Thankfulness is a gift from God. Knowing the magnitude of the awesome sacrifice that our Father in heaven made in giving His son Jesus humbles our hearts and makes us grateful. Jesus was the gift of atonement for our sins of the past, present, and future, and true understanding of the magnitude of that gift makes us grateful for everything in our lives. Our values change when we humble ourselves before God, and He opens our eyes to every little gift, the changing of the seasons, the smile of a child, the warmth of friends.
Just this week I drove my husband Jim home from Duke Hospital where he had undergone his second brain surgery. I found myself being so grateful for the success of the procedure, for his being able to stick out his tongue and roll his eyes in ICU, for the kindness of the attendant who wheeled him to the car, for the parking space near the elevator, for the glorious color of the trees along I-85, for smooth highways, and I could go on and on. That gift of gratitude opened my eyes to God’s providence and calmed my heart.
But I was also mindful that I had also sat in the waiting room throughout the day of the surgery seeing surgeon after surgeon come out to speak to families until 8:15 pm, leaving me as the only person waiting for news. I was grateful for the opportunity my husband had to travel from Greensboro to a world-class facility where he could receive care from the best of the best. I was grateful for safe travel, for the pleasant young woman at the coffee bar, for the sweet lady at the registration desk who spoke so kindly to me knowing I had been there most of the day and had been the only family member left in the waiting room. She could have been impatient knowing I was probably preventing her from going home for dinner. I was also grateful for the comfort and peace that I knew I would have if the surgery did not go well. The knowledge that my husband had followed Christ in his life was assurance that I could persevere even without him if God had chosen to take him home. What a blessing, what a gift to be grateful, not in my own strength, but in the “blessed assurance” that comes only from God through His gift of Jesus Christ!
Jim’s third great grandmother Henrietta Hall Shuck had traveled to China in 1835 as the first American woman missionary to China trusting in God’s providence through disease, poverty, robbers, disagreements with the mission board, and all during the dangers of the First Opium War. On her 200th birthday, her descendants are still strengthened by the gift of perseverance that comes through thankfulness for the blessings of Christ.
Tethered begins in 1835 as Henrietta and Jehu Lewis Shuck set off on a 19,000 mile voyage from Virginia to China to establish the first Baptist mission. In Tethered Henrietta must hold a leather strap nailed to the railing of their ship to keep from falling overboard, but her life is also tethered to her husband, to their mission board, and to God. Their relationship is marked by humor and unflinching determination despite illness, poverty, danger, and opposition from the mission board at home in the volatile years of conflict in the First Opium War. By the end of her story, she has come to a full faith relationship with God and has become an icon in Baptist missions for American and Chinese Christians across two centuries.
Purchase TETHERED HERE
Brenda H. Cox is a life-long English educator at the high school and university levels. She earned a BA at The University of South Carolina, an MAT from The Citadel, and a PhD at The University of Georgia where she served as the Assistant Director of the Freshman English Program. She was affiliated with the National Writing Project site at Clemson University where she led a Writing in the Humanities Institute and is a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network. She has taught numerous writing workshops and delivered papers at state and national conferences and directed The Young Writers Conference at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she was an Assistant Professor of English Education. She has published articles in English leadership and in 18th century rhetoric. In addition, she has served as a writing consultant in numerous school systems in the Southeast and in the American and International Schools in Kuwait. She also served as a Reader of Advanced Placement exams for The College Board, and her students have won numerous local, state, and national awards in writing. Brenda lives in Greensboro, NC and is married to Jim Cox. They have one son and daughter in-law and two perfect grandsons.
Life in the Silence
Infant Loss Awareness Month
By Kristine Zimmer Orkin
Jacob entered the world silently.
There was no collaborative gasp of joy with the final push that announced his arrival. No newborn wail of indignation as his warm little body emerged and felt coldness for the first time. No congratulatory cheer at the declaration “It’s a boy.” Only hushed whispers among medical professionals. Just a mother’s muffled sobs and a father’s stoic silence. A chilly hospital delivery room, warmed by the respect of random people brought together, celebrating this tiny gift of life now faded.
We weren’t prepared for the silence, Jacob’s dad and I. We never heard his cry, his laugh, his voice. Not his infant babbling and toddler mispronunciations, nor his squeaky transition from boyhood into manhood. We never came to know his giggles, his outbursts of anger, squeals of excitement, or cries of frustration.
We came to know the quiet. But we weren’t prepared for the larger silence. The irreparable hole in our family. An obvious incompleteness, especially during holidays and family pictures. On Mother’s Day. In the headcount of grandchildren, making sure to include him. The uncertainty of how to answer “How many children do you have?”
