Distant Hearts

I think most Christians have those times in their walk with Christ where they feel a bit distant in their hearts. I’ve been in that place for awhile – feeling a little sad and out of sorts – a bit discouraged. Things which once brought pleasure seem to have the joy sapped out of them.

In my ministry life, I’m feeling like my teaching ministry isn’t bearing fruit and sometimes question whether I’m making a difference at all. My devotional life and time in the Word has been slipping. I sense my heart is distant and I’m not growing. I’ve been a Christian for 50 years now, so it’s a hard thing for me to admit I’m struggling in these areas.

One thing I know for sure, while my heart feels distant, God is not. He’s as close to me in my struggle as He is when all seems well. He has not moved – his steadfast love has not changed.

Psalm 119 is very dear to my heart. I re-read it today and found comfort in knowing that the “man after God’s own heart” felt this way at times too. Here we find David often crying out before God in the midst of his struggles, acknowledging that his help would come from God’s Word. Even when he felt like a lost sheep, He knew the Shepherd was near and would deliver him, put the song back in his heart and words of praise on his tongue.

I find assurance knowing that when the heart of one of His servants strays and feels distant and cold, the Good Shepherd is there seeking, drawing her heart back through His Word.

This post is written for Five Minute Friday Link Up. The word for today is “Distant.”

Five Minute Friday: Willing

Hubby asked me earlier this year if I wanted to travel with him to India where he and two other men from our church will be serving in a teaching capacity (I wrote a little more about that in Enlarging My World). I don’t think I answered right away, as I had just placed my mother in assisted living memory care. But there was definitely a tug of willingness and a sincere longing in my heart to travel with him and see firsthand this ministry.

After prayer about the ‘what-if’s’ related to mom’s care while I’m away, I decided to go. God had put the willingness in my heart. Momma was, is, and will always be in God’s very capable hands. 

As soon as I said yes, I learned there was a job for me to do. I would be teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). I’ve been busy preparing for that ministry from the moment I learned what my responsibilities would be. There’s a passport to be obtained (check!), immunizations to be received (done!), shopping for appropriate clothing (dragging my feet on that one), and reading nearly every library book I can get my hands on related to ESL. Most days you’ll find me listening to experienced ESL teachers share their teaching tips on YouTube.

Even with this preparation, I have felt for a few weeks now like I’m spinning my wheels. My foot is on the gas, but I’m getting nowhere, and digging myself into a rut of negative thinking. When I find a great idea and try to incorporate it into a lesson plan, ten reasons why it won’t work pop up in my mind.

I have five lessons to teach while I’m there. Five hours to give the students a better grasp of conversational English. Five lessons and five hours — that’s all. I want to make them count.

I’m finding myself melting into a puddle of anxiousness as I wrestle with what to say, what to teach, and how to do this thing I’ve never done before. This wrestling match has driven me to spend more time praying about this ministry opportunity. I know that all of my willingness and preparation in the world won’t matter one iota if the plans that I’m making are my plans alone. I have been reminded once again that my heart must be willing to seek and rely upon the Lord’s wisdom and guidance. 

Here I am, Lord. Please take my willingness to serve You and guide my steps of preparation in the way I should go. Direct my paths to the resources that will be helpful. Shield my heart and mind from that which discourages. Keep my mind focused on what you want me to teach. Your will, not mine.

Interesting how, once I released my tight grip on what and how to teach this class, the Lord directed my steps by allowing me to find the teacher’s edition of the English Grammar and Composition book I had loved using when I home-schooled my daughter eons ago. I thought the book was long since given away, but the Lord knew it was going to be helpful in the future.

Although I’m a little late to the link up, this post is inspired by the writing community at Five Minute Friday. Each participant writes for just 5 minutes on a one-word prompt – last week’s prompt being “willing.”

Five Minute Friday: Enlarging my World

My world has been relatively small the past few years, staying pretty close to home. Life has revolved very much around taking care of my mother as she battles Alzheimer’s. Over the years, I found myself growing weary and having to stop doing several things I love in order to be able to focus on her ever-increasing needs.

In late March, my sweet momma took up residence in a beautiful assisted living facility devoted to those with memory care needs. I still spend a few hours each day with her, but I can sleep throughout the WHOLE night in my own bed and am no longer fully responsible for her daily care. I’m beginning to feel more rested and able to resume some (but not all) of my former activities and ministries. I can take a little road-trip with my hubby, play in the dirt in my garden, or prepare a Sunday School lesson for the kids at church without interruption. It’s truly a blessing from God’s gracious hand.

