Lilacs and the Spirit

In deep vibrant purples with fragrance as strong as their apparent will to grow, my 7-year-old lilac bush thrives virulently in our backyard. Why are these plants, or any life so special? Just like their owner, this baby cutting has grown despite the sometimes hidden, sometimes overgrown challenges in its life. Snow, rain, cuttingly cold winds. My most recent example is a medical diagnosis of my ADHD that until very recently had gone “unpruned” for over 40 years. Racing thoughts, lack of apparent focus, impetuosity, self-esteem, organization and more, I have with God’s help made it through to where I am, my will trying to shadowbox in ways difficult to win… bending, flowing, doing the best I can. Like my lilac, I continue to grow, sometimes seemingly hurt by reactions of myself and others, sometimes aware that God was guiding me, pruning me to make my life more beautiful, a difference for others. Nonetheless, praying for guidance, love and support with needed wind, nutrients, water.

Whatever you need pruned in your life, in you, the Master Gardener knows what you need and how to guide you there. I have been slowly opening and becoming receptive to following practices to meditate, to face the day, to be open to the hurt. Letting go in such Contemplative practices of praying without words, just sitting with God, with practices as centering prayer and lectio divina of the daily Scriptures and mindfulness (all prayer is good) daily, following my heart in playing piano and writing, dancing, deepening my connection with Nature, with photography, journaling, exercising and my dog and I training for and doing Pet Pals https://petpalscedarvalley.org/. As I have opened, like the lilac blooms, the Gardener moves in my heart. In the stillness, there are answers through listening.

In John 15:1-17 Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the Gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. With each “pruning” I learn more about the wonder of being present, rusting the process, not determining the result. Let it come. Wonder.

Whoever looks on the outside dreams, whoever looks on the inside, awakens…Carol Jung. The Flow of Love, Life. Christ is in all. Are you willing to be still to perceive Him?

What do you see? An unruly child getting messy with paint on her hands and clothes or a work of unjudged, loving creation springing forward. Paint on the face, with a giggle and joy of look what I did, Mom! Just for you! Curls tangled with a bow tilted at a cockeyed angle. We progress in our seeing with the joy deep inside your heart. Only one Being will judge.

Notes from a page or a piano solo expressing gentle, wordless joy of harmonies from the soul? A photograph of almost perfectly correct. The right composition or the capturing of an unjudged image of God’s love across the sky. Is it in the doing or in the process of being in faith? Becoming? A poem flowing from the heart of God’s love creating the world or a series of syllables flowing in exactly correct measure?

My constant fight with trying to fit in, to match up, struggles in life may be partly, but not completely over. Racing thoughts, self-judging, lack of focus lessened with less pressure to be that dependent on others person, that was part of the struggle I have faced. Understand that no one way is right for everyone, and I have found solace in guidance from those who have training to guide me. But I have had to be ready to listen. Are you ready to listen?

The Light in my heart is slowly showing me how to trust, like my lilacs trust their Creator. To be receptive. For example, to see the Gardener in loving friends who have not judged but love, meditation, caring words from the Scripture come to life, and yes, finally try medical intervention as food for the body, nutrients, wind under sails, water. My world may be a little different now. There is much value in knowledge, facts and figures in this world. But it isn’t the only way to gain understanding. Words are only what you allow them to be. Do you take steps to see past the words?

Friends, we all have the opportunity to grow, like the lilacs, giving Glory to the One tending us and with trust in our Master Gardener. Our own pressures created in this world can serve us helping us grow in love with our God. There is a Way to turn that negative hurt with fear of change into an acceptance of Grace from the Father who will give you all that you need if you just take time to see the world as it is. Will you take the time to see, accept it? To reach out in prayer, in Nature, in Scripture, to ministers, trusted friends, family, for example.

As the birds sing out on rainy days and the squirrels scurry along precarious fences, dandelions bloom in the sidewalk cracks, trees naturally bend not questioning the flow of the nutrients. All grow, all accept and move into the flow of being a part of that growing Creation, patience in seeing, accepting yourself and others just to be a part of the whole.

