Category Archives: Encouragement

Flashback Friday 10

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Flashback Friday 10

We’re ending the first month of 2018 already! It may be the new year, but if you’re like me, you’re becoming weary of the winter weather. The Flashback for this week is from almost exactly 20 years ago. It was published in the January 29, 1998 edition of the weekly Chester County Independent in Henderson, TN. Reading back over it, I was reminded of the beauty of our amazing landscapes and how “the very stones would cry out” to glorify God in our silence (John 19:39b ESV).

As you read this week’s column, take a look around you at all the beauty you have in your life. I know it’s cold, and we’re getting tired of it, but spring will come. Rejoice in the good things of this season of our lives.

How Majestic is Your Name

tops-of-pine-treesWhat I love about pine trees is their majesty. They stand straight and tall, boughs uplifted to the heavens, as if in praise to the Almighty. When I look at a pine tree, I am reminded of one my favorite choruses by Michael W. Smith, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. O Lord, our Lord, we praise Your name. Oh Lord, we magnify Your name; Prince of Peace, Mighty God; O Lord God Almighty.”

The words to this song make me want to stand up tall as the trees and “shout unto the Lord with the voice of triumph.”

I recently experienced my first ice storm, and saw pine trees in a new posture. As I drove to work, admiring the exquisite adornment of the countryside, I thought what a symbol of worship the bowed pine trees were. Instead of arms raised high, the trees were bent under the weight of the ice, as if in humble subjection to an awesome God.

ice on pine

As I think back on the memory of those ice-laden trees, the words of another chorus overflow my heart:

“I love You, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you. Oh my soul, rejoice. Take joy my King in what You hear. May it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.”

Flashback Friday 9

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Flashback Friday 9

It is so interesting for me to dig back and reread these 20-year-old columns. It’s fun to be reminded of the things my kids were saying and doing, and to recall my own struggles and fears and know how far I have come. The first fear expressed in this column from 1998 is fear of speaking in public. Now, as a public speaker, I don’t even remember having that fear.

But some things stay the same. At the end of this column, I quote Psalm 27:1 and call it my mantra. A few short months ago, I started my first doctoral level class. We were asked to share a scripture that would help us through the obstacles to come in this four-year intensive online program. I shared the same verse that gave me courage when I left home for the first time, when I became a parent, when I went through divorce, decided to leave a secure job for the unknown, and now embark on earning a doctorate.

I hope you enjoy this flashback. And please, share in the comments what helps you move through your fears to find victory on the other side of the battle.

A Child Shall Lead Them

I’ve heard it said that children “inherit” their parents’ fears. If that is true, the real Geoffrey Taylor and Jeanna Elizabeth Alexandra Cooper probably will become subjects of a switched-at-birth-made-for-TV movie.

So far, my children show no signs of fear of speaking in public. At a recent trip to the doctor’s office, 3-year-old Geoff kept the entire waiting room entertained with tales of “The Magic School Bus,” “Kratt’s Creatures,” “Arthur,” “Bananas in Pajamas,” and “Barney.”

They show no concern for what others may think of them. Last week 23-month-old Jeanna walked up to a stranger in the bank and informed her, “I’m Jeanna. I’m pretty!”

Financial worries are alien to them as Geoff begs for Matchbox cars from “the Wal-Mart Car and Gum Store,” and Jeanna continues in her baby adopting endeavors.

Fear of bodily harm completely surpasses them as their fingers and toes web together and gills sprout behind their ears.

As they perform somersaults and mid-air flips, jump from counter tops and slide off of desks.

As Jeanna shouts, “Higher, higher,” and pumps her legs in the “wing.”

As they hug, kiss, and pat every dog, cat, lamb and goat they see.

At the end of eighth grade, I had my first “panic attack.” I stood in front of the “enormous”Torrington High School and begged Christ to return before I was forced to encounter such fearsome obstacles.

I was certain I’d be taken up in the rapture before I had to face the frightful four – high school, college, marriage, and childbirth. In just 11 years, I succeeded in all four, and the only downside has been those extra 30 pounds I still blame on my children.

Before I left home for a large college in Florida, I discovered a verse that has become my mantra. Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

My husband and I tell the kids that they have nothing to be afraid of because God and Jesus always are with them and protecting them. God says “fear not; for I am with thee,” (Isaiah 43:5a).

Maybe Geoff and Jeanna have more to teach me in some areas than I have to teach them.

 

Flashback Friday 7

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Flashback Friday 7

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a Flashback Friday.  I’ve recently met several deadlines and enjoyed a few big events, and now find myself in a bit of blissful reprieve for a few short weeks before we jump into the holiday season. So I thought I’d take some time to schedule some Flashback Friday posts.

