Joan Reynolds

Real Faith, Real Life & Real Joy
Browsing Family

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 my sin 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, as 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 will be accompanied by a 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 you much more more reliable protection.

In truth, it is much more complicated than even 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 may 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  then 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 the year after 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, at least emotionally stronger than perhaps he had been. My emotions were often crushed as he seemingly did not want to acknowledge them. It was only when I thought about 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 a single mom to a five yr old, four years after my husband divorced me to be with my best friend. I am sure my Dad worried my life would be terribly hard, though he and I never spoke about how difficult it would have been for me  had I made any other choice.

Although Dad came home after the war to start a new life and family, his wounds never totally 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 friend hit by mortar  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 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. So many of us have had sex before marriage, but if we didn’t get pregnant, we could pretend that we hadn’t. Abortion took away much of the reason for shotgun marriages, but it left the decision heavily on the heart of the woman involved, who like my Dad in the war, had very little emotional preparation for such a life and death decision.

All the women at the center were 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, and possibly a brother or a sister, 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, 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 are themselves one or who have been close to one of these veterans, people who understand what she has been through and what she is feeling.

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, and yet surrendered it for adoption, in order to give it a better chance than the one she might be 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 other wounded warriors whom she may never before have met,  and yet may sit next to her in church,  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.

 

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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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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We Are A Fragrance!

October13

Everyday as I walk Gypsy to the ocean, both morning and evening, I pass a place where there is the most beautiful aroma. Where I notice it most is, oddly enough, right in front of a commercial garbage bin in front of some beautiful condos overlooking the Pacific.

I have walked down that same street twice a day for almost three months and never failed to detect the hint of it. I have brought a friend down who couldn’t smell it at all. I keep meaning to bring another friend, but actually, I really don’t care if anyone confirms it. I have gone to the nurseries in town and tried to locate a plant that gave off such a sweet fragrance (without my touching the leaves) but have come up short. No one knows of anything that would be sweet, not bitter, and yet give off the scent I am describing to them.

I merely thought it would be nice to plant under my bedroom window, where the smell of dog urine has occasionally wafted in unexpectedly during the night. I love that smell that I cannot replicate! Perhaps there is a good reason for that. It really encourages me to take that walk every day, and that is good for my health and my dog. It also inspires me to think deeper about the things of God.

He says in 2 Cor 14-16 that …”we are to God the aroma of Christ”….spreading everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. The fragrance of life. Can it be bottled and sold? No. Can I replicate that perfume I smell? Perhaps not.

Someone said it was probably a laundry sheet. Not at the times and days I pass by, it is too consistently the same. And it is a mix, smelling to the best of my ability to detect, rosemary, mint, and perhaps a third herb, but nothing bitter or too sweet. There is no sign of any of these plants growing anywhere on the street.

I have a new grandchild who, without any effort on her part,  summons up memories of my own children at the tender early stages of their lives. I remember the smell of them being so amazingly sweet. The back of their necks particularly held their fragrance as they got a little older. Not only did I love being in their presence, but I adored the aroma that was uniquely theirs.

I believe we are indeed a fragrance to God, and that He adores the aroma of us. Everyday I am reminded in the most uplifting way that where I expect to smell the scent of garbage, I am completely caught off guard by this wonderful scent. It is a lesson I hope that I do not forget, even if the aroma should disappear. Where else in my life might I be seeing garbage that may well be an amazing fragrance to God?

What If We Had No Stress?

August16

How would we handle our lives if we truly perceived them as not being stressful? I have really been chewing on this for the past few weeks, as I am readjusting to my new life. I am on a three-hour different time clock,  and I have let go of all my attachments; to things, furniture, houses, ways of making a living and ways of volunteering and connecting to people. That has left me with pretty much a clean slate upon which to choose what I want my life to look and feel like from now on.