Open, receptive and loving. The fruits of the spirit are the pruning tools. Will you grow as my lilac grows, giving and accepting with love.

Reference also: Guardians of Being by Eckhart Tolle.

© 2023 Bonnie L Smith-Davis

Being Grounded in the Presence

A big brown bunny quivers deep into the green grass with fear remaining still in front of our garden. Not even 10 feet from him, our terrier Rascal had just been let out into the yard, but was totally focused on the yard next door and the fence. It was a chilly morning, sun shining brightly on the lawn, bouncing off the aging oak tree. The rabbit loves the cracked corn left in the grass and like us, is drawn into temptation.

Lately, I have had several occasions lately to wonder if I really was being present, attune to God’s Will. Decisions of consequence to me right now. A far away conference to attend, a class to take, giving up the question to God. Can I do this?  I have prayed about it now, darn it. I am trying to take it back again. Think of blessings. Joys. Be grateful. Knowing His Presence is always with you no matter what.

The Holy Spirit inspires me with insight sometimes, to be present to seeing as perhaps God sees. From “above” (i.e. knowing what could happen and seeing his children and creatures in the darkness of their world.) I really don’t see Rascal as evil or darkness, but to a rabbit, he could potentially tear his long-eared friend apart. And Rascal loves chasing rabbits, but the bunny seemed so scared.

My thoughts drift to the Scripture readings I did earlier in the day that we can count on our Lord to watch over us. The Bible says, ” the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

Our bunny, quivering in fear of impending events, seems like he could have been you or me in our wilderness of Lent as our Lord remains vigilant with us through our little trials.

My heart races. Rascal’s cataracts dim his vision, but his sense of smell and hearing are excellent. From my perch, I watch as he sniffs about in the yard, oblivious of the impending danger. He rolls over in the grass, enjoying the day.

I open the door a crack. The sound turns Rascal’s head toward me while a new creature steps into the adventure. Ralph Jr., the squirrel, doesn’t see Rascal either, and ducks under the wire fence and confidently scampers over toward the oak tree.  Word of our yummy cracked corn must have spread around the neighborhood.

God provides so many blessings to us. We could be aware of his goodness. I yell out, “yum-yum. Rascal, come on.” Just a second or two of diversion as he looks at me, considering his fun in yard versus his treat. Then, his ears perk up. Rascal turns as he hears something moving in the grass and barking loudly, he jumps toward the flying gray fur. With a split second to spare, Ralph Jr. makes a successful leap into the tree. The bunny watching carefully, hunkering down, disappears quickly under the fence. Rascal continues with his assault on the tree for a while, but decides the treat in hand is worth more than a squirrel in the tree, so to speak and heads for the door.

Sometimes, we don’t escape our troubles like the bunny, though. There is not always a happy ending. But whatever happens, I have a deep and growing sense of trust in God’s Presence in this moment. Jesus hand on my shoulder gives me peace and calm. That doesn’t take away the confusions and temptations, but He is my Rock through them. His Presence lies in, around and through us. Though we can be in difficult situations, we can be above them, as I was above the unfolding drama.  Perhaps, it is good to have the insight to be awake, aware of others’ dangers, and be Christ’s hands and feet in this world.  Knowing that our love for others can make a difference.

The Father takes care of his children. He gave up His Son’s life to give us salvation from all our sins. We may tremble, quiver and hunker down in the grass, or make flying leaps without knowledge of what will happen. But the Light of God’s Presence will warm and hold you firm. Be grounded in God’s Presence, we will make it through.

I offer many practices to get grounded in God’s Presence in the beginning of the day. Today I offer just a start for you. Before the day begins, in that moment list in your mind, or in a journal, a gift from God that continue to bless you. Savor this gift: a family member, a pet, time with friends, a walk-in nature, gardening, music. Continue this practice five times a day. Give gratitude for what you see as a gift from God, just for you. When your feet hit the floor, remember to be present and look around for God’s Presence holding you strong. When you fall, and we all fall, just look up and thank the God who is helping you through this moment.

