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Learning to be Good

A number of years ago, this precious friend shared her personal story with me, and we worked on this article together.  Learning to Be Good is a true account of her troubled early life and how eventually she found peace with God. She has given me permission to share this story.

 LEARNING TO BE GOOD . . .By Patrice Carlson (Not her real name)

The familiar smell of booze hung heavy in the air of our tiny second-floor apartment.  I was three-and-a-half years old and hungry, but Mama was gone again, and I didn’t know when she would return.

My two-year-old sister and I scrounged through the empty metal breadbox, hoping to find a crust or a cracker to tide us over.  Eventually our mother showed up with yet another man we’d never seen, and she sent us out to play.

Once in a while she gave each of us a couple of pennies to go to the store for candy.  One day the store owner took me into the back room and sexually molested me.  He said he’d bring a dime to my house if I promised not to tell.  I learned to keep secrets at an early age.  But the experience made an indelible impression on me, and even today, when I occasionally see a man who resembles that child-molester, I remember what he did to me in the back room of the candy store.

When my relatives decided our mother could no longer care for us, the shuttle from one house to another began.  Sometimes my sister and I were placed in the same home, and sometimes not.

For a while we lived with my brawling father.  As he dropped us off at yet another home, he’d warn, “Behave yourselves, or they won’t take care of you.”

Finally our Aunt Mamie took my sister, but she didn’t want me.  I went to Aunt Opal’s, but they already had two children and another on the way.  Her husband Sam didn’t want me, and they couldn’t afford to keep one more child.  With each move I felt that I’d failed the test.  I hadn’t been good enough.

I attended kindergarten at a Catholic parochial school.  I’ll never forget a drawing I made in class one day.  Because I didn’t think I had done a good enough job, when the nun passed back our papers, I pretended it didn’t belong to me.  She insisted on giving it back to me, but I stubbornly refused to take ownership.  It wasn’t good enough.

Just before my sixth birthday, my relatives had a little family party for me.  I didn’t realize it was really a goodbye party.

A couple of days later, on my birthday, I was taken to church.  There a woman looked me over, then nodded.  At the end of the service, she took me home with her to the house that would become my home until I grew up.

Things changed drastically for me from that day on.  For the first time ever, I sat down to regular meals.  For the first time I had my own bed to sleep in.  Life should have been wonderful now that I didn’t have to forage for food or sleep on a park bench, but it wasn’t.

I saw my birth mother only once after this.  She stopped by the following year to leave a gift for my seventh birthday.  She was a stranger to me by then, and after she left I opened the package to find a pair of silky pajamas.

“Throw it away!” my foster mother exclaimed.  “We don’t want anything she has touched.”

On the outside, we looked like the perfect family as we sat in the pew each Sunday, well dressed and pretending to be happy.  I felt sure everyone was thinking, “What a wonderful couple they are to take in an orphan!”  But at home it quickly became clear that this childless couple would never love me.

“You took her, you take care of her,” my new “father” yelled at my foster mother.  Tension hung in the air like smog, and I cringed as the sound of their loud arguments carried through the walls of my basement bedroom after I went to bed at night.

“Stop it!” I’d cry out, but neither of them listened to me.

In the novel, Anna Karenina, Tolstoy said, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Neither my anxiety-ridden mother nor my uncaring father was equipped to give love to a lonely, sensitive child who had been rejected far too many times.  But my new family’s unhappiness became just another one of those secrets I never dared to share with anyone.

At least food was plentiful there, but as my insecurities mounted, I ate to try to feed the hunger in my soul.  By sixth grade, my weight had ballooned to 200 pounds.  At school, the other kids chanted, “Fatty, fatty, two-by-four, can’t get through the kitchen door…”  Clearly, Fatty Patty wasn’t good enough at school either.

In my alienation, I longed for love, but no one seemed to notice or care.  I had casual friendships in high school, but I never felt I truly belonged there, either.  I’d erected a wall to protect myself from the hurts that plagued me wherever I went.  I felt fractured in a place no one else could see, but there was nobody to confide in.

Always, I tried hard to be good, fearing that if I failed, I might once again land out on the streets.  I knew what it was like to sleep on a park bench, and I didn’t want to repeat the experience.

The issue of adoption never came up, and not until I was in high school did my parents ask whether I would like to take their last name.  But by this time the offer seemed pointless–too little, too late.  I felt bitter and angry.  “I’ve gotten along this far without it,” I replied.  “I don’t need it now.”