Today’s post is the very first column I ever wrote.  I showed it to my editor, Sue Hite, at the Chester County Independent and asked for feedback. I thought it was funny, encouraging, and meaningful, but what would Sue think? I sweated it out until she told me to run it on the Obits/Religion page as the first installment of my own weekly column.

Reading it back today, I still think it’s funny, encouraging, and meaningful. I wrote this the year I turned 30. Twenty years later, I’m balancing on the brink of celebrating the half century mark of my life on this planet.

Guess what…

I’m still making the same mistakes.

I think I’m making them a lot less often, and with a lot more grace and style, though.  But  those wayward Israelites still annoy me.

Not My Virtue

Patience is a virtue. It’s just not one of mine. Of course, life has written a daily lesson plan directed at teaching me, but I don’t have the patience to learn.

Last year I decided to read the Bible cover-to-cover, however, I lost patience with those thick-skulled Israelites. Moses must have been sure he was leading a group of toddlers. He had to be exhausted after a day of repeating,

“I told you not to build a golden calf!”

“No, you can’t have chocolate chip cookies, you’ll just have to be satisfied with manna from heaven!”

or “No, we can’t go back to Egypt. They want to kill you!”

“And so do I,” he must have whispered under his breath. His ears probably were burning from 40 years of hearing, “Moses, are we there yet?”

I became so disgusted with God’s chosen people. They just never got it. They made the same mistakes over and over. God punished them, and they did it again. They were brought out of slavery, famine, and the slaughtering of their children. Instead of praising God for His mercies, they turned their backs to him. Rather than publishing the first edition of 101 Ways to Serve Manna, they threw up their hands and said, “We can’t stand another day of freedom and free food falling from the sky, we’re going back!”

The Israelites had their every need provided, but they had no patience for the inconveniences they faced along the way.

Of course, I had to go and have an epiphany – bright, flashing lights and arrows pointing to my head. If the story of my life is ever written, years from now someone may read it and exclaim, “The moron! She kept making the same mistakes.”

The Lord has allowed me enormous blessings, but I stumble over the small stuff and scream in impatient tantrums. I’m still not a virtuous woman in the area of patience, but now instead of shouting, “I can’t take it anymore,” I pray, “Lord, let me learn from the Israelites.”

Sad, But Not Broken

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Sad, But Not Broken

I was there when she first wriggled her little embryonic toes. I felt her first attempts at somersaults as she safely floated in warm amniotic fluid. I was there when she took her first breath, took her first steps, said her first word. I was there for the first lost tooth, the first haircut, the first day of school, the first blush, the first boyfriend, the first job.

But I wasn’t there when she first pledged herself in marriage.

My 21-year old daughter decided to get married on a Friday night. Just her, her boyfriend of two years, and two of their friends. No parents. No grandparents. No siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, life-long friends.

I wasn’t excluded from this momentous occasion because we aren’t in relationship. It wasn’t because we had a fight or because she was bullied into it by her new spouse.

They both have a bit of social awkwardness, and they are both very private about their relationship. They don’t hang all over each other, make others nauseous with their googly eyes, or post private moments on social media. For months, they had been saying they just wanted to do a small, private ceremony. Because they didn’t want to hurt their parents, they were trying to accommodate. Once they made up their minds to get married, they wanted to do it right away. Their original plan was to do a small ceremony in my backyard with just parents and grandparents, to be followed by a reception in a few months, allowing everyone to coordinate their schedules. Finding a time that worked for even this small group was proving frustrating for the couple.

So, I removed myself from the equation.

I gave her my blessing to get married without me there to witness it. Her grandparents are hurt and angry. My mom told her I didn’t deserve to have my heart broken. When my daughter asked me to respond to this I told her she knew there would be repercussions for her decisions, that I didn’t understand the need to get married so quickly and have an after-party, but that because I love her, I had decided to give her the gift of removing myself from her stress. That gift, however, did not come without a very high cost. I told her I was sad, but not broken. I’ve been broken before, and this is nowhere near the same.

Sure, I sat on my couch that night and cried for hours. I recalled her standing on the kitchen counter counting, “one, foo, free!” as her brother stood yelling, “Jump! Jeanna, jump!” and I caught her two-year old body in midair. I remembered her in a tiny pink tutu taking control of the 3-year-old dance class, “I’m Jeanna and I like pink and purple. What’s your name and favorite color?” I thought of her taking four years of Junior ROTC in high school, winning Best Female Athlete and being asked by Marine recruiters to come and teach their female recruits how to do proper pullups and pushups. And I thought about her always standing up to and for her older brothers, as well as spending months in Africa ministering to orphans and graduating college as a certified welder.

