John 15:13 is an amazing verse which speaks directly to sacrificial love. The same love that brought Jesus to the cross because He loves us so much, He couldn’t bear to leave us in our hopeless state of sin and its dreadful consequences. So how can we live out the words of this Scripture in our own lives? As we celebrate Memorial Day, we remember those who laid down their lives, so we could be free. Their example is one way for someone to lay down one’s life, and we are forever grateful for their sacrifice.
Pastor Chad of Living Word Global Church shared a wonderful way to celebrate Memorial Day. Rather than buy into the consumerism that sadly revolves around this day, do an act of service to honor God. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – something as simple as a phone call to someone who may be feeling lonely. As Pastor Chad put it this morning, we are all going to die someday. God didn’t make our bodies to be perfectly preserved, so that we survive unblemished into our eighties. We are called to stretch and go out of our comfort zones to help others and point them to Jesus. As we celebrate Memorial Day, it would be good to reflect on those who have sacrificed for us and on what we can do to sacrificially help others.
While we are not all called to make that ultimate sacrifice, we can lay down our lives for others in many ways – by serving them. Our lives should be how others see God – by seeking the well-being of others and loving them in His Name. When Josh was in first grade, he talked about this topic. May the pure faith of a child bless your understanding of living a life spent in loving others.
I have been wanting to talk about the difference between empathy and sympathy for a while now. I have been reflecting on my response to my mom in my younger years when she expressed the various aches and pains that she was experiencing. I recall feeling bad for her, but I don’t recall comprehending the depth of the pain that she was going through. As I’m getting older and experiencing my own aches and pains that is a natural part of the aging process, I have been reflecting on the difference between empathy and sympathy, how I responded to her back then, and how I would today.
One of my favorite scripture verses has always been 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
This is a perfect picture of empathy. Sympathy is recognizing that somebody is struggling and offering some words of comfort from a place that while sincere, does not actually comprehend the pain the other person is going through, at least to the same extent as someone who has experienced it themselves. This Scripture verse tells us that after we have gone through a trial, we can comfort someone else going through a similar trial with the same comfort God has given us. That is so powerful!
I personally have some regret because I wish I was more empathic to what my mom was going through as she aged: her painful back issues, her frustration at being limited physically in her golden years, and her unspoken feelings of isolation. But upon further reflection, I find that type of empathy is often the result of growing in wisdom and maturity. It is the exception rather than the rule for younger people who have not experienced the same issues or if they have, it was temporary.
I have come to understand that my mom would hold no grudge against my lack of empathy, just as I hold no grudge against my own children. They simply cannot comprehend what they have not felt for themselves. Indeed, as parents, we typically shelter our children from our infirmities because we don’t want to burden them.
Regardless of our season of life, we can all still strive to become more empathic. How do we do this? I recently heard of Brene Brown and the work she is doing in this area. I wanted to share this video because I think it speaks very directly to all of us as to how we can exercise empathy rather than sympathy, even in those situations where we have not experienced what the person is going through for ourselves. I think it’s worth watching – I hope it blesses you, like it has me, with a better understanding of how to be more compassionate to those around us.
And if you feel a little sad or guilty for not having more empathy for someone you love who is no longer with us, I have empathy for you, for I feel those things as well. I would like to share the comfort I have received from God. He loves each one of us unconditionally where we are at. I also believe those who love us (including my mom) knew we were not yet mature enough to understand. They would want us to continue to grow and learn as we move through each season of our life, gaining wisdom and increasing in compassion, without being weighed down with regrets. The best way to honor their legacy is to live the best version of ourselves each day, without letting the past hold us back from being a blessing to those around us, and by cultivating empathy for others.
I was lying in bed this morning thinking about my old days at DeVry Institute of Technology and how much I love working on electronics. I was a faculty assistant while I was going to school. I remember when they were tearing down the upstairs lab to turn it into another classroom. DeVry decided to make the oscilloscopes available for students to purchase at a somewhat affordable price. Being a faculty assistant, I got first shot. The instructor that I worked for helped me choose the best one. It became the mainstay for my home lab along with some equipment I had purchased at the monthly sidewalk sale under the bridge in Dallas, affectionately referred to as “First Saturday.”
A DeVry analog and digital trainer consisting of a function generator, an AC power supply, and a variable and fixed (5 and 12 volt) DC power supply, became part of the lab that I had set up in my bedroom, along with numerous breadboards and a container holding various diodes, transistors, resistors, IC chips, LEDs, and capacitors. I also had a soldering iron and solder sucker I kept handy. I absolutely loved designing circuits on my bread boards and building projects. I spent many wonderful hours at DeVry learning my trade. It served me well, because I went on to work at a job as a test engineer for many years and I always said “I can’t believe they pay me to come into work to have so much fun!”
That was several years ago and my life has taken many turns since then. I married a wonderful man and raised an amazing son while doing many different things including teaching English as a Second Language at the adult education center in my community, getting my master’s degree, and teaching as an adjunct professor at Dallas Christian College, while starting a small business selling portable trail obstacles for horses.
