Day 12 of Encouragement

You didn’t miss anything, I haven’t posted in 3 days. AND I shortened the title.   I’ve been thinking.  Thinking about what else I can say that hasn’t already been said.  As I lay in bed last night, familiar scripture ran through my mind.  Psalm 23.  I thought about the meaning of these words in light of today.  And I was comforted by the sense of peace that these verses bring to a trembling world.  We tremble when we go out.  People in our medical facilities tremble as patient after patient come in with this rampant virus.  Mamas tremble as they watch their babies playing in a shut down world, and they consider the measures they will take to protect them.  Fathers tremble as they think about job loss and providing for their families.  The elderly tremble as the news repeatedly report that the elderly are at the highest risk.  Cancer patients tremble as they know their compromised immune systems could not fight off these germs.  Pastors tremble for wisdom on how to shepherd in this strange time and how to minister when we are told to social distance ourselves.  Police and Fire Fighters tremble at every call they have to make as to whether they will be infected, or worse, take germs home to their families.

Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Let me stop right there for a moment.  We can rest in the truth of a shepherd who will provide our needs, and while we are all disconcerted over confinement to our homes, maybe it is God “making” us lie down in green pastures.  A time to be still and to rest in Him and not be fearful.  Allow Him to restore your soul during this time.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

This time may feel like we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  We may not have the virus ourselves, but the affects of the spread of this virus is casting a shadow over everything in our lives.  But we do not have to fear, for HE is with us.   His rod and staff comfort me.  The rod represents His authority and the staff represents His guidance in our lives.  Knowing these two things, His authority and His guidance in our lives do comfort us.  As His children, His hand is active in our lives, guiding and leading us.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

God’s provision in our lives is dependable.  We don’t need to panic as many people are doing.  We do, however, need to be sensitive to the needs of others and help when we can.  Because we have more “free time” we can spend more time seeking Him.  We can focus on His will for our lives.  We can get a perspective not cluttered with the busy-ness of events, entertainment, and all the go-go-go that we experience in our everyday lives.  And then we can shout as loud as we can, for ourselves and those around us “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and then I will camp out in the house of the Lord….FOREVER!”  (I don’t know why I added the quotes there, because I obviously paraphrased the exact wording!)

So today.  Rest beside still waters.  Think about the glory, the goodness and the mercy of God.  Shut down the news reports.  Block out the uncertainty.  Eat a good old ham sandwich…or peanut butter and jelly….and sit at the table and give thanks.  Allow your cup to overflow with His goodness.  Speak truth into the lives of those quarantined with you.  Tell Bible stories to those kiddos that are in your house.  Sing worship with them.  Of course do school, too, but integrate God into everything.  What an opportunity you have to wrap them in God’s Word and teach them to live a life that honors Him.  Ask God for wisdom, for discernment and peace (and maybe patience!).  He is faithful to give it.

Love y’all.

 

 

Day 9 of Social Distancing Encouragement

Romans 8:26-27 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

I don’t know about you, but I have been in that place.  Unable to articulate the words that are in my heart.  At a loss for the right words.  How about you?  Even now, in the midst of this situation that has captured our entire country, many of us bow our heads to pray and can’t find exactly the words that best describe our state of mind.  I find myself just sitting at my dining room table, Bible open, soft instrumental worship music playing, and I am just sitting in silence while I try to focus on God, try to think of exactly what I want to say, and not wanting to repeat the same words over and over about killing the Corona virus.  I don’t feel fear.  I’m not even overwhelmed.  But there is a feeling of weakness.  I am thankful that God, knowing the limitations of our human spirit, made a way for the words we cannot even utter to be heard through the interceding of the Spirit.  Relief!  That is what is felt instead.  Peace.  Not chaos or fear.

Today, just sit in His presence.  You may not even know how to express what is weighing on your heart.  But allow the truth of the Spirit’s intercession on our part to wrap around you like a warm blanket.

Love y’all!

Day 8 of Social Distancing Encouragement

Jeremiah 29:12-13 “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Most people know the verse that precedes these two verses declaring the Lord has plans for us, but these two verses are so much more comforting with the promise that if we seek Him we WILL find Him.  We want to know that God hears us.  Perhaps it is that we humans are self-centered at the core of who we are, or maybe as believers it confirms the hope we have in Him.  Being heard somehow affirms the belief or faith we have in an  all knowing, all powerful God.

But here is something we should consider in this seeking and finding….it often involves our wrestling with God, because while we want to seek and find God, we don’t necessarily want the necessary changes that must be made to our lives in order to walk closer with Him.  Wrestling with God is life altering.  Wrestling with God can leave wounds and scars so that we can be reminded of the change that God has done in us.

We have been given a unique opportunity of time to seek God.  Time to open His Word and hear His voice.  Time to wrestle with Him over areas in our lives that need to be examined.  Time to wrap our minds around what He wants us to do in this next season of  life and to strengthen our faith and determination to stand strong and do it!

I encourage you today to be still.  To seek Him.  To have a time of worship through music.  To honestly ask Him what He wants you to do next.  To pray and ask Him for discernment and wisdom.  If we seek Him, we will find Him.  If we pray, He will hear us.  Let’s do it with all our hearts.

Love y’all!

 

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

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!

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!

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.

IMG_0974