NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Pondering Pets

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile, it’s been a rough week. One of my cats got very sick and stopped eating. We took him to and from the vet multiple times and he ended up in an animal hospital over the weekend, but finally we had to just face it. He wasn’t going to pull through and it would be better to just put him down. I’ve never gone through this with a pet before. We used to have indoor/outdoor cats so they usually just disappeared or got hit by a car. We never had to be the ones to make the decision. And now I can see how hard it really is, and how drawn out the process is. We kept having hope that he would get better that different treatments would work, but they didn’t help. And even though I’ve cried more in this past week than I have in… a long time, I’ve also learned something.

I think sometimes how we love our pets can be a picture of how God loves us. It’s not a perfect picture, but there are several similarities. Like a pet owner, God owns us, we belong to Him and He wants what’s best for us. He loves us even when we make messes or need help and He delights in giving us good things that we enjoy. A book I’ve been reading called “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller goes into this further. In it I’ve seen how much God loves and cares for us, like a shepherd does for his sheep.

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And although we may get annoyed by that incessant meow, bark, or whimper, God never tires in caring for us and wants us to speak to Him in any circumstance through prayer. And though we may not know exactly what our pets are trying to tell us, God knows your very thoughts and exactly what you need.

And I think that just like I enjoy when one of my cats shows me affection and wants to be near me, get petted and maybe sit on my lap, God enjoys when we just want to be near Him and spend time with Him and sit in His presence.

So anyway, hope you are reminded of God’s deep love for you by my random thoughts today.

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The Discipline of Fasting

I’ve been a Christian for awhile now, and I’ve grown up learning how to read the Bible, memorize verses, pray, give offerings, serve, and use my gifts for God’s glory. But fasting has often seemed like an optional spiritual discipline. Occasionally I would fast because of some event or maybe for a big decision. And when I went to a Lutheran College, I learned more about long-term fasting for Lent and that it doesn’t always have to be food that we give up. It could be giving up certain forms of entertainment or things that distract you from God.

But more recently my church spent a whole year reviewing each of the spiritual disciplines, including fasting, and for some reason it just clicked that I should be practicing it more often. I mean it’s a discipline, so shouldn’t I be practicing it consistently? My older brother has been a great example of fasting to me. He’s chosen to fast from food one day a week for the past several years. And I thought I’d try it his way. It definitely seemed more intentional to plan to do it once a week and more like a real spiritual discipline. So I decided that every Wednesday or Thursday, depending on which day worked better for me that week, I would try to fast.

Some days were harder than others. Sometimes I was driving all over town, or doing more manual work, and other days I was mostly on my computer, working from home. Some days I almost forgot I was fasting, others I was very hungry. Some days I ended my fast early, because of an unexpected opportunity to eat with others. But I’ve managed to be consistent, even through the holidays, to fast each week. And I’ve noticed something pretty cool that I want to share.

Instead of dreading the day I can’t eat, I look forward to it. It’s something I enjoy now because I’ve found it’s easier to follow God and keep a good attitude when I’m fasting. All those little things that happen in a day, that inconvenience me or prevent me from doing what I want, don’t seem as important when I’m fasting and relying on God’s strength. It’s easier to switch my perspective when I’m fasting and see the problems I face as opportunities to bless others and glorify God, instead of merely hassles that I have to get through. And I’m more at peace on those days, more aware of God’s presence with me and His strength sustaining me.

I won’t say every fasting day was great, or that I don’t look forward to when the fast ends at suppertime and I can finally eat with my family. But I’m starting to see some of the spiritual fruit that comes from obeying God in the discipline of fasting. So I thought I’d share my experience in case anyone out there is thinking about fasting more regularly. God really has our best interest in mind when He gives us instructions, and just like the other spiritual disciplines, fasting has helped me grow closer to God.

So if you would like to join me in fasting today, or this coming week, I hope this post encourages you to give it a try and see what God does. But whether you do or don’t, I hope you have a great week.

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Thankful

Me and my Mom

This month always reminds me that I should be more thankful and not take things for granted. But I am particularly thankful this year because my family has been going through some hardships recently and the response from my family in Christ has been so amazing.

