Joan Reynolds

Real Faith, Real Life & Real Joy

Angels In Our Midst!

May28

My pastor wrote in his blog several weeks ago about his encounter with angels 25 years ago and it reminded me of a similar situation that happened at about the same time to me and my sons, then living in Florida.

We had recently moved from upstate New York to Jacksonville, and were fascinated by the beaches all around us. One sunny day in early November we drove  our Ford Aerostar van down to the beaches of St. Augustine, where we had heard they allow cars to drive on the sand, to check it out. The beach was totally deserted that day, even though it was beautiful; Floridians typically do have a season where they frequent the beach, and that had already passed.

This was my first time driving on the beach, there was no one to instruct me, and the boys were very excited that we had a roadway between the dunes and the water of about 300 yards so we hit the sand running……until we realized we were no longer moving forward. Our wheels were still spinning but we weren’t going anywhere, except deeper into the soft sand into which I had driven (funny, I thought I would be safer farther away from the waters edge, but the sand was actually easier to drive on the closer one got to the water, not the other way around). Our laughter and excitement quickly turned to fear, as we realized we were on a desolate beach with no idea how to get our heavy car out of the sand. And while the sky was beautiful, the sun was beginning to go down. We also were in a pre-cell-phone era and houses, stores and people were nowhere to be seen.

My sons were then aged ten and four. My older one, a type A firstborn, hopped out of the vehicle and began digging furiously behind the back wheels with his bare hands, determined to dig us out by himself. My youngest, a more laid back dude with much more patience, decided to go up on the nearby hill and play in the sand dunes. As he did, I could hear him talking to God. While his hands were forming sand castles, he was saying “Lord, my Mom needs your help right now. Her car is really stuck in the sand.” That was it, and he continued playing.

Not two minutes later there was a woman at the side of my car, motioning for me to get out. A man…her husband, I assumed, was behind the car, getting ready to push it. She climbed into my seat and within a matter of minutes the car was on hard packed sand again, and I was back in the driver’s seat, calling my sons to get back in the car. I turned to point out the couple who had helped me and they were nowhere to be seen. There wasn’t another car or person on the beach and I had no idea how they could have disappeared from sight so rapidly.

I haven’t asked the boys about this in any recent time and they may well not remember. As for me, I will always believe God sent angels to help me out of that predicament and that they appeared and disappeared without so much as a word. Except for the words and faith of one very small boy, who totally believed God would help out his Mom.

Although both those encounters took place 25 years ago, I am believing there are angel sightings every day, though sometimes we may discount them because we cannot prove it, even to others who may also have been there at the time. Faith, belief, and the eyes to see; let them see. This story also reminds me that I am safer on the hard sand, closer to God’s living water, than I am walking on the softer sand nearby. The softer sand is a really good place to stop, lie down and rest awhile, but if I want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, I will get much more traction on that well-packed, wetter sand… closest to Him.

Abortion….The Silent War Women Fight Alone

May25

I came very close to having an abortion, in fact as close as fifteen hours away from one that was scheduled for the tiny life within me.

In the Christian communities I have been a part of over thirty some years, that information alone could be enough to change people’s opinion of me and, depending on their experience and position on the issue, that might be positively or negatively.

In some of their eyes I would be celebrated for having made ‘the right choice’. That seems nice enough, in that I get to tell my story openly most times, without the fear of the judgement that will definitely accompany someone sharing that she made a different choice. To others I committed a sin being pregnant outside of marriage, something they know they would never have done, so they may step back a few inches as though it might be catching. For most churches in that time, I was a single parent they didn’t quite know what to do with or for, my children and I were outside the realm of most their ministries.

Sometimes people don’t really think about the fact that of the three choices available to a woman in that place,  none of them seem ‘right’ to her, even by Webster’s definition: morally or socially correct or acceptable. Whichever one we choose  there will be shame that we will have to work through, perhaps for a lifetime. The church can be a loving place to heal, or it can be a continual judge and jury. Each one can only be seen on its own merits, but it is a tough risk when your silence offers more reliable protection.