I had a fantastic run indulging in my favorite past time – horses. I have been blessed with several wonderful equine partners over the years. Time, distance, and the busyness of life has caused my ability to participate to fade. I still ride but instead of three or four times a week, it’s been three or four times a year.
More seasons: In the last few years, I have devoted myself to writing. I started a writers group called the Carrollton League of Writers, going on three years now, and have been blessed with so many lovely friendships through it. I am in the midst of revising a 94,000-word science fiction novel that I hope to publish by year’s end. I have also taken up my husband’s passion of bicycling and we try to ride our bikes several times a week.
Most recently, I have embarked on a new career path working in Information Technology as a Quality Assurance lead. As I lay in bed this morning, I felt nostalgia for and a strong desire to reignite my passion for electronics. But then I realized that God has given me many wonderful seasons and that my electronics time was a special season for me to enjoy, but not necessarily something to return to, or at least not to devote a tremendous amount of time to it.
God will always have something for me. What a blessing to know that He will continue to bring new things into my life, not to replace my previous passions, but to bless me with new experiences – new seasons.
My thoughts then went a step further. I think I was reminiscing about DeVry because a dear friend, the instructor I mentioned earlier, went to be with Jesus last month. It’s particularly hard to think about because he was also my husband’s closest friend and his passing was so unexpected. As I thought about him, and became teary-eyed, I realized that as the years go on, this was going to continue to happen, because it is a part of life. While our souls are eternal, our bodies are perishing, and we will be saying goodbye to many friends eventually. In the last six months, we’ve said goodbye to four dear friends and I find my grief coming out in patches, as special reminders of them occur randomly in my life.
But God told me something about that, just as He did about the areas of passion I described earlier that I’m no longer able to do. While I’ll always treasure the memories I have of my friends and look forward to reuniting with them one day in heaven, God is also bringing new people into my life, not to replace them because they will always have a special place in my heart, but because He loves us so much. Just as He’s bringing me new things to do, He’s also bringing me new friends. It reminds me of a childhood song we used to sing in Girl Scouts – Make new friends, but keep the old…one is silver and the other gold.
I thank God for both the new seasons in my life to look forward to, and the previous seasons to remember and cherish. I also thank God for the new friends He has been bringing into my life. It doesn’t make saying goodbye to those I love any easier, but it does bring comfort and hope for the future.
This letter has been many years in coming. It is a hard letter for me to write, because I love all of you so much and I would never want to offend you. But I feel compelled to write these words, because of that love – I want to see you in heaven.
If you know me, you know I have always been respectful of those who hold different beliefs from me. I have been so blessed to have made friends from many different countries and the most joyful times of my life have been getting to know people from cultures very different from my own.
Anyone who knows me, also knows I am a Christian. I do not take my commitment to being a Christian casually. While I am not always successful, I do my best to live according to God’s instructions in the Bible. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” My hope and desire is that my daily actions reflect the love of Christ to those around me.
Some important things to know about Christianity:
A Christian believes that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. In other words, whatever it says has come from God and is true. What I read in the Bible, I can trust.
God loves EVERYONE. Really, it’s true! It doesn’t matter what you have done in the past – you can’t change the fact that God loves you and He wants to be in relationship with you – that is why He created you! If you are worried because you have done bad things, sadly we all have. That’s called sin and it separates us from God, because He is holy and without sin. But the good news is, no one is so far from God, that they can’t be forgiven and enter into His family. God’s love is unconditional. It’s important to know that God’s grace is offered to all, but He gives us a choice. The only requirement is for a person to choose to accept it by believing in His Son, that Jesus came to Earth, died for our sins (taking the penalty of sin in our place), and was raised from the dead, giving victory over death and a place in heaven for those who believe in Him. If you do, your life will never be the same! You will have entered into a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. Our God is a God of relationship. He wants to have conversations with you. He wants you to depend on Him. He is always available to you. In fact, His Holy Spirit provides both guidance and comfort to those who believe. The Holy Spirit also convicts us, helping us to live a life pleasing to God. Mind-boggling, I know. It’s hard to comprehend, but it’s true!
We read in the Bible in John 14:6, Jesus answered,“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
So from a Christian perspective, one must have a personal relationship with Jesus in order to “come to the Father” and gain entrance into heaven. In order to do that, they must ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior, and trust in Him for their salvation. Thus, my dilemma. I believe that in order to have salvation, one must accept the same things I believe, even if you come from a different country and/or was raised in another religion, or no religion at all. Even if you try to be a good person. No other religion meets this requirement and no one is good enough to get into heaven by their own efforts. Salvation is a free gift, but a person must choose to accept it and place their faith in Jesus. Knowing I believe this, if I am truly your friend and I love you like I say I do, I must be concerned about your eternal destiny. How can I not share this with you?
Putting myself in your shoes – my first reaction might be – how unfair! How exclusive! Why can’t all paths lead to heaven? Why does a Christian think they are better than everybody else?
