Saturday, October 23, 2021

Fear Breeds Fear; Faith Breeds Faith

 I was watching Ellie yesterday when we were taking a walk.  She was walking along with the white tip of her tail swishing confidently in the breeze.  Then she saw the big dog.  It was across the street, held on a leash by it's owner.  

A non-fearful Ellie :)
I have to admit Ellie handled it well.  I knew she was triggered by the sight of the dog, but she never barked.  She did pull at the leash a bit, but she sat when commanded.  We turned around and went in the other direction but she continued to look back at the other dog for a while. Seeing this trigger set off her fear.  A few minutes later she was sniffing something in the grass and a leaf blew across the lawn.  She jumped and started as if a Great Dane had just come along side her.  Her fear of the big dog had set off the fear response to almost anything.

I have learned with Ellie that if I can interrupt that response, get her to sit and then calm down, she isn't as reactive and fearful for the rest of the walk.  In fact, things which would usually trigger her, such as runners and strollers, can pass by without a single peep.

I have known the reactivity of fear myself.  I recently have been dealing with a pinched nerve in my neck.  Seeing the doctor, I was speculating he may order an MRI.  Now, saying I don't do well in an MRI tube is quite an understatement.  Ellie's reaction to the big dog would look like the essence of serenity compared to me opening my eyes inside the tiny chute of the MRI machine.  I think that was the one reason I put off going to the doctor for so long.  My mind conjured up all sorts of scenarios involving my reacting to the claustrophobic situation.  My fear bred even more fear.  

The doctor did offer an MRI if I wanted one (he obviously has never seen me get an MRI,) however, he stated it really wasn't necessary for a diagnosis.  The bone spurs were obvious on the X-Ray of my neck.

So often in our lives the thought comes to us, what will we do when this happens? Then all our fears multiply as their brothers and sisters come to join them.  It seems one fear quickly becomes two, then ten, then twenty.

Shortly after my first disastrous attempt at an MRI twenty-five years ago, I began to feel temptations to fear all sorts of situations regarding constraint or small spaces.  It got to the point I felt this fear even putting on a seat belt.  Glen helped me so much to see that I wasn't afraid of the constraint or the tight space, but rather of the fearful reaction to it.  He encouraged me in those instances to turn my mind away from myself and think of others, and to pray for them.  It helped me tremendously in the fearful moments to come.  I knew that while the fear I felt was real, my escalating heart rate was real, the thing I feared was not.  The reaction I was so fearful of was a potential thing, not an actual thing.  I learned that faith in the One who says to us, "It is I, be not afraid" brought a calmness to my soul, and through that, to my body.

Just as fear breeds fear, faith breeds faith.  The more we choose to trust the Lord to be all we need in every fearful situation, the more we will find Him absolutely faithful and trustworthy.  The more we know Him to be faithful and trustworthy, the more we will turn to Him in every fearful moment we face.  We know Him to be true, mainly because the Scriptures say so,

"Jesus saith unto him, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life:  no man cometh unto the Father, but my Me' " John 14:6.

We also know Him to be faithful because, again, the Scriptures say so,

"And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war," Revelation 19:11.

But there comes a time in our Christian lives that we know Him to be "Faithful and True" because we have experienced just that.  We have known His truth, we have experienced His faithfulness to us and we know that in every situation we face, no matter how devastating, painful or fearful, if we trust Him by faith, He will be who and what He says He is.

He is always speaking to us saying,

"Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid."

Mark 6:50



Thursday, October 21, 2021

Ginger

 Ginger and I have had a difficult relationship.  She is aloof, standoffish and rude.  She doesn't respect boundaries and she has no respect for nature.  Once when an over exuberant puppy Ellie tried to say hello to her, Ginger slashed Ellie's ear.  

Ginger is a cat.

This is not the actual Ginger
But now that I know more of Ginger's story, I am more sympathetic.

My relationship with Ginger started off badly.  I didn't know if she lived nearby or was one of the many feral cats that grace our neighborhood.  All I knew was she liked to sleep in our flower beds.  Not just in the flower bed, though, she preferred to sleep on top of the flowers.  I can't tell you how many impatiens, hostas and vincas she has totally flattened by choosing them as her bed.  

That was until Richard.

When Richard and Liz moved in next door, I noticed Ginger no longer slept in my flower bed. I rejoiced even though I didn't know the reason.  In fact, it wasn't until many months later I found out why.  One day I mentioned Ginger to Richard and referred to her as "your cat" (because I don't really know her name, I just call her Ginger because she is a ginger-striped cat.)

Richard quickly told me that she wasn't his cat, but that she hung around their house a lot.  He also told me he had begun leaving an outside storage room door open so she could go in there at night and be out of the weather.  I suspect there was probably some cat food involved in that as well.  So Ginger stayed close to their house and became, for all intents and purposes, Richard's cat.

Ginger no longer using my flowers as her mattress softened my heart toward her.  Then hearing Richard had given her shelter, and I'm sure food, helped to change my attitude even more.  Now, I am not a cat person, in fact, Glen and I are both allergic to cats.  But I feel sympathetic toward Ginger.  Especially since Richard passed away suddenly last month.  Animals are so sensitive to the feelings of their humans, I know she must be aware of Liz's grief. Surely, Ginger misses and grieves for him as well.

So this morning when Ellie spotted Ginger across the yard, and her hackles raised up as they do each time she sees Ginger, I reminded her that Ginger is "okay".  Knowing Ginger had my stamp of approval, Ellie settled down without even a bark, though she didn't take her eyes off of her.  Perhaps that ear still stings a bit.

The point is, everyone has a history.  Everyone has issues, problems and scars.  Most of the time we have no idea what the people we encounter are really experiencing.  Is that person aloof, standoffish and rude?  Perhaps they are just hungry and wondering where they will sleep that night.  Do they not respect boundaries or nature?  Perhaps they are distracted by continual pain.  Do they slash out at our attempts of friendship?  Perhaps they have been ignored or hurt by others so deeply and for so long they have forgotten the sweet taste of friendship and love.

