A Thanksgiving Tribute to Judy

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Thanksgiving lunch will be a bittersweet celebration this year because it is the first holiday without my mother-in-law, Judy. She loved the holidays and had a flair for cooking and decorating. Judy was devoted to her family, and she spoiled us rotten. Everyone’s favorite recipes have always been on the menu. My preferred side dish is oyster casserole, and my father-in-law loves dressing cooked so long that it appears to be almost burnt. My brother-in-law insists on corn and coconut cake, while my husband favors pumpkin pie. No one’s special request has ever been ignored.

holiday_table1My parents both passed away a decade ago and so I realize our bruised hearts will never completely heal. When the savory flavors of Judy’s recipes melt into the tender places of our hearts, it will be difficult to swallow. I know Judy would insist that we maintain traditions for the sake of my grandchildren and then for the next generation. And so I will do my best to honor my mother-in-law and offer her favorite foods to our family with the help of my daughter. She grew up cooking by Judy’s side, and I am positive she can replicate her grandmother’s menu better than I.

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Although we’ve suffered a great loss, we’ve been given the gift of my grandson, Jacob. He arrived on Palm Sunday. It was upon his birth that I realized how severely Judy’s health was failing. For years, she struggled with diabetes and heart disease. In May, we were informed that she was suffering from congestive heart failure and that our time with her was coming to an end.

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I sorted through hundreds of family photos searching for just the right one highlighting Judy wearing a beautiful apron, cooking in her kitchen. I failed in this endeavor because Judy was usually the one taking the pictures. This is a snapshot of her last Christmas with my oldest grandson Matthew. The two were enchanted with each other.

The holidays are a tender time for those of us who have lost loved ones. I am comforted by the fact that Judy knew Jesus and accepted him as her savior. I do not doubt that she is feasting at the King of King’s banquet table. Close your eyes and attempt to imagine it. The crystal, the food, the wine and the light. Judy loved to savor good food, and I’m sure she’s taking delight in tasting creamy mashed potatoes with butter and tiny sweet peas. I can smell the yeast rolls smothered in butter. The turkey is moist, tender and roasted to perfection. And the coconut cake is something out of this world. She is not worried about diabetes and blood sugar levels. Her suffering is over.

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I know I’ll never be able to offer a meal as delicious as Judy’s because she had a gift for the art of cooking and entertaining. But I’ll do my best to practice the lessons she taught me. She valued family and traditions and cherished time spent together enjoying good food. My turkey will probably be dry, and my rolls won’t come close to being as tasty, but I will prepare every dish with love.

I give thanks to the Lord for Judy. I mourn her loss, but I am comforted by the knowledge that someday we will be reunited, and we will enjoy a feast together again with other family members who have gone on before us.

Psalms 30:5… Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

#FamilyThanksgiving #Weepingmaytarry #joycomesinthemorning

 

Book Review: All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti

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I  recommend All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti. I’ve searched my mind for an author of similar style but have failed. My heart ached for Becca Morrow as she struggled with the baggage of her family’s sins. I loved getting to know Becca’s one friend, Geneva, a wise Christian lady who paves the way for Becca to start fresh in a new city, in a beautiful home. But there’s a catch. Becca is hired to be the caregiver of Geneva’s sister, Aurelia, who is suffering from dementia. You can’t help but love Becca and her sweet temperament as the she deals with the ever changing mood swings and personality changes of her charge. Aurelia can be sweet one moment and caustic in the blink of an eye. Anyone who has dealt with a loved one suffering from this debilitating disease would be thrilled to find such a compassionate caregiver as Becca. There’s romance as Isaac, Aurelia’s son, falls for Becca and there’s more than one surprise plot twist that will keep you turning the pages. You’ll cheer for Becca as she overcomes the obstacles to finding love and happiness.

#allmybelonging #Cynthiaruchti #dementiacare

Blessings or Woes

I am the third child of four and often wonder how much influence birth order has on my personality and instincts. When I was a child, I didn’t instigate conflict. However, if one of my siblings punched me, I would strike back. I’m an adult but the rebellious child still lives within me. I know my weaknesses and recognize my sinful nature.

On Sunday, there was a vote at my home church that has caused much controversy. Many from our congregation, including me, are struggling with self-control. In an effort to remove myself mentally from the situation, I opened my ESV Bible, and the pages fell to The Beatitudes.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3. There is no doubt that my spirit is weak and that I need the Holy Spirit for guidance.

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Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Mathew 5:4. I grieve that my heart is unruly and regret grieving the Holy Spirit.

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Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5. Few friends would describe me as meek. It will take a miracle to make me meek. It’s a good thing I know Jesus can perform miracles. I pray for faith to trust God’s will to be done, not my will.

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Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6. I yearn for righteousness and pray for my character to reflect Jesus’ righteousness. Jesus is the only righteous one. If I had to stand before God on my own, I would have to borrow words from Isaiah  “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a woman of unclean lips;”

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Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7. May God give me a heart to love, forgive, and show mercy to all, just as Jesus has shown mercy to me.

