My son often spoke of the spectacular view from Mill Mountain near Roanoke, Virginia. Several days ago, after locking the door to his apartment, Justin and I walked to my SUV. “Mom, how about driving to the look-out before we leave for Richmond? I’d really like you to see the view.”
Minutes later, we were driving on a narrow road that curled its way up the steep and heavily wooded mountain. “Justin, look how far you can see into the forest,” I said as my eyes beheld beautiful rock formations and waterfalls usually hidden by dense vegetation.
Justin gazed out his window at the woods’ treasures. “You know, Mom, if you walk through this forest when the leaves are out, you can’t see anything else in the woods – not even another person who might be only 20 feet away. You could easily think you’re all alone in there.”
“But once the leaves come down, you can see everything clearly—even someone walking a quarter-mile away.”
Slowing the SUV as we approached a sharp curve, I noted the absence of guard rails as I looked down the steep drop-off just feet away. A car could go over the side and no one would know if the foliage was out! Heart pounding, I looked quickly back at the road.
“Mom,” his voice pausing, “this forest is just like a person’s life.”
“What do you mean, Justin?”
“Well, everyone has problems, but when we keep them to ourselves, it’s like we’re surrounded by thick foliage that makes us feel isolated. The leaves also keep others from seeing what we’re going through.”
I nodded, taking in the wisdom of Justin’s analogy.
“But when we speak about our problems, the leaves fall to the ground and we realize that we’re not alone in the woods; other people – people with all kinds of problems - are walking just feet away. Once we share our experiences, we can see things more clearly. Then we can find the path that leads us out of the forest.”
“Mom, if I hadn’t told Megan about the problem I was going through, I’d never have known that she’d gone through the same thing. And I’d still be in that forest, unable to see that someone close to me had already been there and found the way out.”
We reached the mountaintop and stood silently, our view of the valley and surrounding mountains unobstructed, until a piercing wind hurried us back to the warmth of our vehicle. Together, just an arm’s width apart, we found our way down the rugged mountain road.
“Ready to go home, son?” I asked when we reached the gently rolling valley that spread out before us.
“Ready, Mom. The road we need is right up ahead.” Justin turned toward me and smiled.
Are you allowing foliage to make you feel alone, afraid, overwhelmed, discouraged? Do you feel like a failure? Do you think you’re the only one going through a rough time?
Cut that foliage down today. There’s more people in the woods with you than you could ever imagine.
Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
But if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NKJV)
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Photographs by Cynthia Howerter © 2013
Happy New Year, dear friends!
I have the best readers. A number of you contacted me when you weren’t seeing new posts recently on Soar With Eagles to make certain I was all right. My heart is so touched by your concern. Thank you. Not only am I fine, but—
I’ve been busy writing and compiling an anthology, God’s Provision in Tough Times, along with my wonderful co-author, Christian writer, speaker, and vocalist La-Tan Roland Murphy. I never imagined how much work goes into writing a book, let alone an anthology. It’s safe to say that La-Tan didn’t either!
Because our book needs to be completed and turned into our Publisher, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, by mid-January, La-Tan and I have been writing and working feverishly to acquire, read, write, edit, and assemble the stories. That is no minor task when fifteen writers are contributing their own stories in addition to the ones La-Tan and I have written! But, everything is falling into place according to schedule. (No, really, La-Tan, it is!).
God couldn’t have given me a more perfect co-author in La-Tan Murphy. Although we only knew each other by sight and name when we began working on the book, we’ve delightfully discovered how alike we are and how easy it is to work with each other. (Oh, no! Is it giggle time again, sweet La-Tan?!).
God’s Provision in Tough Times is an anthology of true stories written by people who have not only personally experienced unemployment and financial hardship, but God’s provision when all looked lost. A reader doesn’t need to have experienced unemployment to appreciate the heartfelt stories of a God who knows each person’s every need and provides for them during times of adversity.
God’s Provision in Tough Times is scheduled to be published on May 1st, and can be pre-ordered on Amazon. <–Click here to go to the Amazon.com page for God’s Provision in Tough Times.
Please tell others, especially those who are unemployed or facing financial hardship and are in need of godly encouragement, about this spiritually uplifting book.
As far as Soar With Eagles’ articles, expect to see regular posts from me once again.
Be sure to visit the websites for La-Tan Murphy and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas by clicking on their highlighted names. You’ll get to know La-Tan, and don’t forget to check out the books that Lighthouse has published for other authors.