When we encounter "Gingers" in our path, let us give them the benefit of the doubt.  Wouldn't we like the same done to us? Let us remember we don't really know what is going on in their lives.  Let us respond with kindness and love, even if we receive none in return.  

"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, 
bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, 
meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, 
and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; 
even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.  
And above all these things put on charity,  
which is the bond of perfectness."
Colossians 3:12-14.




Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Lessons Learned

 Dan Fogelberg wrote a song entitled, "Lessons Learned," in which he wrote the line:

"Lessons learned are like bridges burned, you only need to cross them but once." 

Now that line fits well with the tune of the song, but I find it is most often not true.  In fact, in my own life I have experienced many times when I learned a lesson, and later needed a refresher course.

My guitar is a perfect example.  I purchased it in November 2015 and started learning how to play.  But in 2016 I began to experience pain in my left thumb joint. (The left hand was the hand I used to make chords on the guitar.)  In 2017 I was diagnosed with arthritis in the base of my thumb and in 2018 I had surgery on the joint which involved removing a bone.  All of this effectively put an end to my guitar lessons.  The surgery was followed by a painful,ten month rehab, but now the joint is relatively pain free and functional.  However, the "knowledge gained" as Dan Fogelberg mentions in his song, was lost.  My fingers remembered nothing of the chords I had tried to learn.   A refresher, or perhaps a restart course was necessary.

There are things in my career I find also need re-learning.  Emergency procedures rarely used need to be re-studied, practiced and reviewed to make sure we know how to do them when the time arises.

No where is this concept truer to me than in my Christian life.  I have had lessons that I thought I had mastered, but later realized I needed a deeper understanding, a fuller realization of it in my practical life.

For instance, I know that the Lord is with me wherever I go.  I know He purposes to lead and guide me, to strengthen me, help me and to cause me to walk in His will.  However, there are places to go that are frightening, places that are painful, places that are unfair, places that are just bothersome for some reason. I know that He will go with me there and be all that I need Him to be in that moment, but still, when I step into that place I must remind myself that He is there.  I must make the choice that He has allowed this moment not only for my good, but for my very best.  I need to refresh myself on the truth of the lesson.

When I learned to play the piano at 13 the first hymn I ever played was "Trust and Obey."  I played the melody line and a couple notes of the accompanying chords.  Later, after many piano lessons, I was able to play the hymn just as it appears in the hymnal.  After years of playing the piano, I could play not only what I saw written, but improvised based on what I knew of the chord progressions and harmonies.  Same song, same lesson, only more, deeper and better.

Our Christian lives are paths of growth.  The same song, the same lesson, only more, deeper and better.  The more we know the Lord and His Word, the more we can fully understand our lesson for that day, that year, that place.  Each relearning increases our knowledge of Him.  Increasing our knowledge of Him deepens our understanding of the lessons. And forever we will be learning of Him.

"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  
To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen."  
2 Peter 3:18


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

America's Funniest Home Videos

 It really would have been a great moment to catch on film.  At least that's what the elderly woman watching me thought.

It was a pretty day and I needed to sand a counter-top I was putting on some cabinets in our Sun-room.  I wanted Ellie to be outside with me, so I took her 30 foot leash and  put it on the Power Tower under our carport.

Now if you are not familiar with a "Power-Tower", it is a tall, large, heavy piece of exercise equipment used for pull-ups, dips and other types of torture. With the handle of her leash over the handles of the Power-Tower, I felt she was safe, but could still sniff around as much as she wanted.  I hadn't taken into account her power, her speed and her reactivity.

She was off in a flash, barking the whole length of her 30 foot leash.  An elderly woman was walking her dog along the sidewalk and Ellie wanted to meet this new dog.  In her speedy rush to make a new friend, the leash pushed against the grill, knocking it over.  One wheel rolled out of site, ashes flew against the driveway and Ellie kept pulling.  I was between Ellie and the Power-Tower.  

I wouldn't have thought she could do it, but Ellie pulled hard enough on the leash to pull the Power-Tower over.  Of course, you see where this is going.  The Power-Tower fell on top of me.  Ellie was still straining at the leash, which was now in my hand, because the lady and her dog had stopped to watch the festivities and Ellie still wanted to greet the dog.

"I've seen that on a video before," she stated with a broad smile.  I don't know if it was the strong beagle pulling on me, or the weight of the Power-Tower now resting on my arm and hip, but I did not find the same humor in the incident that the woman did.  In fact, I was highly annoyed.  I wanted her to take her dog out the the line of Ellie's sight, so she would calm down, but the lady seemed to be totally enjoying her live version of "America's Funniest Home Videos."

I managed to push the Power-Tower back into place, extract Ellie's leash from the legs of the grill and take her inside.  Glen came up about that time and took care of replacing the wheel on the grill and cleaning up the ashes.  I assessed my  injuries, which were not nearly as significant as they felt.

After I  wiped off my bruised pride I realized the lady with the dog probably had no idea that the weight of the Power-Tower was painful.  Or that having a pulling beagle on a leash is no fun.  I think she really enjoyed the whole escapade. She may have chuckled about it all the way home.  Perhaps she had fun regaling the incident to her friends.  And that's okay. 

 As Mr. Bennett said to his daughter, Lizzie, in Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice,"  "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?"

If my little accident, which caused no lasting injuries and simply bruised on my arm, brought a moment of joy, a chuckle of laughter to this woman's life, then I am happy to have brought a smile to her face.  Did I think so at the moment?  Of course not.  I reacted the way most of us would have reacted.  But upon reflection, I think it probably did look pretty funny.  There is no harm in being laughed at, but complaining and bitterness are damaging to our souls.  Better to laugh with the lady and find some enjoyment in the moment myself as well.

