marital status, citizenship, and organ donor status)
  • Family & Friends to Contact (name, relationship, contact info, comments)
  • Other Entities to Contact (e.g., employer, bank, insurance company)
  • Memorial Instructions
  • Bank Accounts (bank, type, account #, name on the account, automatic deposits, automatic withdrawals)
  • Debt (entity, rate, type, balance, minimum monthly payment, data as of, payment method)
  • Other Monthly Bills (entity, approximate payment, payment method)
  • Charitable Concerns (listing of churches and other charities/ministries you support)
  • Other Credit Cards (zero balances/not in use)
  • Life Insurance Policies (insurer, policy #, address, phone, type, death benefit amount, primary beneficiary, contingent beneficiary)
  • Instructions About Life Insurance Proceeds (e.g., tithe)
  • Vehicle(s) [description, title holder, amount owed (if any)]
  • Location of Important Papers
  • Medical (doctors, dentist, known diseases/medical history, etc.)
  • Retirement/Investment Accounts (entity, type, from, balance, data as of, beneficiary, contingent)
  • Business Interests
  • Real Estate Owned
  • Individual Stocks
  • Annuities
  • Distribution of Personal Items (item, current location, for)
  • Notes About Borrowed Items You Have
  • Notes About Items or Money You Have Loaned
  • User Names & Passwords (or how to find them)
  • Final Comments
  • Signature

While a will is more appropriate for substantial items, the “Distribution of Personal Items” section is useful for articles of more sentimental than financial value. I made sure to add at least one little note per recipient in this section. Once completing this exercise, you may want to consider even writing full letters to each of your loved ones and including them in the same location.

Completing the above for the first time is surely the hardest part. Be sure to brush it off every six months or so, though, so that it doesn’t slowly become uselessly outdated.

Think of this document as a gift to your loved ones. They will be grieving you. Make the administrative aspects of your death as easy on them as possible so that they can concentrate on the emotional aspects and healing.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.


“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”
John 14:1-4

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

By Snow

Sundays have meant different things to me at different times of my life. As a kid, the day began with Sunday breakfast. Mom, often with help from me and my little sister, would prepare a big meal for our family of six. Some weeks she made pancakes, some weeks she made French toast. I can also remember other weeks just standing at the toaster making a huge plate of toast to go with whatever else we were having. Toast specifically made for my father had to have the little adjustment lever all the way to the far right, resulting in a charred brick no one else would eat.

Bread of some sort was always involved in Mom’s Sunday breakfasts. To complement the main course of starchiness, there would be delicacies like bacon, sausage, eggs, and grits.

Oh yes, grits. To eat grits right requires stirring in at least a teaspoon of sugar to your bowl (we used three teaspoons when I was growing up, but I have scaled back), adding a pat of butter until it starts melting, and then splashing in just a drop or two of milk so it mixes up with the melted butter. Break apart a piece of toast, and add it to the mix if you are ready to take your grits to the next level (optional – for advanced connoisseurs of grits only).

Sunday breakfast would normally hold us until an early dinner, which was often big, too – though the specific courses weren’t as consistent. While Sunday breakfast was always at the big round dinner table, dinner was sometimes allowed in front of the TV in the living room. I can remember watching a movie called Shenandoah, one of my father’s favorites, one Sunday afternoon while eating pork chops and jelly biscuits.

Now, that’s not to say we avoided the occasional nod to healthy eating in our house. For instance, we quite often ate a salad – iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, onions, deli ham and Kraft American cheese cut into little squares – doused in French dressing prior to the main course of a huge plate of angel hair spaghetti covered in Prego sauce with added ground beef. On the side, plenty of warm French or Italian bread on which butter would quickly melt away into nothingness. For drink, you had your choice between a pitcher of sweet iced tea or ice cold Coca-Cola.

Okay, maybe I was stretching it a bit with the “healthy eating” claim. But there was a salad buried somewhere in there. And we did, for a time, substitute Diet Coke for the real thing.

By middle school, I had grown an appreciation for football, so Sunday afternoons during that season consisted of sitting in the living room while my father and brother screamed at the TV in attempts to motivate our team. Their combined yelling apparently catapulted the team to multiple Super Bowl wins, for the team began a perennial losing streak soon after my father left the scene that continues to this day nearly three decades later.

As middle school wore on and then on into high school, Sunday nights became a time of anxiety for me. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t do any of my homework (though often true), it was the knowledge that I had to face another full week at that place – dealing with people, not being myself, and other assorted problems.

My first job was at an amusement park, so Sunday then became a key working day for me as I entered adulthood. No more big breakfasts or football games. This lasted a couple of years before I moved on to more typical Monday through Friday work – though, admittedly, never quite as fun as the park.

Sunday night anxiety became a fixture, except the dread of the forthcoming school week was soon replaced with the dread of the forthcoming work week. During my marriage, I went through a long period of time where my inner dialogue often consisted of statements like, “I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead.” Sunday nights into Monday mornings were the peak for these kinds of thoughts. By Monday mornings, my stomach was ripped to pieces. But this post is about Sundays. Fortunately for you.