Another thought is to wake up to a beautiful piece of music that you love, savoring the harmonies that God created in this music just for you. Google your choice if you wish. I prefer soft guitar and piano music. Or, take in several deep God-given breaths breathing in the deep love of God and breathe out the Love of God for the World.

© 2023 Bonnie L. Smith-Davis

What Gives you Joy?

Sometimes it is the little things, you know? I have had a lot going on in my life lately but today, my body seemed to say, “enough!”

Some elements of my day: getting up really early to go to the car shop to get a spare key made. How many of you go to a car shop at 7 am in snow with a slippery road? Great service in speedy amount of time, just enough to grab a cup of coffee to go!

Next, I make a quick stop at the credit union to get a draft to send to a business. I can just pop in and get it, right? Wrong. Only the drive through was open so early which made necessary fiddling with cards on my lap to get the right one and using my wallet to write the signature on. Nice lady teller, but her spelling of the receiver of the draft was incorrect…so we corrected that. Sign the card and lick the envelope. Checking the address on phone Google. Whoops. Called out by mistake. Sorry, honey. I’ll talk to you more when I get home.

Next is the gym to get my membership updated, but of course, this was a new plan we are on, so the paperwork hadn’t gone through. Would you please email or call the company that gave you the plan so you can get enrolled? Sure. Add to list.

Then, we had an appointment at the docs for a follow-up. Yes, it includes the scale and yes, I know it is a bit vain, but I don’t like that machine. Especially in the winter with all the extra clothes on me. I have been weight-watching, but still fighting to lose. Never ending battle, I believe.And the fun mammogram all ladies need, but I would imagine, few would say they enjoy. It would be a month or so to get results, but could be earlier. Learning by experience to set more boundaries for use of my time. Wait to say, “yes”. Add to list.

Then came a business zoom with a lovely lady who has so many great ideas. A lot of brain-picking, thoughtful sharing , planning. I go away energized with new thoughts for our prayer group meeting in January. But my brain was calling for a rest. Time out, please.

Whew! I went online to do my yoga with a lot of good stretching and strengthening that my body did and did not want to do. My amazing yogi understands and , as the loving person that she is, shares a few stories of family and friends and an upcoming musical. Yes, it felt good, but my arthritic knee (the other one replaced with metal already) let me know that it didn’t appreciate all the balancing on one leg. Add to list.

Next came my physical therapy with who I thought would be someone I had worked with before… he knew me so it would be easier, not starting from the beginning… but learned he would be changing to a different health care system before I finished my therapy, as another therapist explained. So, would I like to just switch to a new person now? Sure. As it turns out, she works with my husband for his pt, and does really well for him!

Now, there is just enough time to get home to go to a prayer meeting on zoom with another group from across the state. First ever combined meeting. Cool. All went well overall, lots of shares about Scriptures discussed. But, I may need to send zoom address to group member… add to list.

Look at the clock. Dangerous move. I have 30 minutes to sit. Might I fall asleep? Nope. Just enough time to check late expected emails. Quickly review the syllabus for an upcoming prayer class and see a very intense required movie about bi-polar disorder. Wow. Such respect for parents and children having to go through all this. Need to take notes. Add to list

I breathe.

And take a few minutes to look at some pictures my husband took of me and my dog at “de-stress” days at our neighboring university to help students de-stress during finals. Hmm. It looks like the most stressed one is me. Three dogs there, Rascal the smallest and oldest and can’t see so well. But he won the hearts of the students and faculty, as always. Me the frazzled one.

I start to laugh. Uncontrollably laugh. Out loud laugh. Gulp in air, take a deep breath, breathe. And repeat. Again. Bubbling laughter spills out. In one picture I hold, Rascal and the student both smile and stare up at me.  The woman I see is frizzy, funny, a bit overwhelmed with details of life and uncertainty of what might happen next, but she, I, feel totally glad to me just where I was…I wasn’t in control. Just like now. None of us are totally in control of life. Life happens.

One more prayer group online that day…still bubbling but holding in giddiness and laughter. The quiet prayer group was wonderful. Peaceful and I could feel the relaxation washing over me. God provides. Laughter, rest, experiences that test us and hug us close with love.