From early childhood, I longed to become a nurse when I grew up.  My foster parents thought I should be a secretary instead.  Once I’d graduated from high school, I never asked them for a dime, and they never offered to provide any financial assistance with my college tuition.  I attended Northwestern Bible College in Minneapolis for two years, and my parents charged me rent to stay at home while I worked myself through college.

During this time I met a man unlike any I had ever known.  He was kind and gentle, and I knew he was a gift from God.  I had never been kissed until I dated Dave.  He became the love of my life, and incredibly, he loved me for who I was.  But he, too, would be taken away from me for a time.  Six months after we married, he was drafted into the Army and shipped overseas.  While he was gone, I earned my nursing degree.

My new mother-in-law baked me a birthday cake—the first I’d ever had in my life.  She won my heart that day, with her unconditional acceptance of me.

My adult relationship with the people who raised me looked cordial on the outside, but remained inwardly strained.  Yet I felt bound to this couple by a golden thread.  They had taken me in when no one else wanted me, when I had no other place to go.  And even though they could never give me what I craved most, I knew I owed them a debt.

After our marriage, Dave and I went through the motions of including my parents in our family life.  I determined that our three daughters would never lack for physical affection, nor would they ever have to question whether they were truly loved.  I masked the scars from my unloving childhood, and, vowed that at least in this area of my life, I would work hard to be good enough.

My career as a nurse included 25 years of demanding, but mostly fulfilling, work at a nursing home.  During those busy years, I often took care of everyone’s needs but my own.  I had little time to process my troubled childhood, and sometimes I didn’t recognize what was normal and what was not.  I knew what I hated, but not what I liked.

One day at the nursing home, a patient physically assaulted me.  My supervisor asked why I didn’t defend myself.  I’d learned to survive, I told her, but I had also been taught to be good.  Always, even as an adult, I harbored the fear that if I wasn’t good, the consequences could be dire.

In the meantime, my foster father had died, and my aging foster mother became increasingly frail.  I invited her to live with us, but she staunchly insisted on staying in her own home, even as she approached her one hundredth birthday.  Always striving to be the good daughter, I called daily to check on her, and made multiple trips each week to take care of her lawn, help with the cleaning and grocery shopping, and run errands for her.  I continued to work at the nursing home, but, taxed by the growing demands of my mother, I felt constantly exhausted.

Finally, after she’d turned 100, I took my mother to the doctor, who confirmed my conclusion that, for both our sakes, she needed to be placed in a nursing home.  This decision triggered venomous accusations of betrayal.  She lashed out at me with an unprecedented barrage of name calling and verbal abuse for my having “put her into the home.”

One day when I came to visit her, she launched into a tirade of complaints about what an awful daughter I was.  She was so angry she almost hissed.  After she had called me the most terrible names, I gathered my courage and said, “It looks like you’re not very glad to see me today, so I’m leaving.”

For the first time ever I showed my back to her, but it was one of the most liberating things I have ever done.  I’d been running on empty for a long time, trying to meet the needs of my family, my patients, and my mother.  Now my years of loyalty to her seemed to count for nothing.

I returned to her nursing home room several days later.  It was a beautiful October day.  I wheeled her outside, and we basked in the warmth of the sun.  Something was different about her that day.  For the first time in a long time, she seemed at peace.  No more wrangling, no more friction.  A few days later, she died at the age of 101.

After her death, years of cumulative stress drained all my physical and emotional energy.  I began to wonder who I really was.  I felt that I’d never known.  Not until I retired from nursing a short while later did I finally feel free to search for my authentic self.

As I journaled and prayed and took time to rest and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, this journey opened new doors for me.  I reestablished contact with my long-estranged sister, and I met with some cousins I hadn’t seen since childhood.  I began exploring some of my long-dormant creative interests—gardening, painting, sewing, quilting—and found all of them restorative.

I had committed my life to Jesus Christ years earlier, and throughout my high school years I had clung tenaciously to Scriptures from the Gospel of John that speak of comfort and the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Now during this new chapter in my life, I had time to be quiet and absorb what God wanted to say to me.

Though scars remain, I have come to terms with many hurts of the past.  I’m blessed to be able to drink in God’s grace, and to extend forgiveness to those who hurt me.  I can now rejoice in the fact that in God’s eyes, because of His Son, not only am I good enough, I am the apple of His eye–loved unconditionally by the One who matters most.

