Through the lace curtains at my kitchen window, I watch the first snowflakes—as big as goose feathers—fall from the gray November sky. Scents of cinnamon and pumpkin waft through the room when I open the oven, and when my eyes catch sight of the oil lamp on the cherry farmhouse table, my thoughts follow the curving lane to the old farmhouse where Alice and Ed, my maternal grandparents, raised their children during the Great Depression.
Although my parents moved hundreds of miles away after their marriage, my mother’s thoughts frequently traveled to her childhood home. She loved nothing better than to gather my siblings and me next to her as she told us about her childhood on the farm near Muncy, Pennsylvania—stories I treasured and passed on to my own little ones.
Mother spoke of a life filled with an abundance of indoor and outdoor chores and of nearby relatives who frequently stopped by on Sunday afternoons to visit.
When harsh winds rattled the shuttered windows and blew swirling snow across the barren fields, it was the kitchen that was the center of Mother’s family’s life, mostly because it was the only room in the house that was heated. Family and guests gathered there, the old single-pane windows covered with condensation as much from conversation as from the heat of the wood burning cook stove where a chicken roasted in the oven.
The old farmhouse, which originally belonged to Ed’s parents, had no electricity, indoor plumbing, or central heat. Bathtubs, toilets, and even a kitchen sink were non-existent. Things weren’t any better outside. Three Belgian work horses—Fred, Maude, and Prince—pulled the plow and heavy wagons. Faith and a person’s own strength and determination kept the farm going when the economy and adverse weather interfered. Although parents and children worked hard from early morning to evening, my mother’s stories were never ones of complaining.
The day before Thanksgiving, Grandma Alice, bundled up against the raw wind, killed and dressed well-fed turkeys for customers from town who gave their orders weeks in advance. Once all of the poultry orders were filled, Alice killed the turkey she would cook for her own family. After Grandpa Ed finished the outdoor chores, he opened the old dovetailed chest in the guest bedroom and pulled out his hunting clothes. After dinner, he sharpened his knife on a stone and cleaned his gun. The days immediately after Thanksgiving were hunting days and Ed needed to hunt game to help supplement his family’s food supply.
The Great Depression was in full force and money was scarce for my mother’s family. Mother often said that while she and her siblings were growing up, they never realized how primitively they lived on the farm. A person can’t miss what they don’t know, she explained.
Something inside my heart was soothed when Mother spoke of the contentment that was felt at the end of each day when the family gathered at the dinner table and her father thanked the Lord for His generous provisions. Grandpa Ed and Grandma Alice made it clear to their children that, but for the Lord’s benevolence, their harvests would be small and their needs large.
My grandparents have long since gone to be with the Lord, and their farm has changed hands several times since they sold it. But my mother’s stories taught me that when a family realizes that they’re dependent upon the Lord to provide for all of their needs—as well as their blessings—every day is thanksgiving day.
May your Thanksgiving Day be joyous, may you be surrounded by your loved ones, and may you give thanks and praise to the One who provides for your every need.
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you. Deuteronomy 8:10 (NIV)
To God be the Glory
Cynthia Howerter © 2011, 2012, 2013Read More
I’m so grateful for your faithfulness to Soar With Eagles, especially this year when, due to many pressing obligations, I’ve not been able to post articles regularly. I want to say that you can expect two articles per week from now on, but I’m learning, once again, that life is unpredictable, and sometimes we need to recognize that there is only so much we can do.
Our great joy at the marriage of our daughter in October was interrupted several weeks later by the news of a relative’s less-than-glowing diagnosis. Although I’m not at liberty to divulge more, our lives have been jarred by the realities of life. Once again we recognize that God provides no crystal ball to reveal the future. Unforeseen adversity happens and lives are changed forever.
Although good things happen to each of us, it’s the bad things that unsettle us and force us, if we are smart, to examine our lives. Where is God? Am I being punished? Why did He allow this happen? What is His plan for me, for my family?
When my family and I underwent two years of unemployment, we tackled each of these tough questions. And we learned some very important life lessons. Lessons that abundantly prepared us for our future.
So, having spent time in the fiery furnace—and having successfully come through it—I want to share the truths of overcoming the worst things that can ever happen to each of us. When adversity strikes, when our lives are joyless, our first question should always be: Lord, what do you want me to learn through this situation? He’s waiting to give you the answers that will get you through all you ever face on this earth.