Writing and calling. Amazon orders not arriving, texts to answer. It would all get done.

Why all these things in a story about Joy? Because it is so necessary to remember that Joy is being in community of life. God is present and we can be present with gratitude as well. Glad to just be alive and in the flow of life.

This Christmas, this day, this moment, touch the moment that has a hidden Joy. Live it. Enjoy just being alive and smile with Love to the God who loved you enough to create you to be uniquely you that is so necessary to our lives. Radiate joy. Enough sadness exists. Breathe.

What gives me Joy? Freedom to give control to God. Live it fully in God.

© 2022 Bonnie L Smith-Davis

Guiding my Way

The meeting will start at 7pm. It is now 6:15. Close, but I am pretty sure I can make it. The topic of the evening will be the fragmentation of the Body of Christ for which I already have studied and done homework. A blast of night air pierces through my sweater coat as I pull the door shut, take a breath, and start the car heading toward the main highway.

The dark night clouds my vision, and I wish the event I had just left at the career center had been in the afternoon. Seeing a sign up ahead, I bite my lip with a bit of doubt in my thoughts and make a guess that this the next familiar road might be right way to go, but something tells me to go a different direction. As I continue on into the darkness, I go through the homework thinking of how we could be more unified in working together on our faith journeys. We seem to be going in different directions sometimes when teamwork and camaraderie of caring educators and committed student showcased at the celebration brings a smile to my heart. Focus and moving forward is possible once commonality is seen. I feel blessed to have even a small part in making the dream come true for children in our school district. I wish to send pictures to the coordinator. Yummy leftovers… Lots of details swirl in my thoughts.

As I round the bend in the road, I find a “Road Closed” barrier with lights flashing into my headlights. Oh, no. I veer away and keep going. Another street sign appears, I slow down a little to look at the street sign. Hmm. Unfamiliar territory for the way to class. 6:25pm. As I continue on the road, I notice a church on the left side where I had attended a meeting earlier that day. But I was backtracking. This wasn’t what I had planned. In the dark I am going the opposite direction from the way I want to go.

Now I have the choice to take a possible detour and get turned in the right direction on another side road, but would I make it by the meeting time or just get more lost? Or, should I go another way… which may be a lot longer? Which one? How important is this meeting that the thought of missing time started my mind to work overtime. Darkness. Unknown. Uncertainty.

I take a breath and remember how the Holy Spirit can give lessons on our journeys…tonight’s lesson seems to have started early… actively showing life doubts, fragmentation which need the Light of clarity and wholeness. Life decisions involve a lot of unknowns, every moment, every day. How to proceed?

I remember a prayer friend’s advice that when difficulty arises, I have the beautiful opportunity to let the Lord fill my heart with Jesus’ guiding Light. Take a few more deep, deep Spirit-filled breaths, praise God for the opportunity to trust Him to guide you, remember a beautiful Scripture or hymn, focus on Jesus’ face in your heart, simply ask for “Help” from the One who already knows the Way and then just listen and Let Go. There are many turns and as humans, we will have our fair share of challenges with no apparent “best” answers appearing in neon lights saying…this is the way ahead.

I have the opportunity to thank Jesus for awakening me to His steadying hand and guiding Light. I am and will be where God wants me to be. I reach down deep in my heart and said a thank you and a prayer for Help. I know that I have to do my part to reach my goal of getting home, so I just forget about the time and focus on being present to what is in front of me. With gratitude.

Road signs come and go, as one of my favorite hymns, “Be Thou My Vision”, came floating into my consciousness. My heart slows a little and I feel more peaceful. Indeed, Jesus lives in me and I can remember to “see” through His eyes. The street lights of the neighboring city came into view, but familiar territory. I may not be on time for the meeting, but I am moving ahead with a clear discipline letting in Jesus’ radiant, guiding Light. A smile touches my heart. Turn after turn, I became more sure that this was how this small bit of my journey was meant to go in the first place. A new way. A transforming heart less fragmented, open to the unknown of unfamiliar ways. Not the wrong way. His Way. Which way will you go?