"I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed."  
Psalms 77:3

"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, 
with all malice:  And be ye kind one to another, tenderheared, forgiving one another, 
even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."  
Ephesians 4: 31,32


Monday, October 18, 2021

Not Yet

A few years ago a friend gave us two satsuma plants.  Even without fruit, these plants are lovely.  They have glossy, dark green leaves which grace the side of our northern fence.  

The first year we planted them we of course did not expect any fruit.  We knew the plant was putting all its resources into building a root system.

The next year we had 17 little white blossoms on one plant.  The other plant, a different variety, had only a couple of blossoms.  Tiny little specs of dark green oranges followed the blossoms, smaller than a pencil eraser.  I was so excited...we were going to have oranges!  But that was not to be.  Somehow, whether by birds, or by simply falling off, the tiny oranges were gone.  I was so disappointed.  But the plants were healthy so we just continued to wait.

This year both plants had blossoms and both have made fruit.  One plant makes bigger oranges, but has fewer of them.  The other plant is prolific with small oranges.  At first all the oranges were dark green. (Sounds sort of oxymoronic, doesn't it?)  But slowly, very slowly, the dark oranges have been changing.

First there was just a hint of yellow in the green.  Then it began to grow.  After a while it seemed the oranges were changing color as we stood and watched them.  Now they are mostly yellow.  But yellow is not orange.  They have come a long way since those tiny dark green orbs appeared, but they are not ready to eat, not yet.

One can perhaps best see the cycles of life in produce bearing plants.  Plants grow, they bloom, the blooms are pollinated, a fruit appears.  Then the fruit must mature to full ripeness.  I must confess I am looking forward to taking my grandchildren Ewan and Evelyn out to the backyard so they can pick their own oranges. (I doubt my teenage grandchildren, Jack and Emma, will be quite as thrilled as the five and three year old.) But I must wait until the oranges are truly orange and the fruit is sweet and full of juice. There is no joy in a bitter, tart orange.

As I watch the transformation of our first crop of oranges, I can't help but look back over the transformation that has slowly happened in my own life.

"Therefore if any  man be in Christ, he is a new creature:  old things are passed away; behold all thing are become new."  (2 Corinthians 5:17.)

When I trusted in the Lord Jesus as my Savior, the old me "passed away" and I was made new.  Just like those tiny eraser-sized oranges which were a new creation.  But they weren't sweet and full of juice. They weren't ready to eat, not yet.  Neither am I yet sweet and full of juice.  I am not ready yet.

"And be not conformed to this world:  but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:2.)

As we grow as Christians, the Lord is in the business of transforming us, transforming us "to the image of His Son," (Romans 8:29.) It is a process.  Sometimes it seems like it is a slow process.  Sometimes it seems it is a very slow process.  But one day the tiny green orb of who I am will be a fully ripe Satsuma, full of sweetness and juice.  Just as  with me and our oranges, one day my transformation will be complete and the Lord can pick me off the vine and hold me with pride in His creation.


"Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."  
Philippians 1:6








Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Just Talk - or - The Communication of Relationship

Ellie at her window

 Our beagle Ellie and I have something in common.  We are both slow to wake up in the morning.  This is a stark contrast to Glen, who wakes up like a piece of toast being ejected from the toaster.  He is bright-eyed, cheerful and ready to go from the beginning.  Ellie and I are not.  We are slow and sleepy for a while.  It is best to give me a cup of coffee and leave me alone for thirty minutes or so in the morning.

It has been my habit of late to wake up and go to our Living Room to really wake up.  Glen is already there, sitting at his desk writing. I sit in a chair across from a long window so Ellie and I can both look out.  She keeps her eye out for cats, strollers, runners and masked marauders.  I like to look at the grass and the sky and her.

It doesn't take long for her to come to my chair and ask to sit in it with me.  Yes, in her own way, she does ask for permission before jumping up.  Once in the chair, she lays her head across my lap and effectively paralyzes me.  It is a known fact of the universe that if your beagle is in your lap you cannot move. I don't want to move.  I want to rub her back, stroke her velvety ears and just love on her.  Slowly, we both begin to wake up and as I wake up, I talk to her.

I talk to Ellie all the time.  While she knows a good many words, and also knows a good bit of sign language (dogs can learn signs before they learn words, so sign language is a great tool for training) I realize she doesn't understand half the words  I speak to her.  But she knows my tone.  She knows when I am praising her and when I am correcting her and when I am just loving on her.  I know she understands when I am displeased with something she has done because she will come to me and very apologetically rub her face against me.

When we walk, I try to communicate with her through the leash.  A very gentle tap on it lets her know there is not enough slack in the leash. Moving my end of the leash to the right or left lets her know which side of the walkway is hers.  She communicates with me too.  She snuffles and snorts when she finds a really good smell, and I give her time to investigate and enjoy it.  

Ellie and I have a mutually enjoyable relationship.  We communicate.  Do we sit down over a cup of coffee and discuss the day as Glen and I do?  Of course not. (Although she does ask for a drop- or more if she can get it- of coffee each day, and would drink the whole cup if I were careless enough to leave her access to it.  She is, of course, a Davis.)  We communicate none the less.  There are times I can just give her a certain look and she knows what I want.  There are times, too, she will give me a look, perhaps accentuated with a slight whine, and I know what she needs as well.  While there is no give and take of verbiage, there is most definitely communication.  I enjoy it and I know Ellie enjoys it, too.

This reminds me of communication with our Lord.  Sometimes I think we just make prayer too difficult.  We impose rules upon it that I'm not sure the Lord intended.  Sometimes I think I would pray more effectively if I just talked to the Lord, not unlike how I talk to Ellie.  Like Ellie, He understands me even if I don't use words, He knows my heart.  Which is precisely why I don't need a special set of words or phrases when I pray.   I enter into communication with Him not to disclose something to Him that He doesn't already know, but to continue the communication of relationship.  