What I noticed immediately was the difference between me and my family and friends whose days were caught up with keeping up with everything already on their plates. I recognized just how difficult it is for anyone to get any perspective on what needs to go, when staying ahead of crisis seems to be an all consuming job. Even though someone, perhaps a counselor or physician, may alert them to the fact that they have to rid themselves of some stressors, getting time to do that in their stressed-out environment is impossible. Making that time seems to only cause pure panic that everything will swamp them. It’s the story of the guy spinning ten plates in the air. If he stops focusing one may drop. If he doesn’t stop focusing he may go nuts from the pressure and they may all fall on his head. What is the solution here?

Some of us may have noticed a friend, suddenly stricken by an accident or illness, having to totally rearrange their priorities and though the immediate reaction is how will all the things they have been handling get covered, we soon observe that a peace has come over them that we never saw before. Often they have just, finally, had to put their health and their families first on their agenda, to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. It is amazing that we love them none the less for this decision, because we know it is the only way they will survive to remain in our lives. Why is it that we can’t see this until disaster befalls us? Why can’t we make similar decisions before we are forced to, when it really is in our best interest?

I have come to see, over the past four years, that everything bad that happens does have a silver lining, if we are willing to look for it. Every loss is indeed a gain, for God if for no one else, as we most often turn our attention fully to Him only when we run out of other options. He is capable of making all things new and using everything for our best. Total trust in that is the only fact we have trouble acknowledging. Why do we cling to our stress? Is anyone really making us, or does it just confirm some absurd reason for being here that we seem to have to be needed? We are needed, but often not for the reasons we think. I have been examining that for the past month, and found I have had little reason to blog when I was so happy and so stress free. What does that say about our need to constantly communicate our stress with others?

Hmmmm. I am still pondering all this in my heart. I hope to have more insight in the future. Until then, it is good to be back on my gypsy-like home page, back keeping in touch with life, love, and faith.

The Queen of Restarts!

June21

A male friend of mine from thirty years ago (and another lifetime!) called today. I started telling him about my move to the other coast and my plans to fly out there and find a job and a place to live next weekend.

He has known me through several major moves, three to different states, one to a different country, so he is used to this kind of news from me. I haven’t done anything for twenty years though, so even he was caught off guard for a minute. Then he said, “Well, you are the Queen of restarts!”

I looked the word up in the online dictionary and it said “to begin again or anew.” That does feel comfortable somehow. Not so much recreating myself, but being willing to take a whole new look at life from a different perspective! I feel like I am just willing to put on a new pair of glasses and see what I can see.  A different climate, perhaps a new group of friends, a new place to put my computer and a few other belongings that will make the trip, a different path to walk my dog Gypsy, a time change of three hours. A new church family, and a new grandchild!!!

Yes, that does sound like anew more than again, the again  really means I have done this before ….but never in the same way, or with the same companions or the same attitude or mindset. I will gather up all that I am now and that is who I will be taking with me. The product of all those other moves and memories,  all the inner healing God has been working on with me over the years…..It is a-gain!

The one thing I do know is I will not be traveling alone. God will be right beside me, ready to share the wonder and joy,  heartache and helplessness. It is all part and parcel of the continuous journey we are on together. My hope is that He will help me use all the gifts and talents, healing and hope that He has put inside me wherever we land and that I will be a blessing to those that I have yet to meet, especially that grandchild!

 

Faith or Fear…Who’s Home At Your House?

June20

I was playing around with these words today, because it seems to me they are the two most important words in dealing with everyone, everyday. No matter what our situation, how we handle it has everything to do with how we approach these two words.

Fear and faith cannot inhabit our bodies, minds or souls at the same time, therefore we are continually choosing the one for whom we will open the door . Is it the one who gets there first? In that case, is your faith only visiting when you call and ask it to come over?

Do you let fear in the moment he knocks, immediately pondering worst case scenarios, moving on from there to call a few friends who, depending on their own relationship with these two visitors, either add to or help dispel your fear? Finally, after much inner strife and struggle, do you finally turn to God to replace fear with faith in your current situation?

FEAR. F+Ear. What it looks like to me is we get to choose our own F-word. Whichever one we give our ear to is the one who takes up residence.

