Popcorn and a Truly Inspired Invention!

popcorn-2I LOVE popcorn. I love everything about it—except making it. You see, when I was a kid, I made popcorn in a skillet. Being a natural-born klutz, making popcorn wasn’t easy for me. I’d always end up getting burned by hot oil, or spilling the kernels, or shaking the skillet too vigorously and dislodging the lid with disastrous results. Many times, I’d end up with more popcorn on the floor than in the bowl.

Over time, the skillet gave way to a marvelous new invention—microwave popcorn bags. Unfortunately, the instructions on the package didn’t give an exact cooking time. The directions always said to cook the bag for two to three minutes. Believe me—LOTS of burning can take place during an interlude of sixty seconds! I’ve burned more microwave popcorn than any normal human should be allowed.

popcorn-4I suppose that my lack of corn-popping talent is why I absolutely LOVE my new air popper. In my view, an air popper is a marvelous invention that was especially designed for people like me—the kernelly challenged. The wonderful thing about an air popper is that it’s virtually impossible to burn ANYTHING. The popcorn magically blows out into your bowl the minute it is popped. It’s wonderful! Magical! Truly inspired!

The only problem with an air popper is that there are usually one or two kernels that ALWAYS pop thirty seconds after you think all of the popping is through—but this heart-attack inducing phenomena is something I can easily put up with! After all, a tiny, momentary fright is better than an hour spent airing black smoke from the kitchen after the popcorn burns!

popcorn-3Now what in the world does my air popper have to do with spiritual matters??? Believe it or not, there really is a spiritual lesson that can be learned! You see, I burn popcorn and render it inedible when it is locked inside a hot skillet or when it is trapped inside a microwave popcorn bag. But I can’t burn the popcorn when it blows quickly away from the source of heat in my air popper.

In life, I’ve found that I’m confronted by temptation just about every day. If I stay in close proximity to the temptation, it can be easy to fall into sin. And just like a kernel trapped in a skillet, I can find myself “burned.”

In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul says, “There has no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man. But God is faithful. He will not suffer you to be tempted more than you are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape that you may be able to bear it.”

As I go about my daily life, I keep Paul’s words in the forefront of my mind. When I am confronted by temptation, I actively look for the “way of escape.” I don’t stick around and analyze the temptation or try to see how close I can get to it without getting burned—I RUN from it. In essence, I try very hard to be a kernel in an air popper rather than a kernel in a microwave bag.

popcorn-1I’ve burned enough popcorn to know that the stench is AWFUL! And I’ve fallen for enough temptations to know that the stench of sin is equally bad. I don’t want anything to do with either of them. I’ll stick with my air popper!!! I’ll stick with looking for ways of escape!

 

The Murky Ditch and FEAR!!!!

shoes-10When I was in college, I wanted to start jogging and get fit. It was a good plan, but unfortunately, there was a horrible problem with it. You see, I knew that when I ran, I looked like a galumphing three-legged camel with a gimpy leg. It was truly a horrendous sight, and I squirmed every time I thought about jogging in public. I couldn’t afford a treadmill, and I didn’t want the humiliation of being a public display. After much thought, I hit upon the perfect solution. I would set my alarm and jog at 2:00 a.m. when everyone was asleep! Brilliant!!! Problem solved!!! As I excavated my jogging shoes from the back of the closet, I mentally congratulated myself for being a genius.

yellow moonGetting up at 2:00 a.m. became part of my daily schedule, and I really enjoyed it. As I ran down the road, everything was velvety still and silent. The only sound was my tennis shoes hitting the pavement. Above me, the stars were spread in a brilliant display of God’s handiwork, and occasionally, I would see a falling star burning across the sky. My late-night wanderings were absolutely lovely. I prayed as I ran, and every day, I felt a deep sense of peace invading my soul. Unfortunately, jogging took an unexpected turn one fateful night…

frankensteinWhen I can’t sleep, I watch a movie on television. I don’t really care what movie—just something to burn a few hours until I get sleepy. Late at night, the movie selection can be somewhat limited, and usually, the selection involves a group of college kids getting eaten by mutant tarantulas or big, slimy blobs. I don’t usually mind movies involving mutant bugs, aliens, or sharks. Actually, at 1:00 a.m., I find them pretty hilarious. Although monster movies are supposed to be scary, I find myself giggling like a maniac at the giant bugs and rolling my eyes as people split off to check circuit breakers and investigate strange noises.