© Copyright 2022 Bonnie L Smith-Davis

Realization of Beauty

What is most lovely?

Awareness. Presence. Gratitude. Love.The deep aromatic fragrance

Soft, fragile petals silken and radiant within and without

Upright, graceful stems reaching up to the collar holding awakening, nursing color

Flowing full on with the energy of life-giving nutrients

delicate loveliness within thorns gently protect its joy

Wherever it is, the magnificence stays

Nourishing the world’s heart with never-before thought of possibilities

Wholly love. Beauty in and of itself growing strong with the Gardener’s hand

Hello, my rose. Fill your world.

© 2022 Bonnie L Smith-Davis

image free in Microsoft Word

Grow Strong in Joy

When are you aware of gratitude in your life? Can you find any reason to be grateful during this devastation in Florida? Are you grateful only a few times a day like at meals or when something special happens like a medicine takes away pain? Or, perhaps, see it in every moment …Just looking around. This question was proposed by my good friend Kayla Becker in a Jo-Yo session at a retreat recently. I take this question to heart and find that there are days when I really do find little to “cheer” about.

Certainly, the devastation caused by the storm Ian has provided a lot of destruction. I have several relatives and friends throughout Florida as in Orlando whom I was praying for, that they be spared from a lot of hurt and loss. Our concerns are legitimate and truly could make life a series of “What ifs”. I don’t minimize any difficulties anyone faces and pray often with deep pain in my heart for those lives and properties lost. Beauty in nature seems to turn to rubble or cause the rubble from the perspective of the storm itself.

People are torn from their homes or businesses, families broken, pets lost or hurt, innumerable situations arise. My nieces have often told me how their homes are protected by their structure and that they are willing to live in Florida because they love it there, despite the risks and possibilities. Perhaps the fact that they face these dangers makes them stronger and able to face the daily challenges of life. They appreciate the little things, the special moments of being together, sharing a lovely sunset, wonderment of creatures that appear in their yard, the antics of their pets and children…Having fun just being alive and together.

I reflect on recent moments, looking around through my heart, really seeing with Jesus’ eyes. Can I always do this? No, but when I do I see the look of love that comes from knowing everything, yes everything and everyone was made through God and by God in His Creation. Each precious molecule of life has a purpose and place in life, even for a short time. Sometimes, the “thing” seems ugly and vicious with no purpose. So why does a beautiful, Loving God who loves us more his own Son’s life create such things?

We ponder a lot of life’s questions like this and often come up blank, because truly, the whole story has not been written yet. Each day is new with the sunrise with each breathe we take opening the door on new adventures.

“Guardians of Being” by Eckhart Tolle reveals that animals are the true guardians of being in that they show us how to be. Just be. They don’t worry about bills, diet, job changes, retirement, speeches, sporting contests, future relationships, on and on. They see life as it is with each moment to be with their friend in their forever home, romp or fly or smell sweet fragrances. Look at the leaves turning color and the sky brilliant with stars and planets far away lending dreams of what is. Just seeing. Breathing. Being. Each moment.

Let us as Ann Voskamp in “One Thousand Gifts” maintains God re-members our broken places together with joy. Let us exercise our gratitude muscles. As the women in the Bible who took their musical instruments with them in Exodus to exercise their “tambourine of thanks”. God is with us.

Grow strong in joy. Don’t snap shut to grace. Live seeing God’s Love.

Everyone has their stories of moments they would like to erase. But the moments linger. For me, witnessing the death of my parents, my dear dad and dear mom holding my hand once full of life with a smile always on her lips and making everyone who was in her presence feel so special. My grandad dying after a life-struggle with polio as millions of people have suffered this disease, my young cousin dying with his fiancé in a moment in a car crash, another cousin killed in an icy cave in Alaska in front of her family who couldn’t save her.

A dear friend whose daughter never was able to sit up a day in her life with her beautiful spirit lighting up a room but never able to run and play and hold in an embrace and walk smugging her feet in the sand dying in her 30’s teaching school from a wheelchair. Her name was Joy. And no matter what, that’s what she was. Joy in the midst of pain. Seemingly senseless uncaring people hurting others after drink or deep emotional pain. Or as this week, a storm that snuffs out life in an instant. Hundreds of men and women without power, food or water on the street without a home.