It's okay to just talk to the Lord.  By that I don't mean to infer we should be flippant or disrespectful in prayer, we are after all, entering "the throne of Grace" (Hebrews 4:16).  I wouldn't go to Windsor Castle and not be respectful to the Queen of England, I am certainly not going to be disrespectful to the "King of Glory" (Psalm 24:7.)
But let us think of prayer as a frequent and loving communication between our Lord and His child.  A flow of our hearts to His heart.  And like my sweet Ellie, He will communicate with us as well by His Spirit and His Word.  We will enjoy it and He will enjoy it as well.


"O my dove, that are in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let Me see thy countenance, let Me hear thy voice; 
for sweet is thy voice and thy countenance is comely."  
Song of Solomon 2:14



Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Switchbacks and Changes in Direction

A map of switchbacks on the AT
In hiking, there are often sudden changes in direction.  Sometimes these are planned to minimize the steepness of the ascent of a mountain.  This particular type of change is called a "switchback."  It involves going in one direction horizontally for a while, going up vertically a bit, then going in the opposite direction for a bit.  This is repeated once, twice, or multiple times depending upon the steepness of the mountain.  I dislike switchbacks, but I understand their importance.  They require a multitude of footfalls yet provide little changes in scenery.  I know however, I would greatly prefer them to climbing straight up the mountain. 

Sometimes obscure turns or route changes are necessary just because of the topography of the mountain.  Usually these are well marked to inform hikers a change is coming and to be on the look out for the right direction.

 There have been many moments in my life that represented a sudden "change in direction."

The first and most important happened when I became a Christian.  Up to that point I was an angry, defiant teenager.  I didn't like the constraints placed upon me by my Christian parents, my church, my school...well, by anyone.   Rules were chains in my eyes.  My sister used to call me a "non-conformist" and she was right.

Then on August 18, 1973 I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ not as a historical figure, or a figure from Bible stories, but as my Lord and Savior.  My life, indeed my self, took a dramatic change in direction.  I found I was a "new creature" indeed.

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, He is a new creature:  old things are passed away; behold all things are become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17.

I found I had a new heart and a new love for people.  It was the most important day in my life.

A couple years later I experienced a dramatic switchback.  It was less than two weeks before I was to leave for Auburn, Alabama to attend college there.  I suddenly decided I didn't want to go to Auburn and decided to stay home and go to college.  But instead of studying the same thing I wanted to pursue at Auburn, I decided to go into nursing.

Now, not only I had never wanted to be a nurse, I had never thought of being a nurse.  As a six-grader, growing up in the space-race age, I wanted to be an astronaut. Later as a young teen I wanted to be an anesthesiologist, then later a journalist, but never, not for one second, a nurse.  Where did that come from?

My problem however, was that I had not taken Chemistry in high school and I would need it to enter the nursing program.  So I had to take my first Chemistry class in college. That class is another story in and of itself.

I passed the course and started the nursing program the next year.  It was one of the best decisions I could have made for my life.  Being a nurse has been a rewarding career.  I have helped literally thousands of women have their babies.  It has also given me the freedom to join my husband in the services he conducts throughout the week.  

Another change in direction occurred because of my mother's job.  She was going to become the Director of a church Day Care where she worked as a teacher.  This would mean we would have to join that church.  Little was I to know that my future husband had joined the church only weeks before me.  We met there and within six months we were in love.  Within two years, we were married. 

Another change in direction occurred many years later when I resigned from the hospital where I had worked for fourteen years and went to work where I work now.  When I first stepped into my job at the new hospital, I felt as if I had come home. In the almost thirty years I have been there, I have met so many wonderful nurses and doctors.  So many of the nurses have become close friends whom I love and who love me in return.  It has been a joy to work side by side with them.

So what prompted all these switchbacks and direction changes?  They certainly didn't  generate out of my mind and thinking.  Another, wise and kind Person was influencing me in the direction He knew I should go.  The Lord knew I needed to be at that particular church to meet my future husband.  He knew nursing would not only be a career suited to my personality, but would also give me the freedom I would want to assist my husband.  He knew the hospital to which I was going would offer me friends as close as family.  He knew what I really needed, not what I thought I needed and He loved me enough to lead me in that way.


"And think ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, '
This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.' "  
Isaiah 30:21


  1. He Leadeth Me
  2. Joseph H. Gilmore

  3. He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
  4. O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
    Whate’er I do, where’er I be
    Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
    • Refrain:
      He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
      By His own hand He leadeth me;
      His faithful foll’wer I would be,
      For by His hand He leadeth me.
  5. Sometimes ’mid scenes of deepest gloom,
    Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,
    By waters still, o’er troubled sea,
    Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me.
  6. Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
    Nor ever murmur nor repine;
    Content, whatever lot I see,
    Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.
  7. And when my task on earth is done,
    When by Thy grace the vict’ry’s won,
    E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
    Since God through Jordan leadeth me.




medium;">iiiiiiiiokuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhjbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbn (Ellie laid her head on my keyboard and typed that so I decided to just leave  it there.)

Monday, October 11, 2021

Bloom Where You are Planted

Vinca plant not yet blooming
The little Vinca

Ellie and I had just returned from a walk around the block when I noticed it.  A small little plant which had pushed it's way through a crack in the driveway.  It was a Vinca.  The spot where the plant took root was directly below where a hanging basket full of flowering pink Vincas had been for the summer.  
Vinca, also called periwinkle, is a tough little plant.  It has shiny leaves and five-petal flowers that can be white, blue, purple or pink.  We grew it in our flower beds two years ago.  Since then I have seen little Vincas pop up here and there several times.  I also had one pop up in our flower bed this year about 15 feet from where they were last planted.  Its happy little face gave me so much joy, I just left it where it had decided to be planted.

These little plants are so encouraging to me.  They pop up wherever they can, they spread their pretty leaves and they bloom.  Sometimes they may show up on the edge of the garden or through a small crack in the concrete, but they bloom, even where they were not planted.

How I want to be like the little Vincas.  There are times we all find ourselves in some situation not of our own choosing.  Perhaps it is a difficult situation at work, or a health issue with which we are dealing.  Maybe its a limitation we wish we didn't have or something restricting other things we would rather be doing.  Whatever the concrete that covers our little plant, I pray we will all press toward the sun, reach our faces to the sky and bloom.  Our one little bloom may bring a smile to someone else's face, especially when we bloom through a crack in the concrete.