With this new freedom, my world will enlarge even more in September when I accompany three of the men from our church (including my hubby) on a teaching trip to India. My responsibility during this trip will be to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) to the students who will be gathering for the purpose of enjoying some seminary-level training. I have never taught ESL, so this will be a huge stretch for me – something which will also enlarge my world as I help this group of adults whose first language is Hindi in their continued quest to become more fluent in their conversational English.

This is my hubby Wayne’s second trip to India (he’s the handsome, white-bearded guy on the lower left of the group photo above), as he traveled with our pastor and another friend on a teaching trip last year. This fall’s trip is a giant leap for me, as I’ve never been out of the country. [Well, unless you count the time when my hubby and I were honeymooning 43 years ago in a rented recreational vehicle and we drove over the Canadian border in the days before a passport was required.] This trip to India will be my first trip overseas, passport, visa, shots, long international flight, and all the cultural adventure that will surely come with that experience.

In the meanwhile, I will need much prayer support as I prepare for my role as a teacher on the other side of the world.

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Please come join us! https://fiveminutefriday.com/

Cottonwood Music

Listening to the gentle rustle of leaves as summery breezes
play in the branches of a neighboring cottonwood tree –
wondering why would a tree with lovely wind-stirred song
leave such a terrible fluffy mess lying on the ground?

A squall of snowy tufts swirl by, tickling my nose,
blanketing the lawn in maddening cottonwood snow.
With hair covered in velvety fluff, I sigh as it drifts along garden edges,
then sticks like socklets to my feet wet and bare.

For a few weeks each summer I fuss, whine and complain –
“the tree’s such a much mess” and inwardly wish it weren’t there.
Well, the ‘snow storm’ quelled on this summer’s eve, and I thought I did hear
the cottonwood’s beautiful wind-whispered music beg my forgiveness.

Cottonwood Mess – photo credit treeandneighborlawblog.com

Linking up today with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday community for five minutes of free write on a weekly word prompt.  This week’s word is question. Hello, to my neighbor and friend Marianne, in whose yard this tree resides. I hope she enjoys my question to the stately cottonwood tree and my unexpected revelation that the beautiful parts of life may very well make up for the messy parts.

Five Minute Friday: Love Without Measure

My daughter gave her grandma a baby doll – a Goodwill find. Except for the fact that its eyes don’t close, the doll baby looks and feels convincingly enough like a real baby. The baby doll is wearing a cute little dress  embellished with sweet, girly-looking smocking – reminiscent of a favorite outfit our daughter wore when she was a itty-bitty girl. 

Why give an 85-year-old woman a doll?

My mother has Alzheimer’s and the list of things which bring her joy grows smaller with each passing week. We had hoped the baby doll (we’ll call her ‘Dolly’) would bring her a measure of joy in the midst of the stress that her life had become – especially the stress she did not yet know she would experience with the next day’s move from our home to her new place in memory care assisted living.

On this final night in our home, Momma sat on her bed with Dolly propped up against her bed pillows. I sat in mom’s comfy chair in the corner of mom’s room and watched the encounter between the new would-be friends. Seemingly oblivious to my presence, Momma talked to Dolly a bit, patting the doll’s dress and stroking her hair, telling her how pretty she looked. She seemed a bit troubled by Dolly’s inability to reciprocate in the conversation, skeptically watching the baby for a response, then looking concerned when none would come.

Just when I thought Momma would give up on Dolly, my sweet mother leaned in real close, gently stroked the baby’s cheeks, then held Dolly’s face between her time-worn hands. Momma then demonstrated the measure of her big heart when she gazed into the unblinking eyes and said something to the baby that astounded me.

“I’ve learned in my lifetime that if you’re trying to have a conversation with someone and they don’t talk back and they just stare at you, it sometimes means that they have been deeply hurt and had trauma in their life.”

Momma gently kissed the baby’s cheek and added, “You’re safe with me.”


This post was brought to you courtesy of Five Minute Friday (hosted by Kate Motaung) and the word “measure.” Writers set a timer for five minutes, free write on the word prompt and publish it on our blog so the whole world (well, our little corner, anyway) can read it! Learn more about the writing challenge at Five Minute Friday.

Where?

Late to the party, but I am joining (on a Monday) the Five Minute Friday writing community, hosted by Kate Motaung, for our weekly writing adventure. Please click here to learn about Five Minute Friday. This week’s prompt is, “Where.”

