Seatcover friendships… by Adrienne Yerzy

friendsOriginally, I was going to write about contentment. Ah! It is something I struggle with regularly, but as I thought for a while, I realized what I wanted, no, needed to write about was friendship.

You see, tonight I had the hit show “Friends” playing in the background while I was doing my meal prep for the week. I kind of zoned out as I sliced and diced, but suddenly, I heard a line that jumped out at me. I felt like God highlighted something to me through the oh-so-wise Phoebe Buffet. It was the Christmas episode where Joey and Chandler both put off Christmas shopping until the last minute, and then couldn’t shop the day before Christmas because they were helping Phoebe with a personal crisis.

After the drama had concluded, it showed all the friends in the loft (my dream apartment) exchanging their gifts. That’s when it happened. Phoebe opened her gift from Joey and Chandler and shouted,

“Seat covers?! Awww guys… is this what you were doing when I was pumping the gas?!”

If you lived under a rock in the 90’s, then yes, she was referring to paper toilet seat covers. Her response was both ridiculous… and incredibly sweet. It wasn’t the gift she loved, it was who it came from. Her two friends spent the whole day and night helping her, and her innocent and simple response to their last minute “gift” was thankfulness and excitement.

The episode reminded me of when a few weeks ago, a sweet and thoughtful friend, sent flowers to me on a day she knew would be very difficult. I came home from a frustrating day, in the midst of heartbreak, to find beautiful flowers delivered on my doorstep. There was a note of kindness and a Bible verse attached that gave hope and reminded me that God loves and cares for me. Don’t get me wrong, the flowers were great, and unbeknownst to her, they were my favorite color, but it was the note and the gesture that brought me to thankful tears.

Small gestures or words of kindness from a friend can quickly change a heart from despair to thankfulness. It really doesn’t take much does it? A card in the mail, someone tagging you in an Instagram post because it made them think of you, going out for wine and cheese, babysitting, all things that are not big actions in the grand scheme of life, but isn’t it true these small tokens of friendship can mean so much to a tired heart? And isn’t it true that kinds words can refresh a weary soul?

I am so thankful for friends that invest in my life. I don’t want to live a life full of discontentment, something I battle daily.  I desire to live with thankfulness for what I have. And the friendships God has let me cultivate throughout the years are lifesaving, and life giving. So today I’m thanking God for friendships, and just living this thing…

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Holy Spirit Savvy…by Colleen Fraioli

Pei-cobaltblue-seaglass
Pei-cobaltblue-seaglass

I never consider myself a tourist when walking the beaches near Santa Cruz with my sister whose status as a ‘local’ I’ve always claimed…till one day last year.

Joy and I combed the beach for the usual; shells, driftwood, abandoned sandals in my size…perfectly content with the familiar routine. Content, that is, until we notice a few people totally engrossed in a hunt of some sort. Bent over in focused and deliberate swishing, and picking with intensity, like archeologists hovering over ancient ruins.

They were on to something big!  And, we realize, we are completely out of the loop. They have bags. We don’t have bags. Their bags hold treasures. Clueless, we ask what they are.

“Sea glass!” they chime incredulously, which to me sounded like:

“What?!  Are you from Modesto or something? Every local knows about sea glass!”

Ah, dearest sea glass, we didn’t realize we needed you or wanted you. We’ve walked right by, perhaps even stepped on you without a thought.  Till today, finding a sand dollar was as good as it gets. Now we realize we can’t live without you. You have forever changed the way we do life on this beach. All inferior pursuits must now move aside while we lose ourselves in procuring you for the next two hours…or more.

Just one year later, my eye is so acutely trained, I can spot sea glass with barely a glance. Sea glass identification is in my DNA, and I can even pick it up with the casualness of a local without screaming,

“I found one!”

I’m not trying to be being irreverent or even theologically accurate, but I think the Holy Spirit is like sea glass. So often, I walk by without even recognizing Him or considering He may have something to contribute to the day.

Labeled “the forgotten God” by some, I think He is perhaps the un-realized God. We don’t experience His involvement because we haven’t tasted His kindness in the routine moments of our lives. We don’t take Him into account when we are struggling in relationships, or battling temptation. We are used to doing life without Him, never tuning to that quiet voice full of wisdom and help.

Jesus said:

“…I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever. That is the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and shall be in you” John 14:16-17

The thing is, I do know Him. And it is His role to help me. Too often I rely on my limited understanding, content with familiar routines until I stop and consider Him. When I remember He actually lives inside as my personal treasure, ready to dispense all truth and peace, I get to put Him in my pocket and take Him with me. You might say He is the true local, and I’m just living the thing.