"Thou wilt shew me the path of life:  in Thy presence is fullness of joy; 
at Thy right hand there are pleasure for evermore."  
Psalm 16:11





The unplanted Vinca in the garden




 

Friday, October 8, 2021

Immersed

Appalachian Trail, north of Newfound Gap, TN
 Glen and I were talking the other day about the things we love about hiking.  I love the effort of hiking to the top of a mountain and being rewarded with a gorgeous vista.  While Glen likes the vistas as well, he more enjoys the moment by moment trek totally immersed in a forest.  

I, too, love to look all around me and see nothing but that which the Lord has created.  The sights, the sounds, the smells of the forest seem to have a way of renewing the soul.  The Bible tells us, 

"For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead," Romans 1:20.

Every aspect of the forest shouts out to us that God is alive, He created this world and He loves us more than we can ever imagine.  Every twig, every branch, every leaf, every mountain, every stream and river sing His praises and tell of His love.

Of all the senses the forest evokes, sight is probably the most profound, but sound is a close second.  When we first started hiking the Appalachian Trail, I envisioned I would want to listen to music as we hiked.  I made an extensive playlist I thought would be perfect and it included all my favorites. Of course it included "Appalachian Spring" by Aaron Copeland...how could it not?

But as we actually started hiking, I realized what I would be missing by plugging up my ears.  The gentle gurgle of a bubbling stream, the sound of birds calling out to each other, the crunching of leaves under our feet, the call of unknown critters and creatures on the surrounding hills would all be lost to me.  

Appalachian Trail, North of Damascus, VA

But it isn't just the sound and the sights.  The smell of the forest is wonderful. It has a fresh and old smell all at the same time.  Different woods, their leaves making a carpet over the trail, blend to make a potpourri of the woods.  With all my tree allergies, I was concerned about how they would be affected on the trail, but I actually seem to do better in the forest.  Almost to prove the point, in all our years of hiking, I have had only one migraine while hiking.

There is nothing quite like being "immersed in a forest," as Glen says. I agree and each time I leave the trail, I long to be back again.

But it also speaks to us of a different immersion in our lives, our immersion not only in God's creation, but in Him. 


"For in Him we live, and move, and have our being;" 

(Acts 17:28.)  


We are totally immersed in Him, but our earthly eyes cannot see it.  Our earthly ears are dull to His call, our earthly nose cannot fathom the beauty of His scent.  Whether we are aware of it or not, whether we respond to all He has placed around us to show us of Him, we nonetheless "have our being" in Him.

For those of us who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ, this is an incredible truth.  We are in Him and He is in us.  We are joined together, never to be separated.  

"...Your life is hid with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3.)  


Immersed indeed.


Appalachian Trail north of Hot Springs, NC






Thursday, October 7, 2021

Who is Training Whom?


Ellie, the day we got her
We have a year and a half old beagle.  As with almost all beagles, training her has been an experience.  Some say it is because beagles are stubborn, but I don't think that is true.  I think it is because beagles have an extremely powerful sense of smell.

I have read that the beagle's olfactory lobe in the brain is about 40 times as large as that of a human's. Their sense of smell is 1,000-10,000 times greater than our's.  So every time Ellie goes out for a walk, she finds some new thing to sniff to which I am totally oblivious.  Once her nose catches a scent, it seems the rest of her brain is shut off and all she is focusing on is what she smells.

This is where the heart of dog training comes in, moving their attention to the owner and away from everything else.  I want Ellie to think that I am the most interesting thing on which she can possible focus her attention.  This is not an easy task.

For one thing, dogs are not verbal creatures. (Sort of obvious, isn't it?)  And yet, we try so hard to train them with words.  The fact is, dogs learn sign language much quicker and easier than words.  So with Ellie, we use both. She knows many signs and it comes in handy when I want to give her a command, but don't want to interrupt someone or draw attention to the two of us.


Dog training also is both positive and negative.  By that I don't mean we punish Ellie, but that we must train her not only for what we want her to do, but we must be sure to not accidentally reinforce those behaviors we don't want to see in her.

Also, dogs usually have very short attention spans (unless of course chicken is involved.)  So to mark a good behavior, one must attach a marker within three seconds of that behavior. For us, this is saying, "Yesss, Ellie!" (And the extra s's on the yes are very important). 

So many things with dog training seem to be counter intuitive to humans.  Which brings me to my question, Who is training whom?  Is Ellie being trained, or am I?

Well, we both are being trained and it is important for me to realize that because the most important thing in dog training is to be consistent. The same thing, the same way each time.  Having said that, over the course of training a behavior it is necessary to increase the three "Ds". . .distance, duration and distractions.  What Ellie can do sitting in the den may not be reproduced as well in the Living Room with a guest present.  The distraction may grab her attention and keep her from performing the task I have given her.  All three of the "Ds" must be increased in training, and for us, it happens very slowly.

The components of Ellie's training are very similar to the components of our "training" in our walk with the Lord.  Distance, duration and distractions all play a part in how we grow in the Lord, only in a different way.

Instead of increasing the distance between us, when we speak of the Lord, we want that distance to decrease.  We are always the offending party here.  The Lord is "a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1.)  We are the one to turn our attention from Him to the other dog, the piece of chicken or the fast moving wheels (to use Ellie's most distracting examples.)  

Likewise with distractions.  We want to minimize the distractions that pull our attention, our choices away from the Lord.  Do I get frustrated, angry and feel despair reading a particular website?  Then perhaps I should delete it from my list of favorites.  Does a particular person frequently encourage me to make wrong choices regarding my walk with the Lord?  Perhaps I need to rethink my relationship with that person.  Do I spend more time scrolling down my feeds on social media than conversing with and reading about the Lord of the universe?  Perhaps I need to examine my choices with time.