Where Am I?

Momma asks this question every single day. Every. Single. Day.

I usually answer, “You’re at my house, Momma.” She will then peer about the room with a furrowed expression, and say, “Where?”


My sweet mother is hard of hearing, so I often must repeat what I said. However, it really does no good to explain to Momma where she is or why she’s here. But I do anyway. While she will soon forget, and it really doesn’t matter to her, it matters to me. When I tell Momma that she is here because I love her and want to take care of her, I need to hear myself say that even more than she does. In saying it out loud, I am reaffirming my purpose in my heart.

She will ask again. And again. And again. Each time as though it were the first. It’s at times such as this when I must I remind myself that Momma truly feels lost.

“Where is my purse?”

Where is my money?

“Where do I buy food?”

“Where is the bathroom?”

“Where are the kids?”

“Where are my shoes?”

These, and so many other “where” questions lurk in the worry corner of her mind. Lately, one of her most frequently asked questions is

“Where is my family?”

When she asks this question, she’s really not thinking about me, or her other children, or even her husband. Momma wonders when her parents are going to come and get her and take her home. It accomplishes nothing telling her that they’re already in heaven. If I do that, she stews and is angry that no one told her that they died. Instead, I say, “They’re not going to be able to come today.” Then, I answer her question with my own question, “So, what was your favorite memory with your Dad?” I absolutely love it when she reaches way far back into her cache of childhood memories and pulls out a special one.

While it is heartbreaking to hear Momma struggle with all of the where’s in life right now, I know she has a hope for a future “where.” A place where every tear will be wiped away, every worry and fear erased, and where pain and earthly sorrow will be gone forevermore. Momma is looking forward to her heavenly home – where no more memories will be lost to Alzheimer’s.

Five Minute Friday: Better

Fridays are date-night at our house. I always look forward to this weekly time away from the responsibilities of taking care of my mom, who has Alzheimer’s. We are so blessed to have a wonderful caregiver who spends time with Momma while we’re away. Tonight, courtesy of a generous gift card, we dined at a fancier-than-usual restaurant called Tornado. Well, the place wasn’t that fancy, but the food, service and menu prices were.

Last Friday night we were enjoying a dinner together at a restaurant that we were giving a second chance. While we dined, Wayne asked me if I had any goals for the new year. It was a good question and a great conversation starter. I’m not very good at making resolutions, and even worse at keeping them, but I had given  a little thought to some goals I would like to achieve. There were several areas where I wanted to do life better this year than last.

I didn’t mention the one thing that is always on my list of resolutions or goals – losing weight. I’ve taken steps in the right direction, but it still somehow eludes me. I’m going to still keep trying but, if I’ve learned anything in my years of chasing after that goal, it that there’s more to a better life than being the perfect weight.

Part way through my last decade of life, I realized that I like to write. I shared with my hubby that this year I want to get better at writing and be more intentional in the time I spend doing so. I have the aspiration of writing a book some day, but don’t have much of a plan for getting there.

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I want to be a better gardener. In addition to spending more time with my hobby of cultivating a beautiful flower garden, I want to begin adding some nutritious veggies to my garden in 2019. Not enough that I would have to commit to canning or freezing, but enough to enjoy some fresh nutrition during the growing season.

I want to be a better grandmother. I feel as though my responsibilities in caring for my mother have sidelined (or at least diminished) my opportunities to spend time with my grand-blessings. I wanted us to be more intentional about carving out time for them. I’m thankful that Wayne has a similar goal this year, as this will be much easier to accomplish if we are like-minded in this endeavor.

My heart’s desire is to be a better student of God’s Word. Not just a daily devotional snacker, as has been my habit while caring for my mom, but an endeavor toward a deeper, life-changing study of God’s Word. I plan to review a favorite epistle – James), comparing it with the early chapters of Proverbs. I’ve discovered that James borrowed much from that book in his writing. I’m also going to delve into a book I have read, but never studied – Hosea. May the Lord give me a better understanding of His precious Word.


I know! I know! I’m late again! This slightly tardy post was brought to you courtesy of Kate Motaung’s blog Five Minute Friday and the word “better.” Wanna-be writers like me set the timer for five minutes and then free write on the posted word of the week. I think I wrote for about five minutes, but switched to a different Word Press editor (something about boxes or blocks). I sort of like it…but there is a definite formatting learning curve in it for me where it comes to adding pictures.