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Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8 I ask that God purify my heart, soul and mind and to refine me by the fire of the Holy Spirit. This prayer scares me because I know how much work God still needs to do to mold me into the servant I need to be. But I pray this prayer because I trust Him and I know that He loves me.

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Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9. I pray for discernment to encourage peace. I pray for the ability to avoid conflict.

Bible Group Praying Together

I wish I could live out the Beatitudes.  I know that if I follow God’s word, then I will have a blessed life and so I will try harder to live in peace with everyone. I cannot serve two masters, and the choice is mine. I can choose to have a blessed life or suffer the woes of Matthew, Chapter 23. Anytime I see a ‘woe’ in the Bible, I know that I need to “whoa’ and consider my life, my thoughts, and actions. I am thankful that God reminded me of the Beatitudes on Sunday and for reminding me that it’s not important that my will be done but that His will be done.

 

#Woeisme #mercy #blessed #beatitudes

 

Treasure

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I was putting my house back in order following an afternoon of keeping my three-year-old grandson, when I discovered his jacket in a chair. I picked it up and frowned at the heavy weight. Then I noticed an ear of corn protruding from the pocket and laughed. My fingers dug into the depths of the pouch and pricked my finger. “Ouch,” I cried and pulled out a turkey feather. I remembered my grandson’s cry of delight when he had discovered the plume on the walking trail. He had snatched it up and examined every strand on the spine. Then he ran the black wisp across the bridge of his nose and smelled. I smiled as I recalled his study of the simple turkey feather.

My investigation of the recesses of the pocket also disclosed two soybean pods along with hickory nuts and acorns. The most surprising find was a single cone-flower that should have been destroyed by the early frost.

I gathered up his treasure in a plastic bag and placed it inside his barn where I found shelled corn his miniature wagon, hitched to his pocket-sized tractor.

I sighed as I remembered the time when my son had played with these tiny toys. I regret that I can recall few Sunday afternoons when I took the time to walk the woodland path behind our house with my children. I was too busy with housework that had piled up during the week, planning meals, or organizing the calendar for our many scheduled activities. We used to have a dog who would run in circles chasing her tail. Around and around she would go at a dizzy pace. That was my life.

Puppy dog on green grass

I realize my mistake of chasing after things that were not important. And I will not spend precious time mourning the loss of moments I cannot reclaim. Instead, I will be thankful for learning the lesson to take the time to collect treasure: sweet memories of time spent with people I love, and serving the Lord.

As you reflect upon today’s pursuits, what one memory stands out as a treasure? If you can’t recall a precious moment, then I hope you’ll be intent on creating one for yourself tomorrow. My hope for you is a better future, a future filled with treasure that will not fade.

Womanhood With Purpose

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A Lesson from the Persimmon

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Have you ever tasted a persimmon? I pass an old persimmon tree thriving in the fencerow every day as I walk my dogs. I’ve been watching and waiting for the fruit to mature for weeks. Two weeks ago, the persimmons looked ripe to me. The skin was yellow. We’d had a light frost, and the smell of decomposing leaves was on the breeze, so I plucked a round orb and studied it. Carefully, I peeled the skin off and plopped the fruit into my mouth. I spit it out faster than a fly fleeing the fly swatter. I wanted to scrape my tongue. Both of my dogs sat on their haunches and looked at me as if to say, ‘Dumb.’

I knew if I waited long enough, my reward would be sweet. Last week I picked another smooth fruit, expecting a reward. Again, my tongue blanched at the bitter taste, and I rushed to the spring to rinse my mouth.

I’ve learned that a persimmon is ripe only after the form is soft, almost mushy. Today, I picked a fruit that looked ugly, almost withered. I hesitated and studied the split skin. Should I try again? I looked down at my dogs; both were sniffing the ground for fallen fruit. I carefully, slowly, peeled back the skin and tasted the sweetness I remembered from my childhood.

Was this fleeting reward worth the bitterness I’ve suffered? Jesus may wonder the same about us. True spiritual maturity takes time, storms, peaks and valleys. My shell may be worn out and withered before my spirit is all pleasing to God.

The persimmon has a beautiful flavor when it reaches maturity. I pray that God will have the same patience with me as he did with his disciples. In the last days of Jesus’ life, they were arguing about who would be the greatest. I’m sure he sighed in disappointment as he must surely do with me. With so many people waiting to hear of Jesus’ love and forgiveness, I cringe as I consider the petty things that cause me to stumble. Like the bitter persimmon, I am still green. I pray that God will remove all bitterness and sin from my thoughts and action and replace them with love.

“You shall love the Lord your God withal your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 30-31

#LovetheLord #spiritualmaturity #persimmon

Book Review: > Greater Devotional: A 40-Day Experience to Ignite God’s Vision for Your Life by Steven Furtick

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I rcommend this devotional for anyone stuck in a rut of mediocrity. Each daily devotional features scripture, Bible reading, and prayer focus. Mr. Furtick encourages the reader to listen to God and his plan for you. This little book is full of simple truths that we often overlook. I underlined many passages, but I my favorite is from day 15, “Everybody wants a miracle, but few want to do the work to prepare for the miracle.”

Another passage that caused me to pause and reflect was on day 21. “And what He has put inside of you is all you need to accomplish all that He’s called you do to do.”

