The Poison Ivy Blues (Lean On Me)

Two weeks ago today I began my bout with the–you guessed it “if you see three leaves, let it be”–poison ivy plant. It doesn’t really matter how, when, or why I contacted this, but I got a full blast of it. Within one week of contact, it had spread down my arms, hands, and legs causing a great deal of itching and pain. By the weekend, it caused swelling around the left side of my face and into the crease of my eye. By Monday morning, I was on the phone with my physician and I was given an appointment quickly.

My husband and grandson trekked along with me to my appointment, and I was so proud of Gryphon for sitting in the waiting room without trying to get down and run around. The office personnel noticed this and commented on “how good” he was as well. (His reward was getting to eat lunch at Denny’s and he was even great there as well.) I later learned that while I was seeing the doctor, Gryphon had scooted over next to PapPap and, while smiling up at him, stroked his arm. I think I noted a happy tear in PapPap’s eye when he told me about this–but don’t tell him.

After my examination, I was given a steroid shot to give my body a boost of medication for the swelling on my face and eye, as well as a 12-day steroid prescription easing down the dose after each set of three days. Even with the medication, I was itching so badly that I even tried squirting lemon juice, calamine lotion, and other home remedies after I Googled types of remedies for poison ivy online. Even laying down at night was a chore because it felt like my arms were “on fire”. Needless-to-say, I have had a number of restful nights sleeping. The steroids had caused a great deal of change in my sleeping pattern that’s for sure.

Last night, for example, I went to bed by 11:00 p.m. but when I was still awake at 2:00 a.m., I finally decided to get up and watch something on TV and, of course, eat. Ice cream with whipped topping and Kashi Go-Lean with Vanilla Pepita makes a wonderful snack in the middle of the night. It even sounds healthy right! I also washed my arms with Dove soap for sensitive skin (also recommended) and tried Eucerin Intensive Repair on my itchy arms. Believe it or not, this cream really worked very well.

As I sat on the couch watching E.T., the song, “Lean On Me” began to spill out of my mouth. Although I couldn’t remember all of the words (until I looked them up today), I felt a calm sense of peace about my situation. By 2:30, I was ready to go back upstairs, brushing my teeth again for a second time, and just continued to sing this song out loud, trying not to disturb my sleeping husband.

This song encouraged my heart and soul even in the midst of my discouragement last night, and I realized that God was right there next to me during this entire ordeal. I just needed to “lean on Him” and let Him continue to heal my mind, body, and spirit in that very moment.

I would like to share the words of “Lean On Me”, written by Bill Withers, with you and if you are going through something discouraging in your life right now, may you be reminded that God is right there with you and we can lean not only on Him but on our family and friends for help, encouragement, and prayers as well. All you have to do is reach out.

“Lean On Me” by Bill Withers

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow.

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on.

So swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t show.

You just call on me brother, when you need a hand (Chorus)
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Second Verse

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can’t carry
I’m right up the road
I’ll share your load
If you just call me
Call me (if you need a friend)
Call me (call me)
Call me (if you ever need a friend)
Call me (call me)
Call me
Call me (if you need a friend)

May you be a blessing today to your family and friends as you lean on Him and encourage those with whom you come in contact with today as well.


Love Is In The Air…Valentine’s Day 2016

This Sunday (February 14) is officially Valentine’s Day, and what better way to celebrate than to spend time with someone you love.

Actually, today (Friday), I had the extra time to spend with my husband because I did not have to babysit my grandson. He was going to spend the day with his daddy. So we decided to go to Fredricksburg to shop at an Ollie’s (favorite place to purchase books and K-cup coffee) and then to Costco.

Before we left, however, my husband surprised me with a gift of chocolate and a gift card to one of my favorite places–IKEA. It was a nice, unexpected surprise and showing of his love for me.

By the time we arrived in Fredricksburg, it was close to lunch time so we ate at a local family restaurant that we found during our last visit to the city. Hmmmm…delicious.

Next, we shopped at Ollie’s and Costco. While we were at Costco and partaking of one of the quiche samples they were demonstrating today, a woman who I did not know asked how many eggs I used when I made a quiche. We talked for a few minutes about the ingredients, and she said she found she was intimidated at trying to make a quiche since she had never made one before. I encouraged her to try it and before we parted ways, she thanked me for talking with her about something as simple as making a quiche and now felt encouraged to try to make one. We purchased our items and then headed home. Overall, we had a very enjoyable, relaxing day together.

On Sunday (Valentine’s Day), we will get to spend part of the morning (at church) and afternoon (eating lunch together) with my daughter/husband and grandson which we are looking forward to.

Valentine’s Day is called the “day of love”, but we don’t have to wait until one “special” day to show someone that we love and care about them. So today and throughout the year….