Can we find the God of Love and feel grateful for everything? Are each of these things wished for? No, of course not. But they do make us stronger, if we choose to look at them that way and give your life to God. Read his Word. Follow his way. Support each other in fellowship.

I wish to say yes. I believe with all my heart that is true. God is good. Take one step at a time. One small step at a time.

Grab a piece of paper or just close your eyes and think. What do you see that brings you joy, gives you a sense of peace. A beautiful flower, a sunny smile, a kind word, a pet wagging his tail, an unexpected letter in the mail from a friend who loves you… Challenge yourself this day to find one thing, just one and reflect on it in your heart of hearts. God created it for you.

Will you try? Or simply remember God created you to bring joy to everyone to see Jesus’ face in theirs. To Love even when it hurts, through the hurt. Will you try?

A day care center I visit with Rascal dog has a beautiful practice of having a basket of simple stones by the door, lovingly colored and then hand lettered by the sweet, caring owners’ mom with simple loving words that little chubby hands clutch that simply says “a big hug for you”, Hugs…Out of breath, anxious moms or dads, sisters, babies come into this place and leave with a stone, a smile, and a heart of gratitude. Someone cares. They encounter each other in the day care clutching their rocks and the smile of a dear one who does care. Do they cry, have tantrums? Sure. They are human. But Love is there. Deep within them and all around them.

Will you try too? In the midst of pain, you will find joy. Hidden in the clouds washed clean by the rain, is a moment of sunshine you can bring. And please don’t forget the Word. To Love as He Loved you. No matter what. Because you can simply choose to do so.

Amen.

© 2022 Bonnie L Smith-Davis

Trusting

The Holy Spirit is tapping me on the shoulder again. Wake up to trust me who loves you unconditionally. always. …God

… But if I wag my tail furiously, someone will come by and give me a wonderful home. I will just be. I will trust completely…. Rascal G. Smith-Davis

Every day for three months I came to the door of the cat room to greet the people that came to the shelter, trusting that someone would give me a good home.  I trust completely. ……. Blake B. Smith-Davis-Cat

A wonderful dinner awaits me while I busily work on my assignment due today. I trust Roger will provide.

Neighbor stops her busy day to read my paper… I care about you. …T.

Can I do any less?

God provides for me (for us) in all things. I declare my weakness but know I will succeed at what is most important by letting go to trust God who loves me just as I am. Be renewed. Declare how despite the fact you fall on your face; you still are loved. Completely. For who you are secretly deep inside by Him who gave his Life for you. …Bonnie

Psalm 139 V.1-12

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    O Lord, you know it completely.

5You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?
    Or where can I flee from your presence? If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is as bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

©2022 Bonnie L. Smith-Davis

Advent and Hanukah, 2021

By Laurie Stawicki      

                Did you know that Advent and Hanukah begin on the same day this year? November 28, 2021 on the Gregorian calendar, is also the 25th day of the month Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, which is always the date Hanukah starts. (By the way, there’s no correct way to spell Hanukkah. Common spellings are the two I’ve used, plus Chanukah, Chanuka, and Chanucah.)

Advent in the Christian tradition is the 40 days leading up to the celebration of Christ’s birth which is celebrated December 25, however erroneously, since the birth has been suggested to have occurred in early September, according to astrological calculations. That is when the planets of Jupiter, the moon and Saturn, aligned, and were possibly the “star of Bethlehem” referred to in the gospels, and which will not align that particular way again for another 16, 000 years, according to nationalpost.com.

Hanukah, a Jewish holiday, is also called the Festival of Lights. It is the celebration of when the oil found in one jar, normally enough for one day, miraculously burned for 8 days in the temple during the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd century BC.

My thoughts about these two important calendar dates coinciding is that it is the greatest message. The light of the world, Jesus Christ, has come for both Jews and Gentiles. And as Christians, we believe that he came for all, lived for all, and died for all, making the way clear into the Holiest of Holies, the Presence of God, for all who believe.  