My answer to the last question starts us on our journey: A true Christian KNOWS they are no better than anyone else. It is the same desperate need that we all have to be cleansed from our sin that makes us all equally in need of a Savior. Sin separates us from God. We can’t fix our situation – only Jesus can, by taking the penalty of our sin for us. Jesus offers to do that for each and every one of us. No other path provides the atonement required to satisfy God’s wrath because of our sin. No other path forms a bridge over the yawning chasm of our sin, so that we can enjoy God’s presence for eternity.
While the entrance to heaven is exclusively for those who call upon the Name of Jesus, Christianity is far from exclusive. God wants EVERYONE to be reconciled to Him. It doesn’t matter where you are from, your cultural background, what color you are, or what language you speak, ALL are welcome.
Does this seem unfair? I personally am grateful to Jesus that I am not treated fairly, because if I were, I would have to suffer for my sin. I am grateful that God so loved the world that He created a way for us to enter heaven by being unfair: He sent His only Son to die for us, in our place. In the Bible, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved THE WORLD, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” THE WORLD – all of us!
I can tell you about my own relationship with Jesus – how He has changed everything in my life for the better and walks alongside me, comforting and helping me through my greatest trials. How He is faithful even when I’m not, and He loves me despite all of my sin. I also know I am going to heaven with certainty, because I have placed my trust in Him.
When I expressed my concern to a dear friend of mine who is Muslim, regarding his eternal destiny, he responded: “Perhaps God will open my heart to Jesus. It is up to Him.” His words were so wise! That reminded me that I am not the one who can convince you about who Jesus is and the grace that He offers each one of us, that is up to the Holy Spirit to move in your heart. It is my prayer that He is moving, even now. I love you.
If you have read this, and I managed to offend you, I am truly sorry. But from my perspective, your eternal life is at stake. If I truly love you, I have to at least try to share this with you. If you are curious and have questions, I would be glad to answer them and if I don’t know, I will find out. Whatever you choose, ultimately the decision is yours and regardless, I will always be your friend. Thank you for allowing me to share my heart with you.
If you find yourself wanting to learn more – the video below is an amazing message because it teaches us about the incredible, extravagant, incomparable love God has for us, and it also explains the cross – something that puzzles many people. If you have ever wondered why the Son of God would allow Himself to be crucified on a cross – this is a great sermon to listen to. Spoiler Alert: It has everything to do with God’s love for us!
If you are short on time, the sermon begins at approximately 20 minutes. However, I think you’ll be especially blessed if you have the time to watch the entire service. God tells us in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” My prayer for you is that you find God and rest in His extravagant love for you.Amen
I wrote this blog post three years ago when Valentine’s Day fell precisely on Ash Wednesday. While that is not the case this year, Ash Wednesday is this week and I think this post is well-worth revisiting. While Phil and I are certainly celebrating the love we have for each other today, it is also appropriate to celebrate God’s love: the relentless, incomprehensible, sacrificial, and unconditional love He has for each one of us. For those of you unfamiliar with Lent, it is explained in the post. I hope these words bless you! Happy Valentine’s Day!
I woke up this morning thinking about how to reconcile celebrating Valentine’s Day with observing Ash Wednesday, when I realized that there isn’t any need for reconciliation; the two events complement each other beautifully. As we reflect solemnly on our sinful state and the admonition that Ash Wednesday brings to the forefront in Genesis 3:19, “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” it is certainly a time of repentance. But it is also a time to draw us closer to experiencing God’s love through the Gospel.
So let me explain the correlation I think we have between these two seemingly dissimilar events. To begin with, it would be good to get a better understanding of the word love. In the English language we use one word to describe many things. We can love our brothers and sisters, we can have a more intimate love for our spouses, we can even love hamburgers, but none of these describes the love that God has for us. When we go back to the original Greek, we see that all of these types of love have a different word assigned to it. Family love or love of an object may fall under Storge στοργή. The brotherly love of friendship is expressed as Philia φιλία, and sexual love as Eros ἔρως. The love of God for man has its own word too. It is called Agape ἀγάπη. God’s love for us is relentless, incomprehensible, sacrificial and unconditional.
I read a quote about Agape love by Paulo Coelho that beautifully expresses the magnitude of God’s love for us: “This was the love that Jesus felt for humanity, and it was so great that it shook the stars and changed the course of man’s history.”
