A Time of Preparation

Good afternoon friends. I hope this day finds you well. This is a time of year where we are scurrying about getting ready for Christmas. We are decorating our homes, shopping for gifts and trying to be our best selves. Sometimes that is a hard thing to do with the rushing about and chaos. We are preparing for one day of joy. But in all actually, there is a bigger picture.

There is a song we love to sing at Christmas called Joy to the World. I have heard debates off and on about this not really being a Christmas song. It was just released around Christmas time. While down in the latter verses of the song it talks of Him already here and ruling so its not really a song about his birth…but the first three lines of the song represents what we should be doing now, every day.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room

Joy, for He has come. Joy, for He is our Lord. Let the earth receive Him as King. Then the line to represent what we should be doing now…today. Prepare our hearts to give him room. We are in the season of Advent. I did not grow up knowing or celebrating Advent but as an adult, to me it is a very important time of preparation. Not only is it sharing with the ancient longings of Israel in waiting on the coming of the Messiah or the excitement of celebrating His birth but its preparing our hearts for His second coming…as our Lord and King.

I was given a wonderful little book called “The Gifts of Christmas”. Its a devotional book through the season of Advent and I want to share those scriptures with you over the next few weeks. For those who already celebrate Advent, I hope these scriptures bring you Joy, for those who do not celebrate Advent, I hope these scriptures and notes help you understand there is a bigger picture. Advent themes are based on four gifts from God – the gift of hope, the gift of love, the gift of joy and the gift of peace. This week starting on this past Sunday through Saturday is the gift of hope. Hope can be something we use flippantly or something to hold tightly to as our lives depend on it. I hope you understand the power hope can give you as I go through these scriptures.

Peter reminds us of the joys of Jesus birth, he also reminds us of the beauty of Him coming again.

Hope is key to our survival and when we lose hope we lose purpose. Hope is central to our faith and hope is central in waiting for the rest of the story – Jesus’s second coming.

Paul tells us in the book of Romans how his suffering produced perseverance, how the perseverance produced character and how that character gave him hope. It can do the same of us in our struggles.

Hope also has a byproduct – faith.

The gift of hope comes when we place our trust, by faith, in Jesus Christ…something we cant see. But this hope is not in something but in someone. It’s an assurance of the bigger picture of eternity. It’s a patient waiting and a patient hope in Jesus Christ no matter the season or the chaotic circumstance.

Sometimes when we seem to be low on hope, we can rejuvenate our hope in sharing God’s hope with others. Hold close to Romans 15:13, simply because of God’s love for you.

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Share that hope through kindness as you go through this day.

Always be Kind

A Gift of Hope

Enclosed is a short story I wrote this afternoon as I am slowly gathering my crafts together to get them done for Christmas. I ran across my glass hearts and thought of how to me they resemble hope more than love. Especially at Christmas. This year, year two of Covid, there are many who have lost hope so we must find ways to encourage others. So I wrote this story. Its kind of long, over 900 words, but I think it has a message we can all understand. We all have been hurt at one time or another and can sometimes lose hope. We must come along each other and rebuild each others hope so that they can then encourage others, thus creating a circle of encouragement. So if the story is too long for you to read, remember to encourage each other and help rebuild hope.

Buried Hope

“Hey sweetie, hand mommy that heart,” said Meredith as she motioned to her daughter.

“Are you going to put it back in the dirt like you found it?” questioned her daughter Hope. Her young blond curls fell into her face as she bent to pick up and examine the small glass heart.

“I am.”

“But why. It’s pretty. You could wear it.”

“It’s a little big for a necklace, but it is pretty isn’t it?” Meredith examined the heart before she carefully placed it under the flower she was potting. She though back to when she had been given a similar pot of flowers and this lovely poem of hope. She was miserable and had lost all hope because she had miscarried her second child. She had wanted children so badly and now that hope evaded her. The poem had encouraged her and gave her some peace. The following spring as she followed the instructions in the poem by planting the plant in the yard, she discovered in the bottom of the flower pot a tiny laminated copy of the poem and the glass heart was attached to it.

“This is a heart of hope for someone who is very sad right now,” explained Meredith. “When this was given to me, I thought I would never be able to have children and I was very sad.”