We felt his strong presence, yet couldn’t see or touch him. Sometimes, in an ordinary moment, we’d hear the tune we’d sung to him while he grew in my belly. A message from Jacob? “I’m here. Don’t forget me.”
Our marriage struggled to survive as others divorced after the loss of their child. We grieved the buried sadness in our older son, afraid to show his hurt or ask his questions because it might make Mommy cry. We feared pregnancy, of investing emotionally again. Of another hushed delivery room.
We were not prepared for the blessings that arose out of the silence. For the families after us that we’ve been blessed to comfort through their stillbirths and infant deaths. For the occasions to educate doctors, nurses, and chaplains on child loss. For changes in hospital protocol we’ve enacted to help parents through the silence. And for opportunities to share our story, to support you in your story.
Though he never took a breath outside my womb, Jacob breathed life into our family from the moment of his conception, and he continues to bless us now, thirty years after his quiet entry into the world. He lives loud and strong through us. His life has a purpose. HAS. Present tense.
Kristine Zimmer Orkin
Kristine believes that blessings can be found everywhere, even in the most tragic of life circumstances. She and Philip Orkin have three sons: Joseph, Jacob, and Jonathan. In June 2007, Jacob welcomed his daddy Home at Heaven’s gate. The two have had ten years of quality time together.
Kristine Zimmer Orkin believes that blessings can be found everywhere, even in the most tragic of life circumstances. She and Philip Orkin have three sons: Joseph, Jacob, and Jonathan. In June 2007, Jacob welcomed his daddy Home at Heaven’s gate. The two have had ten years of quality time together.
Stuck in the Sweet in the Middle
by Robin Steinweg
Do you ever feel you’re in that awkward, in-between stage? I sure do!
I recently spent years stuck in a crushing middle. Round and round I turned from the growing needs of aging parents to those of growing sons to those of work. I’d carve hours from sleepless nights to write, compose, or read. More often to pray. My husband accepted leftovers with grace and gratitude. Not just food, but time and energy. He was stuck in his own middle, caring for his dad and doing more for my parents than can be recorded.
Now our parents are gone. I’m living in the middle of grief, rediscovering who I am if no longer a caregiver. Looking to experience—and to pass on—the rich life Jesus came to give us (John 10:10). Know what? God shows me things I can do so He can help me move forward. I’m not stuck here. I get to be here, where it can be sweet in the middle!
If you’re in the midst of circumstances or even past them, it’s never too late to rediscover who you are. Try some of the following:
- Develop friendships with people who will build you up.
- Find ways to build others up.
- Journal what you’re going through as a way to release feelings.
- Photo journal or doodle journal.
- Admit if you need help.
- Get more color in your surroundings/clothing.
- List your blessings.
- Express more gratitude.
- Find ways to expand or share your hobbies.
- Join a book club.
- Volunteer to help others.
- If you have grieving to do, do it whole-heartedly. But don’t stay there.
- Live fully. Enjoy what God gives you to enjoy.
- Dream again. Don’t hold back—dream big. What does God have for you next?
These ideas have helped. Yes, I still pick up the phone to call my mom or find jigsaw puzzles for my dad. I still if wonder I could have, should have done more for them. Guilt and remorse creep in.
But I realize that’s the voice of our enemy, the accuser. So I intentionally turn to words of life in God’s Word. I leave my broken heart at Jesus’ feet. I embrace the blessings He sends my way.
I affirm this truth: It is Sweet in the Middle!
About the Author:
Robin Steinweg says life is like a sandwich-cookie. Whatever circumstances close in on us, it can be Sweet in the Middle. Her writings can be found in Today’s Christian Woman, Upper Room, Secret Place and The Christian Pulse. She also writes monthly for Music Teachers Helper blog.
The word for my year is transformation and as always, I’m constantly looking to see how that word applies to my life. A few days ago I received news that I can’t stop thinking about. A little girl is gone and her parents, amazing parents who were great to us when we lived in NY, are shattered and forever changed. A tragic accident that took place in a split second.
Then I saw the breaking news coming out of the Fort Lauderdale airport. One minute passengers are focusing on travel, the next, diving for cover because of gunfire. I read on one of the sites I belong to that a cousin was one of the victims. Again, everything transforming in a split second.
I realize those transformations can come with good news, too. A marriage proposal. A birth. Hearing about a job promotion, or even getting a call that you got the job. It means in a second you go from that title to a new one. A change in address, perhaps. And always so much more.