All of us have "room for improvement" in these areas.  All of us have potential for growth.  And like our sweet Ellie, none of us has yet reached perfection in our behavior.  Thankfully, we have a kind and loving Lord who wants to lead us in the way we should walk and draws us nearer to Himself each day.

"Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning; 

for in Thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; 

for I lift up my soul unto Thee."

Psalm 143:8


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Blooming in the Sun

 


When Glen and I first started gardening, I noticed an obvious, but interesting fact.  Flowers grow toward the sun.  Our hanging baskets, which hang from our fence and carport will grow toward the sun to the degree that the other side will be almost bare.  To prevent this, Glen regularly rotates the baskets so each side remains full of blossoms.  Even in our flower beds, which progressively go from full sun to full shade, plants will lean toward the sun, sometimes at remarkable angles.  They know from where their life comes.

We are like plants in God's garden.  If we consistently expose ourselves to His light, we will grow and blossom.  If we do not, we will shrivel up and dry out.  

"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord:  walk as children of light:" (Ephesians 5:8).

There is no neutral, no idling place in our Christian lives.  We are either growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus or we are not.

He has planted us in His garden to bear flowers that only He can produce in us. We are to bear the likeness of the seed from which we have our life.

"For if we have been planted in the likeness of His death [Christ], we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection." (Romans 6:5.)

God provides the rain and the sunlight, but we must, like the flowers in our garden, turn toward that sun, we much face that which gives us life. Then even in a desert, we shall "blossom as the rose." (Isaiah 35:1.)

"I am the light of the world:  

He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."

John 8:12

 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

"His Way is Perfect"

 It has been 33 years ago on this date.

October 5th never passes without me reliving the heartbreak of that day, often without speaking about it to anyone.   But since it is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss month, I wanted to share our story.

It was my third pregnancy.  I had a positive pregnancy test, but my doctor was out of town for a couple weeks and the women at the office told me it was ok to wait to see him since I worked everyday with OB-GYNs, "in case something happened."   My other pregnancies had gone so well, I thought the chances of that "something" actually happening were quite remote.

Then one night at work I started bleeding.  Just a little, but enough to be concerning.  I spoke to one of the female residents (who would later become my OB-GYN) and she advised me to go to the office after work and be evaluated.

Glen went with me and we were both quiet on the way.  I kept telling myself it was not serious and everything would be okay.  That was until I looked up at the ultrasound screen.  I had seen enough fetal ultrasounds to know it was definitely NOT going to be ok.

The pregnancy was over.

Driving away from the office, I glanced through my tears at Glen and saw tears running down his face as well.  His heart was broken just as much as mine.  He offered to take me to see my Daddy, who was often a source of comfort for me, but I remember saying, "No, I want to see my Momma."

Once I reached my mother's office, she knew by my face there was a problem.  When I told her, she took me in her arms and hugged me for a long time and for a moment I felt like a child again.

But I had my own children to care for and I was concerned about how they were going to respond to the news.  But actually, at eight and six, they were more distraught over their pet goldfish, Henry, dying the same day, than the loss of a baby they had never seen. They were sympathetic, though.

One day I was sitting on the couch, I think feeling more tired than sad at that moment, and our son Noah came up to me and asked, "Momma, are you sad about the baby?"  That tells you everything to know about his tender heart.

All I have to remind me of that baby, which we were sure would have been a boy, are some congratulation cards we received, and then the subsequent cards of condolences, a picture Noah had drawn of the baby inside of me, and the pain in our hearts.

But as I wrote in the post about our precious beagle Sparrow's death (which you can read here), God "healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3.) 

If that pregnancy would have continued, we would have loved the child with all our hearts.  As I frequently say, babies bring their own love with them.  He would have been as special to us as Marie and Noah.  But he would have been the last.  We never planned to have more than three and there definitely would not have been a fourth.


Emmie as a toddler
That would mean there would have been no Emmie Rose.  The thought of that brings tears to my eyes...my life with no Emmie.  

Born three years after our miscarriage, Emmie was a joy to all four of us.  Her siblings were incredibly involved during the pregnancy and adored their baby sister after she arrived.  Noah was so enthralled with her that on the day of her birth, he refused to leave the room.  Even food could not tempt him away.  He was going to stay with his baby sister.

Emmie did not replace our other baby, but his loss made us appreciate her even more.  In bringing Emmie into our lives, the Lord did a marvelous work of redemption, of restoration and of healing.

We often don't understand how God works in our lives, how or why He allows some things to happen and other things to not happen.  I suspect there are some things we will never fully understand.  But there is one thing we can know for certain, "as for God, His way is perfect." (Psalm 18:30.)  I could have never predicted the pain and misery of October 15, 1988 could have been turned to such joy on July 26, 1991, but it was.  


"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."

Romans 8:28



All Things Work Together for Good
words and music by Glen Davis

All things work together for good,
in the hearts and lives of those who love the Lord.
The pleasures and the pains,
the sunlight and the rains,
All things work together for good,
all things work together for good.

An unseen Hand weaves all the threads,
a heart of grace works for our best.
To make us like His Son,
He leaves nothing undone,
All things work together for good,
all things work together for good.

For good, for good.
All things work together for good.





Monday, October 4, 2021

From the Inside Out

 Pregnancy affects every aspect of the pregnant woman's body.  Every body system is impacted in some way.  

The most obvious of these changes is the growing uterus.  As the baby grows, the uterus expands out of the pelvis and eventually, toward the end of pregnancy, reaches almost to the mother's lungs.  But there are so many changes that occur which are not visually obvious, although the mother can often feel the affects of these changes.

As the maternal blood volume increases (up to 50% toward the end of pregnancy) the mother's cardiac output and heart rate increase.  Her respirations also increase as both her oxygen consumption and oxygen demand increase.

The renal flow rate of the kidneys increases.  In contrast, the bladder, compressed by the growing fetus, diminishes in capacity, to which almost all pregnant women can attest.