When we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of love. The Scriptures tell us in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Ash Wednesday is a stark reminder as to why each of us needs that love. In Ash Wednesday we remember our mortality, that we are dust and will return to dust. We are reminded of our sin, but the Gospel message tells us we have victory over our sin if we repent and believe. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 gives us hope:
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 John 4:8 proclaims, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” The message is clear. We are to love one another. Jesus teaches us in Matthew 22:37-39 “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Today is a day we can celebrate love in all of its facets: the love that God has for us, and the different types of love that we have for one another. Today, Phil and I will contemplate the incredible love that God has for us as sinful mortals with gratefulness and repentance, and we will also celebrate the love we have as husband and wife. When you think about it, Valentine’s Day is a holiday that celebrates romantic love, but what could be more romantic than sacrificial love? Ultimately that is the type of love that lasts when the trappings of Valentine’s Day fades into the busyness of life.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, and we have the season of Lent ahead of us. Another Lenten tradition for some folks is to “give something up” for Lent. The purpose is to recognize and share in Jesus’ sacrifice as he withdrew into the desert and fasted for 40 days. Another way we can share in this tradition is rather than give something up, we can commit to do something, as an expression of sacrificial love. For me, I choose to write one card of encouragement each day of Lent (to the person God puts on my heart that day), and mail it. One has to be intentional, and carve out time to do this. Not a great sacrifice perhaps, but it serves the purpose of giving time to God to bless someone else. Just another way to show that ultimately, Ash Wednesday and Lent, while a season of repentance, is grounded in the greatest love of all and is a great way to live out the command Jesus gave us in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
Another GREAT thing to do today is to forgive someone if you have been allowing bitterness to fester in your heart. I know many people who struggle with forgiveness, in that they are either unable to forgive themselves for something they have done or they are unable to forgive someone else for hurting them. When I think about God’s limitless grace and that it is through Christ’s sacrifice at the cross that we have received forgiveness for all of our transgressions – what is even more amazing is that God initiated it, we read in Romans 5:8, “For God demonstrates his great love for us in this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” He died for us knowing we were a mess, yet loving us anyway. His forgiveness heals us and if we are unable to forgive ourselves, or others, we are unable to fully experience the peace that comes from the healing power of Christ. If you are in this category, you can read more at my blog post: Forgiving Ourselves and Forgiving Others.
There are all sorts of ways we can live out loving one another. A friend of mine is planning on choosing one item each day from her family’s clothing closets, so that at the end of Lent she will have 40 gently used items to donate to those in need. Sounds like both a sacrificial and practical plan to me! May you find special blessings each day as you spend this time preparing your heart for celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. And if you have never participated in Lent before, you might want to give it a try. It’s a wonderful way to deepen your spiritual journey.
I have spent a lot of energy encouraging people to be positive. In fact, I created a Facebook group that I named “An Encouraging Word” to help people do just that. But as I posted today about thinking happy thoughts, I realized, it’s not always possible. We are in the midst of a pandemic. People around us are suffering. Our lives have indelibly changed, and so has the society we live in. People we love have contracted COVID-19 and have faced tremendous health challenges. Some have lost the battle. Children are being raised in bubbles, bereft of the benefits of both socialization and extracurricular activities that stimulate the mind and body. Essential workers risk themselves daily. The divisiveness in our country has plagued our news and social media for months. The list goes on and on. We may not even realize it, but in the depths of our psyche we are feeling an unbearable sadness for some or all of these things.
Crying is a powerful way to relieve stress. Allowing our tears to flow can be a cleansing act that leaves us reinvigorated to face the world. The trigger that turns on the faucet may seem completely random or even unidentifiable, but it is a response to the pain or stress we are feeling, even if it’s on a subconscious level and we can’t readily identify it. Watching a television show, reading a Facebook post, talking to a friend on the phone, have all been triggers for deep-seated emotions I wasn’t aware of, to surface unexpectedly. An emotional response has also happened when I was in the midst of a holiday celebration at work, suddenly filling my eyes with tears. The dam can threaten to burst at the most awkward times, but don’t let that stop you from recognizing your need to cry even if you feel compelled to delay your response until you get to a more private place.
I think my biggest takeaway when I reflect on all this is, that it is okay to have those moments when you sit down and just bawl. A real tear gushing, chest heaving, gasping for air, soak your shirt, cry session. God gave us tears for a purpose. It is a cleansing, like when rain refreshes the earth. But like rain, we don’t want it to turn into a destructive force and flood us, so we are unable to function. Release those pent-up emotions, then focus on healthy ways to cope with what brought them on. Find balance in your life – think happy thoughts and find ways to encourage yourself and others, but don’t deny yourself the opportunities to release the stress you are feeling, even if you don’t quite know why. A good cry can be a very good thing.
We are living in extraordinary times. The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. But while that is certainly true, living through a pandemic is new for most of us. It has been a challenging time as we receive changing information daily and must navigate our relationships, how we conduct business, make tough decisions regarding our children’s education, and what we should or shouldn’t do based on something we can’t even see. I know for myself, I sometimes wake up and everything feels so surreal – I never imagined living through this type of situation.
But on the flip side, I never would have imagined being invited to attend a software boot camp at 57 years of age, staying up until 2:00 in the morning for three months straight, learning completely new technologies with young adults less than half my age. Yet, here I am, job offer in hand and I start on Monday. That also feels surreal. But it also shows that God has never stopped working in our lives for our good.
We do have much to celebrate even in the midst of pandemics and hurricanes. Some of our members have been battling health issues and we have seen rays of sunshine peeking through the clouds as they report improvements. Others are in the midst of various battles, but have their fellow Carrollton League of Writers praying for them and cheering them on. And it’s important to note that as a group, we have accomplished so much this year, despite having to forego meeting in person.
Our Accomplishments over the last year have been many. In no particular order:
Three day writing retreat at Lake Texoma
Started Tuesday Night Hangouts
Halloween potluck costume party
Valentine’s Day party/contest – Ed is our winner!
Our newest member, Ellie Crippen, made her grand entrance into the world on July 27 – Congratulations to Will and Jennifer for the birth of their beautiful baby muggle!
Monthly member spotlights
Monthly presentations by industry professionals, free to the public
Write-Ins at Café Brazil and Kimzey’s Coffee
Our Facebook Group increased to 193 members
New website (Thanks Jackie!)
Director took a three month sabbatical to attend a software boot camp – board members stepped in and CLW ran smoothly – which speaks to the leadership of the board and the solidarity of our group!
Many of our members attended WORDFest virtually – We are thankful for W.O.R.D. and the creativity that allowed them to offer a weekend of great writing-related programming online!
Dallas Story Teller’s Guild presented Ghost Tales, a two-day spook-tacular event. CLW’s very own Steve was one of the storytellers.
In October, CLW participated in Writers in the Field and had a great time! Scott presented on ham radios and Phil on renewable energy.
Our first short story contest happened in 2020 with the following winners:
Author: Sandra Payton
Title: Leaves Are People, Too
Author: Ed Wooten
Title: Defining Moments
Author: Steve McCluer
Title: The Vampire Interviews
An anthology committee was formed and is working hard on the logistics of our 2nd anthology.
Second Annual Arianne “TEX” Thompson Flash Fiction Contest (Judge Amber Royer) Winners – Artis, Scott, and Jennifer
Amazingly FUN Christmas party
Peggy launched “The Little Ladybug”
Andrea was published in an anthology “The Day We Came Back: Future Reports After the Pandemic” in April.
Andrea is also up for awards in the 22nd International Latino Book Awards in two categories: the Rudolfo Anaya Latino Fiction Book and Best novel – historical fiction, for her novel Las Mujeres de la Guerra (The Women of the War).
Scott’s brainchild, the Carrollton League of Writers blog, has been launched.
Monthly birthday celebrations
Phil and Nancy renewed their wedding vows on horseback and shared their joy with CLW.
Ross was published in the “The California Numismatist” and won two awards: the Virginia Hall Literary Award for medals (1st place) and the Charles Kappan Literary Award for articles on Exonumia (2nd place). The article was “The Perilous Pigeon Post” in the Fall 2019 issue.
Board of Directors elections were held.
Bylaws have been completed, voted upon, and are now official.
Breakfast outing to Mom’s Café to celebrate Sandy’s birthday
CLW “Writers Health Month” with speakers on mental health, nutrition and ergonomics
Our second anthology (professionally edited) will launch in time for Christmas giving.
Supported Amber Royer’s book launch: Fake Chocolate
Nancy had two full manuscript requests for Alien Neighbors.
WORD Historian – Jennifer did a presentation for Granbury Writers’ Bloc on “Using Archives to Build a Better Story.”
Nancy did a presentation for TEKsystems software bootcamp on Copyright and Fair Use for SW Developers.
First Anniversary Bash with a western theme was a great success!
We always want to give back to our community, and during our second year we found several ways to do so:
Food pantry donations
Donations to the Rwandan orphans – educational fundraising went instead to basic survival needs because of the pandemic
Participated in our host church’s school supply drive
Member support: meals provided for Will and Jennifer
But out of all of our accomplishments, I am most proud of our unity. It saddens me to see so much divisiveness in our country right now. Our writers group is a microcosm of our country, and we have chosen to come together to love, support, and encourage one another, despite our differences. I can’t help but think that if our behavior was duplicated in the real world, what a wonderful world it would be!
I want to leave you with this…while there are real concerns for each one of us that we are struggling to address during this difficult time, there is also hope and responsibility. We have the hope of a better day, and I believe that is in the not too distant future. We will come out the other side and we will have a strength of spirit that we are cultivating during this time of national crisis, that we will possess the rest of our lives. Our parents and grandparents experienced this during World War Two. I can hear my mother’s words in times of trouble, “We are survivors…” and “It’s not a forever thing.” We will get through this, and it won’t last forever.
And we as writers also have a responsibility. When I have my engineering hat on, I am seeking effective and efficient solutions to problems. But I have found that writing is an effective and efficient solution as well – to the problems brought about through our humanity. It may not fix the problems, but it helps them to be easier to endure while we work through them. I want to challenge each of you to a renewed spirit in your writing. Rather than allowing our external circumstances quench our spirit, let’s rise above it and use our writing gifts to bless others. Let’s look back at this year in our writing group’s history and remember it as the time we all continued to “fight the good fight and write the good write.”
A special thanks to the folks at Carrollton Church of the Nazarene for allowing us to use their fellowship hall – they have blessed us beyond measure with their generosity.
It’s been a challenging year but I’m looking forward to another one as we travel this writing journey together – I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else than with the Carrollton League of Writers!
I haven’t written in quite a while because I have been busy with a tremendous opportunity to take part in a software bootcamp being offered by TEKsystems. It is for 13 weeks and while it has been quite challenging, it has also been an amazing experience. I’ve grown in so many ways and have met so many wonderful people. I felt compelled to write a short blog post today because I think between the demands of the bootcamp in addition to the challenging times that we are living in, it is really easy to get caught up in an unhealthy cycle of worrying about things that have not yet occurred. For those attending the bootcamp, our goal is to receive an offer of employment. As humans, we have a tendency to envision scenarios that might happen before they ever come to pass. The temptation in my case would be, what if I’m not offered a job? This can create a lot of unnecessary anxiety and drain me of the energy I could be directing towards more productive pursuits.
We need to guard against excessively worrying about things before they happen. I chose this picture to accompany my blog post because when I look at the contrast between the dark and heavy background and the woman dancing, it seems to me that she is surrounded with the burdens and stresses of life, yet she still manages to choose joy. I want to be like her!
Jesus tells us in the Bible in Matthew 6:27, “and which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” To elaborate on that, not only can we not add any hours, but by worrying we waste a lot of the precious hours we’ve been given. I want to encourage everybody to not give in to the temptation of worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet, but rather direct your thoughts and energies to the present moment and what can you do to make it the best moment possible.
I have also learned in my life that if I don’t get the job, there will be something else. I don’t want to entertain that thought because I truly do hope to go to work for TEKsystems, but it is also good to know that if it doesn’t work out, something else will. The best thing that ever happened to me was when I was laid off from Dallas Semiconductor. You certainly could not have told me that at the time, but that opened up a career path for me at Optek Technology where I worked for twelve exceedingly happy years. I started as an engineering technician, moving up to test engineer, and eventually moved into the position of test engineering manager. The culture at Dallas Semiconductor was quite different and I would not have been able to progress the way I did at Optek.
In a very personal example, my son is in Washington state. We have never been separated for more than one week. Due to the current circumstances, he has been there since January 1st and we have been unable to visit. I could be thinking of different scenarios that would caused my anxiety to skyrocket concerning my son’s welfare, but rather than do that, I am choosing to believe in the best rather than the worst. If something happens then I will certainly respond to it, but I’m not going to worry about something that has not happened yet. I can look back on my life and say that 95% of the things I worried about never even came to pass and the 5% that did, I was able to get through it when it did happen.
By spending time worrying, you are squandering some wonderful opportunities to accomplish good things and enjoy the process. It’s not easy, but try to develop a mindset that shuts down any thought processes that tend towards negativity and unwanted scenarios that generate worry when nothing has happened yet. Instead, turn your thoughts to living your best possible moment in the moment you are in, and by doing that you will be able to live with joy rather than anxiety. Choose joy!
I have been thinking about the pandemic and how it has affected not just our family, or even our country, but the entire world. I am very blessed to have a friend named Ingrid. She lives in China. In fact, she lives in the epicenter of the coronavirus, Wuhan. I met Ingrid through my husband Phil’s work. She works for a supplier for his company. During the pandemic, Ingrid and I started exchanging emails. We have never met in person and we come from two very different cultures, but we share a common humanity. I want to tell you about the friendship we found. I decided to let excerpts from our emails tell our story.
Our first emails began on February 29, 2020. Ingrid and her husband and her son, Sam, were under lockdown in Wuhan and the first death attributed to the coronavirus in the United States was announced in Washington State, about 40 miles from where our son Josh had started his internship in January with World Vision. In my first email I greeted Ingrid and her family, and did my best to encourage her:
I hope you and your beautiful family are doing well. It must be very hard to be restricted to your home all of these weeks. I am so sorry you are all having to experience this hardship. I just wanted to write to tell you that you and your family and everyone affected by the corona virus are all in our prayers. We are praying for safety for you, your family, all of the communities affected, and the health care workers. We are also praying for healing for those who have contracted the virus.
Ingrid responded on March 4th with a lovely email in return, but one that also spoke of the hardship they were experiencing:
Yes, we have been restricted at home for quite some time, today is the 42nd day. Life was difficult but is getting better and better now.
We used to be panic, not sure if we would have enough food; we used to be scared, so many people got affected but no bed for them in hospital; we used to be so sad, so many cries for help on internet, yet so many people died every day; we used to be inspired, so many doctors, nurses, came bravely to our city to help. Since it is not so difficult for us to buy food (although we are still not allowed to go out of the community, we can order online and collect at the door gate), we are more and more get used to this life now.
What makes me happy is that none of my family members, relatives, friends, in Wuhan have got affected. I hope we can keep this record. 🙂
All your family members are good looking. I love your smile. I can tell you are a nice, kind-hearted lady from your face. 🙂 Your son is so handsome, I love his beard, so cool~~~I can tell he is a sunshine boy with good temper. Phil is always so lovely! I found out he loves plaid shirt deeply. Am I right?
Yes! Ingrid you are right! LOL
Ingrid also shared about cutting her husband and son’s hair, since it was getting so long during their lock down. She ended her email with:
Don’t worry dear Nancy, we will get through this hard time soon.
I hope you and your lovely family members always happy and healthy.
My husband and my son Sam, ask me to say thanks to you. Your letter also warms and encourages them. They appreciate it. We are now looking forward to spring. When spring comes, maybe we can step outside…
On March 8th I wrote in return:
Our hearts are breaking for all of those affected around the world. We must all stand together and love and support one another! I saw a wonderful video on youtube – I wish you could see it. It shows people from countries around the world all giving the same message – Stay Strong, Wuhan! Stay Strong, China! China Strong! Wuhan Strong! We are all in this together! If we all work together we can overcome these challenges! Be courageous – We stand by you! We are with you!
Dear Ingrid, I hope you and your family find it encouraging to know that 🙂
Sprinkled throughout these emails are pictures we shared of what we have each been cooking during lockdown.
Ingrid’s next email on March 10th, she wrote:
I still would like to remind you to wear mask when go to public places like supermarket if possible, wash your hands whenever you take food. Do not touch your mouth, nose, and eyes with your hands. I can understand Josh will think we such mothers are “making a storm in a teacup,” but please also try to remind him. We also hope your family stay healthy.
Part of my response on March 14th:
You write excellent English! I am also an ESL teacher and have taught English to my students from around the world, including China. I am very impressed with your command of the English language!
Regarding your question about the outbreak, yes, I am referring to the corona virus. The first case in the United States was in Washington state, in the same county where our son is working for World Vision. We wanted him to fly home to be with us, but we decided it was too dangerous, since there have been over 450 cases. We are afraid he has a greater chance of being exposed if he goes to an airport or gets in an airplane. Washington has had the most infections. Very sadly, they began in a nursing home and several of the residents have died. The corona virus has also spread to California and New York with large numbers of cases. As you know, we live in Texas. It has also arrived here. Because Phil has asthma and is 65 years old, we are staying home. He will not be going into work next week and UPG will reevaluate how to proceed at the end of next week. Fortunately, we have lots to do at our house so hopefully we will keep busy and safe.
Thank you so much for your advice and concern, dear Ingrid. I love the idiom you shared, “making a storm in a teacup.” An English equivalent would be “making a mountain out of a molehill.” And yes, our sons often think that way because of their youth, but rest assured Joshua understands the gravity of the situation and is anxious to protect not only himself, but also our more vulnerable population. He is staying in his host family’s house and working from there. The schools have all been shut down. It is a scary time for all of us but we have faith in God that He will provide for us and for the world, which keeps us from worrying too much. We are praying for you and your family and for everyone affected by the pandemic.
And part of Ingrid’s next response on March 17th:
You are right to not let Josh come back at this time. The most dangerous thing is to go to public places with many people. Airport is surely a very dangerous place. Even in Wuhan, since we stayed at home, my family and all of my 36 relatives in this city are ok. Most of the people who got infected are those who have been to hospital or supermarket. You and Phil please also stay at home. I have been stayed at home for 54 days. Based on my experience, I have to say we human beings are good at getting used to suit any environment. We all feel quite ok at home now. The best things is that we can have enough sleep, which is good for our health but we never have chance to fulfill if not because of the virus. 🙂
In Ingrid’s next email on March 26th:
Haven’t heard from you for so many days, how are you doing?
After 64 days’ stay at home, finally I stepped out of my house yesterday. I was so excited for that. I have been to a grocery store near my house. Haven’t shopped for more than 2 months, even the snacks there made me more excited. I bought so much snacks, some of which I did not like to take in the past. We need a good chance to vent. 🙂
The good news is although our city is still locked down, our plant is re-opened. Not all the workers are able to be back at present but it is still a good sign that our life will slowly back to normal. But experts said the virus may return after our city unblocks, so we must be very very careful when back to work.
Based on our experience, we all think only if we do not go to public places, wear mask, wash our hands carefully, do not touch our eyes, nose and mouth with our hands, the virus can be not so terrible.
I wish you and your family members take good care of yourselves and get through this hard time soon~~~
And on March 27th from me:
Thank you so much for writing! You have been on my heart to respond to your last email every day, but things have gotten pretty crazy around here. I am sorry if I worried you. We are well and safe,
I am sooooo happy you got to go outside yesterday – that is wonderful news!!! I understand about the shopping – I was so excited two days ago when I managed to buy some toilet paper on Amazon 🙂
I am so happy to hear that life is slowly starting to get back to normal. Our challenges began over a week ago which is why I have not returned your other email yet.
Ingrid’s response, also on March 27th:
I am happy to see your email, which tells me you are all ok. In fact I was a little worried about you since you seldom don’t reply for so long time. Now I am released.
I guess the crazy you mentioned should be people are trying to store toilet paper and food? When the virus comes, all the people are doing these, so you do not need to worry too much, just also store enough at home and try to lessen your chances to go out, I believe you will be safe.
I responded on March 29th:
Thank you for your advice regarding the protocol for staying safe and preventing infection. I told Josh and he says he understands what to do. He still goes to the grocery store but only once every two weeks and very early before it gets busy. I worry sometimes, but I also trust God to take care of my son.
It is hard to keep Phil home. He is used to being very active, so I have to be creative in finding things to keep him busy. You are right, we human beings can adapt, but I think it’s harder for some people than others to be stuck home. I am glad he likes to cook!
I enjoy our chats – it is very relaxing and peaceful to visit with a sweet friend! Please tell your husband and Sam hello for us – you and your family are in our prayers for safety, peace, and provision.
I sent this one on April 3rd:
I hope you and your family are all safe and doing well. I am a little bit worried because you have not responded yet – I am hoping to hear from you soon, so I can know you are okay.
Please answer as soon as you are able – I am looking forward to hearing from you.
Please give my greetings to your husband and Sam. Phil says hello also.
Take care dear friend,
And received this from Ingrid in reply on April 3rd:
I am so sorry for my late reply. And I am sorry to make you worried.
I resumed to work in office this Monday. So many emails and so much work, my brains are so so so full .
After my first working day, when I went home, I saw Sam was playing basketball downstairs with mask. I was a little sad at that time, because after 71 days’ staying at home, this is the first time he stepped out of the house, but still with mask on; I was also a little touched seeing him so energetic under the beautiful flower tree. No matter how hard life is, it can still be beautiful and full of hope, isn’t it?
On April 4th I responded:
I am so glad to receive your email! Now I also am released from worry 🙂 When I didn’t get the auto-reply I thought you might have returned to work – you must be so busy catching up!
I can tell you are a tender loving mother also, and that you worry about your son like all good mothers do. The picture of Sam brought tears to my eyes. Yes, my dear Ingrid, no matter how hard life is, it can still be beautiful and full of hope! I also feel very blessed that even in terrible times we can find some good. I have found a lovely new friend in an amazing and sweet lady named Ingrid, and I am thankful for that 🙂
We found in our emails that we not only have a common humanity, but also a common hope. We both see that hope in our children and in the beauty of life, even when it is hard. We also found hope in our friendship.
From Ingrid on April 7th:
About our friendship, it is really a great gift to me. It lighted my dark days.
From me on April 9th:
I treasure your friendship, dear Ingrid. It reminds me that we are all the same in our hearts no matter where we live or what country we are from. Thank you so much for your love and encouragement – they are precious to me.
If two women who have never met can form a caring friendship and encourage and inspire each other from opposite sides of the world, just imagine what is possible for all of us! Ingrid and I invite you to join us in finding a common hope in the beauty of life even in these difficult times and to recognize our common humanity with the people of all nations – we will all get through this together!
Imagine getting ready for work early in the morning after a restless night. Not many people are able to sleep well when constantly being inundated by news of the corona virus. As an essential worker in a grocery store, a typical day will most likely include being asked to work a ten to twelve hour shift because of the shortage of employees. Some co-workers are sick, others have quit due to fear of exposure to the virus, and the need for cleaning and disinfecting has created even more labor. In the past you looked forward to going to work. You enjoyed the opportunity to serve the public and liked your job. While working retail can be tough, especially when dealing with cranky customers, it gives you a sense of satisfaction knowing you are contributing to your community by providing a needed service.
It has been said that difficult times bring out the best and the worst in people. Unfortunately, during the corona virus pandemic, often grocery store workers must bear the brunt of the worst. I spent about fifteen minutes yesterday speaking on the phone with a manager of one of our local grocery stores. Before I was able to speak to him, I spoke to the person who answered the phone, and asked to speak to the manager. She inquired as to whether I wanted to speak to the hiring manager, who was in their store in response to the worker shortage. I told her no, I wanted to speak to the regular manager. I wanted to express my appreciation to all of the employees for their hard work and their willingness to serve our community. I told her that having worked in retail, I knew that when people are under stress they are often not every nice and I wanted to make sure the employees know how much they are appreciated.
She replied, “I just got goosebumps. Nobody has been nice all week. I can’t tell you how much this means to us.”
The young lady got the manager on the phone and during our ten minute chat I learned of several things:
Many employees were scared, but coming to work anyway.
Some employees were not coming to work, causing a short staffing situation and extra work for those who did.
The number of customers that have been nice or understanding were less than he could count on one hand. He tried his best to encourage his associates but it was really hard because of customers complaining over things of which the employees had no control over.
I told him we were regular customers and so grateful for his service and that of his employees. I shared with him that my husband has asthma and hypertension in addition to being over sixty, so we were not leaving the house since he is in multiple high risk groups. It was because of his workers that we could safely get our groceries by utilizing their pickup and delivery options. This manager, who was struggling to keep his store associates encouraged, shared with me that he also has asthma (which puts him in the high risk group). He told me he continued to work because he believed it was better to give than to receive. His words humbled me. They should humble you, too. In parting, I expressed how I was looking forward to the day, in the not too distant future, when we could see him and thank him in person.
I would like to ask you to look beyond the inconvenience of empty shelves and long lines, and instead view these workers through a lens of gratitude. I also challenge you to take that gratitude a step further and act upon it. That looks different for different people – but we can all participate in some way. It may be simply by including these folks in your prayers. It may be telling workers when you see them how much you appreciate what they are doing. You can have patience and understanding when they are out of what you wanted. Perhaps it is a phone call to say a quick thanks. You could even do something more tangible – I found these cards on Amazon. I asked the manager how many employees he had and I ordered enough for all of them and had them sent directly to the store.
These courageous folks are making a difference every day by going to work to meet the needs of our communities. How can we make a difference for them?