I’m asking God to bless each of you and your families in the new year. Thank you for being faithful friends and readers.
(Okay, La-Tan, I’m getting back to the book now. ).
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
TO GOD BE THE GLORYRead More
I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch. Someone close to our family was not doing well, and I have spent a lot of my time praying for her and trying to help her. Unfortunately, she passed away the other day.
She lived to be very old. In fact, she had a relationship with some of my older relatives who died before I was born. To them, and to my little family and me, she was a beacon of strength.
I first met her as an infant and, after having spent my entire life getting to know and understand her; it made it all the harder to see her struggle toward her end. You could say our lives were fully and completely entwined.
I loved her so much, as did my husband. Together, we made sure that our two children got to know her; not on a superficial level, but intimately, for her purity of ideals, her sense of justice, her providential foundation. She was all about honor, integrity, ethics, self-reliance, and godly values.
There was something about her that attracted a dichotomy of people. There were those, like my family, who appreciated her attributes and respected her for them. But, sadly, there were many people who found ways to take advantage of her. The truth is, they saw her success and felt that they deserved part of it, even though they never contributed to it. Recently, as her vitality declined, it was nearly unbearable for my family and me to watch others disrespect her, mock her, and call her out-of-touch.
When some of her trusted advisors retired, the younger ones who took their place found ways to personally profit from her holdings. As a result, at her death, she no longer possessed the affluence she had known. It happens to so many of our elderly.
I am told that while she was carried in the womb, many waited excitedly and expectantly for her birth. Because her parents were prominent people who were willing to take a strong, unbending stand for self-reliance and freedom, there were those who wanted to make sure she was never born. However, individuals who supported her parents’ beliefs vowed to protect her at all costs. I’m told things escalated to a fight, and many were the families with empty chairs around their tables.
At her death, there were others besides my family who still treasured her values and her qualities, and, together, we gathered round her, hoping, until the last breath, that God would give her more time. But, that was not His will for her. There was a reverent hush in the room as her breathing slowed.
Using the last of her strength, she spoke her final words. “My children, the blood of patriots fills your veins. What would our Founding Fathers do now? Look to them in order to understand what they expect of you. The word “quit” was never in their vocabulary. Until your last breath, never stop trying to revive liberty.”
She rested her head on the pillow, and we listened to her breathing stop. Sounds of grief made their way through the gathering as each person who loved her deeply was forced to acknowledge her passing. I heard someone whisper, “I can’t believe it! Our country’s gone!”
“It’s hopeless, isn’t it?” another person asked in a voice that cracked with emotion.
Placing my hands on their shoulders, I turned my children, now adults, toward me and looked into their eyes. “God has always provided courage and strength to those who follow Him.”
Lifting the banner from the floor where it had fallen, my daughter looked around the room and asked, “Who is with me?”
As he helped his sister unfurl the precious fabric, my son answered, “I am.” Together, they struggled to lift the heavy flag of Liberty above their heads, but the weight was too much for two people.
“The men boiled their leather shoes for food at Valley Forge,” someone cried. “They would rather have starved than give up!” People in the room murmured their agreement.
A young mother holding a sleeping infant spoke next. “The officers, the signers of the Declaration, every one of them knew they faced a traitor’s death if they lost the war. They put their lives on the line for us!”
“How much is Liberty worth to you? What are you willing to give for it?” a middle-aged man called out.
My husband took my hand firmly in his. There were tears in his eyes as he looked into mine. “Our last breath.”
“Our last breath,” I answered.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:6.
IN GOD, THERE ARE STILL SOME, WHO TRUST
Do you ever find yourself thinking that it’s just too late in your life for certain things to happen? I didn’t even realize that I do this. That is, until I took a lovely walk through the French Quarters in Charleston, South Carolina on Monday with my daughter Megan.
We stopped at an art gallery and admired numerous paintings by highly skilled artists. One piece in particular caught my eye, but the hefty price tag prohibited me from purchasing it.
Taking into account my age and my lack of income, I bemoaned my circumstances to Megan as she walked slightly ahead of me on a narrow sidewalk. “I love oil paintings, but I’ve never had the money to purchase any.”
Megan murmured something.
“What?” I called out to her. “I didn’t hear you.”
She continued walking but turned her head toward me as she repeated her comment. “Yet.”
“You haven’t had the money to purchase works of art. Yet.”
“Yet,” I repeated.
“Yet,” Megan affirmed.
In the window of another shop were photographs of England, the one place I’ve wanted to visit since I was eleven years old. “I still haven’t been to Europe.”