I am one of those that is always so far ahead in my thinking that I am guilty of missing out on celebrating the present. My dear friend told me her goal for the year was to choose present over perfect. I love that. I want to embrace what I have in my life. This week showed me that can all go away in a moment. I don’t want to have regrets. But in search of perfect, I’ve missed out on the present. That’s not how I want to approach life.
Are there examples you can think of where your life changed in a split second? What are transformations you can think of?
2016, A Year of BIG Surprises, by Janetta Fudge Messmer
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18
These verses are favorites of mine, and I’ve used them as my blog heading for years. They remind me of what the Lord expects of me each and every day. To rejoice. To pray. To give thanks.
2016 has been a year of all years. One for the record books for thankfulness, and one I’ll never forget. I’m almost sure I told the Lord “thank you” a million times. A slight exaggeration, but He blessed the socks right off my feet. Let me give you a few examples of his lovingkindness:
- I’m a published author of three books (Early Birds, Southbound Birds, and Chords of Love). And it happened this year.
- The Lord continues to bless me with a great husband. This year he also rocks as my CEO of Marketing and Daily Operations.
- I turned 60 years old in January (not an easy age to reach when you still feel 16, and act like it most of the time)
- I’m over-the-top thankful for our pooch, Maggie. She’s the one who gave me the great idea for my debut novel, Early Birds. (Piece of advice: Always listen to your pet when they ‘talk’ to you. Might surprise you what they have to say).
As you can see, I could go on for days about what I’m thankful for. But, I do have days that it takes every bit of my energy to see past the problem in my path. To even utter a coherent prayer. To proclaim victory in His name.
It is at those tough times that I pick up my Bible and reread (as many times as it takes to get it through my head) I Thessalonians 5: 16-18. These three verses are where I find the remedy to what ails me. They help me to realign with what the Lord is trying to teach me through His word.
What about you? Has life thrown you a few curve balls (illness/extra doctor bills, car not running right, job ended, relationship, etc.) Take it from me, read the verses in I Thessalonians and follow His instructions: Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances.
Trust me, if you do these three things, it’ll be a life changing experience. Won’t you give it a try? The Lord is waiting for you.
Janetta Fudge Messmer Bio:
Janetta Fudge-Messmer is an inspirational author, editor and speaker. She’s received Honorable Mention for fiction and nonfiction articles from Byline Magazine. She also received Honorable Mention for a fiction article from Writer’s Digest Magazine. Her article, “A Working Relationship” was published in Guideposts Magazine. Guideposts Books published, “Shorthaired Miracle”. Along with writing, Janetta also speaks at seminars, helping others to “Tell Your Story”. Janetta, her husband Ray and precious pooch Maggie, became full-time RVers in 2013 and love traveling around the USA in their Minnie Winnie.
Book #2 in the Early Bird series finds Rose and Larry Wilford hitting the highway on their next RV adventure. Ben and Betsy Stevenson are right behind them in their 5th wheel. The other two Early Birds, Jeff and Mary Miller, promise to hook up with them as soon as they finish some ‘business’ in Colorado.
On their way to Florida, they make a stop in Mississippi. Soon Rosie wonders if they’ll ever get On the Road Again. The RVs have stalled in Biloxi and it has nothing to do with mechanical issues in any of their rigs. They’ve found another church that needs their help.
Rose, Betsy and Mary spend their days as fashion consultants, dressing young women for success (or as Rosie says, “Playing dress up.”). Larry, Ben and Jeff, they’re up to their eyeballs in sheetrock and drywall mud, and any other handyman task they can find to do.
The one thing Rosie has decided, if and when they start traveling toward the Sunshine State, she’ll still occupy the passenger seat of their dually. No driving for her. Larry can pester her all he wants.
And the fact her bestest friend, Betsy, drove their albatross on I-10 and lived to tell about it, won’t change her mind either. The only way Rose will get behind the wheel is if the Lord, Himself, figures out a way to put her there. ‘Cause at the moment, F.E.A.R. is her middle name.
Instead of legally changing her name or letting trepidation win, Rosie does what she does best. She PRAYS. Larry, on the other hand, is having troubles too. His prayer is that their 5th wheel survives his driving and he’s not sure it will. One more mishap and he’s handing the keys to his wife.
The Early Birds continue to have as many surprises as the state of Florida has palm trees. So why don’t you come along, if you dare. Rose, Larry, Ben, Betsy, Jeff and Mary (and some new friends) would love to have you join them on their travels across the U.S.A.
Connect with Janetta at:
Early Birds, Southbound Birds, and My Secret Love, are Available on Amazon: https://goo.gl/SX7mfP