“But Mommy, you had me,” Hope said matter of factly.

“Yes, I did, two years later. And now you are a grown-up 5 year old who starts school in the fall. Won’t that be fun?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay,” said Meredith dusting the remaining dirt from her hands. “Let me go get the poem and I will deliver the flower.”

“You going to give it to Mrs. Lawson?” Hope said sadly.

“Yes. I think she needs it, don’t you?”

“Yeah. I know that Bobby is really sad too. I can’t imagine us losing Daddy.”

“They all need our love and prayers to get through this tragedy.”

As Meredith got out of her car at the Lawson’s home, she saw Nancy working in her flower bed. Nancy sat back on her heels with a soft wave and a sad smile on her face.

“Hey Nancy. I know how much you love your flowers and I just wanted to give a little extra color. This lily will be beautiful all summer, and then this fall you can add it to your garden.”

“Oh, Meredith. You are so sweet. Thank you.” Nancy stood to take the flower and give Meredith a hug. They had been good friends for several years. As Nancy reached for the flowers she froze staring intently at the flower pot and the poem that was being held by the flower stick.

“This is a white lily,” said Meredith. “Lilies represent hope and faith and white represents peace and purity. I thought this would help bring you peace.”

“Did you write this poem you placed on the stick?” she whispered softly as she reached just for the stick while Meredith held the flower pot.

“No. I copied it from one I received when I was going through a particularly hard time in my life. It brought me peace and I wanted to do the same for you.”

Meredith noticed the tears coming down from Nancy’s face.

“Nancy, I did not mean to upset you. I wanted you to know you always have a friend with me. I am so sorry I upset you.”

“No, no. You have not upset me but I do have to ask….did you also bury something in the dirt?”

“Yes. How did you know that?”

Nancy hug Meredith in a strong loving hug as tears and laughter came from her. “Oh, Meredith, you have no idea how happy you have made me. Come sit down and let me tell you the story.”

As they settled on the chairs on the front porch Meredith placed the lily on the table between the chairs.

“Meredith, this really is a lovely lily. So delicate and small but its fragrance is wonderful.” Nancy settled in her chair and began her story. “When I was a little girl my grandmother was a prominent member in our family. She loved Christmas and had clear glass ornaments for her Christmas tree. She loved the way the light twinkled through the glass. Some of the larger ornaments were cut class that refracted the light into tiny rainbows on the walls. When she found out she had cancer, she refused to go through the treatments. The doctors told her she would not last longer than a year without treatment.”

“I heard that treatments back then were a lot less effective and the effects were more painful than now,” said Meredith.

“I can hear my grandmother now.  ‘I would rather have one good year than three years of being sickly like I have seen some of my friends. Especially when it’s gonna get me anyway.’ She was a pistol. The spring before she died, she dug up her lilies and put them in flower pots and in the bottom of the flower pot, she placed one of her small heart ornaments along with this poem. Then she took them to the hospital and gave them to patients to help give them hope. Mom told me there were close to thirty flower pots. I had heard over the years how some people had regifted them but never thought I would ever see one. This is so very special, Meredith,” said Nancy as fresh tears flowed.

“I would have given it to you sooner had I know. I am excited and amazed of this story.”

“It just shows the full circle of love, hope, faith and even life if we allow it to grow.”

Anita Neal

Thank for reading my story. It was fun to write but it does show the importance of kindness and encouragement to rebuild shattered hope. Never forget the importance of kindness. It can be a spark someone needs to brighten their day.

Morning Encouragement

Good morning friends. Today in the Mid-west it is a wet and gloomy day. No rain but just heavy humidity and gray clouds. It is a great day to visualize and understand the true joy of Christ. In my reading this morning in Jesus Calling, Sarah reminded us that joy is not dependent on what we see, what our circumstances are or how we feel. We can be on top of a mountain enjoying the beautiful sunshine or in the bottom of the damp valley surrounded by foggy gloom. Regardless of what is going on around us, we can feel the true joy of Christ.

“True Joy is a by-product of living in God’s presence.” Sarah young.

We are creatures of habit trying to gain our happiness from the things we see instead of knowing or understanding who is standing right by us, that we may not see. God’s presence in our lives not only breaks through the gloomy clouds but can reflect from us onto others as we go through this life.  And there is no limit to the love He wraps around us for us to give also to others.

And although we don’t like the trials, the trials can give us perspective, understanding and hope. And Romans reminds us that “hope does not disappoint”. It strengthens our faith to survive the trials.

The Holy Spirit is ever present reminding us of His constant love even though we may be hurting from the effects of this world. That pain is not forever, but His love is. He speaks of His love all through His Word, and He showed us His ultimate love by dying for us when we didn’t deserve it. So when you face gloomy days, remember the light reflecting off of His face, just for us. He is always close by.

May you feel His love and Peace engulf your possible gloomy times. Know that the brightness of His love will melt that gloom. Embrace it and remember to be kind. Giving kindness, even when not deserved, can show others the beauty of God’s love.

Always be Kind

Faith Hope & Love, Encouragement & FOTD

Faith, Hope and Love are to me the top attributes to the Christian faith. Today I want to tie that in with flowers and Cee’s Flower of the Day as I show off my sunflowers, again.

When my sunflowers started growing, because I am on the quirky side, I gave them names. Some got a name change due to how they bloomed and some remained true to their name. First we have the King and Queen. The King was the first on the scene, planted by the local bird population. King kept his name due to his flower being the largest of all at 9.5 inches (214.3mm) across. While his height was less impressive, King still stands 4.5 feet (1372mm) high. He looks to be on his way out but he actually is just about fully ripe. If you look at the top you can see the seeds starting to show their heads. Soon he will be a feast for the birds.

The King

Queen is much more flamboyant and beautiful as any queen should be. While her blooms are much smaller at 6 in (152mm) she does showoff with14 blooms and she stands at 8.5 feet (2591mm).

The Queen

As beautiful as these two are, the three that guard my gate as I go in and out have been named Faith, Hope & Love. Faith is closest to the gate to refresh me as I go in and out. Hope is furthest from the gate but like his namesake, he is strong, protective and holds the three together. Love is in the middle radiating his name by reflecting his beauty with leaves larger than my hands together.

Faith, Hope & Love

These three have yet to show their flowers but their stature is quite impressive. Hope, on the far left, is 9.5 feet (2896 mm) tall showing 10 buds to share his smiles with those who see them. Faith, on the right, is a little taller at 10 feet (3048 mm) and seems to have only 1 colossal bud, which is fitting for our faith should be large and strong to carry us through any crisis we face. Love takes over the center position which is fitting as love should be centered in who we are and how we are. Love is also the tallest and the largest at 12.5 feet (3810mm) tall. Its stalk is so large that I can barely wrap my fingers around it. Love has more than 12 buds thus far and I still see buds forming because it is still growing. This is how our love should be – strong, with multiple buds and height to be seen from afar.

I am a firm believer that God shows His beauty of faith, hope and love in all things that he creates for us to enjoy and learn of His caring nature. So look at nature with a different eye and let the fullness of Christ fill you with its various forms of beauty.

And in closing, I always like to remind us all of the power of kindness. Kindness can calm, soothe, encourage and give hope for almost any situation. So remember to always be kind.

Evening Encouragement

The power of encouragement

Good evening friends. I hope this was a good day. In reading my devotions today, I was reminded of two main things – Life is about choices and Jesus is the correct choice, always. Billy Graham reminds us that while we all come from different backgrounds, it’s our choices that drive our direction. When we get discouraged we need to refocus on the future, not next week’s future but the future future – Jesus returning to make things right. When we focus on the brokenness around us, it can be depressing and gloomy but if we gather people who love us close to us and combine that love with Jesus’ love, then we can sustain our position and focus on the blessed day of hope.

The sunlight of His love can still shine in the darkest part of your life. Billy Graham

Succeeding in life has to do with choices and we can choose how we react to any situation.  We can blame  this broken world for our situation and wallow in the muck of it, or we can accept our responsibility of our choices and make better choices. Think how perfect the world was when Adam was here…and the choice he made.  God has always given us the power of choice.

We have to remember that Jesus was also born into this broken world but he changed it by changing people. Billy Graham

I have a new favorite t-shirt that I got from the church t-shirt sale and the back of it says “God’s got my back”.  And I think if we choose to hang onto that truth, He will not only have our back but will walk beside us and occasionally carry us when needed. So hang on to His blessed love and His promise of hope that one day we will be face to face with Our Lord.
Have a wonderful and calming evening and may you feel His peace surround you. And as always, remember to be kind. It helps you be calm as much as the one to whom you are being kind with.

Evening Encouragement, Focus

Good evening friends. This week is Holy Week and all of us are all looking forward to Easter.  Since we have been locked down since Easter last year, we are looking all the more readily at Easter this year as a renewal; a new start. But we must make sure our new start is safe. Carelessness got us as a world in a mess so we must remain focused on safety precautions. Today’s devotion in Quiet Times with God, asks the question – “Where is our focus?”  

I have been watching the series on The Chosen  on Up TV and every time someone portrays Peter, we see Peter’s impetuousness, not in a violent way but a passionate way. Peter flys by the seat of his heart. I think that is what Jesus knew about Peter. Jesus knew if He could ever get Peter to understand and follow through by focusing on His mission, there would be no stopping him.  And that pretty much was how it was, even though he lost his focus multiple times. The impetuous act that helps me the most with my focus is Peter trying to walk to Jesus on the water.  Matthew 14:28-30.

He believed! He knew….but he could not  maintain his focus on Christ.  I think we identify well with Peter because we see ourselves in him. We have a big advantage that Peter didn’t have, we have the Bible. But if we don’t stay focused on its teachings, we too will be easily distracted. Tonight’s words of encouragement in Jesus Calling Evening addition reminds us that circumstances of life can be scary, hard and seem dark beyond our capabilities to withstand.  But regardless of how it all may seem, God assures us it will be glorious and to be patient, have faith and trust God to do the  driving. 

Relax in His wonderful love and have a safe and peaceful evening.  As you breathe in his love and feel His peace come around you, remember to show kindness as God has shown us kindness.

And remember…God’s got this. 

Negative to Positive

Good evening family. I sincerely pray you are doing well, even those who are really struggling, I pray you can find joy and peace in His presence. I read something last week and caught myself needing it today so I had to check myself.  In Jesus Calling, Sarah Young made the comment of how easy it is to become negative when life explodes around us. We all have those moments where we just vent before exploding and we jump on the negative train as it starts to barrel down the mountain. If we don’t stop the train quickly it will spiral downward gaining momentum and darkening our perspective and possibly ending in an ugly mess at the bottom.

It is hard to not be negative when nothing seems to be going right around us but God tells us to trust him. He has a plan and He has got you in His hand.

When we “go all in” with trusting the Lord, a sense of hope surrounds us and transforms the negatives into positives creating an anchor of  inner peace.

God stands ever ready in every storm of our life to turn those hopeless situations into victories. We may not see the victory at first but with trust in Him we know it will eventually rise to the top. 

So, I encourage you tonight to trust Him and feel His love, hope and inner peace lift you with calm reassurance as He holds firmly to your hand.

Have a blessed evening and great day tomorrow and remember to always be kind.

Never, A Christian Perspective

The word NEVER is an absolute value even though it has nothing to do with math. And when we hear the word never we think of negative actions like “I will never”. In math, a true absolute value removes any negative sign in front of a number making it a positive value. I could not wrap my head around that when I was in college 50 years ago so I surely can’t do it now but…it makes perfect sense when we think of Jesus.

He will NEVER leave you…that is about as positive as you can get. It was so important for God’s people to understand this idea that so He said it again 2 verses later.

Even as far back as Genesis, God reminded us that He would always take care of us. He always honors His promises.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us again….

All through the Bible, we are reminded that he will never leave us – Joshua 1:5, Psalms 94:14, Isaiah 41:10, Matthew 28:20, Revelation 3:10, just to name a few. It is important we do not lose hope when the world blows up around us. He is there, sometimes carrying us when we don’t realize it. There is a new song on the radio that when it comes on, I sing it out loud and raise my hand out the car window. It was written by Zach Williams and Dolly Parton sings a duet with him. I will post it at the end if you care to listen but I wanted you to read a few of the words because the song talks about us straying as we do sometimes …but even then He never leaves us.


There Was Jesus

Every time I try to make it on my own
Every time I try to stand, I start to fall
And all those lonely roads that I have traveled on
There was Jesus  

In the waiting, in the searching
In the healing, in the hurting
Like a blessing buried in the broken pieces
Every minute, every moment
Where I’ve been or where I’m going
Even when I didn’t know it
Or couldn’t see it
There was Jesus 


 No, I never walk alone
Never walk alone
You’re always there


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BU0P19V_EFs
Always remember He is as close as your reach so let that fill you with hope to face whatever you have to face and try to do it with kindness.

Have a blessed day.

Friends on the Couch

How many of you love to sit around and enjoy each other’s company? Envision a group of family or friends sitting around and laughing as they tell stories of old. Sometimes they are scary, sometimes they make us laugh and sometimes they make us cry. But being together with friends and loved ones is what makes the stories worthwhile.

friends

This morning as I read through the Jesus Calling devotional, I remembered many times of the full pleasure this brings us. I recently wrote a book showing how much fun this could be with wonderful groups of friends or family just sitting around telling stories from the past. But we need to remember, there is a very important friend we need to invite that desperately wants to be a part of our group, he wants to join in with our fun, laughter and tears and that would be Jesus. He wants to be a part of every moment of your life.

Jesus laughing

He can enrich our fun and turn our dull grayness to wonderful brightness. When we get stuck in the dullness of everyday tasks, we have a tendency to to forget life’s joy and we descend into the unfocused grayness of discouragement. But if we realize this is happening and refocus our minds and hearts back on Him,  He will lift us back where we need to be, guiding us back to Him on a wonderful bright path of joy.

Psalm 16 11

Yes, this sounds a little far fetched and an unreal way of thinking, but I promise it is very real and well worth the try. We were each created for a purpose that only He knows and guides and we are never meant to do it without Him.

Acts 17 28

His presence goes with us, wherever we may go. You may not feel His presence, you may even deny He is there, but I promise you He is always there. There is a saying that zips through facebook and other social mediums stating that while we prove to Him many times that we am not worthy of His love, He ignores it and loves us anyway. How can you not want that sitting with you on the sofa.

Hebrews 13 5

So my theory is this, if He is going to be there anyway, then offer Him a seat on the sofa and watch the room begin to glow with His love and presence. And when he reaches over to take your hand, grab it firmly in yours and hold on tightly, it will be a fantastic ride.

Psalm 63 8

I leave you with this prayer of encouragement.  Ask Him to remain close to you and guide your way…He has already said yes.

Thank-God-for-Endless-Love-Lamentations-3-22

And as always remember to be kind. It is the most under rated quality of mankind.

Elephant kindness

Mother Nature at Her Worst

A Derecho

Life can be hard but as you will begin to see

It seems easy compared to what happened to me

The storms clouds came in thick and dark as night

It took us by surprise, no one expected this sight

D 3

The winds began to blow as they roared down the plain

D 4

Tearing everything up it touch, like a runaway freight train

Those along the coast know how hurricanes can be

But here in the midwest, its tornadoes we usually see

The width of the destruction on an in-land hurricane

D 5

Makes our widest tornado look like a minor pain

A reminder to us all, no matter where we live

Mother Nature is a force, her respect we must give.

Anita Neal

When you get slapped in the face by something you can’t describe or understand, you write about it to help ease the pain. I was a very fortunate being through this fiasco but I have many friends who were not as fortunate. Some paid with their lives.

There are still areas without power, and cleanup will be for months. Some of these trees were decades if not over 100s of years old. Two other picture I wanted to include but it didn’t fit in the poem was one house was hit by an airplane wing that had been ripped off of a plane and sent flying. The other one was where a house was destroyed and a beam from it was sent through a house across the street.

If you are a prayerful person, please send this part of the US your prayers. Much loss of homes, business and the farming industry was crushed. And I don’t even want to talk about the wild animals that were killed and displaced.

If you care to see further pictures, they are all over the internet. Look for  Iowa 2020 Derecho.

It is hard for me to close as I always do, but now more than ever, this world needs to see, feel  and receive as much kindness as we can share with each other. There are lots of storms facing all of us all over this world. Please always be kind.

kindness1