. Tell someone that you love them

. Hug someone today

. Smile at someone in the grocery store, etc.

. Show genuine concern and compassion towards others

. Telephone a friend or someone that you lost touch with and tell them you were thinking of them and miss your time together

I’m sure that many of you could add to above list. In fact, why don’t you create your own “love list” for the coming year as well. Love is definitely in the air, and it begins here in our own heart.


Reading for February: “The Gift of Friendship” by Dawn Camp (a review of this book will be forthcoming)

A Special Christmas Gift

It is going on midnight and I am fully awake. My mind is thinking about past Christmases with my brothers and sisters and our mom and dad. As I lay awake, I am reminded of a very special Christmas which was quite a number of years ago. In fact, it was in the 1960’s. And I find my mind racing with excitement to share the following story with you. It is entitled, “The Cookie Jar.”

Let me take you back to when I was a young girl and my family lived in the low-income housing projects in Easton, PA. My parents struggled to keep food on the table even though my dad worked at the steel mill and, oftentimes, they had to get extra help at Christmas time from the Salvation Army for Christmas gifts since there was twelve children in the family. They also relied on receiving surplus items such as lard, flour, butter, and peanut butter from another organization as well.

One Christmas holiday, when I was around 11, I decided that I wanted to give my mother a very special Christmas present; however, with money being tight for everyone, I decided that I would try to do extra chores and even if I received or found a penny, it was saved. I threw the monies that I received here and there into an old shoe box and marked the box with an “X” so that no one in my family would bother to look inside. Of course, I hid it in back of the closet just to make sure.

With only two more weeks until Christmas, I decided I should count the monies that I had saved. There was exactly $7.00. I felt like the richest kid on the block. Wow, with that much money, I told myself I could buy an extra special gift for my mom and even have enough left over to buy some candy for my brothers and sisters.

Hurriedly, I put the money in an envelope and headed to the corner store which was only a mile to and from my house. I had seen a cookie jar in the store the last time I was there to buy my dad some cigarettes (unfortunately, back then you did not have to be 21 to buy them for your parents).

Mr. Cooper greeted me as I entered the store and asked if he could help me with anything. I told him I wanted to purchase the cookie jar shaped like a house. He, of course, knew exactly which one I was talking about, and pulled it off the shelf. When I asked him how much it would be, he looked at the price and said, “That will be $7.50.” My heart sank, because I knew I only had $7.00. I explained to Mr. Cooper that I only had $7.00, and sadly he told me that I needed fifty cents more. I was so disappointed because I just knew my mom would really like that cookie jar. As I started to leave the store, a woman who I did not know told Mr. Cooper that she would give me the rest of the money so that I could buy the cookie jar.

As I handed Mr. Cooper the money, I turned to the woman to thank her for her generosity but she was gone. Mr. Cooper smiled and gave me the cookie jar. I left the store and remembered thinking that she must have been my guardian angel who gave me the extra money that I needed to buy this special gift. I never saw her again after that day.

Christmas Day that year was extremely special. There seemed to be more food than normal, and even the number of gifts were more than we usually received in years past. When it came time to give my mom her special Christmas gift, I beamed when she opened the box and discovered the house-shaped cookie jar. She hugged and kissed me but was so surprised that I was able to save up enough money to buy such a wonderful gift. I told her what happened at the store and she, too, agreed that the woman must have been a guardian angel who wanted me to buy this extra special gift for her.

Childhood memories are so precious. Thinking about this particular time in my life was good, and it seemed that everything in the world was right and the stars seemed aligned that night when I purchased this special gift–with the help of my guardian angel. Gifts are wonderful to give and to receive, but it is not about the amount that we spend on someone; it is whether the gift is given from the heart. I can honestly say and know that the cookie jar was given with much love and was definitely heart-felt by both the giver and receiver.

I think back about the gifts that I have given since to special friends and co-workers, family members, and loved ones. Each gift was from my heart and only God can give us that love that we share with others. Love, joy, peace, and hope are all part of this special gift-giving tradition that we give to one another. It is simply the gift of ourselves–who we are as a person and the love that others can see in us.

I don’t know about you, but I love this time of the year because it reminds me that the New Year is around the corner and giving of ourselves and having love and compassion towards others is the way that I want to be all year long.

We all have special gifts and talents, and I believe that God intends us to use those gifts and talents for His honor and glory every day. May you find those special gifts and talents to use during the New Year (2016).


Just Luck or The Hand of God?

Yesterday, as I was returning from a trip to VA, I was reminded of the scripture found in Psalm 91:11-16:

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. ‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.'”

