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Day 7 of Social Distancing Encouragement

Romans 8:18 “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Suffering is the state of undergoing pain, distress or hardship.  I wouldn’t have considered this time to be a time of suffering, but after reading this definition, I realized that dealing with stress during these strange times of the unknown is definitely a time of suffering.  But imagine as we watch social media and the news and see the happenings across the world of people sick, dying or quarantined; the fear people have of contracting this virus; the scrambling to purchase food and other necessities….just in case we are locked down or cannot find these items.  We sense an air of suffering and fear throughout the world.  It is like a dark cloud has covered the earth.

Understanding the words of this verse puts the present problems in their right perspective.  We must expect sufferings in life, but the amazing truth of the coming glory makes any current suffering seem light in comparison. It’s a matter of where your focus is, on the world or on God.

I am thankful that God gave us His Word so that we could, in times of trouble or suffering, find truth and strength and encouragement to keep our focus on the one true living God.  That we could find our hope in Him, not a government, not a cure, not in anything this world has to offer.

It is in times of trouble that we seem to press into God and seek Him more diligently than we did in times of peace.  God has allowed this time of uncertainty in our world for us to slow down and listen to His voice.

So for just a moment, close your eyes and imagine the glory of God that will be revealed to us on the day we see Him or the day Jesus returns, whichever comes first.  Let your imagination run wild.

Love y’all!

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Day 6 of Social Distancing Encouragement

Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.”

Today has been a heartwarming day.  The weather was gorgeous, we started the day at 9:00am doing Lifegroup on the Google Duo (we’ll use Zoom next time) with our 10-12th grade girls class, followed by online worship with FBTC praise team and Pastor Derek.  It almost felt normal.  While it was awesome and unique, it just doesn’t replace the face to face fellowship with our church family.  But we have to keep telling ourselves this is temporary.  We must keep our eyes on Him and let Him be our strength and shield.  I like the shield part…..shielding us from the Corona!

A quick word knowledge right here.  The word “exult” means to feel or show triumphant elation or jubilation.  That word “elation” means great happiness and exhilaration. Chew on that for a moment.  Re-read that verse with that definition in the place of exult.  It’ll totally change the impact of this verse.

Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts and I am helped; my heart feels triumphant exhilaration, and with my song I give thanks to Him.”

I want to insert a happy dance right here.  I don’t know about you, but I needed this today.

I’ll stop right here with a little bit of transparency.  I had a rough evening last night.  I think the week of “self quarantine” and lack of contact with friends and regular schedule, plus the constant news updates from my big guy caused a meltdown.  Sadly, my last 5 days of encouragement didn’t seem to hold a candle to the overwhelmed feeling in my soul.  I allowed the chaos and confusion of this world to seep in and start a small fire of fear.  I told my big guy to stop talking to me and after I cried a few tears of uncertainty, I was better.  I read some more scripture.  Prayed really hard.  Listened to worship music.  And I felt myself stepping away from the edge of the pit.  However, sleep evaded me.  I tossed and turned and could not get to sleep.  I resorted to Melatonin and within an hour I drifted off.  I woke this morning with a much better outlook.  I reminded myself of the complete truth of this verse…..He is my strength.  He is my shield.  And I DO TRUST HIM!  And I am helped.  My spirit was lifted.  He reminded me with His Word that whatever happens, whatever the next weeks look like, I can trust Him.  I can choose to declare His faithfulness and redirect my emotions when I feel things closing in.

So let me encourage you right now.  This ain’t over yet.  Be strong and courageous. We may be staring down two weeks of lockdown, tighter than the last week or two we’ve experienced.  We will need to sing…..a lot!  We will need to declare His faithfulness….a lot!  We will need to remind our hearts that we trust Him….a lot!  Because we are silly humans who have the attention span of a gnat.  We will need to connect via Zoom, FaceTime, Google Duo, Skype or whatever else is out there to connect over the internet with friends and family and a remind them as well.  Let’s commit to having an attitude of gratitude over the next couple of weeks and to treat each other and ourselves with kindness.