In truth, it is much more complicated even than the choice itself, and only someone who has been faced with that dilemma in their own life may ever experience the compassion I feel for the women who have had abortions, especially those who truly regret it. I feel for the woman who gave up the only child she might possibly ever bear for adoption,  who may also be told she did the right thing, but that can ring hollow in a childless life.  For the one who experienced an abortion and yet keeps it secret as most do, being handed a rose at their church on Mother’s Day can be so devastating they will purposely avoid church on that day.

My Dad was a veteran of WWII. He was barely 25 when he Captained  a battalion of men through horrible circumstances in the Battle of the Bulge and  awful experiences in Belgium and Germany. Though he came home seemingly in one piece, with a British Medal of Honor, a Silver Star and a Purple Heart, he never mentioned the war once during my lifetime of knowing  him. I was born in the year he returned and he died when I was fifty-eight. It was something he just couldn’t talk about. He couldn’t sort out all his emotions, so he just put them in a box he never re-opened.

Though he went on to raise a family, be a successful businessman and a great father to four children, to this day I don’t know much about his war experiences or his wounds. I know he could be super critical and hard on his kids, but he wanted us to grow up strong. My emotions were often crushed as he seemingly did not want to acknowledge them. It was only when God and I reviewed my own brush with abortion that I had even a clue as to why he was emotionally distant sometimes, angry and frustrated at other times, for seemingly no related reason. He had experienced a time as a very young man when he couldn’t  allow his emotions to cloud his mind while he did what he had to do, which was often not something he wanted to do, in order to follow orders and protect all the others in his care. I am sure it was this thinking that came to the surface for my Dad when I became pregnant out of wedlock ; I was already single mom to a five yr old, four years after my husband divorced me to be with my best friend. I am sure he worried my life would be terribly hard, but he and I never spoke about how difficult it would have been for me  had I made any other choice.

Although Dad came home to start a new life and family, his wounds never actually healed. Many of them were buried, deep in his heart, alongside the friends he lost during the war. He had killed people, and seen friends be killed, his best one blowing up just feet from his side. There is no healing balm for that, save the Oil of Gilead, straight from the heart of God himself, and I pray that my Dad finally found that healing and peace when he came face to face with his maker. He deserved it, having silently carried those hurts for a lifetime, all the while providing for his family and walking out a good christian life here on earth, always mindful of the ones who never made it home.

Perhaps that is why, when I was first met the women of the crisis pregnancy center where I was to volunteer, I broke down in tears when I got back to my car. I knew that I was among women who had fought in the same war into which I had also been drafted, for no one knowingly signs up for this one. We were all touched in some way by the legacy of abortion; some spoke about it, many did not, but there was a silent camaraderie, no, that is not the correct word, it was more that we shared a sacred silent compassion in that room. I felt a sense of home, but also of purpose, that made me weep and thank God in gratefulness for all these women and for so many more.

There is hope for the victims of this war. Many people think only of the baby when they think of the victims, but they would be very wrong. There are parents and grandparents who may never be. There are uncles and aunts who may only be sisters and brothers. Mostly a mom, and a dad, of one very special and particular child, who will never meet them this side of heaven.

There is accurate and factual information that can help a woman  prepare for the decision only she can make. One of the deepest regrets of many is being told it was nothing but a blob of tissue, only to find out five or  ten years later it was already a life with a heartbeat that could be seen on ultrasound only four weeks from conception. Resentment from not having been told the truth, prior to making this decision is one of the worst things to get over and a hard thing to release. The woman is victimized all over again every time she relives that decision, as she will often over her childbearing years, perhaps her lifetime. God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness is both extremely necessary and also lavishly  provided, when asked for personally by women in these tough situations.

At a crisis pregnancy center, fortunately there are other soldiers who can come alongside her, whatever her choice has been or will be, to help her with what is ahead. There are women who have been one or have been close to one of these veterans, people who understand what she has been through and what lies ahead.

As for me, I am ever grateful God is allowing me to use all that He has shown and taught me to be aware of, so that I may encourage  and uplift  those very courageous souls who have sidelined their own lives, often against the will of those closest to them, to do the very difficult work of being mother, father, head of household and spiritual leader of the child they decided to have and to raise, with no guarantee of any help. To be there for the woman and families of the one who gave a child life, yet surrendered it for adoption, in order to give it a better chance than the one she was able to provide for it,  to make sure she is encouraged and celebrated for her choice as well. And for the one who chose abortion, to surround her with the love of God and mercy of imperfect but loving others who welcome her to the ranks of wounded warriors whom she may never before have met, or even known were out there, and  to share God’s amazing healing and His promises for her life and her future.

Different times and places, different ranks and titles, but as with all vets when they get together, a common bond that needs not even be spoken. You know what I know. You have seen the enemy face to face. And there, but for the grace of God, go all of us. Like my Dad, I live my life ever mindful of the ones who didn’t make it out as easily as I did, and the ones who didn’t make it out at all. If it were in my power, I would proudly present each woman who has been in this war with a Purple Heart, for we have all fought hard on the front lines of this battlefield, and we have all been wounded, in a place that may be impossible for most to see.  I am so grateful that God’s own medal of honor, His son Jesus Christ, is always ready and waiting to heal all of our wounds, even and especially this one, once and forever when we ask Him to come into our broken heart.

Because unfortunately, this war is far from over.

 

Handicapped ….For His Glory!

April23

I have struggled, over my lifetime, to find an answer to the recurring question of why I seemed so different; more emotional than others, more inclined to seek the truth, more concerned with people’s feelings than their bank accounts (or my own).
I have met so many people who seemed to find the right partner, the right job, to enjoy the pleasures of life so much more easily than I did.
For some odd reason, I often found my inner comfort zone to be right  where others saw discomfort. I was secure where they would feel lost. I was at ease where they were acutely distressed.
I am beginning to understand that while I appeared to have every basic body part and brain function in tact, I have apparently always been handicapped. In the same way that a blind person has extra perception when it comes to hearing than many of his sighted friends, I always seemed to pick up on heart waves that no one else noticed, or if they did, they could not describe them as easily as I seemed to be able to.
I know now that all those times that I had such a different experience than what appeared to be the normal response of those around me was precisely because I was indeed handicapped, with a sensitivity to the spirit God put in me at birth, made only more profound after I asked Jesus into my life at age 37.
As so many people with severe handicaps will testify, I appreciate things in life that others just don’t even seem to notice. I am aware of the kindness of people and the workings of God in ways that others can’t begin to comprehend, especially when they consider experiencing my circumstances. And in the end, those handicapped individuals almost always say they wouldn’t change a thing about their lives, because their experience of it has been so rich and so filled with awe and wonder. I have to say that from my vantage point, I would totally agree.

Way Wrong!

March31

I have to laugh at myself sometimes, a lot of times if the truth be known, and one of those times is when I approach a traffic symbol where the words to follow have been written on the pavement before it, telling me exactly what to do.
This morning while I walked Gypsy back from the beach, I walked over one and as usual, read it top to bottom, instead of the way they intended it to be read, bottom to top, the order in which you would roll over it in your car.

 
This one said Wrong Way with an arrow going toward the wrong way. I laughed because I couldn’t help but read it my usual way…..Way Wrong! I got thinking about how I used to be so much more easily led astray by not heeding the signs God intentionally left for me to see. I guess I am a bit obtuse or just easily adaptive toward pleasing others, so I naturally got off the path more frequently than I do these days. I would take jobs that were not in my gifted areas and then be in pain about them. I would get into relationships that were not good for my personality type or my heart and then be in pain about how to get out of them (without hurting the other person of course!)

 
Nowadays, I spend much more time praying for God’s purpose and jobs that He leads me to. I pray for relationships where he wants me to be involved, and they are always a benefit of some sort to both me and the other person in our growth as a Christian. Or He wants me to bless someone and it always feels like a service to Him, not something I would necessarily choose in my flesh.

 
So, when I looked at this signage on the road before me, I laughed because now I often am able to say at least to myself, “Way Wrong”, in terms of the direction I might choose on my own vs something I know to be the Lord’s leading. Staying anchored in His word also helps me to discern the difference more easily. Perhaps as I get older, I just don’t want to go the wrong way any more, as it takes so long to get back on His track sometimes. So I will keep looking for the ways He confirms my path, trying not to get ahead of Him but appreciating it even if he has to shout Way Wrong! before I detour out of His lane.

Siblings with Different Parents?

March30

Someone recently told me that she had heard a psychologist say that children in the same family actually had different parents, depending on when they were born. I guess this relates to the whole birth order studies of personalities in many ways, but also in a new way that made so much more sense to me.

Our parents were often at very different places in their relationship to each other and to life in general, at the times that my three siblings and I were born. That has helped to explain why we seemed to have very different contexts of our parents during our childhood and even very different relationships with them. Partly because of that, we also relate differently to each other.

My Dad was just home from World War 2 when I joined the family. These days we would probably recognize his symptoms and hair trigger anger as some kind of PTSD. He, as a very young man in charge of many other young men, had witnessed horrific things that I am sure he could never forget. He must have had a very difficult time resuming life as he had left it and the cries and antics of two young children as he tried to determine how to make a living after his service.

My parents moves and Dad’s subsequent success in his career and his natural gifts and talents as a singer and piano man and boss, dad, and wonderful human being, began to be reinstated in higher and higher priority in his life and that of his family. This had the simultaneous effect of making him temperamentally easier on subsequent children, particularly the fourth, than he was able to be with the first ones. That is why I believe there is truth in the wisdom of the statement that we all actually had different parents. It could be they get more relaxed at parenting or in life, or the opposite could be true; some circumstance such as a lost job or an accident could change the experience completely as does divorce and moving. More money, less money, the possibilities are endless.

It is always a good thing to recognize that no matter our best intentions, each of our children may have an entirely different perspective on their childhood. I have found over the years that being defensive about my role in my children’s lives at any given time only served to distance us emotionally. If I was willing to accept and listen to their version of how they felt about a certain time or event, I was often able to apologize for negative consequences I may not even have been aware of. My denial and/or excuses had little effect on relieving their pain and often only prompted more emotional punishment and distance because I had, in effect, rejected them by rejecting their perspective. I am finding the older and wiser I get, the quicker I am to step into their memories, and see things from their eyes, rather than my own.

This has opened the doors of both of our hearts more than any psychiatry could have ever accomplished with the result being real healing on both parts as well as a new sense of caring and love, much less complicated by the past. Keeping the slate as clean as possible going forward is certainly my goal, where family and all relationships are concerned. So much less mess to clean up!

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An Update On That Dating Thing!

March28

Just wanted to bring this blog and anyone who follows it up to date on the outcome of my excursion into the Christian dating scene. The past few months have been really exciting, but more because of the way God has brought me closer to Himself than for anyone I met while making myself approachable online.

What happened was that several men I met, spoke with or corresponded with all asked me the same question: You have an amazing testimony. What are you doing with it?

Hmmmm. That was a tough one, but it had an easy answer. Nothing.

I had stopped blogging, I was not volunteering in any capacity except hospitality at church, and although I regularly attended and shared at my bible study group, I wasn’t doing anything with the story of my adventures with the Lord.

Could it be that what I got out of the dating site was a direct road back to the love of my life? Actually that is exactly what happened.

I asked God to go with me and indeed He did, and facing my past head-on where men were concerned, helped me to find a few places that still needed forgiveness and God’s healing touch. Had I not gone there, I may never have known there was still some crusty residue in the heart of this vessel. As the months progressed, I felt as though I was finally willing to let go of all hurts where men from my past were concerned and come back into God’s loving arms with a clearer love and yearning to know Him than I had ever had the previous thirty years.

I was able to choose Him completely, knowing He had already chosen me, no matter which way my head had turned toward gentlemen at any given point in time. I have to say, this journey did start out with me wondering if I had yet found the love of my life and ended with me knowing for certain that yes, I had already found Him, and He was going to remain with me into the eternity He has promised. There is nothing safer and more certain, nothing more exciting than that! Nothing.

God’s Economy in Relationships

March28

He never wastes a connection. The longer I live and the more I observe His divine connections, the more I am convinced He always has something for each of us to learn in any connection He makes between people.

As I recently reviewed many past loves and attractions in a wonderful Beth Moore bible study called Breaking Free, I could see how God had lessons for me in every one of them, although they had only seemed like rejection, abandonment and disaster at the time. Although I also believe He had a lesson for the partner I had been with, or the date or the acquaintance, I could only show up and be accountable to learn the one He had for me. If I chose not to learn the lesson, I could also see where God took me back into a similar situation where I had yet another opportunity to learn it. Choosing not to learn may be called denial, or just plain stupidity, but I often found it was only the second time when I began to recognize a pattern, one that opened my heart to allow God to change it and to see what He wanted me to see. The pain the second time was usually twice as bad as the first, helping me to desire to change before a third opportunity had to arise.

His protection of me, and especially of my heart, has been evident to me for  a very long time, ever since I first turned my life over to Him thirty years ago. He has a vested interest in protecting me and in keeping me safe as I continue to grow and learn about Him and as He continues to lead me where He can use the particular gifts He has given me.  I have come to lean on and appreciate that leading more and more every year. I now jump at the chance to learn the lessons He presents for me, rather than wait for a second or third opportunity. I know that doing that lessens, if not eliminates completely, the pain that I, or those I love, may suffer and prevents the awful cover ups and deception that the enemy thoroughly enjoys manipulating to his advantage.

I may never know if, or how, the Lord has used these same connections in the other person’s life, but that is not important for me to know. God has used it in mine and we will move on to another lesson and that is all that matters.

 

Pre’tending’….fastest way to change behaviors!

March25

I just spent the past two days playing with my 2.5 yr old granddaughter. I love our time together because it is most often spent in the ‘wiving woom’ playing whatever game she wants. She has an amazing mind and capacity for remembering and arranging data, and all her experiences to date have seemingly been cataloged for her to revisit at will. As my brain requires more and more focus to bring about this compliance, I am both intrigued and thrilled to see how she utilizes so much information, all relatively brand new to her.

Her favorite games to play involve ‘tending’. This is her best attempt at the moment at ‘pretending’, and yet I found her shortened version of the word extremely accurate to explain what she, and I as her accomplice,were really doing. Whether it was flying on an airplane, swimming in the ocean, or cooking in her kitchen, there was not a detail of the process that she left out.

Turning the knobs on and off on her ‘stove’, the ding of the ‘microwave’ signalling done, blowing away the steam on the ‘soup’ before we ate it, putting our seat belts on in the ‘tend’ airplane, after putting our suitcases securely under our chairs, then remembering to remove each in the correct order  before getting up: the details of her follow through were incredible.

Even when we played in the ‘ocean’ of my puffy comforter on the guest room bed, she made a practice of confronting the situation that may hold the most fear for her at the moment (being knocked over by a wave) by repeatedly having it happen and laughing as she fell down and got herself up giggling at how much fun it was to be knocked over by a comforter wave. Knowing this was  a scenario that had brought her to tears mere weeks ago, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her happily confront it over and over again, to ingrain on her mind a different outcome for the next little wave that overcomes her and momentarily destabilizes her balance.

She also surrounds herself with the most positive company while attempting to change her perspective: her never far from her arms BFF bear, and assorted other stuffed cuddly companions, who also braved the waters with her, mostly so she could teach them how to prepare and react, as her Dada had taught her.

“Tending” is indeed a perfect way to rehearse the things in life we want to confront and change and make a new path for, helping us to prepare the way. The word implies we are doing it with great care and attentiveness. It has been taught by those who have led for generations and will continue until the end of time. One thing we need to do to change our attitude and outlook is to simulate a new one, and practice it until it replaces the old one that no longer serves us well. The other is to ask God to help us make that change. I am grateful once again for the guidance of the littlest among us who will show us the way to confront our own fears, if only we are willing to pay close attention.

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A Seat At Our Table

December19

My journey through this dating experience, and getting caught up on life with a man God has brought into my life at this moment in time, has uncovered many memories. Initially they seemed good, then not so good, then good again. Layers and layers of where we have been and how we got to the place we are right now. Water under the bridge in some ways, but information that a potential mate for life needs and expects to know. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God, as they used to swear in the witnesses in Perry Mason court cases!