Since November 1st, I have been traveling back and forth from Pennsylvania to Virginia to be with my daughter and her newborn son. What a blessing that has been. I spent the first two weeks just getting to know our first grandson, plus helping my daughter out with things around the house that she was unable to do in the first two weeks. On my way home from my third week of being in VA, I took the same route that I normally travel but something unexpectedly happened along the way.

As I was passing a truck on Interstate 81, I noticed two workers with cutting machinery on the median. It was an especially windy day, and I was anxious to get off this section of the Interstate and onto VA37. All of a sudden I noticed a huge rock coming towards my car from the median. It literally bounced across the median, and I thought it was going to go through my windshield.

My first reaction was to ask God to help me. The rock hit the front of my car and literally bounced back towards the median from where it came. Some people would call this “luck”, but I call it “the hand of God” who was my protector in that very instant that the rock rolled toward me. I did not pull over and assess the damage until I got to Altoona where I met my husband for lunch, and we looked at the front of my car. The headlight on the driver’s side was smashed in, and there was an aftermath of broken glass inside the headlight.

I left the restaurant and went directly to my insurance company and was given a toll-free number to call to make a claim so that an adjuster could look at and assess the damage. Fortunately, we have comprehensive coverage which will pay for the repairs.

Since this incident, my mind has thought about all the scenarios that “could have happened but didn’t”, and I am eternally grateful to my Lord for “commanding his angels to guard and protect me.” He truly is “my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Have you been close to an accident or unforeseen circumstance where you knew undoubtedly that God protected you? I’d love to hear your story.


Becoming A Disciple of Christ Through Discipline and Self-Control

“Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

I grew up in a household where this scripture was not practiced; however, God had His hand on my life and used other Godly people as “mentors” to influence and encourage me in my walk with the Lord.

In December, 2013, our 15-year old dog, Buddy, died and we adopted a 9-month old black-lab mix, Toby, from our local Humane Society. Even when we use repetitive disciplinary commands, he doesn’t always listen, especially when he is excited. He often forgets those commands and continues to:

. jump the outside gate, even with ropes above it
. jumps up and barks at the front door at every little noise
. jumps on our bed and/or couch to chase the cat

He needs to be reminded of the word “no” when he misbehaves but he also needs loving reassurance when he behaves well. Sometimes our lives are like that when we desire one thing and the Lord has something else in mind for us.

Discipline creates self-control in every area of our lives, but we need to learn the basics as stated in Proverbs 22:6. Other scriptures (NIV translation) that mention self-control and give us guidelines on this issue are as follows:

. Proverbs 16:22: “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.”
. Proverbs 25:28: “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.”
Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
. Titus 2:11-14: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeems us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
. II Peter 1:3-8: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:15, known as The Great Commission, is a command given to Christ’s disciples: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV) For the disciples, this command took a great deal of discipline and self-control on their part; but because of their love for Christ, they followed Christ’s command. However, many of them suffered and were martyred for their beliefs and experienced excruciating deaths.

The fates of many of Jesus’ disciples are listed below:

1. Matthew: Suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, killed by a sword wound.
2. Mark: Died in Alexandria, Egypt, after being dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.
3. Luke: He was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous preaching to the lost.
4. John: He faced martyrdom when he was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he was miraculously delivered from death and was sentenced to the mines on the prison island of Patmos. He wrote his prophetic Book of Revelation on Patmos.
5. Peter: He was crucified upside down on an X-shaped cross. According to church tradition, it was because he told his tormentors that he “felt unworthy to die in the same way that Jesus died.”
6. James the Just: The leader of the church in Jerusalem, was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death.
7. James the Great: Son of Zebedee, was a fisherman by trade when Jesus called him to lifetime ministry. As a strong leader of the church, James was ultimately beheaded at Jerusalem. One of the Roman guards watched as James defended his faith and as he was overcome with conviction, he declared his new faith and knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian.
8. Bartholomew: Also known as Nathaniel. He was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed our Lord in present day Turkey. He was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death by a whip.
9. Andrew: He was crucified on an X-shaped cross in Patras, Greece.
10. Thomas: He was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church in the sub-continent.
11. Jude: He was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.
12. Matthias: The apostle chosen to replace traitor Judas Iscariot and was stoned to death and beheaded.
13. Paul: He was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67. Paul endured a lengthy imprisonment, which allowed him to write his many epistles to the churches he had formed throughout the Roman Empire. These letters became the foundational doctrines of Christianity and form a large portion of the New Testament.

The disciples were martyred for their beliefs and preaching the Salvation message. We may never be martyred for speaking the truth, but our lives should exemplify His truth in our actions toward one another. It is not about “living up to certain standards”–but it is about allowing God to “be our standard.”

John 13: 34-35 says: “A new commandment I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV) This is what being a Christian is all about.

Blessings on you,

Reading: “The Power of a Praying Wife” and “The Power of a Praying Woman” by Stormie Omartian