Greater Devotional is not a ‘feel good’ book. Many passages will leave you feeling uncomfortable if you have a ‘bare minimum’ or ‘good enough ‘attitude in your service to God. This devotional encourages you to give it all you’ve got and then some.
#Greaterdevotional #Stevenfurtick #devotional

Book Review: Magnolia Market

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Judy Christie’s Magnolia Market will leave your mouth watering for a buttered biscuit and another ‘Trumpet and Vine’ novel.

It appears the only type of luck Avery Bouchard has is bad. The story picks up a year after the accidental death of her husband. Her in-laws are rich, and they have a grudge against her. With a family like Avery’s in-laws, who needs enemies?

At first glance, Avery appears to come from a world of high society and cotillions. But looks can be deceiving. She’s the only daughter of widowed missionary. This young woman doesn’t mind rolling up her sleeves and making the best out of a bad situation.

I loved Magnolia Market and recommend it to readers who enjoy stories that feature strong heroines, southern charm, quirky characters, complex families and small town living. If you haven’t read Judy Christie’s book, Sweet Olive, read it first. Magnolia Market will stand on its own, but why miss out on another great read.

#greatread #trumpetandvine #judychristie #bookreview #christianbook #magnoliamarket

A letter from Jackie Layton

One of the best results from attending the ACFW conference was making new friends. Today I’m sharing a letter from a talented writer, Jackie Layton. Some of her writing accomplishments include:

2014 Genesis Semifinalist – Romantic Suspense
2014 Daphne du Maurier – Second place Inspirational
2013 Writers of the Storm Category 5 Contest – Second place Romance
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Hi Shelia,

I recently returned from a week at Oak Island, North Carolina. My husband and I love to walk the beach as well as ride bikes through the neighborhoods. I noticed two things. More people fly their American flags as well as North Carolina flags. And people are not as stuffy. I’m not sure why people are more patriotic along the coast. But I have a few theories on why they may be more relaxed.
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No matter how much time I spent fixing my hair, the minute I stepped outside either the humidity or the wind ruined it. So why bother? The time I’d save every day by not fixing my hair would increase my relaxation and decrease my stress.

It’s so nice at the beach, I want to go outside and exercise. At home in Kentucky, I often force myself to go outside. There’s always something interesting to see at the beach. A dead shark washed up on the beach. Two fishermen accidently caught a stingray and had to figure out how to get it back into the ocean. Evidently that thing was super heavy. Children build sandcastles, shells crash to shore in the tide, people learn to surf, kites fly high above the sand, and folks speak to strangers as they walk by. The beach is my favorite place to go to recharge, and thankfully God gave me a husband who feels the same way.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest.” As I sit out on a beach and feel the warmth of the sun shine down on my face, I think about the Son of God and how much he loves me. I look out at the humongous ocean, and it’s hard to conceive how Jesus could love me enough to die for my sins. But he did. He died for you and for me so we could spend eternity with him in heaven.

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To read more about Jackie, check out her blog at
http://jackiesbackporch.blogspot.com

Stumbling Block or Stepping Stone

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Earlier this week I read an anonymous quote, “The difference between a stumbling block and a stepping stone is how you use it.” I love this quote. An easy life does not translate into a well-lived life.
Would you consider the loss of a job a stumbling block or stepping stone? My job loss led me to a new career which I love more than anything I could have imagined. Of course, I was terrified, but that fear drove me to my knees and to a closer relationship with God.

The loss of my mother was one of my biggest stumbling blocks. I was angry and acting like a child having a temper tantrum. Mom’s untimely death left me reeling. I’d lost my anchor. It took many months for me to realize I had hold of the wrong anchor. Only Jesus can save me.

A friend recently shared with me about her battle with depression. She has turned what could have been a stumbling block into a stepping stone for helping others who suffer from the same condition. Check out www.servingjoyfully.com. Would you consider a difficult diagnosis a stumbling block or a stepping stone? The choice is yours.

I’m on a journey, and so are you. I pray that you will find a way to turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones that lead you to God’s plan. Because there’s no doubt, God has a plan for you. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11.

#stumblingblock #steppingstone #overcomingtrials

A Place Called Hope by Philip Gulley

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Philip Gulley’s A Place Called Hope made me laugh out loud so many times my husband looked up from his football game and asked, “What are you reading?” The book is funny but also has a serious side. Mr. Gulley bravely broaches a sensitive issue in the Christian community and caused me to consider my own stance. I decided that perhaps I should focus more on loving my neighbor than judging my neighbor. I was cheering for Sam when he said, “I tell you Mom, I’m tired of this nonsense. If the meeting wants to fire me for praying for two women, so be it. I’m not sure I want to even pastor a meeting where that would be an issue.” I have always liked Sam Gardner and his patient wife Barbara. Those who enjoy stories with small-town charm will enjoy A Place Called Hope. I’ll have to forgive Mr. Gulley for his old-fashioned description of Ms. Ruby, the town librarian. However, I must admit I laughed so hard my side ached as I read the passage. If you have not read the Harmony Series, start with Home to Harmony.
#philipgulley #aplacecalledhope