Male and female, Jew and Gentile, all are one in the gospel which says that all who believe are being formed into a spiritual temple, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 2:21, 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 5:1) The Bible says that we are the temple of God, when we believe and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. And that we are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14-16). That is such a cool statement!

Some special ideas for personal and family growth in Christ through Advent are to study the differences and similarities between Advent and Hanukah, and read the Bible passages about the birth of Christ in Luke 2 and elsewhere.

In addition, to clear our hearts and minds, we can seek to forgive all who have wronged us this year in any way, and to pray blessings over our enemies. (Mark 11:25, Matthew 5:43-48) We can also confess any sins to God and another trusted person, so that they may pray for us so we can be healed. (James 5:16)  And we can ask God to shine his light on our path so that our way is clear before us and so that we do not stumble. (Psalm 119:105). 

As Christians consider the Advent season, attempting to clear hearts and minds of any unholy clutter from the year and to focus on God’s light and word for our lives, it’s good to come apart and rest, maybe light a candle, and give thanks to God for all his benefits.

I pray the love of God shines on each one of us this Advent and Hanukah season and that we all seek the purest light from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can save us from our sins and make us worthy to join him in Heaven eternally.

Author:

Laurie Jane Stawicki, mother of five, singer-songwriter, speaker, and author of the upcoming memoir “Sacrifice of Tears,” and “Don’t Count Your Chickens.” LJ loves and writes in Iowa.  You can contact her at LJStawicki@yahoo.com. Please put “Sacrifice of Tears” in the subject line. Thank you for reading!

© 2021 Laurie Stawicki            

Manna from God

Guest blog by Laurie Stawicki

Video of me singing and playing the guitar to a song I wrote called “Manna.”

Today, I looked at Facebook. On it I saw the daughter of an old friend. It looked like she was having a great time! She had a beautiful house, a fun business that she enjoys and that she works hard at, and she had a husband and a couple of good-looking children. Not only that, she was beautiful too! Like a model.

While part of me is telling me that she had help from her parents and maybe she married a rich husband to have such a wonderful house, I must remind myself that my destiny, to some degree, is in my own hands. What are some steps I can take to make a life that I feel good about?

First of all, are there things (or people) in my life that need to go to free up space for the new and the beautiful? Objects, clothes, certain acquaintances, time wasters and poor habits could be cleared to make way for the best.

What are the things I could change in my life to create a more wonderful life for myself and my family? Am I living where I want to live? Am I working at what I love? Am I living this week, month, year vibrantly, as if it were my last?

Some people, me included, have wondered where the line is drawn with how much God wants us to take care of ourselves, versus how much time we are caring for others. And most of us who are mothers or caregivers have experienced fairly long periods of time where we barely had any time for ourselves. I think this is normal. However, the question is, at what point does God want us to take more time for ourselves and the gifts and talents he has given us?

Jesus told us to love others AS we love ourselves. Some would say that I need to love myself a little bit more. It may be hard to find the line between service, sacrifice and what we do for ourselves, but here are some questions that could help us gauge the time commitments that some might to expect of us.

We could ask ourselves for instance,

  1. What is my mission from God? Do I know what my life mission is?  Am I doing it?

The good Samaritan did not abort his mission. He stopped and helped the person by the roadside and took him to the Inn he was going to stay at. He went on his journey and paid the inn keeper to look after the person, continuing on his own mission.

  • In any situation that arises, one could ask themselves, “Am I the good Samaritan, or the Inn Keeper?” In other words, when I come across a person in need, is it my job to take this person to the next station? Or is it my job to stay with them and help them. Knowing one’s boundaries is good, but trusting that God will lead you and guide you in each situation is better. Some people or situations we are only called upon to help for a little while until the long-term helper is available. And with some situations, God surprises us with the duration of what we think is a detour.
  • Do I have a clear vision for the details of my life? Prayerfully write the vision for each

category of your journey (Habakkuk 2:2). For instance, when shopping for a house, make a list of the “must haves”, the “would like to haves”, and the “optional” characteristics. Then when a house pops up (or a job, spouse, vacation) exhibiting all of the things on your list, you can know that most likely it is the right one. It saves a lot of time if you know what you want. Psalm 37:4 says that God gives us the desires of our heart.