Although unseen, God is right here next to me, to you, through every millisecond of each day. He is with us on good days, bad days, and the ugly days that shatter our lives.
While it’s natural to wonder if our adversity is actually punishment, the truth is that God is not a God of punishment. No, He is a God who loves us so much that He will allow bad things to happen to us as a means of allowing us to draw closer to Him. A life lived in closeness to God is one that can weather all storms.
Adversity is actually an opportunity to draw close to God.
While God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to us, He does allow them. Because the truth is that for many of us, the only time we seek God is when we are resoundingly knocked down and out. Think how you’d feel if the only time your child or spouse has time for you is when they need something from you. Without question, we want our beloveds to come to us all of the time. It’s no different with God.
His plan for our lives is simple: we are put on this earth not to be self-serving, but to serve God. And every one of us falls short in this. For people who have never gotten to know God, it’s a shock to learn that the real purpose of our life on earth is not to work hard and accumulate wealth, but to serve and glorify the One who created us.
I’ve learned that the worst times of my life were actually the best times of my life because that was when I sought God and found Him waiting for me.
You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all of your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
To God be the Glory
Last week, I had an epiphany: electronic communications have recently scooped up much of the time I should be spending with the Lord.
Let me state that more accurately: I have allowed the many forms of social media to take priority over the time I once spent with God.
Rather than read my Bible, rather than pray, rather than spend time simply talking with God, my epiphany revealed that I have an idol that steals my time from God.
Little wonder I’ve felt less peace and joy in my life, but have been experiencing more stress, more worry, and an abundance of anxiety.
I knew this needed to be rectified, but what could I do?
I completely unplugged from all forms of social media—including email—for the past three days. Rather than read what others are doing, rather than addictively clicking the “Like” button, rather than looking at endless emails, I focused on God.
Because it’s been a while, there was a lot to talk about with the One who is never too busy to listen—starting with admitting that I’ve sinned by making something more important than God.
I read my Bible—and because I now had the time—I contemplated what I’d just read. Amazingly, I was able to view situations in my life with clarity and discernment.
Now, four mornings after unplugging, the joy in my heart and spirit has been restored. The things that were stressing me have been handed over to the One who can best deal with them. Gone is the worry and anxiety that had become heavy burdens. And in their place is peace—the perfect peace that can only be provided by God.
Social media has become an important part of our lives, and I need to use it. But I need to limit the time I spend with electronic communications and make my personal communication with God my first and foremost priority. I can already see the difference.
Do you need to unplug for a while? Leave a comment and tell me what you do when you’ve reached your stress limit.
Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 (NIV)
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
I was more than ready to throw in the towel on my writing career for a multitude of reasons, but the vehicle that drove my desire to quit was the “middle school slumber party syndrome.” You see, whenever my daughter attended slumber parties during her middle school years, she always arrived home the following day with a severe case of crankiness and an uncanny ability to see the negative in everything. Hence, my name for this emotional state of mind.
I’ve learned, however, that the middle school slumber party syndrome isn’t unique to young teen girls with sleep deprivation. It can be seen in either sex at any age when a person is in any way deprived of adequate sleep. Perhaps you’ve observed this, too?
So after spending five nights sleeping poorly on a sofa while staying with a close friend in crisis, I experienced an acute case of MSSPS. During the four-hour drive back to my home, every negative reason why I should quit writing entered my brain—and made complete sense to me.
Fortunately at one point, I remembered that it always works out best for me when I consult God before making any big decisions, so after asking Him for godly discernment, I focused on listening for His response.
Twenty minutes later, my cell phone rang. It was our long-time family friend Don Wentz calling to tell me how much he’d enjoyed reading God’s Provision in Tough Times. Don explained that he’d read one story each morning as a sort of devotional, and that the stories provided him with encouragement and inspiration for his day. Don then asked when my next book is due to come out.
“Really?” my startled brain responded. “Don, let me ask you a question—and please give me an honest answer. Do you think my writing’s any good? Because I’m seriously thinking about quitting writing.”
“Don’t quit. I mean it,” Don replied. “You’ve been given a gift to write about everyday circumstances from an encouraging perspective. And God’s Provision? I needed each of those stories. I think you’re under spiritual attack. Whatever you do, don’t quit writing.”