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”                                              Zephaniah 3:17

Give Me a Sign, Lord

 

 

GIVE ME A SIGN, LORD

 

By Paul Tschida

As told to Sharon Sheppard

 

I’d never known such pain as I experienced the day we stood at the grave of our 17-year-old son, Mark.

“Lord, give me a sign that he’s okay,” I prayed.

Four days earlier he’d been driving to school, obeying the traffic laws, when a gravel truck barreled through the intersection and plowed into his car, killing him instantly.

He was the kind of kid any parent would be proud of—clean-cut, hard working, an outdoorsman who loved to hunt and fish. Because of his strong, personal faith, I knew he was with the Lord, but still it hurt.

After the others had left the cemetery, my wife and I asked permission to stay for the burial.  Though I’ve never seen a goose fly alone, apart from a flock, as the casket was being lowered, a lone goose flew over the grave and honked.  Sportsman that he’d been, Mark would have loved it.

The next day one of Mark’s high school friends phoned: “Could we borrow Mark’s pickup truck?  We’re having group pictures taken for the yearbook today.  We thought it would be cool to have one shot of all of us standing by Mark’s truck.”

I drove the pickup into town, happy to oblige.  The senior class from his small-town high school grouped around Mark’s customized, chrome-piped truck.  When everyone was finally positioned, the shot perfectly composed, and the photographer poised to click, a lone goose flew over and honked.  The photographer and the whole class looked up, and every one of us knew something special had happened.

“Thank you, God,” I whispered.

 

 

Because He Lives

Because He Lives . . . I can face tomorrow    by Sharon Sheppard

The month of March can be somber, for many reasons.  It’s known for being wet, windy, and wintry in much of the country.  It also includes the Lenten season, when Christians of many denominations encourage their people to devote themselves to fasting, abstinence, and penitence.

So if you’re looking for fun, Lent is not nearly as festive as Advent, the season leading up to Christmas, when most of the world seems focused on merriment.  But because Lent reminds us to meditate on the suffering of Jesus as He hung on the cross to pay for our sins, it prepares us to gratefully celebrate Resurrection Sunday, the most joyful event in the history of the world.  Jesus died so I might live.

Following the recent death of Billy Graham, laudatory tributes were made by notable people from all around the world.  One of my favorites came from Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas, who said, in part:

When I heard this morning that Billy Graham had died, I said. “That’s fake news.  He’s more alive right now than he’s ever been.” And the fact is, that’s what he preached, that there is life beyond this one because of Jesus Christ, and his message never wavered from that.

When my husband, who was a columnist for the St. Cloud Times, was dying of cancer, he wrote this in one of his last columns:

I recently asked myself, “If this were to be my valedictory, what would I most like to say?” Just this: As I reflected on the resurrection of Jesus Christ during Holy Week, I was challenged anew by a most provocative question He posed during the days He walked on Earth: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

During my husband’s last weeks, the words of a hymn by Bill Gaither became one his favorite songs:

Because He lives I can face tomorrow;

Because He lives all fear is gone;

Because I know He holds the future,

Life is worth the living just because He lives.

 

Easter is not about bunnies and eggs, it’s about death and life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love?  Who needs it?  Psst…we all do! 

Love?  Who needs it?  Psst…we all do!   By Sharon Sheppard

I have a treasure chest—actually it’s a photo box I bought at Target, but it’s covered with colorful hearts and roses and cupids—and it holds treasured reminders of the years my husband and I spent together.  Each time I open the box, strange things happen to me.  I smile and I cry.  I’m filled with wonder and joy, and also with longing.  He is the only guy I ever dated, and we married when I was 19 and he was 22.  We went to college together, raised a family together, started a business together, taught together during 3 short-term missions in Latvia, traveled to 31 countries together, and so much more.

I was in high school and he was in college when we started dating, and the treasure box holds every letter we ever wrote to each other during that time.  Always the aspiring writer/English teacher, I also kept a diary of all our dates.  (He didn’t know this until many years after we married, when I typed up the diary, added photos, and gave it to him for Valentine’s Day.)  The diary is filled with stories of where we went, who we saw, what we had to eat, what I wore, what he said, what I said…You get the picture.

My husband is with the Lord now, as I sift through the box of assorted memorabilia from long ago.  The diary is there, cards we exchanged, along with a receipt for the first month’s rent on our first apartment together ($45).   And tonight I’m remembering how we laughed and cried as we read the diary together that Valentine’s Day I first gave it to him.

The following year on Valentine’s Day, he said, “Can we read the diary again?”