So to start the story, back in October, the 23rd to be exact, my mother woke up with very bad back pain that was shooting down her right leg. She has experienced something like this before, and thought as long as she went to the chiropractor, everything would be fine. So she went, and used all her normal tricks to relieve the pain, but it didn’t go away, it just kept getting worse and worse.

The next day the pain was bad enough that she couldn’t drive and it was torture to walk. So we borrowed my grandma’s walker and I drove and then wheeled her to another chiropractor appointment. He ordered an x-ray and MRI scan since the pain was still not going away. We got the x-ray but had to wait a few days for the MRI.

The next day was probably one of the hardest days of my life. I woke up to a phone call from my mom. She was ‘sleeping’ downstairs in our living room, since going up the stairs was too painful. She hadn’t slept and she was in the worst pain I’d ever seen: crying, screaming, and breathing like what a woman does when she’s in labor. She said she couldn’t take the pain anymore so we were going to the doctor’s office so they could give her something for the pain. She didn’t even want the walker or a jacket because it was cold outside, she just wanted to go. So I drove her to the doctor and we ended up using a wheelchair, since she couldn’t walk without crying. They gave her shots and a prescription for the pain. And finally, after she got the pain pills, she was able to get some relief.

The next days were a whirlwind of more appointments and prescriptions and finding out from the MRI that she had a herniated disk that was pressing down on the nerve. Adding this to the normal routine of caring for my grandma, working for my Dad, driving my sister to her appointments, and serving at church and I was feeling pretty overwhelmed.

But God is faithful and my church family is amazing. First, one of my friends at my small group offered to bring a meal. Then one of my oldest friends called to check on me and let me just talk and cry and see her cute baby on the phone screen. Then as time progressed, more and more people said they were praying for me and my family and checked to see how we were doing. One family even set up a Care Calendar for our church to bring us meals.

It was a little weird for me to be the recipient of help, because I’m usually the one giving it, but it made me realize just how blessed I am to have so many friends and brothers and sisters in Christ who care. So I am thankful for all of them today. And I’m happy to report that my mom is making progress. The injections, and chiropractic treatments are slowly helping. She can now walk for short distances and today she drove a car for the first time since all this started.

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Sutherland Springs Church Shooting

Yesterday and today I’ve been struggling through the latest shooting and it’s aftereffects. This one hits much closer to home than any one before. Some of my friends know people who were murdered. They’re sad, hurt, confused and I don’t know what to say. So I wrote this poem/prayer to God just now. I hope it brings comfort to someone out there.

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God there is so much pain,
Every time I turn around there’s another victim,
another reminder that this world is not alright.

Why? The question I hear again and again.
How could He let this happen?
Where is He? It hurts so much.

In the midst of all the pain and questions,
part of me knows it’s in Your hands.
You have a plan,
This too shall pass.

And as I search the past, Your Word, the lives of ones before,
I see the same questions and cries.
Why Lord Why? Why have you forsaken me?

Jesus cried it on the cross,
My friend cries it in a small Texas town,
My brothers and sisters in persecution cry it too.

And You say,
I have never forsaken or forgotten you.
I was there, I am here.
I will never leave, I will never let you go.
You are mine and you must trust Me.
For when you cannot see, cannot understand,
I can.

I hold the world in my hands,
Each breath, each story, each purpose is Mine to command.
I see the connections, the problems.
I’ve felt the pain, the sorrow, the anger.
And I have not left you alone.

I entered in.
I took the full weight that you could never carry.
So don’t try to carry it now. Don’t despair.
Give it to Me, give it all to Me.
Trust Me now in the darkness, in the pain, in the hurt.

And wait.
Just you wait.
I have better plans in store.
A hope that does not disappoint.
A future that is secure.
And one day you will see what I see now.

That I bring life from death, rejoicing from sorrow, and good from evil.
I am the God who saves and nothing can stop me.
No death, no evil, no disaster, no sorrow,
No depression, no sickness, no plan.

So trust me now.
Let me hold you now.
And watch and pray.
I am coming soon.
And you too shall be changed.

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Poem for Victims of Natural Disasters

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There are so many people going through such a hard time right now. Fires in Montana, flooding from Hurricane Harvey in Texas, flooding in India, mudslides in Sierra Leone, another hurricane on the way to hit islands in the Caribbean and possibly Florida. With all of these disasters it can be hard to find hope, to find peace, to even know what to do.