 

From the Ashes of Divorce…

DivorceAlmost 18 years ago I broke a vow I made before God, “to have and to hold…till death do us part.”  Divorce is a horrible thing, and I believe God hates it not just because breaking any vow is sin, but because of the havoc and destruction it wreaks on people who He did not intend to experience such suffering.

However, after counseling failed to produce change, and seriously contemplating-to-the-point-of-actually-planning suicide, I had no faith left that God would help me.  In my vulnerable state, and messed-up mind, I believed that I must have offended or failed God in some way so egregious, a failed marriage was just one consequence I would have to suffer.

Owning my failure, and believing the lies, I stoically accepted that God was done with me, and set about salvaging what life I could for myself and the children, who were my only reasons to keep living.

Today I’m free from the prison of lies, and healed from the deep emotional wounds that made me so broken and dysfunctional.  I am “…a big cup of wonderful, covered in awesome sauce, with a splash of sassy, and a dash of crazy!”  However, I’m also a divorced woman in the church, and that dubious status comes with its own unique set of challenges.

I am often three- or fifth-wheeling it.  Most in my inner circle of friends are still married, so except for our all-girl adventures, I’ve had to adjust to being the odd number when we go co-ed.  I am very careful to demonstrate my respect for their marriages though.  I am rarely, if ever, alone with my friends’ husbands, and if I need help from one of the guys, I ask his wife first.

Not so easy is listening to preaching that implies ‘divorce’ might be the ‘unpardonable sin’ at worst, or the ultimate failure at best.  (Please collect your scarlet letter ‘D’ at the door.)  I met with one pastor when I was still struggling to believe that God hadn’t rejected or abandoned me.  The FIRST thing he said was, “You know you can’t ever get married again while your ex-husband is alive, right?”  I barely believed that God loved me, but he thought remarriage was my biggest issue?!

And speaking of remarriage, lately that desire has literally risen from the dead in my heart, and the usual antidote of episodes of Dateline where the husband did it, is not working.  I’ve been so busy with kids, work, home, ministry, and letting God fix me, I’ve not even been on a date in 18 years!

Plus, the horror stories! Singles groups that are ‘churchified’ marriage/remarriage marketplaces”, on-line dating that works for one in a hundred…thousand?, the temptation to choose someone who does not share my faith out of sheer desperation.  Yikes!

“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever…” Psalms 138:8a

Whatever God’s plan for me post-divorce, I know I’m free, forgiven, perfectly loved, and just living the thing.

 

 

 

 

 

Living Free!…

Author, Wendy Morgan
Author, Wendy Morgan

The 2-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis is quickly approaching. Technically, I’ve been cancer-free since my surgery in 2014, but I have only been cancer-free, on paper, since February of this year.  Having a test result saying there is “No Evidence of Disease” (NED) was like breaking through the tape at the end of a grueling marathon. It’s done, it’s over, and you can breathe easy and relax.

However, in my head, my belief in my “no cancer” diagnosis comes and goes with each new ache and pain that hangs on for too long. The chance that my cancer will show up again somewhere else in my body is a forever possibility, and faced with this reality I have two choices: give into a crippling fear, or live with my eyes continuously on Jesus.

In all honesty right now I can only imagine the latter, but the crippling fear creeps in every now and then. However, when I allow the ‘what-ifs’ to collect in my brain Dave reminds me that I am alive and that is what matters!  I have a hope for tomorrow that is born of gratefulness for today, and gratefulness for today comes by the grace of God.

James 1:2-4 says “Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must complete its work if you are to be mature and complete not lacking anything.

Pure joy seems like an impossibility when faced with the trials of cancer but by the grace of God I can always find the silver lining to every cloud.

I may have some unsightly scars, but I’m thankful for the skilled surgeon who cared about what I would look like. I have a “fat arm” as one side-effect of treatment, but am thankful for the cumbersome arm pump that is a crutch for my lymph system. I’m on medication for the next 10 years and even though I don’t like how it makes me feel, I am thankful that I have a long term treatment plan.

Radiation has irreparably damaged my skin and will continue to for years to come but I am thankful for the technology that killed the cancer cells.  And the hot flashes, well, I haven’t found a reason to be thankful for those yet but maybe… someday.

When I dwell on all the reasons I have to be grateful and joyful, there is little room left for fear. God knows the future He has for me and that security is the silver lining to everything.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.                                      Proverbs 16:9

Today Dave and I planted a small, slow-growing, Japanese maple. Will I be here to enjoy its beauty when it is big enough to give shade? Only God has the answer to that but I will choose to keep on just living the thing with a hope for the future that only Christ can give.