Thank you for coming back and reading each day.  Please “like” my posts on my blog, if you don’t mind and follow me, if you aren’t already doing so.  Also feel free to share with your email list of friends….I would GREATLY appreciate it.

Keep the faith

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We Gotta Have Faith

I was reading over the lesson for our 10th-12th grade girl’s Lifegroup for tomorrow, when one of the scriptures just grabbed hold of my heart.

Hebrews 11:5-6 “By faith Enoch was taken away, and so he did not experience death.  He was not to be found because God took him away.  For before he was taken away, he was approved as one who pleased God.  Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

I know this scripture. It’s not foreign to me.  I’ve heard countless sermons and Sunday School lessons on it.  The church has taught us the priority of faith over works, and this scripture drives home the understanding of why faith takes priority.  Without faith works would never happen.  If we don’t believe he exists, we can’t draw near to him.  And to believe, we have to have faith.  And to have faith, we have to believe.  Without faith and without belief, we have no motivation to do anything.  Sure, we can do things out of habit.  We can become ritualistic in the things we participate.  If we allow faith to slip down the list of priorities, what are we doing anything of eternal value for in the first place?

And here we are in March, 2020, lives altered, the busy-ness of life being ceased, separated from friends, family, schedules, activities and we are struggling.

As I read this verse, a neon light was flashing in my head, “you must return to faith”.  We are good at telling others to have faith, we are good at announcing that we are confident because we have faith and we proudly wear t-shirts and tattoo’s announcing our faith.  But how is our faith when everything is removed.  Suddenly we have more time to do nothing.  To be quiet.  To do projects.  To talk.  No more running here and there, filling all our time with endless activities.  I think God wants us to stop.  Be still.  Return to faith.  I mean seriously get in His Word and really, really read it and understand what God is doing.  He is in control.  No matter what we think is happening in the world, HE IS IN CONTROL.  Things look scary.  An indulged America is not sure what we will do without an endless flow of toilet paper, fast food and entertainment.  It’s time we step back and look at Him and not the world.  Take a close look at your heart.  Where is your faith.

I pray I am not overcome by fear. I pray I do not lose faith.   I pray I do not allow the daily onslaught of what seems like an imploding world to govern how confident I am that God is in control.

I pray I draw near to Him, I pray He approves of me and is pleased with me.  And I pray that he rewards my faithfulness.

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Day 5 of Social Distancing Encouragement

Hebrews 10:24-25 “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encoruaging one another and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

Tomorrow is Sunday.  For many of us, it is the day we get up, get dressed, get in the mindset of worship, and gather together as a church family.  But things have changed.  Tomorrow we will gather in front of our t.v.’s, laptops, and even our phones too tune in together to do church from our homes.  It will be weird.  We may have some glitches.  But we won’t be neglecting to meet together!

As I’ve been thinking about how it will all go down tomorrow morning, I was trying to think of how we can still be believers reaching out to people around us who are stressed, afraid or uncertain, when I found a pack of index cards while I was looking for candles for the birthday cake yesterday.   It was like a big lightbulb going on in my head.  I could put the instructions to access the service tomorrow on the cards and deliver them to my neighbors.  I will tape them to their mailboxes and hopefully they will use the information to join us for “church” in the morning at 10:30am.  Let me encourage you to do the same.

See y’all at church in the morning…..(well, I won’t actually see you, but I will imagine us all sitting together).

Be sure to be praying tonight that everything runs smoothly and that God will move, and lives will be changed.

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Day 4 of Social Distancing Encouragement

Sadly I realized at about 2:30am this morning that I did not post encouragement for today…..uhhh…..yesterday!  And, sadly, the verse I was going to post on was about love.  Not sadly that it was on love, but sadly it was on love and I forgot to post in the midst of all the love going on in our family!!!!

John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

All that love in two verse in John, in the midst of a global pandemic, in the midst of a suggested/requested quarantine, and I forget to post!  Let me state my case for forgetfulness.  I actually didn’t totally forget, but I let the day get away from me.  Yesterday was Molly Grace’s 21st birthday.  The baby of the family.  Our baby girl who loves birthdays and family and cake and is the best present opener EVER!

My two older girls braved the pandemic and hit two stores and a bakery in an effort to try and make it a normal day as possible.  Life is so full of uncertainties right now, we felt the need to do our best to gather and celebrate, before we are forbidden to gather and celebrate even as families.  We found Flour Girls open and willing to let me in to purchase a dozen cupcakes to deliver to her office.  We pulled up to the front door of her work, crossed our fingers they would let us in, even though we weren’t there for an appointment.  I waltzed right in and up to the counter where she sat smiling and surprised. I kept the required 6 foot distance (after putting the box of cupcakes on the counter) and sent all the air hugs possible to our baby girl.   I dropped off the older daughters and went home to begin the preparation for the birthday party.  I found party decor in a box that I had been saving and  decorated the dining room.  I baked a strawberry cake, with chopped up strawberries in it and topped it with cream cheese icing.  We prepared her favorite Shrimp Bisque and set the table.  The family all arrived at 6:00 (thankfully there is no curfew as of yet) and we celebrated her life.  Somehow, in the midst of everything going on, we needed to do something normal.  We have five more birthdays and a new baby coming in the next few months, and we aren’t sure how it will all play out.  We are being bombarded everyday with COVID19, or “the Corona” as we like to refer to it, whether the information is fact or not.  Shelves in stores are getting less stocked as time goes on.  Numbers in our coastal city, Mobile, or creeping up, as they are across the nation.  Weddings and baby showers and other events are being cancelled every day.  School has been cancelled.  Churches are becoming techno smart in order to stay connected with their people.  People are becoming unemployed all around us.  And this verse couldn’t be more accurate today, right now.

We need to love.  We do not need to fear.  We need to celebrate.  We need to remind ourselves and others that God is in control.  We need to be smart, but we need to still gather in small groups if we can.  We need to breathe in and breathe out.

So I am sorry for getting caught up in the preparations for her birthday celebration.  But the gathering of our family did us all good.  It felt normal.  And for a couple of hours of food, fun, laughter and celebration, we loved on each other.

Be as normal as possible.  It doesn’t have to be a “big” deal, but keep on hugging, laughing, and reaching out others, even if hugging isn’t possible.  Happy birthday, today, to all those who are sitting at home, working at a desk or out looking for toilet paper. (I still don’t understand or obsession with this one).

And.  Just for the record.  We only had 9 and 2 little people (ages 2 and 2 months) which could technically be considered as 10.  So we didn’t break the rules!

As a side note…..I am not encouraging excessive touching or spreading of germs. We should all respect the fact that there is a virus out there that is contagious and we should be careful.   So maybe air hugging is the best option for now.  And keep your groups at 10.  And no sneezing or coughing in anyone’s direction!

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Day 3 of Social Distancing Encouragement

Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful.”

There is a lot of wavering going on.  Whether it is in the news, the internet, the grocery store or in a conversation with friends and family.  Wavering is about “becoming weaker, faltering” and I hear the conversations of people I know ranging from the world is coming to an end to a myriad of conspiracy theories.  But for now, I want us to focus on the conversations of believers.  As believers, people who express faith in an all knowing, all powerful God, we need to stop the wavering.  We know in our hearts that God is bigger than this situation, but our minds are soaking up every news report, every article, every Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter post.  It is causing conflict in our souls.  Stop!  Don’t waver!  Reach out and hold on as tight as you can to the confession of where your hope is, in Jesus Christ!  Let’s be smart, mind you, wash our hands, social distance yourself from crowds, be aware of any change in your physical health, but goodness, move your focus to scripture and worship, and reminding yourself that you trust God above all else. Speak His truth, not the endless flow of true or fake news flowing through the media 24/7.  He is trustworthy.  The world is not.

I am not, in any way, making light of being informed, or of the suffering that is rippling around the world because of this virus.  But we cannot succumb to the fear that satan is using to make us feel weak and vulnerable.  His efforts to divide and separate us as believers will not work.  We’re smarter than he thinks we are.  We are finding ways to connect without breaking the rules or endangering others.  We will still gather and share God’s Word, whether in tiny groups or through streaming connections.  We will pray for each other.  We will find out about needs and devise creative ways to meet the needs!  We are His people.  He has equipped us.  Why?  Because He is faithful.  So shoulders back, chin up and no wavering.