Although I get a kick out of monster movies, I tend to avoid blood-and-guts movies involving deranged killers, and I can trace the reason why back to my jogging days in college. You see, back then I couldn’t sleep one night, so I watched a movie. I can’t remember the name, but it was very creepy and very bloody. It involved a horrible, sadistic killer, and it really got beneath my skin. When the movie finished, it was time to go jogging.

moon-11When I went out the door, I didn’t see the beauty of the stars—all I saw were the shadows. Although I knew it was silly, I was sure there was a murderer wielding a knife behind every bush and tree. Each moving shadow became a threat and each breath of wind against my neck made me shudder. Speaking to myself sternly, I ran faster and tried to think of something else…

owl-1Thinking of something else worked for about 2.2 seconds—then an owl flew out of a tree and nearly gave me a heart attack. I kept running, flinching at shadows and gasping every time a branch moved. My heartbeat was thumping like a drum, and I could hardly catch my breath.

I spoke to myself sternly again. I KNEW I was behaving like an idiot. I forced myself to calm down and look at the stars…that’s when it happened. A car turned the corner and pulled onto the road. It drove slowly toward me. Then it stopped.

My heart leapt into my throat. I stopped jogging and froze. I couldn’t move a muscle. I tried convincing myself that it was just someone parking, but the car crept forward again, inching toward me. As my eyes widened in fear, the car stopped. It was like the driver was sizing me up.

headlights-10I looked around frantically—no one was around to come to my aid. I panicked. All reason flew out the window as horror flooded in.

The car crept forward again.

Giving a flying leap sideways off the road, I jumped into a ditch and hid behind some tall weeds. The ditch was full of muddy water, and it stank. I didn’t care. I watched as the car pulled slowly beside me and stopped again. My panic went into overdrive. I whimpered.

Then I saw something…

The driver leaned out of his window and put a newspaper into someone’s mailbox. I stared in disbelief as the car crept forward and stopped beside another mailbox.

Suddenly, it sank in—I was crouching in a muddy ditch because of the newspaper boy.

!!!!!

full-moon-10As I walked home in my muddy clothes and squelching shoes, I realized that I’d learned an extremely important lesson that night. When left unchecked, my imagination can lead me to panic over the stupidest things. Today, I keep that lesson in the back of my mind. When unexpected things happen–and my first reaction is to hit the ceiling or react in panic–I take a step back and try looking at things calmly and logically. I pray and ask God to put things into the proper perspective. After all, you never know when the mass-murderer you fear is actually the paperboy.

 

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

 

Destroyed by Friendly Fire

leaves 2When I first became ill, I had lots of wonderful, well-meaning people who tried to help by giving me spiritual advice. Unfortunately, most of their advice boiled down to one simple thought: God wasn’t healing my illness because I didn’t have enough faith or because I wasn’t doing something right.

In Psalm 18:18, David said that on the day when he was weakest the enemy attacked. That’s the way I felt when I came under a barrage of “friendly fire.” For the most part, the advice was given out of love, and I knew that. But knowing that people were trying to be kind didn’t make my situation easier to handle. There’s something hideous about facing a debilitating illness, and there’s something crushing when you’re continually told that your faith isn’t strong enough to qualify you for healing.

red leafWhen I was sick, people gave me TONS of reasons why God wasn’t healing me. People said I was ill because I didn’t have enough faith, because I wasn’t “claiming” my healing properly, because I was admitting that I was sick, because I wasn’t standing on God’s promises, because I was being cursed by the words of my mouth when I admitted I was in pain, because I had committed some sort of secret sin that I wasn’t aware of committing, because I wasn’t praying correctly, because I wasn’t rebuking the devil sufficiently, because I was allowing fear to steal what God wanted to do, because I said the words “my illness” rather than “the illness the devil is inflicting,” because I was unknowingly harboring bitterness, because I had unknowingly hurt someone else, because I was worshiping something more than God, because I’d allowed pain to steal my joy, because I must be rebellious, because I wasn’t submitting to God, because I wasn’t taking my healing by force, because I was too prideful, because I was too insecure, because I was being punished, because I was being promoted, because I was failing some spiritual test, because, because, because… I’ve lost count of the number of things people claimed I was doing wrong. The word games people played were enormous, but for the most part, things boiled down to one simple message—I wasn’t jumping through their idea of the proper hoop and that’s why God wasn’t healing me.