I’m so thankful that it is not on me to save the world, to solve all the problems or figure this all out. God sees everything, each person in need, each problem, each fear. And He promises to go with us through the troubles and provide for us in them. He has unlimited resources, patience, love, and hope. And we can trust Him to do what’s best.

I hope you join me in praying for all of these people affected by disaster and look for the opportunities He gives to get involved and help.

Before I share the poem, I want to share a verse from Isaiah. It’s one that has helped me and many of my friends through hard times in life, whether from an actual natural disaster, or difficult relationships, transitions, or problems in life.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by your name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;”           -Isaiah 43:1b-3a

And here’s the poem I had written for Flood victims several years ago. I think it still applies today.

A Victim’s Prayer

Why do I sigh at night?
Why is this load so heavy?
I can’t be sure what’s right.
Will You lead me with Your light?

Show me the path at my feet,
make clear the terrain unseen.
Give me the courage to move,
to take a step towards the new.

O God I can’t see the end.
There’s no way that it will mend.
The night is heavy and still.
Please just give me the will.

Help me move, help me go.
Teach me to trust, and to know
that despite my fear
You are always here.

Bring me home, bring me home,
and remind me that I’m not alone.

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Response to Disaster

This weekend has been full of anxiety as Hurricane Harvey headed towards Texas and began to affect more and more people’s lives. As a Christian, I believe that our prayers do have an effect, so most of my response to this storm was with prayer. It’s amazing to me how God let’s us enter into other people’s and place’s problems through prayer. And it was amazing to see how God answered several of our specific prayers about this storm. After the initial hit, we heard that no lives were lost due to the storm, at least for that moment and only one was due to a fire caused by the storm. It also weakened from a Category 4 down to a Tropical Storm very quickly. Unfortunately, many people were still affected by this storm and especially by all the rain that came with it.

So I moved on not to just praying, but being a part of the Body of Christ’s response to this disaster. I donated to the Austin Disaster Relief Network or (ADRN), a group of churches in Austin that have prepared for disasters and are ready to respond when one occurs. And I encouraged my friends and family to donate as well. If you would also like to donate, here is a link to their donation page: https://adrn.org/disaster-relief/hurricaneharvey/  The funds go towards providing essential needs for families affected by disasters and towards long-term care and rebuilding.

I also had the chance to join ADRN at a nearby Red Cross Shelter for evacuees from Rockport. These people had been in Rockport during the storm and their homes were destroyed. They were wandering the streets when the National Guard picked them up and bused them up her to Austin. Many of them had nothing at all, except the clothes they were wearing. Many didn’t even have shoes.

It was such a blessing to me to be able to provide some needed items to these people. We gave out hygiene kits, and gift cards to Walmart so they could go shopping and get some new clothes and shoes and whatever else they needed. We even had several people help organize getting people to and from the nearby Walmart. Many volunteers sat and talked through what had happened so these families could start to process what they’ve gone through. And if they wanted to, we prayed with them.

I mostly was running errands between groups but one of my favorite moments was when one of the volunteers asked me to go get some colored pencils for a family with 2 kids. One was a toddler and the other was an elementary age girl. When I went to the supply area to get the pencils, the lady there said we had toys to give to the kids too. So she followed me back to the family and we gave the kids toys, coloring books, a Barbie and their faces just lit up. The parents were so thankful, it looked like they were tearing up as they told their kids to tell us thank you. I hadn’t realized till that moment what a difference an act of kindness can mean to a family who’s lost everything.

So anyway, if you’ve been watching these storms and hurting for the people affected, don’t let that be the end of it. Do something to help.

I just read this article about all the ways you can help the people affected by this hurricane, so if you need some suggestions read this: http://www.austinmonthly.com/Austin-Amplified/August-2017/15-Ways-to-Help-Hurricane-Harvey-Relief-in-Austin/

And remember that even when what you can do seems small to you, it can be huge to the person you’re helping.

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#LifeMatters

Cemetery, Black, Death, Halloween, Mystery, Dark

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I’ve spent the last week on vacation, where I got to visit relatives and see a life size replica of Noah’s ark and visit a museum dedicated to validating the Bible as true and reliable. On my way home yesterday, I found out about the tragedy our nation has experienced with more deaths and murder and violence. It was heart breaking. I saw post after post on Facebook where people were trying to identify with those who were hurting by saying #BlackLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter and #AllLifeMatters.

Honestly, I didn’t know how to react to all the pain and suffering and fear that people were experiencing. What do you say? What can make a difference? I didn’t want to sit back and do nothing, but honestly, what is someone supposed to do when people keep dying and nothing seems to stop it?

I ended up praying, a lot. By myself, with family, for friends that were scared and for everyone affected. As I did this, I was reminded of these verses:

“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:10-18

Our enemy isn’t each other, it is Satan. He has come to steal, kill and destroy and he is doing a good job of that right now. But we don’t fight him in our own strength. We speak truth to counter his lies, and we share the gospel of hope to counter his hopelessness, and we pray and place our security in Christ.

I don’t know where you find yourself in the middle of all this, but God has been teaching me this week that He is the Creator. He made every single living creature with a purpose. Each of our lives matter, no matter what our profession or skin color. We are all extremely valuable and loved by the One who made us. We are not here on accident and we are not made to hate and kill. We are made to be like Him: to love, serve, give, comfort, encourage, protect and be there for each other.

All this evil in the world is horrible, it is wrong and should be punished in the harshest way. Even if I’ve never shot anyone, I still have messed up, lived selfishly and rebelled against God’s design. I, like all of us, deserve to die, to pay the price for sin and rebellion.

But God’s Gospel is true and the good news does bring hope! Jesus died in my place, in your place. He paid the price for sin, for ALL sin. And He conquered it and rose from the dead.

I am alive in Him and with His powerful help, I can be a part of changing this world. There is no policy or program that will fix all the evil in this world. There is only the cross and He who died on it and rose from the dead. He is the only answer and my only hope.

So I cry out to Him today, for our country, for our people, for my friends and neighbors, my sisters and brothers. For He loves us more than I can imagine, so much so that He took our place on the cross and offers hope freely to any who come to Him.

That is my only answer to tragedy.

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Why Do I Spend Time Alone with God?

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Growing up in a Christian household and in a Bible church, I have learned from a young age to have a “quiet time” with God. As I’ve grown up this time has gone through the phases or being a chore, a learning experience, a comfort, and a joy. It’s also changed as I’ve grown and matured. When I first started having a time by myself with God, I was focused on reading the Bible. That seemed to be the whole point. I was supposed to read God’s word in a quiet place and maybe make some notes about what I had read. It was similar to doing homework that my teachers had assigned.

But I clearly remember one year in high school I decided to read the whole Bible in one year. My Bible came with a handy little reading guide in the back, and I used it to read the whole thing. Well, when January 1st came I had done it, I had finished reading the whole thing. I got out my Bible again and my little sister asked me, “Why are you reading that? I thought you finished it.” And I realized that reading the Bible is a lot more than just reading a book. The point isn’t to read the whole thing and then put it back on the shelf. It helps me get to know God, it shows me what He’s like:His character and feelings. And it shows me what needs to change in my own life.

Well, on top of this reading of God’s Word, I had the clear impression that I was supposed to pray, or talk to God during my “quiet time.” Kind of like God’s Word was what He said to me, and prayer was my response to Him. So most of my time with God involved me reading, then righting down notes, and then writing out a prayer to God.

I found that after that year of reading the whole Bible, that if I ever took a day off from reading, life just seemed more difficult. I didn’t have a good attitude about things, and I didn’t feel right. I also remember a few specific times when I was really upset about something and decided to pull out my Bible to read, and found a sense of comfort and peace.

Thus I learned that a time alone with God wasn’t so much a requirement to being a Christian, but a way for me to handle all that life threw at me. No matter what crazy project I had to finish, or big decision that had to be made, or drama that was going on with a friend, I could tell God about it in my time alone with Him and know that He was listening. He cared, and as His Word promised again and again:  I was not alone, He was in control, and He was going to work everything out for the best.

This past month, I have been learning more about spending time alone with God. Our church has been practicing the discipline of Prayer and Solitude. I might have thought that my past years of learning meant that I wouldn’t get much out of this discipline, but it has been exciting for me to see how much joy and happiness is found in God’s presence. During this month I got to spend 10 days setting aside 30 minutes to just talk (out loud, which is not normal for me) to God about anything and everything. It was amazing how much more at peace I felt and how much closer to God I was after these times. Then early one morning I got to go to a park and just sit in God’s creation, marveling at all He had made and what it showed me about Him. During this time I also read His word without being in a rush or facing distractions. I had no where to be, no responsibilities to be mindful of, and I truly enjoyed just being with God.

In addition, this whole month I’ve been reading a book called “Happiness” by Randy Alcorn. This book has been almost a daily reminder of how much God loves me, how He wants me to enjoy Him and be happy in all that He has made and given me. It was truly a blessing to be reminded constantly that God wants me to be happy and can actually give me that true happiness in Himself. And spending time alone with Him is a big way of how I enter into that happiness.

So anyway, that’s what God has been teaching me recently, and I thought I’d share it. Maybe this can inspire you to spend some more time alone with God and enter into His happiness and joy.

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Lessons from Haiti: The Hidden Joy in Waiting

In case this is new for you, I am currently posting a series of blogs that detail my recent trip to Haiti and the lessons I learned from going there.

Haiti bus

Day 2: The Hidden Joy in Waiting

Building on the lesson I learned from traveling on the previous day, I awoke Saturday morning prepared to meet every obstacle with prayer. I was also bubbling with excitement that today we would finally make it to our destination. We arrived at the Florida airport without a problem, then found our way to an empty check-in station. We discovered that we couldn’t check in till the plane from Haiti landed, since the people who were on the plane, were the same ones who would check us in. This began one time of waiting, which would be repeated throughout the day, and in actuality, throughout the trip.

However, during this time of waiting, or delay, I was pleasantly surprised to find a source of joy. You see, in the present day culture of America, there is a lot of emphasis on instant gratification. Google, texts, YouTube, Hulu; they all let you get what you want now. Whether it’s the answer to a question, or a missed episode of a TV series, there is not a lot of value in waiting. But waiting in the airport, I found how nice it is to not be in constant motion. On this trip I purposefully left my cell phone at home, so I could engage with what was going on in the moment. And during this time of waiting, things began to happen.

Other passengers, also taking plane to Haiti, were gathering in the airport, and we began to strike up a conversation about why they were going to Haiti. We found out one family was hoping to adopt a child from the country and that they were going to visit the orphanage where the child lived. And we were also able to share with them about our purpose in going; setting up a radio station for the area, and running a soccer camp. We even prayed together, even though we had just met these people. It was a beautiful moment.

Once the plane landed, we began to move again, proceeding from check-in, through security. However, God wasn’t done with our time of waiting. He soon provided another opportunity to be still. You see, we were planning on taking this huge 80 pound box with us to Haiti. It had equipment for the radio station we were setting up. However, the airline wouldn’t allow such a heavy, and cumbersome box aboard. So a few team members stayed behind, in the check in area, to wait for a friend in Florida to pick up the box. The rest of us proceeded through security and to a Burger King for a hurried lunch.

Then, it happened; a security threat. There was a suspicious bag left at the check in area, and all of the people there, including our team members who had stayed behind, were forced to evacuate. Now our team was separated, and our flight was supposed to leave in 15 minutes! Remembering what I had learned yesterday, we all stopped to pray that God would take care of us, and bring our team together again.

We went to the gate for our plane, and were quite relieved to hear that our plane would not be taking off without our other team members. In fact, the people from Haiti who were running the check in were also stuck with everyone else who had been evacuated. So  we had another large chunk of time to just sit and wait. It was another delay. But also another opportunity. And so we began to share testimonies in our group. We shared stories of how we had started following Jesus and gotten to the point that we were now at in our lives. It was a real time of team bonding. And part way through, the few team members who we had left at check-in, appeared! God had provided a way through the airport, even with all the security block offs.

Eventually we were able to board the plane, and fly to Haiti. I had been to Haiti before, so the 3rd world country was not surprising to me. The biggest lesson I had learned that day was: God can turn times of delay and waiting into times of joy as community and relationships grow.

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