Not everyone is fortunate enough to be blessed with a loving marriage, but there are many kinds of love, and we all crave the closeness of meaningful relationships.  It’s the way God made us.  And love is one of God’s best gifts to us.

So no one goes unloved, because God is Love. And He “so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

That’s true love.

January: a Time of New Beginnings

January: a time of New Beginnings . . . But what kind?  By Sharon Sheppard

It can be more than a little overwhelming, but if we’re ever going to get it together, we tell ourselves, January is the time to start.  (Never mind the old saying about the road to you-know-where being paved with good intentions.)

So we make resolutions, start diets.  We promise ourselves we’ll tackle all those things we’ve been putting off: clean out the closets, eat healthier, finish those incomplete projects.  Our cupboards and desk drawers will be tidier, we’re sure.  And we will exercise more faithfully, floss more often, etc., etc.

But today I’m asking myself a different set of questions:

What will really matter if 2018 should become my last year on this planet?

What would I wish I had done?

Will the way I spend time this year have an impact (positive or negative) on others?

What might I do that will have eternal consequences?

Heavy stuff, right?

Rather than making a staggering list of things I think I should be doing, I’m asking God what He wants me to do this year.  (I notice that He and I often have different ideas about such things.)

He won’t ask me to do more than I am able (by His grace) to do, and I pray that I will be a good listener and an obedient follower to pick up on what He is trying to show me.  You can pray for me, too, if you think of me…

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

Blessings on your NEW YEAR!

What God Means to Me

Thanksgiving: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime by Sharon Sheppard     Last week I shared with you in alphabet form a lighthearted list of a few of my favorite things.  Some of them were frivolous, some not.

This week, I invite you to pull up a chair and sit down at my Thanksgiving table as I offer a rich feast from the pages of The Holy Bible.  The preparation has taken a while.  After losing my cherished husband to cancer several years ago, I spent a period of time grappling with what it means to be alone. Gradually I discovered in a new way some old truths.  One of the most profound is that I’m never alone!!!

What God means to me

He is my . . .

A      Advocate  1 Jn. 2:1a-2  If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins…

B       Burdenbearer  Ps. 68:19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

C       Counselor  Jn. 14:16 & 26  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever…but the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things.

D       Defender  Ps. 27:1  The Lord is my light and my salvation—The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

E       Encourager  Rom. 15:5  May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

F       Friend  Prov. 18:24…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

G       Guide Jn. 16:13  But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.

H       Husband  Isa. 54:5 For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.

I        Immanuel   Mt. 1:23  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means, ‘God with us.’

J        Justifier   I Cor 6:11  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

K       King  1 Tim. 6:15b-16  God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.  To him be honor and might forever.  Amen

L       Lover  Song of Songs   Jer. 31:3  I have loved you with an everlasting love.

M      Messiah   Jn. 4:25-26  The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming.  When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

N       Name-above-all-Names  Phil. 2:9-11   Therefore God exalted him to the  highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

O       Overcomer  Jn. 16:33  In the world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.

P       Protector   Jn. 17:11   Jesus said, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.”

Q       Quietener  Zeph. 3:17  The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

R       Redeemer Eph. 1:7-8   In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us . . .

S       Savior  Ps. 89:26   You are my Father, my God, the Rock, my Savior.

T       Teacher  Jn. 14:26   But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things . . .

U       Upholder  Ps. 37:24 . . . though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

V       Vindicator  Rom. 8:31-34  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus, who died… is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

W      Way   Jn. 14:6   Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.

X       Example   Jn. 13:15   I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you….Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Y       Yoke-bearer  Mt. 11:28-30   Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Z       Zenith  Ps. 8:1ff  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens….When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Thank You, God, for a few of my Favorite Things

At a time when complaining is rampant, I choose to be thankful, By Sharon Sheppard

Psst…One of the Secrets to Happiness is Gratitude

 

“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Thanks, God, For a Few of My Favorite Things…

A       Apple pie (the taste and aroma trigger warm memories of home)

B       Books (I just finished reading Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale:  It’s excellent!)

C       Chocolate (dark or light, gooey or chunky; brownies and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups)

D       Daydreaming . . .

E       Excellence in the art, music, and literature of creative artists past and present

F       Family & Friends: what a gift!

G       Grandsons!