Up to 50% to 90% of pregnant women will experience nausea and vomiting in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.  As this resolves, the gastrointestinal system begins to slow down, often causing constipation.

As the pregnancy continues and pregnancy hormones increase, the ligaments and tendons which hold the mother's bones in place experience a relaxation.

Her skin may change as well.  Stretch marks may appear along her abdomen, thighs and lower back.  She may develop an itching, painful rash that can be associated with pregnancy.  She may develop a patchy brown discoloration along her nose and cheeks.

These are just a few examples of changes during pregnancy.  In fact, a myriad of changes occur on the cellular level during pregnancy.   The pregnancy changes her from the inside out.  The baby doesn't just change one part of her, it affects all of her.

Sometimes we hear Christians talk about their belief in God by saying something along the lines of, "My faith is an important part of my life."  It seems we compartmentalize our walk with the Lord as we do other parts of our lives, such as work or our hobbies or our relationships.

Now, I understand what they are trying to communicate, but that would be like the pregnant woman saying , "My developing baby is an important part of my life."  Yes, that is true, but it is so much more than that.  That baby is with her for every step she takes.  After about 10 weeks, it hears every beat of her heart, every breath she takes, every word she speaks.  For 40 weeks, or close to it, they are inseparable.

When we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour, His Spirit comes to dwell in our spirit.  The Bible refers to this magnificent union in this way:

"But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit."  (I Corinthians 6:17.)

Now one thing I know is that my hobbies have never dwelt within me. (I would look pretty strange if my kayak were somehow inside of me.)  Our jobs never dwell within us.  But our Lord does.  He is with us always.  He knows every beat of our hearts...in fact He is the one to maintain that heartbeat.  He knows every breathe we take.  In fact, He gives us that breath:

'...He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things." (Acts 17:25.)

He hears every word we speak.  And something that tiny baby can't do, He knows every thought we think.  We are joined in away that defies explanation other than "great is the mystery of godliness." (I Timothy 3:16.)

Now I have been a pregnant woman, I have worked with many, many pregnant women and I have been a nurse to literally thousands of pregnant women.  All this experience leads me to tell you that pregnant women are often totally focused on that baby inside of them, and rightly so. 

How is it that as Christians we fail to be as totally focused on the God of the universe who has chosen to join Himself to our spirit?  How can we ever let ourselves set our faith in the Lord apart to one tiny aspect of our lives, or something we pull out on Sundays and sit on the shelf all other days of the week?  I confess I have been guilty of this myself and it breaks my heart that I have done so.

I pray I will be more like the pregnant woman, by letting my thoughts turn less and less to things that pull at my attention and distract me and turn more and more to the Lord and His marvelous grace.

"Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." 

Hebrews 12:2 





Saturday, October 2, 2021

PPE

 The COVID-19 virus and the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can't be seen, they have different symptoms, but they are linked in my mind by one thing, Protective Personal Equipment, or PPE.

While donning a gortex gown, N95 mask, a second mask, face shield and the other parts of PPE to protect me from my patient's COVID-19 infection, my mind flashed back to another delivery with doctors and nurses shrouded in protection.

In the mid-1980's, we knew HIV existed, but at that point in time as much was still unknown about HIV as was known.   We did know we were expecting our first known HIV+ patient and I was her nurse for delivery.   

While we were not exactly certain how the virus was spread, one thing we all did know was we wanted to protect ourselves as much as possible.  We were decked out with PPE as if we were going into outer space.  We probably did look somewhat like space travelers with our isolation gowns, our multiple layers of surgical gloves (we had all seen gloves tear too often to trust our lives to one thin layer of latex), our booties, hats and masks with face shields.  Our garb greatly contrasted the patient who was on the birthing bed mostly unclothed and uncovered.

At delivery, she was all alone. No encouraging loved one stood beside her.  The doctor and nurses surely would have all rather been somewhere else, taking care of some other laboring woman.  But here we were waiting for this baby to be born.  The room was warm to minimize chilling for the baby and with all our PPE we were burning up.  The young OB intern who sat in front of the bright spotlight, prepared to deliver the baby, had sweat running down her face.

But there was little warmth for this patient.  None of the usual conversation which occurs with delivery took place.  In fact, when I tried to speak to her, to reach beyond the physical protections  to attempt to comfort her, it was if she had forgotten how to accept friendliness and kindness.  Somehow a comforting touch just doesn't feel as sincere through layers of latex.  As much as I would have wanted to peel off those gloves just to hold her hand, the truth is, we were all shrouded as much in fear as in latex and plastic.  

It was a sterile, cold delivery which held none of the usual enjoyment for me and it seemed just as little for her.  Reflecting on it later, I hoped at least I had learned to look past the disease to the person within, who would surely need a smile, a hand to hold and a kind word of encouragement.

It was over thirty years before I had the opportunity to put the lesson from that young HIV+ patient into action.  Once again an unknown and frightening virus entered our world.  While we were learning more about COVID-19 each day, there was still enough unknowns to propagate as much fear as knowledge.  

Once again, I found myself at the bedside of a young woman, dressed in virtually the same "space suit" as decades earlier, only this time nitrile replaced the ubiquitous latex of earlier years.  Upon learning she was facing an unexpected delivery, alone, without family, she was reduced to sobs.  She cried knowing she wouldn't get to hold her child, to share the birth with her husband or introduce her new baby to her other children.

This time I didn't hesitate to reach out, to hug her, to hold her in my arms while she cried for the experience she had anticipated and wouldn't receive.  She went through the lonely experience like a real trooper and was eventually reunited with her newborn son.  I made her promise, on her last day with us, to come back and visit us when all the virus threat was over, so she could see what we all looked like.

Hugging her goodbye, I felt like I had learned a good lesson.  Was it a coincidence that in my career I took care of the mother in the first HIV+ delivery at one hospital and the first COVID-19 + delivery at another?  No, I think not.  I feel certain the Lord wanted me to have  an opportunity to trust not only the PPE I wore, but also trust Him.  To reach out through the gortex and nitrile and touch, hug, and love someone who desperately needed it.  He was the One who put me in those places and He wanted to show His faithfulness.  As my husband often says, "No one has ever trusted in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and been disappointed for doing so and no one ever will."  