Love y’all!

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Day 2 of Social Distancing Encouragement

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

When I want to really dig deep and understand the meaning of a verse, I often look up key words in the scripture.  Let’s take a minute and do that.  Let’s start with the word anxious.  Listen to the definition:  experiencing worry; unease; nervousness; typically by an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.  Well, there you go.  Sounds exactly where we are walking today and for the coming weeks.  An imminent event. But lets look at another word in that verse, petition.  It means to appeal to authority with respect.

We are walking in times with an uncertain outcome, and as much as we are trying to keep our chins up, we are anxious somewhere deep inside because we are being hit on all sides by too much information…..and we are listening to it.  Now that we have a better understanding of a couple of words in this verse, let’s write it for today, March 18, 2020.

“Do not be worried, uneasy or nervous about whatever is coming in the future, about sickness, about our needs being met or being “locked down”, but in all of these or any situation to come, pray and appeal to God who has authority over everything, be thankful for His love, His provision, His protection, His guidance, His presence and His power in our lives, then faithfully without fear bring your requests to Him.”

There is no need for us to have anxiousness in our hearts.  There is no need to worry.  But there is need for us to be in prayer about every situation, then move on to being thankful for a God who hears.

God is still in control.  He’s got this.  He is walking every step with us.  We need to square our shoulders like the army of God we are, have no fear, and march on.  Be encouraged today to be strong and courageous, not fearful or anxious.  We can trust Him.

Love you all.

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Day 1 of Social Distancing Encouragement

I’ve been thinking about this for the last 24 hours.  What can I do to encourage others while we are asked to practice “social distancing” for the next 15 days in an effort to slow the process, perhaps even stop the process of a virus that is slithering its way across our country.   People are walking around in a daze, there body language exuding anxiousness.  We have gone to buy groceries “just in case”, searched out diapers and formula for our daughter and listened endlessly to news reports. I have been choosing to turn off the news reports and turn on the worship videos available on Youtube.  Back to what I can do to encourage you.  I lay in bed last night thinking about it when an idea came to mind.  I will begin today to daily post a scripture and encouragement to you.  Maybe more of a reminder of God’s faithfulness and the truth of what His Word tells us.  So, I hope you will read, be encouraged and come back again.  The scriptures will be familiar.  But maybe they will come to you at the very moment you need them.

Day 1

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

As we walk through the next days, weeks or months, we will experience many challenging circumstances.  Children taken out of their normal schedules, not fully understanding what is going on around them, but they see the anxiousness of the adults.  Lost people fearing the unknown will act in ways that are unhealthy, unsafe and uncivilized.  Christians feeling cut off from each other by the ban on gathering together in large groups may be filled with underlying anxiousness.  But God is in control.  We have to remember that.  This verse is both empowering and encouraging….and yes, even comforting.  We do not have to allow fear to overcome us.  We have the power to face whatever happens with strength and self-control.  We have an opportunity to think way outside the box and discover ways to reach out to people, to minister to people and to teach our children and students about the faithfulness of God.  We can reach out to neighbors (from 6 feet away of course) to see if they need anything, or just to check up on them.  We can even offer to pray for them, six feet away of course!

If you are a believer and you believe God is faithful, chew on those words for a bit.  He gave us power, love and self-control in order to conquer fear.  Fear doesn’t own us!  We can walk through this unprecedented time with confidence in the one who we serve!  Now take a deep breath!  God’s got this.  Listen to His voice and not the world’s!

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The Effect of Walking Thru Cancer

Here I sit in the doctors office with my big guy once again. He had an MRI on Tuesday and we are waiting to hear the findings. He has pulled something in his back and has been dealing with it for a few weeks. I’m not gonna lie, it makes me a little anxious because it is reminiscent of two years ago waiting for similar results from a MRI…..what is causing the pain. I have closed my eyes and breathed deeply, whispering once again “I trust you God” to relieve the slight anxiousness in my stomach. I am sure it isn’t a repeat, just something in his back he has pulled. But we’ll know in minutes what we are looking at. Cancer never really goes away, I guess. It may be eliminated in your life, but the effects of a journey filled with everything cancer never completely leaves your subconsciousness. Every ache, every symptom sounds an alarm in your head and puts your mind on alert. But today it is a false alarm. Today we walk out of the doctor’s office and breathe a loud sigh of relief.