We can listen to God and give ear to Faith, or we can run into the waiting arms of the enemy and let fear claim squatters rights. It is truly a matter of choice. Whomever you let in first is difficult to evict. So take a few moments to choose wisely.

Faith on the other hand, separates into this for me:

Faith =

Am

I

Trusting

Him?

Pretty simple actually. Answer that one and you will know why you run where you run when the unexpected or unwanted happens. Keep an eye on those guys! It is your choice, you know.

Limboland

May31

There is a place between here and there that feels kind of like nowhere.

When we are not quite going forward, but not really going back, where are we exactly? It feels a bit like being in a rudderless ship adrift on the sea, checking the wind or the weather for direction, even though if we actually had a direction those things would not really be all that important. We would proceed confidently in spite of them.

Some people are waiting on others to make a decision which will give them the information they need to choose, or  to accept, their next place or position. Trying not to feel like a victim during a time like that is a challenge in and of itself. Life consists of a series of events: some we put into motion, some happen to us. I have friends who believe that there are no accidents, that we have basically set everything in motion in our lives ourselves. On some level, I agree with her, but there are also some things that, while we may have had a part in bringing them about, we don’t have any control over how any others involved will play their cards.

As we go along through life, sometimes drifting is a way to take stock of ourselves. Like a day spent on the river, perhaps fishing for some people, life gives us moments to pause and reflect. Sometimes those moments may last for weeks or months. Perhaps that is because we haven’t taken time to bring ourselves up to date in a long while. So we had better make the most of it, as it may be awhile before it happens again!

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Time And Love

May29

While these really don’t appear to have anything to do with one another, they often do. Love is an expression; of our feelings, our commitment, our connection to one another.

Expression can be through the written word, or the spoken word, but usually it is in one of those forms. In a busy life contained within an even busier world, very often time limits everything. What we choose to give our time to often points out where our priorities, and often our hearts, lie.  If you are in constant contact with someone, a small comment like “I can’t talk now, I’m…….” is perceived as neither  a slight nor particularly personal in nature. From someone with whom you haven’t spoken in a year, someone as close in relation as, say, a brother or a sister, it is difficult to receive without a slight personal edge to it. We all have our duties and our allegiances, those to whom we are very careful not to let our words carry unwanted thorns. And then we have times that we are busy just trying to accomplish all that we have to do for those in our inner circle, or for ourselves, where adding  anything else to a full plate seems overwhelming.

Lost in those moments (we do not have time for) is often the essence and the promise of our future relationships. Will we even notice the place where the other person finally surrenders to not being a priority, not being even a little important, no longer an unexpected but perhaps wonderful interruption to their schedule? It is where one person seeks to exit from the pain of not being noticed, and withdraws to a more comfortable place in the shadows of anothers priorities. Much like the clear message that there can’t be a fight if one party stops fighting, there also can’t be depth and a growing love if one person stops making time for the other. It becomes a void where the absence becomes a hole where love used to be or almost worse, a numbness to any feeling at all. This being preferable to a harbored grudge or resentment, it becomes merely a bruise that over time and neglect will no longer hurt.

I am often struck be how a person’s smile, or face lighting up as they catch our eyes, does more for our bodies and spirits than any amount of vitamins and reading spiritually uplifting material can do. It takes little time, but instead a real recognition of the persons presence and value in our life. We all remember to say those things to their relatives when they have left this life, but did we always take the time to let the person themselves hear the light in our voices or our words that let them know they were priorities?

We can always improve on this as we face each day. We can always notice those to whom our noticing really matters. For me, it always comes back to the differences in the way God created us in the first place. There are amongst us individuals to whom everything seems personal. There are also those amongst us to whom life is a mountain of details needing to be handled. We each bring needed perspectives to our daily living.

The trouble arises when we forget our innate differences and just assume everyone sees life exactly as we do. Bridging those rivers is what real relationship is all about. Love, for me, comes from someone remembering to notice how different we are and yet taking the precious time to work at building and maintaining the bridge anyway.

 

 

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