She is a strong woman. This is a person who has rarely taken the path society expected of her. So why would I expect her nuptials to mirror everyone else’s? Besides, how many times have I expected God to remove Himself from my plans so I could have what I wanted? How many times has He taken a step back and allowed me to work it out on my own while He lovingly stood ready to listen and lead? And while I was weeping about my momentary sacrifice of love for my only daughter, I remembered that my sacrifice is pale and paltry in comparison to His sacrifice of His only son for our eternity.

So, I dried my eyes and I prayed for her, and for her new husband. I asked God to protect them, to bless them, to teach them, and grow them in strength and honor and commitment. Because even though I was there for so many of her firsts, God was there for her befores, He was there for her marriage vows, and he’ll be there for all of her todays and afters.  He loves her more than I do, and He has sacrificed far more than I. If I’m willing to trust Him with her eternity, I have to trust Him with her todays.

Flashback Friday 6

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Flashback Friday  6

Hello my handful of readers! I know it’s been far too long since I’ve posted anything, but that is about to change. I hope you’ll enjoy all new Flashback Friday posts sharing columns I wrote back in the 1990’s for the Chester County Independent and start looking forward to regular posts on Tuesdays. If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe to the blog and share with your friends.

Now, for this week’s Flashback Friday…

I was out picking chokecherries the other evening, enjoying the cool breeze right before the sun began to set. I stood on tiptoe, reached with my left arm far above my head, grasped a branch and bent it toward my right hand, and remembered the times when I would pick blackberries with my family. This memory reminded me of one of my earliest columns…

Picking Blackberries with God

Many People believe that children are unable to understand the concept of God. After all, few adults really grasp the realities. Jesus told His disciples that it is best to have the faith of a little child. Obviously, we adults don’t give kids enough credit.

The last time my sister called, she asked my 3-year-old son, Geoffrey, what he’d been doing. Around a mouthful of blackberries he said, “us been picking blackberries with God.” A couple of days later we were again picking blackberries and Geoff looked up at me and said, “God’s pickin’ blackberries with us.”

Another popular Geoffism is “God sleeps with us and keeps us safe with monsters.” Every time he says it, he says “with” monsters, not “from” monsters. That’s a pretty important concept. The Bible tells us that God will deliver us from all evil. It never says He will keep the evil away, only that He will protect us through it.

Nearly everyone is familiar with the 23rd Psalm, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” (verses 4 and 5). Even in death, God is with us. In the midst of our enemies (monsters), God sets us up at the head tables and fills our cups to overflowing with love and protection.

My sister and her family will be visiting us next week. We’ve been asking Geoff what he will do with his cousins. He says “Jordan and Geoff throw rocks in the mud and pick blackberries with God.”

Whatever it is we’re doing, picking blackberries, throwing rocks, or sleeping with monsters, God is with us, keeping us safe. God promises, “Lo, I am with you always.”

No one has ever told Geoffrey that. I guess he already knew.

The Gift of Encouragement

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The Gift of Encouragement

There is a girl. Her name is … 

Denise.

She told me a few weeks ago that she misses my blog posts. Then she said that she is NOT a writer – that if she were to write something it would start, “There is a girl. Her name is…” She thought she was being self-deprecating and proving she can’t write. Instead, she was being an encouragement to me, as usual.

I’ve been struggling with frustration. Frustration about my plans being changed by the decisions of others. Frustrations about my weakness in sticking with a life change for better health. Frustration with a seemingly never ending sinus infection, work stresses, missing my boys, writer’s block…

So when I saw Denise at church this morning, I ended up spilling my litany of woes. She listened, empathized, shared her own struggles, told me she drew inspiration from me in areas she sees strength, hugged me and invited me to sit with her in church. After the service, she wished me a blessed week and said she loves me. I arrived at church this morning tired, running late, and feeling a bit fragile. Denise’s love and encouragement inspired me to change my perspective. She is a true blessing in my life.

Today was a yucky, rainy, snowy, cold day. It would have been so easy to stay home and vegetate, but I didn’t, thankfully. Denise wasn’t my only encourager today. I had a number of uplifting conversations with long-time friends, as well as a moment when our associate pastor took time to pray with me before I slipped into Community Group nearly 40 minutes late.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT) reminds us of the importance of community: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…”

We were made to be in relationship with others. While we need time alone to process, regroup, refresh, etc., we need others in our lives who will love and encourage us. Rather than going into another work week feeling depleted, I’m heading into this Monday emotionally refreshed. Sometimes it’s easier to feel sorry for ourselves, or to embrace the “misery loves company” mentality and surround ourselves with negative people. But as we start a new week, I’d like to challenge you to reread Hebrews 10:24-25 and think of ways to motivate one another. I’d love to hear from you. Please share how someone encouraged you recently, or how you showed love or did a good work.