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Time Marches On

I just noticed that it has been two months since my last post. A lot has happened in the last eight weeks: Thanksgiving, surgery (for me), Christmas, a new grandbaby, a new year, and I broke a front tooth. Our lives are eventful, if nothing else! Knee replacement surgery December 5th sent me on a road to recovery that included pain meds, physical therapy (pure torture), lots of tears and frustrations, first a walker then a cane, and quite honestly a lot of rest. I have always considered myself to have a high tolerance for pain, I was wrong…at least in this aspect!  I’m still in process, feeling my age, but getting a little better each day. I’m off the pain meds, a personal choice, so the Norco induced bouts of weepiness have ceased!

A beautiful princess entered our lives three weeks early. We Armstrong women cannot seem to carry a baby to full term….but we sure do have beautiful babies! Maybe they are just eager to meet us face to face! Nora Kate arrived on December 31st and let everyone know she had arrived with a fireworks celebration! Or, maybe that was just the city celebrating the new year.  We’ll always tell her it was to celebrate her birth!   Mom, Dad & Big brother are still getting acclimated to having a princess amongst mere peasants! Sam’s name for his new sister is “Puppy”. Which is a step up from completely ignoring her presence. We’ll let it go for now, it will make for a cute story one day.  But for now we will keep Princess Nora Kate in the dark about her brother’s nickname for her for his protection.

Daughter #2 finally has a distinct baby bump as we look forward to the arrival of a second princess. She is beginning to prepare all things possible for baby girl and it’s so fun watching our middle girl researching life with baby and so interested in all that goes with this special event. Such a change for this gifted, goal oriented girl. It makes us smile.

The newlyweds are navigating their way through married and adulting life. Two months in and they are now the proud fur parents of a golden doodle called Milo.  We still think of them as kids, but I’ve got to step back and let them figure out life together and not fret.

As for Lynn and I, we’re stumbling through adapting to an empty nest, but more on that in the next post.

So, about that broken tooth. As if trying to heal and basically learn to walk again isn’t enough, I broke my right front tooth last week. It was horrifying. At least in my mind it was traumatic.  Of course, I had taken a Norco after PT that day, so perhaps that may have contributed to the tears and freak out moment!.  I had fixed myself a healthy lunch, and was proudly limping around the kitchen, when I opened the frig for a bottled water and spotted a Lindor Truffle sitting on the top shelf screaming my name.  I thought “Ohhh I want that.”. Bad decision. It was hard because of being in the cold frig. I eagerly unwrapped it and bit into it.  I felt a click in my front tooth. I thought “That was weird” and when I touched my tooth it felt fine.  I shrugged and sat down to my healthy lunch, but as I bit into the ham and cheese roll up, it clicked again. This time I knew. Horrors. I felt the back of my front tooth with my tongue and felt the break. I cried. I know, big surprise. I frantically called my dentist, and they took me right in.  Now remember, I took that Norco after PT and by the time I got in the dentist’s chair, it was working. I was chatting away.  My oldest daughter was with me and she confirms that I was talking….too much.  In comes Dr Wright. I don’t remember this, but my daughter says it is true. I looked at him and asked him how old he was, and then said, without skipping a beat, “You look fifteen.”   I’m mortified now, but then I was feeling no filter in place on my thoughts escaping my mouth. He was sweet and told me he was twenty-eight. (Still young for a dentist, in my head!). So now I am sporting a temporary bridge right up front. Not on the side or back where no one can see….Right. Up. Front. I’ll get the permanent one the end of February.

Well, life goes on and here we are just a few days from the end of January. I am sure this year holds many more expected and unexpected experiences, and as always, we will take them in stride and know that it’s just life.  This experience will pass, and time will continue to march on.

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