  • Am I taking care of myself with proper sleep, healthy food, fun, fellowship, reasonable work load, family time, church, and exercise? Am I growing in my skills, and enjoying my day with a relaxed attitude? Am I spending time with God?

These, and more, are questions we can ask ourselves when we are wondering if we are on the right track with taking care of ourselves and our own mission on earth. Loving ourself means loving who we were meant to be, and living our life feeling good about our decisions.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meets.” Fredrick Buechner

Ephesians 2:10 says,” We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Each one of us has a purpose, and it’s up to us to find it and to discover what God has written into our DNA that will delight us and serve the world in a powerful way at the same time.

What’s in your heart? Write it down and make a plan. If you miss when shooting for the moon, you will at least land among the stars. Happy trails!

© 2021 Laurie Stawicki

Laurie Stawicki is a singer-songwriter, poet, and author of the upcoming memoir, “Sacrifice of Tears.” She is mother of five and lives in Iowa.

Choose to See God

Hands

Question. Where do you see God?

Answer: everywhere and in everything. In every molecule of water, every blade of grass, all animal life, every living, breathing human on the planet, every star in the sky, every breath we breathe.

Alive and well. All is well.

But how can we say that all is well when a loved one passes, friends argue, a job is lost, an illness arises, crimes are committed, COVID-19 continues, hunger and homelessness live on, forests are burned, and smog fills the air? Anger arises and trials run on and on….

Above all, be aware, choose joy and love, patience and kindness, acceptance, and hope. We can choose to love because God loves us without reservation— just as we are.

We can choose to see God through a beautiful phrase I heard the other day…

Life events happen for us, not to us. The more difficult the day, the more we can choose to rise to meet it with God’s help. God is in every crack and cranny of this world and beyond.  We can choose to see with the eyes of faith and be made stronger when we recognize our dependence on God to help us through each circumstance.

Last year, I experienced what doctors labeled a deadly serious illness in my digestive tract and ended up “alone” in the hospital because of COVID-19, with technicians and doctors working hard to get me through. Throughout this time, I felt so close to God, just depending on him. My husband and I trusted God’s plan. I prayed that God hold Roger and the rest of the family close if I didn’t make it.

Through this struggle, I learned to have more patience and acceptance, among so many other things. Prayer and love held us together. Throughout my life, God has continued to provide people—just the ones I need—to be there for me. As God is for you. God loves us. Each one of us.

Recently my husband underwent an MRI. He had gone through an ultrasound that did not show any conclusive reasons for a problem that was becoming an enigma. He had been experiencing dizziness and had previously had a mild mini-stroke that left him with difficulty speaking and in need of medical treatment for a long time.

God chose to let him stay with me and healed him. The current MRI showed residual effects. Perhaps this dizziness was a wake up blessing, spurring us to take needed measures.

We will continue to search for answers, but will continue with trust, knowing peace and having hope, for this situation has been given to God. The unbreakable thread of Christ’s Love holds strong in our lives. We will keep praying, believing, and doing all we can.

We feel a wellspring of gratitude for the breath of life and the opportunity to love and serve as we are able. Not that we do not grumble or complain at all, because we do. But life events happen. How we take those moments is up to us.

We can choose to see Son shine in each moment, whether breaking a garage door, cooking a meal, doing the dishes, walking the dog, changing a tire, serving at church, praying with others, or sharing a celebration – endless circumstances in which we can grow more like Christ.

Intentionally, we can choose to see and be Christ’s presence as we are called. We can know God is in us and completely with us… working in our lives. We know this is true in the depths of our being. In our heart.

We may spiral down but come back up through the power of Christ’s Love.

Alive and well. All is well.

Where are you seeing God working in your life today? No way is too small. Praise God!

© 2021 Bonnie Smith-Davis