Some people didn’t stop at giving me spiritual advice. Some took action.

leaves 1One person chased me down, grabbed my hands, and demand that I repeat after them, “I am healed. I believe God is healing me now.” (This would have been fine, if I hadn’t been desperately trying to get to a bathroom so I could vomit.)

One person came to my house and told me that since Jesus healed everyone He encountered, I wasn’t being healed because my faith wasn’t sufficient. When I brought up John chapter 5 and the fact that Jesus only healed one person at the pool of Bethesda, I was told that I needed to study the Bible more—the implication being that I wasn’t being healed because I had a lack of Biblical knowledge. (At the time, I was reading the Bible cover-to-cover every month and memorizing vast quantities of Scripture.)

leaves 3One person told me that my faith needed to have action behind it. This person said I should open a detergent bottle, sniff the contents, and loudly declare that I was healed of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. (Thinking the advice might have merit, I sniffed the detergent and boldly proclaimed my healing. Even as the words left my lips, I became extremely ill and was in agonizing pain for several weeks.)

Antelope IslandEventually, being told over-and-over that my continued illness was caused by a flawed spiritual condition had an effect. After absorbing all of the advice, I figured that maybe something really WAS wrong with me.  Maybe I WASN’T doing something right. So I began jumping through all kinds of hoops trying to be healed. You know me, and you know that when I try to do something, I put my whole heart into it.

leaves 12The lengths I went to were enormous. Seeking God and seeking healing became the focus of my life. I memorized healing Scriptures, I played praise music 24-7, I posted Bible verses all over my house, I had people anoint me with oil and pray for my healing, I put myself on prayer chains, I Jericho marched around my house declaring it was God’s, I anointed my doorposts with oil and declared the enemy couldn’t enter, I wrote letters and made phone calls asking people to forgive me for any offenses I might have committed, I went through my house with a fine-tooth comb and threw away anything that might be considered objectionable to God, I took communion publicly and privately, I confessed any possible sin I may have committed publicly and privately, I fasted, I prayed, I declared, I proclaimed, I stood in faith, I groveled on the ground in supplication asking for mercy. I did everything anyone suggested. I did everything I could find in Scripture. I did everything I’d heard mentioned on religious television. I did everything I’d read in religious articles. And I didn’t just do those things for a week or a month—I did them for YEARS. I TRIED HARD TO DO EVERYTHING RIGHT.

But nothing happened. I was still ill.

sunset treeThen another nice, well-meaning person told me that I was trying too hard. They said that God wouldn’t honor my earthly efforts because I was relying on what I could do rather than on what God could do. They said that my efforts were proof that I wasn’t standing in faith and that’s why I wasn’t being healed.

After that, I gave up. After that, I grew bitter. After that, I decided that I’d never jump through another hoop. After that, I decided that I didn’t want anything to do with a fickle God who played games. After that, my life became a painful misery.

Time passed.

Eventually, I reexamined my faith and recommitted my life to God. When I did, I asked the Lord why He wasn’t healing me. I heard His voice deep inside my soul. It was extremely gentle and full of love. He simply said, “I could heal you and set you aside, but I am doing a different thing in you. I am healing you minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day—you will be well.”

sparrow 8Even after all this time, I still don’t understand why God didn’t heal me immediately. I don’t know why I had to be ill for so many years. I don’t understand why I had to endure seven years of quarantine. But there’s one thing I do know—it wasn’t because I had “sinned,” or because I didn’t have faith, or because I wasn’t trying hard enough, or because I was trying too hard. I believe it was because God had a different plan in mind for me. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “This plan of mine is not what you would work out, neither are my thoughts the same as yours! For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours, and my thoughts [higher] than yours.” I believe that God used those years of quarantine to establish my faith on a deeper level. I don’t believe that God caused my illness, but I do believe that He used my illness for His glory. I do believe that He didn’t heal me immediately because He knew that what I was learning during quarantine would eventually help others.

orange sunsetGod knows the end from the beginning. He sees all things. He understands all things. We aren’t God. We don’t always comprehend why things are happening, and pretending that we do isn’t always wise—and giving well-meaning advice to hurting people based on our suppositions isn’t always wise either. When someone is hurting, I think the best thing a person can do is pray for them, love them, and be extremely careful when handing out advice. After my experience with well-meaning people, I try very hard to love LOTS and speak LITTLE. And before I open my mouth, I pray fervently, asking God to set a guard before my lips so that my words will bring life and healing rather than condemnation and discouragement. There’s a definite place for Godly advice—but there’s also a place for loving silence. My illness was hard to bear, but the mental anguish I endured because of “helpful” people was even worse.

Marys lakeI believe that in the church, we’re often guilty of inflicting friendly fire. When someone is hurting, we automatically want to help—and that’s good. We automatically want to share advice that might alleviate their pain—and that’s good up to a point. I think the most important thing we should realize is that we don’t know everything. And no matter what we think, we don’t really know why a person is ill or why God isn’t healing them. And pretending that we do, and giving advice based on our suppositions, can be incredibly damaging and dangerous to someone who is hurting. Going forward with my life, I hope that I will never forget this lesson. Going forward with my life, I pray that my words will always bring hope, give encouragement, and draw people closer to God.

rose in handsThe tongue has the power of life and death.” Proverbs 18:21a

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak.” James 1:19a

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other.” 1 Peter 4:8a

 

Hailstorms And Humiliation

storm 1A while back, a horrible hailstorm ripped through the farming community near my house. My mother and I decided to drive around the county and evaluate the damage. I hadn’t slept well the night before, and I was VERY tired that morning. Feeling lazy, I simply ran a brush through my hair and pulled it into a messy ponytail. As far as my clothing, I went for comfort rather than style. I put on a horrid pair of old, brown sweatpants that had definitely seen better days. My top was too large, and its gaudy green stripes clashed with the pants. I looked like a circus clown.

storm 2My mother studied my “fashionable” ensemble, cocked an eyebrow, and asked if I wanted to change clothes and fix my hair. Yawning widely, I said, “What for? We won’t be getting out of the car.”

You know me by now, and you know that I’m not always the brightest crayon in the box. My reply is proof positive of that fact. Through bitter experience, I have learned that my mother is the wisest woman alive and her advice should never be spurned—I just tend to forget it from time to time. And when I do, I ALWAYS regret it.

hail 3You can probably guess what happened. We were in a small town getting ready to get on the highway when our car died. No matter what we tried, the engine wouldn’t start. After my initial shock faded, chagrin came. Looking down at what I was wearing, I knew humiliation was just around the corner…and I was right. For several hours, I was on full display by a busy highway in my hideous sweatpants and my horrid, green shirt. I hate looking silly, and what I was wearing went beyond silly and into the realm of ridiculous. I looked like a bag lady.

When I was finally home again, I thought about the day and realized I’d gone wrong in two ways: I hadn’t been prepared, and I hadn’t listened to wise advice.

hail 1There have been times in my spiritual life when the same has been true. I know that praying and reading the Bible prepares me for problems I may encounter, but there have been times when I’ve felt too lazy to have daily devotions. Those times have inevitably led to trouble. It’s much easier to resist temptation, let go of offence, or fend off fear, if I have weeks of contact with God underneath my belt. I’ve also learned that it’s important to listen to trusted, spiritual advice. When I left my house in my ugly pants and hideous top, I had no idea that I was about to be on display by the highway. Life is unpredictable, and we never know what’s around the corner. That’s why it’s important to be prepared and listen to advice—especially when the advice comes from a wise woman like my mother.

 

direction“A prudent man foresees the difficulties ahead and prepares for them; the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” Proverbs 22:3

“A fool thinks he needs no advice, but a wise man listens to others.” Proverbs 12:15

 

Susan M. Baganz #2–Author Interview

Susan Baganz

Dear Friends,

I’m excited to have Susan M. Baganz back on my blog! Susan is a Christian author and an editor for Prism Book Group. She’s also the wonderful woman who “discovered” me and brought my books to Prism’s attention. She has been a tremendous blessing in my life!

Danele: Susan, I’m so glad to have this opportunity to speak with you!

Susan: Thank you for inviting me.

Danele: It’s my pleasure! Let’s get things started. Has God ever taught you an eye-opening lesson?

Susan: Yes. In the early ‘90’s I was on staff at a church, and I started to have problems with the drama director. We tried to hash it out with the pastor, but it just went round and round and I couldn’t figure out just what the issue really was. I began to see a therapist because of depression and stress. I stepped down from my position into a different one. I could hardly pray or read Scripture. I came across A.W. Tozer’s book The Attributes of God and I started going through Psalms trying to focus on who God was. I was on staff, so I couldn’t share the details of what was happening with anyone. It was an extremely lonely time. I even tried quit to my job. I handed in my resignation but my pastor wouldn’t take it. I went away to seek God, pray, read, and worship. God made it very clear I needed to stay engaged through the painful process. I obeyed.