After processing some of the negative ones again to see if they are still binding me in any way, there often surfaces a second memory of the same place and time where I could see that my heart was turned to God and the expectation of the good life He had ahead for me and my children. As a single Mom, I often missed the presence of a male at the head of our table, both to anchor our family and to be the covering and protector any family needs. I remember at a certain point that I would set the dining room table with our finest linens and silverware and china. These were former wedding gifts I rarely had occasion to use any longer, yet they looked pretty when I looked at the dining room we also rarely used, as though we were awaiting a special guest.

I remember setting the table for four, though we were a family of three at that time, and for most of the time I was raising the boys. I remember laying out the place settings, and thinking as I did that Jesus might show up any time, and in the guise of someone that I might not initially recognize. I wanted to be ready to welcome Him into our home, and to always let anyone know there was a place for them and for Him at our table.

As all of this looking back and remembering the places He has kept me grounded in an unsteady world, makes me smile when I think about the ways in which He was present at our table. I remember the blessing my grandfather on my Mom’s side always said before we ate. “Be present at this table Lord, be here and everywhere adored. Thy creatures bless and grant that we, may feast in Paradise with thee, Amen.” I always thought it odd he said the same blessing at every meal, but it was really a good one, as I reflect on it now.

God is Not a Proofreader!

December2

I  received a special gift this weekend, along with a book that Billy Graham has just written, The Reason For My Hope. It is probably the last one from this incredible man of God, and I am stuck by how each paragraph, each sentence contains so much truth , insight and yes, hope for all of mankind, in spite of everything we see going on in the world today. To me it would seem as though he would be discouraged at what he has seen over his lifetime, but because his hope is in our eternal salvation, in God not in man, he is every bit as passionate near the end of his life as he was in the beginning of his ministry. He is an amazing blessing to the decades of people whose lives he has touched and to the generations that will follow.

The part that struck me this morning even as I was being uplifted by his words, was that I hadn’t read thirty pages when I had noticed two mistakes. Not in his message, not in his work, but typos! Typos, can you believe it? He has a great publisher, probably hundreds of people who have read this before the publisher took it to print, and yet here are these common errors seemingly obvious to me, that no one caught.

At first I thought, should I call someone, write them that these were there so that future printings would be perfect? Then I realized God was just showing me, once again, how I struggle with the fact that regardless of being saved, in spite of spending thirty years safe in His protection and love, I still struggle with imperfection. And I always will. I am imperfect. We all are. Save one, Jesus Christ, who came so that we might have eternal life and be accepted, with all our imperfections, into His Kingdom when we leave this earthly body and return home.

I always thought it was a good thing to be a natural proofreader, but sometimes it isn’t,  unless it is your job. It makes me search words for the meaning that might be lost between the lines, a hanging participle that might cause someone to read something in a way other than what the author intended. Yet often this is just how God speaks to me in deeper ways, calling attention to the flaws I have asked Him to reveal in me that I might possibly improve on with some effort on my part and grace on His. I don’t want someone to read me wrong, so to speak. Or is it that I don’t want them to see my imperfections?

Today He has shown me that He doesn’t see my imperfections in the way I see them. He sees my heart. He sees the soul He gave me at birth and the life that I have lived trying to be true to Him and to myself. He does not proofread every moment of every day, every misstep that I have made, every wrong word that I have written or said. I sometimes can be so disheartened by getting something wrong that I miss His bigger picture for me. His love and compassion are always the meaning between the lines. His care for me goes far beyond my getting everything perfect. His joy in me is never undone by one wrong thought.

I thought I was not a perfectionist. I try to look for the good in people and in situations without judging the small mistakes, but I was wrong; being a proofreader is looking for perfection. I attributed this to a characteristic of God, but I was incorrect, as I so often am. We are made in His image, not He in ours. Nothing in His word says He is a proofreader, in fact much the opposite. We are flawed, imperfect, and we need Him to get through this life. He sent His perfect son to die on the cross for the mistakes we have made and will continue to make, just so that we can experience His love while we struggle through life on this earth and so we may one day join Him in eternity. End of story. I do not need to tell Billy Graham’s publisher there are flaws. If anyone knows that, it is Billy Graham. Perhaps God allowed those  just for me to see. He’s like that, you know.

 

 

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