He is Faithful and True, indeed.


"And I saw heaven opened, 
and behold a white horse; 
and He that sat upon him 
was called Faithful and True, 
and in righteousness 
He doth judge and make war."

Revelation 19:11



Friday, October 1, 2021

Meet Ellie Jean Louise Davis

Before I can introduce you properly to Ellie, I must first explain how she came to live with us.


Sparrow

 In March of 2019, our 12 year-old beagle Sparrow (Katie Sparrow Jean Louise Davis, to be exact) was diagnosed with severe congestive heart failure.  She had a heart murmur all her life and it progressed to the point of heart failure over time.  It was so severe, our Vet was not sure she would live through the treatments that day.  But she surprised us, in her imitable fashion, not only survived the day but lived another ten months.  She was on multiple cardiac drugs which had to be administered throughout the day, and her activity was limited, but she continued on to be the sweet, loving, loud beagle we loved so dearly.  




By January 2020, she had reached the dosage limits of her medications.  To increase them further would begin to compromise her kidneys.  Toward the end of January we knew the end was close.   On the 23rd of January she stopped eating.  Nothing could tempt her to open her mouth. She was weak and tired. In discussing euthanasia with our Veterinarian's staff, they gave us the number of a hospice vet.  I didn't even know there were such things.  But this Veterinarian in our area actually provides hospice and end of life care.  We contacted her and arranged for her to come to the house on Monday, January 27th.  It would be the most difficult gift we ever gave Sparrow and the best one we could give as well.


As the weekend progressed, I doubted if Sparrow would live until Monday.  Each day, almost each hour she seemed weaker and weaker.  At some times we had to carry her outside to do her "business".  In fact, Sunday night, we slept on the floor of our spare bedroom with Sparrow.  For quite a while, she had not be able to jump on our bed, where she had slept for years.  Instead, she loved sleeping by the window in that room as it looked out onto the front yard and the neighborhood.  Our sleeping pads and sleeping bags we use for hiking came in handy that night, although I got little sleep.  Each movement she made caused my head to jerk up to check on her.



Early the next morning I took her outside, it was not yet sunrise.  She always wanted to get in the flower bed that is covered by the eave of the house, and I never wanted her to do it.  That morning I let her lay in that flower bed (and a marker remains in the spot where she rested.)  I sat on the porch close to her, wrapped up in my warm sleeping bag, and together we watched the world wake up to sunrise.  We stayed there a long time as I relished our last hours with the sweetest dog I had ever known.



She seemed to rally a little that day, and each time we took her outside, she would go into the bushes, which is not something she ever did.  I knew what she was doing, she was looking for a place to die.  It broke my heart to see that, but I felt comforted in knowing that we were going to make that transition as easy as possible for her.



I had made her a soft bed on the spot she loved to rest in the house and once we came inside, she settled on that spot in the little nest of pillows and blankets I had made for her.  She never left it again.  



Our daughters came over that afternoon and I had put some hymns on the speaker playing softly when the hospice vet arrived.  She was everything I could have ever wished for.  I tell people she was the perfect cross between a mortician and a doula.  Everything she did was soft, quiet, gentle and loving.  Even the "medical" things she did were done in a way to not appear medical to those who wouldn't recognize them.  



We said our tearful goodbyes to a good and faithful friend and then shortly later, our sweet Sparrow took her last breath, released from the pain and weakness that had gripped her body.  It was January 27th.


The four of us buried Sparrow in the corner of our back yard next to Grunt, our first beagle.  There might have been a hole in our back yard for her grave, but there were even bigger holes in our hearts.  

Sparrow was gone.

Not a day goes by that I don't think of her.  The hospice vet took a paw print for us  and it sits on the table by her favorite spot, along with her picture and collar.  I sit in the chair by that table often and look at her picture and paw print and thank the Lord for such a wonderful friend.


After Sparrow's death, Glen and I weren't sure we would ever want to have another dog and we committed to praying for the Lord's wisdom in the matter.  I began researching breeders because the breeder from whom we got Sparrow was no longer in business.  I found one that I liked and began following her website.  She had a dog named "Baby D" that was pregnant, due in March.  By the time those puppies were born, we knew we did indeed want another beagle.  Life was just too quiet without one.


Ellie was born March 26, 2020.  I scoured the pictures of the litter looking for a puppy that looked like Sparrow.  Sparrow's muzzle when she was young was tan on one side and white on the other.  She had a wide white ring around her neck.  One puppy in the litter looked like that.  Because of my communications with the breeder, I was given the pick of the litter and I picked the one that looked like Sparrow.  The breeder was so good at posting frequent pictures and videos of the puppies and in everyone Ellie would have her paw up in the air as if she were saying "hello" to us.



Now, if you are familiar with dog pregnancies, you might have already done the math, but Ellie was probably conceived within a day or two of Sparrow's death.  When we figured that out, it was as if Sparrow had picked out her own predecessor.  One thing I do know is true, Ellie was sent to heal our broken hearts.


"He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds."  

Psalm 147:3

Ellie is a perfect combination of Grunt's athleticism and Sparrow's sweetness.  She has brought so much joy to our wounded hearts.  She has not replaced Sparrow in any way, just as Sparrow did not replace Grunt.  She is her own dog, but she has given us so much happiness, joy and love.  And because of our love for Sparrow and Grunt, we seem to appreciate her even more.


Ellie is an example of our Lord bringing joy out of the midst of sorrow.


"...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."  
Psalm 30:5


If we look to Him and trust Him by faith, we will redeem our tears and turn them into "joy unspeakable and full of glory." (I Peter 1:8.)


"They that sow in tears shall reap in joy."  
Psalm 126:5


Ellie Jean Louise Davis