My therapist encouraged me to pray God’s best for this other woman. I didn’t want God’s best for her! God started to help me let go of the anger, bitterness, and hurt and see this other woman as broken as well in need of God’s healing in her own life. Months later, I met with our elders. I did everything the elders asked of me but reconciliation was not possible between me and the other woman. She left the church and we lost an amazingly gifted person.

Leadership is messy and hard. People are messy. Even in the church. Years later, I still see the fruit of all I went through when things get challenging relationally in ministry. I serve more behind-the-scenes now but am very protective of church leadership because of what I went through.

Danele: I’m so sorry you went through that, Susan! You mentioned that during your difficult time, you studied the Psalms. Do you have a favorite Psalm?

Susan: Yes, Psalm 19. It starts out in verse 1 with how the world around us shows forth God’s glory. It proclaims that our God is the creator and sustainer of all we see: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands.” (Ps 19:1 HCSB). It always makes me think of the sunrise! It goes on to describe the wonders of God’s word as perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, more desirable than gold, and sweeter than honey. The best prayer, though, is at the end. Kind of makes sense in light of my previous story. “Who perceives his unintentional sins? Cleanse me from my hidden faults. Moreover, keep Your servant from willful sins; do not let them rule over me. Then I will be innocent and cleansed from blatant rebellion. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:12-14 HCSB). I’m grateful God loves me just as I am and has given me so much in the world and in His Word to remind me of that. This Psalm is filled with God’s attributes. He is constant, sustains life, renews us, provides wisdom, makes my heart glad, is eternal, righteous, precious, protecting, forgiving, and redeeming. Who wouldn’t want to love, serve, and obey a God like that?

Danele: That’s so true, Susan! And speaking of serving God, why do you think it’s important to go to church?

Susan: Given how brutal serving in church ministry has been in the past, you might suspect I’d be more ambivalent about the church. In fact, I’m more passionate than ever for the bride of Christ. The church is a family of believers, and together we can encourage, pray, support, challenge, celebrate, teach, and reach the world around us. Most of the prayers in Scripture are corporate as well. We are not meant to do our spiritual walk solo. The church is filled with broken people saved by a holy, loving God and we grow up together in Him. The church is God’s gift to us, and it is a way for us to bless others. Spiritual gifts are given by God to benefit and bless the church. The church has been the vehicle God has used to make the most profound life-changes in me and I’m grateful for it—warts and all.

Danele: I know that the church plays a part in much of your writing. Can you explain why?

Susan: I’ve set my contemporary romances against the backdrop of a church because I wanted to illustrate the value and importance of community, faith, and accountability that we lose when we think we can do it on our own. Christ loved the church and so should we. My latest contemporary romance, Feta & Freeways, will be released in September 2016. It’s about a romance between Christian singer, Nikolos Acton, and his manager, Tia.

Danele: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Feta & Freeways! You’ve had another book published recently, haven’t you?

Susan: Yes, Baron’s Blunder–a Historical Regency Romance novella. Baron’s Blunder is part of Prism Book Group’s Love Is series. The Love Is series is based on 1 Corinthians 13.

Danele: Can you share the back cover blurb of Baron’s Blunder and a purchasing link with us?

Susan: Sure! Fighting evil has been a hobby, but fending off marriage-minded women—a chore. Lord Charles Percy fends off a highwayman attempting to rob a carriage in broad daylight. Noting he’s rescued a young debutante he lies about his title, claiming to be a mere mister. It’s a decision he soon comes to regret as the young woman’s banter intrigues him. The Honorable Henrietta Allendale isn’t convinced he is who he claims to be in spite of his act of heroism on her behalf. She has no intentions of ever marrying but this aristocrat piques her interest as no other man has. Meeting again in London, Lord Percy has a harder time keeping his true identity a secret from the confident woman as she engages in the season. When her life becomes endangered he’s forced to come clean in an attempt to protect her from the elusive Black Diamond. Can Charles convince Henrietta that his love is real and save her life in the process?

https://www.amazon.com/Barons-Blunder-Love-Book-10-ebook/dp/B01IIKYDOW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1471870696&sr=8-1&keywords=the+barons+blunder#nav-subnav

Danele: Thank you for sharing, Susan! Before I let you go, can you give us a list of the other books you have written?