Sundays during my marriage consisted of a blaring TV. Actually, so did all of the other days of my marriage, but on Sundays, it would specifically blare either football games or NASCAR races – both of which I had lost interest in by the time I was married, oddly enough. Sometimes I would sit there with my former spouse and endure this audio and video assault. Other times, I would go hide in my office to try to have a moment to just think, knowing full well I would be guilt tripped later for my retreat.

I find it difficult to concentrate when a TV is blaring all the time, and my former spouse required the TV to be on at all times – even while sleeping. My only opportunities for audio peace were those few times she wasn’t home. Anyway, I am getting off track here. We can dissect my marriage some other time.

In general, I saw Sunday as a lesser version of Saturday. Lesser because Saturday morning was full of promise with the entire weekend ahead, while Sunday was an inevitable march into Monday, collapsing hopes that the new week would never come.

Credit: JC

In June 2018, JC led me to Jesus and, as evidenced by just about every post I’ve ever made on this blog, my entire life changed. Including, of course, Sundays.

At that time, for various reasons, I began attending my local church through streaming. Combined with the daily quiet time of reading and prayer that JC instilled into me right from the start, I began to learn and absorb so much about Jesus, God, and myself. Over time, Jesus and JC helped me with my anxiety. While I still have my anxious moments from time-to-time, they are nothing like the prison I had built and constantly refined for myself before I knew Jesus.

As my marriage disintegrated, I began attending the church in person. Outside of JC and a couple of her friends, I never did become fully comfortable there, though. While I was learning, the environment never felt quite right. The mostly monochromatic parishioners left me cold, for one thing. Everyone looked like me, which wasn’t what I wanted. And there were other issues.

JC and I did a few times drive about 70 miles to a small church that I absolutely love (another long story). Locally, we began trying to find a more diverse church. This proved a bigger challenge than anticipated.

Then, COVID-19 hit. My Sundays changed again, as did everyone else’s on the planet – no matter their belief system. At first, it felt like I had come full circle. I was streaming the local church again, but that church just wasn’t for me anymore.

Instead, I began to seek out other streaming alternatives to hear the Word. Dr. Tony Evans and Pastor T.D. Jakes have really risen to the challenge of these times, and I have felt so enriched experiencing their web sermons. The little church 70 miles down the road even added video sermons, which allowed me to stay spiritually in touch with them as well.

Whereas Sundays had become about dutifully going to a church for an hour where I never quite belonged, it has evolved in COVID times for me into a day of worship, learning, reflection, and writing. My three most recent Sundays began with reading, prayer, a big breakfast (in honor of Mom, though never quite as big as those days gone by), followed by whichever video sermon I am led to watch, followed by lunch, blogging, another video sermon, some reading, dinner, and blogging again. And some praise music mixed up in all of that, too.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t admit I usually sneak a nap or two in there as well. After all, it is supposed to be a day of rest, right?

I just noticed the time. My heart still sinks when I realize Sunday is almost over. Anxiety is always on the other side of the door, waiting to come in. No. This time, I won’t open that door. Jesus will hold it closed for me.

Thank you for reading these rambles. May Jesus bless you.


“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10

The healing time

By Snow

Not long after my last, brief post here, I started obsessing over “completing” my apartment. I moved here in July 2019. After recently extending my lease another 14 months, I decided to rev up my efforts to meet my goal of unpacking everything within a year of moving in.

Oh, I started really well last year. I unpacked everything that I initially brought here and then slowly started bringing additional boxes from a storage unit. Then… that slow process trickled down to nothing because I had about 6 tons of paperwork to go through (seemingly almost every piece of postal mail I had received since 1995).

One of my weaknesses is procrastination. So, it was easy to sit back and arrange my life around those unpacked boxes of paperwork. Not to mention the remaining boxes in the storage unit, which were out of sight, out of mind.

I even briefly put a blanket over the paperwork boxes so they would not be an eyesore when I wanted to use my living room for dancing.

Finally, though, late last month, I decided enough was enough. Now, the main weapon I have against my procrastination is my tendency towards obsession. So, I began to obsess over finishing my apartment. I spent just about every free hour working on it. Multiple trips to empty out the storage unit. Many memories to relive. Many more items to place.

I went from a 2,400 square foot house to a 660 square foot apartment. I want to be clear about something. That is not a complaint. I love my apartment. It feels like a home, far more than my house ever did. My apartment continues to be a part of my healing process as I become who God created me to be, and I am so grateful to Jesus for providing it to me.

The reduction in space has actually been helpful. Since another goal of mine was not to leave items in storage (because, really, what is the point of having something if it is locked away all the time?), it has forced me to prioritize. I have reduced my media collection (books, music, movies) by at least 75%. I do have to keep my “collecting” mentality in check, for there is a fine and rather blurry line between collecting and hoarding. I was married to a hoarder and even took on some of those tendencies myself in an attempt to fill spiritual holes. No. Never again. I have Jesus now.