Could this be God’s response to my prayer? I had to know. “Don, what made you call me just now?”
“Well, I felt a sudden powerful urge to pick up the phone and tell you how much your writing means to me. I believe it was the Lord putting it on my heart.”
I knew immediately that Don’s call was the Lord’s response to me seeking His will.
The evil one will use any means to derail us from doing God’s will. He knows that our resistance is low when we’re tired, frustrated, hungry, lonely, or feeling down. But rather than following through with decisions made under duress, we need to remember that we can never go wrong seeking God and His plan for our lives.
Satan took full advantage of my exhaustion and almost had me fooled, but when I remembered to seek the Lord, God sent a faithful servant to guide me back onto the right path.
The Lord will work out His plans for my life—for Your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for You made me. Psalm 138:8 (NIV)
TO GOD BE THE GLORYRead More
Have you ever read a story that never leaves you? For me, it’s the monk story.
More than 10 years ago, I sat in a waiting room where, rather than waste time, I flipped through the pages of a magazine until an article captured my attention.*
The author had long dreamed of being a monk, but because a 9-5 paying job seemed more practical, he chose that route instead. Years passed and although he was successful, he never forgot his heart’s desire.
One day the author saw a newspaper article about a local monastery. For men who wanted to consider entering monastic life, the monastery was holding a four-week retreat. Qualified applicants would live at the monastery and participate in its activities. At the program’s conclusion, participants could decide whether or not they wanted to enter the monastic order.
The author’s application was accepted and after checking in on the first day, he was shown to his quarters. His stark, doorless room contained a single bed, dresser, desk and chair.
After unpacking, he and the other would-be monks attended an orientation where they were given their itinerary for the next month.
The author was stunned to learn that morning prayers and vespers began at 3:30 a.m.—attendance mandatory. After an early breakfast, assigned chores were performed in silence until lunch. Afternoons were spent in silent study, and once evening vespers ended, the men returned to their rooms where they remained silent.
Assigned to wash the monastery’s floors, the author thought his chore not so bad until he learned that he would scrub the floors on his hands and knees—in silence. The work was painful, exhausting. Hours of silence magnified the harshness. This was not what the author imagined when he dreamed of monastic life.
After lunch on the fourth day, the author returned to his room and began packing. When the head monk walked past the open doorway, he stopped and asked the author why he was leaving.
The author explained that life in the monastery was nothing like he’d imagined. The hours were long and the work was difficult. And then there was the silence. The painful, lonely silence. It was all too much, too difficult for the author to bear. He couldn’t see himself serving God this way for the next 15 or 20 years.
To the author’s surprise, the head monk didn’t try to persuade him to stay, but rather agreed with everything he’d said. Life at the monastery was unbearably difficult. Why, during his many years there, life had never once gotten easier for him. If anything, it sometimes became harder.
Shocked, the author asked the head monk how he was able to stay.
“As much as I love God and want to serve Him, if I viewed my life as though I had twenty or thirty years left here at the monastery, I couldn’t handle it. I’d pack my bags and leave.
“But God uses the difficulty, the austerity, the silence to teach me perspective. I’ve learned to look at my life one day at a time. When I do that, I can get through the hardships that each day brings. There are some days so difficult that I need to look at my life in one hour - or even one minute - increments or I’d be overwhelmed and give up.
“God has taught me to view my life in manageable amounts. That’s how I get through the unbearable. That’s how I stay. That’s how I’m able to serve the Lord.”
After letting the monk’s words sink in for several minutes, the author removed his clothing from his suitcase.
“What are you doing?” the monk asked.
“I know I can make it till dinner.”
Life is difficult. It can be downright brutal. But I know I can make it through today. What about you? How do you get through the toughest of days? Let me hear from you!
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 (ESV)
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
* I regret that I cannot recall the name of the author or the magazine so that I can give both their due credit and my appreciation. If anyone should recognize this story, please contact me. It is not my wish to take credit for this story.
Cynthia Howerter © 2011, 2013Read More
Writer Vicki Moss is showcasing one of my stories today in her article, “Moving on to God’s Best,” that appears in The American Daily Herald. Here’s the link for her article: http://www.americandailyherald.com/pundits/vicki-h-moss/item/moving-on-to-god-s-best. Just click on the link and you’ll go straight to Vicki’s article. I know you will enjoy it.
TO GOD BE THE GLORYRead More