My daughter, diagonally in front of me on the threadlike sidewalk, muttered something.
She turned sideways, still walking. “Yet.”
“You haven’t been to Europe. Yet.”
Yet. I pondered the word, my foot twisting on a raised cobblestone. “Yet,” I said out loud.
“That’s right, Mom. Yet.”
“So what’s your point? I don’t have the money to buy art and I don’t have the money to travel to Europe.”
“Yet. You talk as though you’ve given up on your dreams. If you give up on your dreams, they definitely won’t happen.”
“I’m being realistic, Megan. I’m an unknown Christian writer who just started their career and hasn’t earned a penny.”
“Yet. You never thought you’d write a book, but you just signed a book contract.”
Yet. I stopped and let her words sink in. Yet! This child is right! I’ve given up on my dreams. Dreams can’t happen if we give up on them, if we allow them to die, if we stop pursuing them.
I hurried to catch up. “Yes, Megan. Yet! Buying fine art and traveling to England have not happened yet!”
She glanced at me and smiled, the teacher and student trading roles. “Yet.”
What about you? Yes, you. What dreams have you given up on? Maybe you should tell me while we’re having this conversation. I’ll start the sentence, and then you fill in the blank: “I have never…….”
This is where you need Megan: “Yet.”
Isn’t that three-letter word unbelievably empowering?
What’s your biggest dream? The one you’ve never told anyone, the one you are most afraid will never happen? I know you have one. This time, say your big dream out loud. Speak life into it. Revive it. I’ll help you begin: “I have never……”
And Megan says: “Yet.”
You see, what you are saying, in essence, is this: I have had this dream for a long time, but it hasn’t materialized. Yet. I thought my dream was dead because I thought it was impossible for it to actually happen. But if I remain hopeful and focused and keep my dream alive and continue to work, it could happen. Yet.
I’ll take the last turn: “I have never written a best-seller.”
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me such an incredible daughter, and for the opportunity to share her wisdom with my friends.
“Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” Proverbs 23:18.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Photograph: Cynthia Howerter © 2012
Do you have a special place where you go when you need a break from life? Perhaps it’s a nearby park or a quiet room. The place my soul longs to visit when life delivers too many problems is near the foot of Chestnut Mountain in northeast Georgia.
During our long bout of unemployment, I found myself in desperate need of sanctum. Completely spent, I packed a suitcase and a borrowed laptop into my car and drove alone from Pennsylvania to Georgia. The 13-hour drive allowed me to put distance between devouring stresses and endless problems. Mile after mile sent heart-felt prayers to the Creator, alternately calling for God’s help and praising Him for spectacular sights as I drove between ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains, heading due south. Near Asheville, North Carolina, my car began the climb into mountains so beautiful, my weariness from 11 hours behind the steering wheel was forgotten.
Having left Pennsylvania in the middle of a sticky summer sunrise, I arrived at Chestnut Mountain with enough time before sunset to climb to the summit and absorb views capable of resuscitating my spirit.
I awoke early the next morning and after filling a mug with steaming coffee and covering my shoulders with a blanket, I slipped outside to the screened-in porch where I sank into a cold, damp cushion on the seat of a rocker. Thick white fog blanketed the valley meadows and veiled the mountains to the west. It wasn’t until the first rays of morning sun climbed over the peak of Chestnut Mountain that the shroud slowly dissolved and revealed the uneven peaks of timeless mountains that Cherokees once called home.
The mug warmed my hands while I breathed in the sweet smells of summer grass and clover that grow in the field between the house and the creek. My shoulders lost some of their tension and my bare feet, pressing against the floor, pushed the rocker in a soothing rhythm. Outside, my ears hear best when my eyes are closed. I turned my head slowly from side to side, the sound of creek water tumbling over rocks rode across the tall field grass and became my porch companion.
But this was only part of what I sought.
Needing more coffee, I tiptoed inside. The house was reverently quiet. Carefully holding the too-full mug, I picked up my Bible and returned to the porch. A vivid blue indigo bunting streaked past to the mature red oak at the edge of the garden where it landed on a moss-covered branch and began its early morning reverie. It was soon joined by phoebes and vireos.
Surrounded by a symphony, I opened the worn Book to the Psalms and asked the Lord to speak to my weary soul. Words ancient but relevant comforted, encouraged, strengthened, guided. Sanctuaries aren’t always confined.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
My God in whom I trust.”
Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY