COUNTING MY BLESSINGS: FOR THERE ARE MANY

Christmas 2021 is almost upon us. Where has this year gone? Everything seems like one big blur and yet, as I reflect, I am more aware this Christmas than ever before of God’s amazing blessings in my life. He truly is the reason for the season.

This season I have found myself reminiscing about former Christmas’s. Growing up my family lived overseas, and then as a young adult and raising my own family, we lived in the Midwest of America. Seven years ago my husband and I moved to South Florida. Our kids live in Nebraska and Colorado and have commitments that keep them close to home on most holidays. So being together every holiday is not always possible.

I’ve been trying to pick out some common denominators that have made each Christmas significant to me. As I did this I realized that it hasn’t been the gifts or even where I happened to be. It hasn’t been because certain foods were served or even who was there. Some were in hot climates and some in cold. None of those things added or took away from how special this holiday always was to me and my family.

What makes CHRISTMAS more significant than any other holiday is that we never made it about things or cercumstances. Christmas was always all about JESUS whose birth was the whole reason we were celebrating.

Focusing on Jesus causes me to see the many blessings in my life that come from being His child. As you read my list of just a few of the blessings I am remembering this Christmas, I pray it will open your eyes to look around you and see His goodness this season.

  • LIFE. And Jesus promises it “more abundantly” John 10:10. Life itself is amazing but abundant life is spectacular. Every morning I get to breath because He gave me life. When you choose to live this life with Him it gives you so much more than the things around us could ever provide.
  • HOPE. God’s promises are sure and that gives me the knowledge that even though this life can have loneliness and empitiness and sickness and disappointment, He promises something better in eternity. In Hebrews 6 vs 19 it says “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, …..” And IJohn 2 vs 25 says “And this is the promise that He has promised us–eternal life.”
  • PEACE. This peace isn’t anything you can buy. In fact, trying to find fulfillment and peace in this life is futile. True peace can only be found as you place your life in the hands of Jesus and accept Him as your Lord and Savour.

My prayer this Christmas is that MANY will look for Jesus in the manger and find Him and begin to see the many gifts and blessings He has for them. I challenge each of you who have already found Him to give someone that gift and invite them to meet Him this year.

USE IT OR LOOSE IT

Last month I turned 69, so I am now living my 70th year. Wow!! For some reason, 70 is a big deal in my mind. I feel like I am getting ready to cross over into another country…..Senior Country.

Every decade in life presents its own challenges, and I’m not so sure I am ready for this new one. But, do I ever think I’m ready for what is ahead?

No!

Why?

Because there is no way to know for sure what my seventies will bring. The only thing I am sure of is that I made it through my sixties, with all of its unknowns, and challenges.

I now see that these last ten years have served as a transition decade for me. Major life changes brought challenges that exposed weak foundational areas in my life that were a result of neglect. This decade has been one of strengthening these basic areas, preparing me for this next Season.

DON’T NEGLECT THE FOUNDATIONAL RELATIONSHIPS IN YOUR LIFE

The most important relationship I have is with my Lord and Savior. I don’t know why, but, when things are going pretty good, I tend to let that relationship slide and become apathetic. I stop making Him the main thing. I don’t take the time to pursue Him. The more familiar you are with someone, the more attention you need to give them. I find myself doing the same in my marriage. We are coming up on our 47th Anniversary and we have to make sure we keep that flame alive and strong!! I love these quotes on familiarity breeding contempt.

Familiarity breeds contempt and children“….Mark Twain.

There can be no prestige without mystery, for familiarity breeds contempt”…..Charles de Gaullle.

In communications familiarity breeds apathy“….William BernBach.

The problems that result from neglect begin to show up when major life changes take place, as they did in my sixties. I moved away from all things familiar. I no longer had job demands on me. I was way less busy and life returned to revolving around and me and Jesus, and then, me and my spouse.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

I had a total knee replacement at sixty-five. Everything went great for two years. So great, that I began doing some more strenuous exercising (like deep knee bends, I know…..I’m crazy) which resulted in sharp pain in my knee. After numerous X-rays, and months of physical therapy, it has been determined that I have an old hamstring injury that has flared up because I’ve overworked my weak muscles. In other words, my new knee is much stronger than my old muscles can handle. So, after 1 1/2 years, I am still dealing with this hamstring that is taking forever to heal. If I had paid attention to my body and kept my muscles strong and not overworked them, maybe they would have been able to handle my new knee.

In my fifties and sixties I was always too busy to do those basic exercises and because I had knee pain I gave up too quickly and talked myself into waiting until I got a new knee. I didn’t take the time to do the things that would take care of me. Some people are good at making time for themselves, and, others aren’t so good at it. It doesn’t matter where you find yourself, the important thing is to take time for the basics that will keep you strong physically and emotionally. Exercise, eat healthy food and do your nails….Ha!! Take care of you!

I believe my sixties exposed weaknesses that I wasn’t aware of. Areas I neglected because they weren’t causing problems at the time. As a result, they became weaker, and when everything else around me changed, their weakness left me hurting and vulnerable.

The good thing is that I still had a foundation left that had been laid strong and secure so I could begin to rebuild. I just needed reinforcements, which came as I again pursued the Lord and got to know my spouse in this new season. I’m different, yet the same. Life is good, but in new ways. Relationships have never meant as much to me as they do now. Swimming, strengthening major muscle groups, and eating healthy food is a must these days if I want to keep upright in this next decade!

This had me on the floor laughing!! Life happens!!

Should I Be Worried Now?

In 2020 the practice of worry seemed to take over our world. We were told to worry about EVERYTHING! And when we weren’t worried, we heard on the news that we should be! So far 2021 isn’t much better at alleviating any of my concerns. In fact, I have gone from being worried I might get sick and die to an even greater concern that I am loosing my freedom to choose to be sick.

Knowing the truth helps alleviate worry. Back in Sep 23, 2020 the CDC released an update saying that individuals are more likely to survive the virus after contracting it. And if you’re over 70, the survival rate is nearly 95%. Age groups of 0 to 19 have a 99.997% chance of survival.

I tend to look at life with faith and I am learning to search out truth and not be satisfied with just following along because everyone else is doing something. I am thankful I have lived in a country that has allowed me that freedom. My concern is that this freedom to choose what is best for me could quickly be taken away under the guise of being concerned for my good.

So, what do you do as a Believer in Christ when you find yourself letting fear and worry take over your thoughts and even your behavior?

Last year, and even now this year I have been reminded over and over again that I have to listen to and depend on the voice of God to steady my fears. The Lord is in control. He is the only one that can dispel worry for me. The Bible actually says it is a waste of time to worry. The Psalms are great for helping me focus on God’s greatness and how He sees me and fights for me.

Psalms 56:3 says “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” Psalms 34:4 says “I sought the Lord and He heard me and delivered me from ALL my fears.” Psalms 118:6 “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”. I like to read Psalms 23 and apply it personally to every worry I might have. It is full of examples of how He promises to help us.

  • He is our protector.
  • He never leaves us.
  • He is our provider.
  • He will guide us and show us what to do when we are confused.
  • He promises to be there for us no matter what is happening around us and no matter what situation we find ourselves in.

As a child, growing up in Nigeria back in the 1960s there were many times when fear wanted to rule our life. Fear truly can be “so thick you can cut it with a knife”. If my parents hadn’t known that God sent them there with their four young children, they wouldn’t have lasted for one week much less ten years. They trusted God for healing when we were sick and for guidance when we were in the middle of a civil war. They had to overcome fear with faith and act accordingly. That is what I am asking God to reveal to me in these days. How do I act in faith and not fear? How do I let my life show more of God to this world? Let my faith and confidence in whose I am, be seen by my actions.

Should I be worried? No. God is in control and He will show me what to do.

It’s Time to Stand in Faith: A Story of God’s Provision

In the last few weeks I have been asking myself questions like “how do I stay strong in this fear driven world?” And “what if I get this virus?” And even “what if my income is affected by this shaky economy?” I’m sure you have found yourself asking the same questions. There is so much unknown and the ‘what ifs’ are constantly on my mind.

This is when talking to myself becomes a healthy thing to do.

I remind myself of other seasons of uncertainty that I have lived through (and survived) and have seen God provide for me and my family in miraculous ways. The Bible is full of these kinds of stories but they are even more real when they are your own and come out of real-life experiences.

When I was 16 I lived in war-torn Nigeria with my missionary parents and three brothers. We were in our third term when we found ourselves caught in the middle of civil war. There was a time when our area was taken over and we were cut off from all communication with the outside world for 6 weeks. (This was before computers and cell phones, so being cut off was really that.) Our families back home didn’t know if we were dead or alive. Altogether there were three families, consisting of 6 children (the youngest being four years old) and 8 adults. Stores were closed and food was scarce as there were no trucks bringing in supplies. The roads out of the area were blocked so we had no other recourse but to stay put.

My dad and several of the men decided to drive 30 miles into the nearest town. We knew there were some American oil bases in the area and we hoped that some of their people had remained to watch over their equipment.

When they arrived at the American oil base a large man in his Texan hat came out to greet them. When it was explained that we lived 30 miles away and there were children and more adults the man said: “If you guys are staying around then you need to come with me.” They got in his Land Rover and he drove them to a huge warehouse. As they drove up my dad said: “This is the warehouse I saw in my dream last night!”

Long story short, we were given as much food as we wanted and also given a movie projector and movies to watch (that was well before home movies were even heard of). I remember eating canned pie filling and steaks, food that was fit for a king (in my mind)!

Not only did God provide but He provided more than we needed. It was a miracle provision I WILL NEVER FORGET!!!

As a young adult, this made a huge impression on my life. I can honestly say that I have never doubted that the God I serve will ever let me down. I know He loves me and cares not only for my needs but goes above and beyond my needs to take care of me. He is a miracle-working God and it’s during seasons like we are living in that He shines. If we can trust Him and depend on Him and remind ourselves that He will take care of us, I believe we will see and hear miraculous stories of provision and healing come out of this season. The scripture below challenged me today.

Stand in faith for yourself, your family, and your friends.

PS. I would love to hear some of your stories of God’s goodness during this season of quarantine and self-distancing as we share with each other in the comments. Look for the good and let’s encourage each other!

WHAT A CHANGE OF VIEW CAN DO……FOR YOU!

After being gone from home for over a month I can honestly say, “There is no place like home.” It’s not really about the great view from the window of my home but a sense of peace and contentedness. The change I want to talk about today isn’t so much visual, it has to do with our ability to look at our surroundings with a new perspective.

You can be happy and content in any place as long as you are willing to look through the eyes of faith and hope and a belief that goodness is in everything.

There is a story that is found in the Old Testament that really explains what I’m trying to say. It’s found in 2 Kings chapter 6. The King of the Arameans was out to kill the prophet Elisha because he was telling the King of Israel the Aramean’s battle plans every time they were planning an attack. So Elisha and his servant were hiding out in Dothan and the Aramean King found out and sent “a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city” vs 13. When Elisha’s servant woke up that morning, the first thing he saw was them being surrounded by troops and horses and chariots. They were “everywhere”. Quite a visual, right?? Fear, at this point, would be an appropriate reaction, quickly followed by run!!

Elisha, on the other hand, saw something totally different than his servant. He told his servant not to be afraid because “there are more on our side than on theirs!” vs 16. Elisha asked the Lord (prayed) to open his servant’s eyes and change his perspective. The next time he looked up he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots on fire. Elisha’s next prayer was to ask the Lord to blind the troops attacking them. When the Aramean King saw Elisha he didn’t recognize him and Elisha told him he had the wrong guy and lead him right to the King of Israel!! Both prayers had to do with seeing. One had to open his eyes and the other needed their eyes blinded.

To have a perspective of faith there are some things you need to close your eyes to and others you need to see through eyes of goodness and hope!

When I was about sixteen years old living in Nigeria with my family, we were driving through a large city in our VW van and found ourselves in the middle of traffic, blocked in at all sides. We had no idea there was a riot going on and people with large sticks and clubs had stopped cars and were yelling and hitting and breaking windshields, AND THEY WERE COMING TOWARD OUR CAR!! Needless to say, my three brothers and I and my mom were terrified. I remember sitting in that van holding my breath while the crowd came closer and closer. My dad and mom began to pray that our van would be invisible to the crowd and that we wouldn’t have a hand laid on us. AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED! It was as if we didn’t exist. They went right by us yelling and shouting but didn’t even touch our van. I didn’t see any ‘army of God’ surrounding us but I’m sure He blinded those people to protect us.

My perspective in this season of life is one where I know I have to choose every day to look through eyes of goodness and faith and hope, believing that this season is going to be filled with more fulfillment and purpose than ever before. I’ve had to close my eyes to what I don’t have and open my eyes to what I do have. When I look with a renewed perspective I realize goodness is always there! Going ‘back’ is not an option. Forward in faith is what I choose.