H       Husband: sweet memories of the one who was my all-time best friend

I        Imagination

J        Joy…the everyday kind

K       Kisses: chocolate, or otherwise

L       Love: God’s unfailing love, and the love of others

M      Mother:  My sensitive, caring role model

N       Nature:  God’s creation: lapping lakes, flaming autumn leaves, stars against an inky sky

O       Offspring: Jonathan and Caroline, who bring me so much joy

P       Piano: from a childhood of yearning to an adulthood with time to play whenever I please

Q       Quietness: I lap it up and savor it

R       Rice Pudding (City Cousin Mary’s is the ultimate)

S       Sonnets, symphonies, and Scrabble

T       Thanksgiving Day: an annual reminder of what we should do every day

U       Unscheduled time

V       Variety

W      Writing, words

X       Xylophone:  a whimsical gift from my husband–and time to play!

Y       Yelp: The lively online opinions of customers who help me make shopping decisions

Z       Zest for life that nips in the bud any inklings of depression

 

The Journey from There

“The Journey from There” by Rev. Edwin Hollen, Guest Blogger

The “there” could be anywhere, but for me it was a little hamlet in the mountains. An older gentleman was once asked why he hadn’t gotten married. His answer: “In life, there are so many turns in the road.” How true that is for each of us earth travelers. Life reminds me of the mountain roads where I lived the young years of my life. There were no straight roads. If you weren’t careful, you found yourself back where you started after continually twisting and turning. To me, those roads well represented the adventures of life. I was born into a Dutch family of 10 living children in a small village where people made their meager existence by mining coal. We well knew the reality of the song “Sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.” The mining companies owned the houses and the stores along with the places of employment. Perhaps we were the poor the poor talked about. That could well be true pertaining to this earth’s goods, but our home was rich in faith and love. My early years were spent with ragged jeans, bare feet, freckled face, red hair and a fishing rod. We spent nights camping along mountain streams; frog legs and trout waiting to go into the frying pan. I imagine we looked like orphans to the more sophisticated campers, but we fished the same mountain streams that U.S. presidents came to fish. Being very shy, lacking self-confidence, and having a speech impediment would not enhance the possibility that would take one to end up in public speaking. Unmerited favor is the only answer. There was one inborn trait that was favorable for the road ahead: of the ten children, I was always interested in what was over the next hill. That is still a part of my DNA. I humbly acknowledge God’s providence. He has used that trait through many years making it possible to follow the roads that have reached to all but two continents preaching the gospel. In this journey of many turns, a Dutch boy meets a Swedish/Danish blonde a thousand miles from his while attending college. Boy notices girl’s beauty and charm; however, it was not easy to make an entrance into a tight Scandinavian cultured family. Time and patience prevailed; the Dutch are known for that! Their road together begins leading into the field of Christian ministry. These past 62 years of marriage have resulted in great blessings: three children of deeply committed faith; three pastorates in Minnesota; missionary evangelism overseas; college teaching; the journey goes on. So from the back hills and roads of almost nowhere, the journey has unfolded. There is a lesson to be learned by all. The road that seems to go nowhere may be the one that leads you to the highest mountain in the world. May all of us be inspired to take the road that leads upward until we get to the end of the way.

Edwin Hollen, husband of another city cousin, Phyllis, who is proud of her heritage and kin.

Nothing Bad Ever Happens to a Writer…

Nothing bad ever happens to a writer  . . . By Sharon Sheppard

Writers have a whole different (quirky) way of looking at the world:  “No matter how bad life gets,” we say, “it’s all material.”

But grist for the writer’s mill notwithstanding, I’ve had a nasty week.  What I thought was flu turned out to be an infected gallbladder, so I had emergency surgery to remove the offending organ.  Not fun.

Afterwards, the surgeon presented to my anxious son and daughter color photographs of the whole mess.  No, I’m not going to show and tell.  What I do want to say is this:  A precious Bible verse that I memorized years ago once again became incredibly meaningful:

“And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good, if we love God and are fitting into His plans.”  (Romans 8:28, Living Bible)

Sometimes I’m tempted to question God, and ask Why??? But I’ve come to discover that He has a purpose for everything in my life.  As with many other things, I may never know why God allowed this. (Maybe because I ate too many sweets and greasy foods.)

But here are a few good things that have come of it:

*God gave me peace before and after surgery so I knew that whatever happened would be okay.

*This event has slowed me down and given me a welcome time of respite.

*Unstructured time has allowed me room to think.

*I’m savoring some reading that I may never have gotten around to.

*Though I am relatively new to this area of the country, I’ve discovered that I have more friends here than I would have guessed.

*Through my son and daughter’s loving care for me, I have a whole new appreciation for family.