Many items I realized I was keeping just to have. In case I might want to read or watch them again one day. In the modern age, though, if I really was intent to re-read a non-favorite book or re-watch a non-favorite movie, that would certainly be easy enough to accomplish without having to hang onto hundreds of them for years on end for the odd chance that I might decide to revisit one or two of them at some unknown point in the future.

It is freeing to let go. To donate items so that others may make use of them. After all, a book is to be read, not to decorate a shelf. I even had some brand new books that I planned to read “one day.” In some cases, over a decade later, I still had not started them. Better to let someone else have them. Let them be what they were designed to be.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”
Matthew 6:19-20

Credit: JC

Meanwhile, as I was obsessing over my apartment, JC was cranking out one blog post after another. She has really become quite the writer, and I am sorry that I got behind in posting them. I can hear her now reacting, though: “Don’t be sorry. It is all God’s timing.” I have finally posted one of the backlog of posts over on the new Wounded Butterflies site: “23 Pieces of Advice from a Mom to Her Kids.” Be sure to check it out, as her advice is applicable to all of us. Besides, we are all somebody’s kid. Remember, since Wounded Butterflies lives on a separate server, you will need to sign up to receive emails about new posts there even if you are already signed up over here on Beloved Walks.

I am proud to say, I met my goal. By the time I hit the one year anniversary of moving in, I had finished unpacking. I still unfortunately have a few things in boxes, simply due to lack of storage, but they have all been examined and prioritized. All of my stuff is now gone from the storage unit.

After this stunning achievement, I decided to keep going. I had never decorated the walls of my apartment (I was afraid to hammer that first tack into the virgin walls), so artwork was one of the last things I brought over from the unit. I am happy to report that I have started putting up select pieces, old and new. After driving in that first tack and “ruining” the walls, it became a lot easier. While I was already happy with the place, it does feel even more like me now.

July 22 marked a year since the day of monumental blessings where I lost my job, signed away my house, and saw my former spouse for the last time. This July 22 was much less eventful. I did venture out of the apartment to go to the dentist, though, where everything checked out fine other than learning that I chipped a tooth at some point. My dentist is analytical, so she immediately went into root cause analysis to determine why I have been chipping my teeth (about the third time in the last decade). I eat way too much popcorn, it seems. Those un-popped kernels (“old maids”) will get you every time. So now, I have to sift out those old maids – since giving up popcorn is obviously not an option!

So, it has been a year of healing for me. Not only have I grown closer to Him, made my apartment into a place of calm and peace, found a new, less-stressful job, and reduced the burden of owning so much “stuff,” I have even made huge strides in bringing down the mountain of debt I accumulated during my marriage. No, my life isn’t perfect, but all is well.

I am so grateful to Jesus for being with me every step of the way and picking me up when I fall. I am also grateful to JC for being on this journey with me. Thank You, God, for such blessings.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

Is nostalgia holding you back?

Credit: JC

By JC & Snow

Nostalgia can be fun, but it can also be a barrier to spiritual growth if you dwell too much on the past. For one thing, we tend to remember the best parts and forget the rest. While this is only natural, it can make the “good ol’ days” of our lives seem idyllic in a way against which our lives today can never hope to compete.

The Israelites of the Old Testament come to mind. It seems every few miles on the way to the Promised Land, they are complaining to poor Moses about something. Here is but one example:

“‘If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,’ they moaned. ‘There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.'”
Exodus 16:3

God and Moses have literally led these people to freedom. God has even worked visible miracles to do so, including the parting of the Red Sea. Yet, they are remembering the good ol’ days . . . of being slaves in Egypt. Here is how the Bible describes that slavery:

“The Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king.

“The Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.”
from Exodus 1:11,13-14

Rather than placing their newfound freedom in perspective, the Israelites choose to obsess over the best part of their former lives – the Egyptian version of the all-you-can-eat buffet. They forget that the costs of admission to that buffet were their bodies and spirits.

This is not to suggest we should dwell on negative events from our past. In fact, you should discard anything that is holding you back and take only the good memories with you. Just don’t obsess over those memories.

As always, Paul has some good advice on the topic:

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:12-14‬

Paul is focusing himself and telling himself to forget his past. Along the same lines, let’s go back to the Old Testament. This is from Isaiah:

“I am the LORD, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses. I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned, their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick. But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.”
Isaiah 43:16-18

Here, God is telling us, humanity, to forget His previous miracles because His future miracles will be even bigger.

People will sometimes say if only God still did big miracles – like the parting of the Red Sea. Saved Christians don’t need to see those kinds of miracles, though, because, as Paul said, we have the Holy Spirit in us, and we intimately know Jesus. These are far bigger miracles than parting any seas. We are carrying within us the very same power that brought Jesus back to life.

The faithful of Isaiah’s time were only able to read or hear about what we are blessed to have. They were still faithful, even without the gifts we have.

“All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:13‬

Live for today and tomorrow, not for yesterday. Lean into the future, not the past.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.