My nephew said that as soon as he heard of my condition, he and his wife stood right there in the parking lot of Caesar’s Pizza, joined hands, and approached the Throne of Grace on my behalf.

After days of gracious care from my busy daughter, who stayed nights with me, took care of food, medications, and a host of other details, I said to her, “You’ve been so wonderful!  I could never repay you for all you’ve done.”

She replied, “And I could never repay you…”

And when I say to God:  “I can never repay you for redeeming me, for taking care of me in good times and bad,” He says, “You’re welcome.  It’s my gift.”

Happy Mothers Day? Not for Everyone.

Happy Mother’s Day? Not for everyone . . .
However, God can redeem anyone
By Mary Zigan
Excerpted from my book, An Upside-Down Heart
The sting of the darkest Mother’s Day weekend ever still burns in my mind. On Friday morning of that weekend, my husband, Don and I had been arguing about who knows what, but the verbal assaults and bickering escalated until there was a major blow up.
I retreated to my prayer closet, which was my lower-level office. I picked up my Bible, and wouldn’t you know, the reading was from Matthew. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you . . . , go and be reconciled . . . , then come and offer your gift.”
I said out loud to God, “No! I’m always the first one who apologizes, and I’m not going to do it this time.” There is no way I am going to say I am sorry first. The nagging words from Chapter 5 were relentless, and I caved. I went upstairs to where my husband was seated on the rattan loveseat located on the deck. Quietly sitting down beside him, I reached for his hand, but he pulled it away.
With remorse I said, “Honey, I’m sorry for my part in this argument.”
Don quickly retorted with, “It’s too late. I’m going to the farm and when I get back, I’m calling my attorney.”
My reactions to these words were fear and shock! I thought, * After all we have been through, now you’re willing to throw in the towel? I could not believe my ears.
“It’s too late,” he repeated, and he got up and left for the farm. In a panic, I thought, what am I going to do? We had no cell phones or landline at the farm. I was completely cut off from him.
With my stomach churning I did what I would typically do. I went for a walk.
My heart was heavy, my tears were hot, and fear of the unknown welled up in me as never before. These heated, hostile encounters had become a habit all too familiar, but this time Don meant business. The unknowns ahead gripped me stronger that day than I think I had ever felt them. Yet, as I walked, I sensed a voice, a Still Small Voice, saying in my spirit, “Mary, you were faithful to go and ask forgiveness. I will bring blessing and abundance to your marriage.”
Desperate almost to the breaking point, I went through the necessary motions of ordinary life on Saturday. The house was quiet, but Don’s and my hateful words to each other still rang in my head. On Sunday, I arrived at church early, hoping that Elsie and her husband, Don, would be prayer ministers that day. Elsie was a faithful prayer warrior who believed God could do anything.
At the end of the service, I nearly ran to the altar for prayer. There Elsie and her husband gently prayed with me. They encouraged me to put my trust in God for whatever the outcome might be. When I left church that day, even though everything was still uncertain, a load had been lifted.
Don didn’t return home for several days. I had anxious and unsettled feelings of the unknown that were like a vice around my heart. I prayed that somehow our love would supersede our selfishness. God had been working in my heart, had He been working in Don’s? I wondered.
After nearly a week, I had hopeful anticipation that today might be the day he would return. Wanting to put my best foot forward, I took a bubble bath, perfumed, and pulled out a pair of shorts and a T-shirt that showed off my tanned skin, and I was careful to have my attitude in check. In contrast with last week’s blowup, I hoped a gentle, quiet spirit would win his favor.
Don did return that day, and I could sense by his subdued demeanor that he was feeling some remorse. We did not discuss what had happened between us, but there was an unspoken willingness, you might say a silent truce, to ease back into the normal routine we had had previously.
The weather was perfect that summer and God was gracious to give Don and me several opportunities for solitude at the place we loved the most—our farm. We had time to walk together, to talk together, to begin a friendship together, to forgive one another, to laugh and cry together. In a sense it was a courtship. There was tenderness, respect, compassion, and kindness. It became clear that Don and I more than loved each other, we were committed for life!

Author’s note: This Mother’s Day may not be all that you would like it to be. Maybe you have unresolved issues and pain in a relationship. God can carry your burden for you and empower you with His grace to see the trial through.
If you would like to purchase the book, An Upside Down Heart, or invite Mary to speak at your conference, retreat, or Bible study, you may contact her at: mzigan2442@gmail.com