Susan: My Orchard Hill contemporary romance series includes Pesto & Potholes, Salsa & Speed Bumps, and Feta & Freeways. I’ve written a historical Christmas novella called Fragile Blessings that’s featured in the book Love’s Christmas Past. I’ve also written Little Bits ‘O Love which is a collection of short stories/flash fiction.

Danele: Thank you so much for being here, Susan! I’ve really enjoyed talking with you!

Susan: Thanks for inviting me! It’s always a delight to connect with you. You’ve been such a blessing to me and to so many others.

 

Friends, Susan really is a wonderful person! I will never forget her kindness to me! If you would like to learn more about Susan or her books, please follow the links below. I hope you have a wonderful day!

Blog:  http://susanbaganz.com/

Twitter @susanbaganz

Fan page: https://www.facebook.com/SusanMBaganz/

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/silygoos/

 

Misunderstood–The Nutty Truth

nuts 1While I was in quarantine, there were a few people who just didn’t understand my condition. Those people felt like I should just “snap out of it” and live a normal life. I spent a lot of time trying to explain Multiple Chemical Sensitivity to them, but they just didn’t get it. Since perfume and fabric softener didn’t make them sick, they didn’t see why it should bother me. In their mind, I was just a nut.

pecansI didn’t like having them think I was nutty. It hurt my feelings. It made me feel very small and insignificant. I wasted a lot of time trying to “prove” that I was right. I spent countless sleepless nights gathering data and devising “wise” arguments. Eventually, though, I learned an important truth—some people can’t be convinced. Some people simply can’t understand. Other people simply don’t want to understand. And trying to convince those people to see things my way is a complete waste of time. I also learned that allowing other people’s opinions to define how I felt about myself was STUPID. After all, what’s so bad about being seen as a nut? Nuts have all kinds of good things inside of them. Even if some people are allergic to nuts, most people really enjoy them. In fact, it could be said that a chocolate sundae doesn’t have the ability to reach the level of divine delectability without a sprinkling of nuts on the top!

hazelnutsFriends, I’ve learned that freedom comes when you relinquish your reputation into God’s hands. When people misunderstand despite being presented with the facts, it’s the only thing you CAN do. Stressing, worrying, questioning, reasoning, explaining—doesn’t do a lick of good, and it’s EXHAUSTING. Being misjudged is hard, but Jesus went through it too. 1 Peter 2:21b-23 says, “Christ is your example. Follow in His steps. He never…answered back when insulted; when He suffered He did not threaten to get even; He left his case in the hands of God who always judges fairly.”

Although it hurts to be misunderstood, it hurts more to worry about it.

Quiet Times

leaves 12Before my illness struck, I used to run around in a thousand different directions trying to do hundreds of things all at once. I was busy, happy, and focused. I felt like I had a handle on the world and that anything was possible. Then I became ill, and I was put into quarantine. I could only talk to friends and extended family through a closed window. I had to be constantly vigilant about my health. The restrictions were enormous. Suddenly, all of the outside noise from the world ended. Suddenly, all of my IMPORTANT projects were suspended. The culture shock was unimaginable. The life I used to live…just stopped.

dandelionMy first year of quarantine was a nightmarish blur. I don’t really remember much about it. I was extremely ill, and I was struggling with adjustments. By my second year, cabin fever really hit me hard. I know that “quarantine” is difficult for some people to grasp, so let me spell it out for you. I had to quit my job. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t go to church. I couldn’t go to stores. I couldn’t go to restaurants. I couldn’t go to the movies. I couldn’t go out with friends. Most of the time, I couldn’t even leave my house to go to the mailbox. If a neighbor was running their dryer or mowing their lawn, I couldn’t go outside. If a ditch was being burned, or a field was being sprayed, or if the air was too smoggy, I had to stay inside my home. I spent lots of time with my nose pressed up against the glass watching the world pass by. It wasn’t exactly fun–and sometimes, I felt like I was going to go crazy!

waterfall 11So what did I do? The first year, I focused on survival. The second, I went a little nuts and threw all kinds of temper fits directed at God. But gradually, I began adjusting to my new lifestyle. I began studying Scripture, memorizing verses, and writing novels. As the years passed, I began appreciating the silence and the peace of quarantine. I began realizing that happiness could be found—even in the midst of tragedy. For hours at a time, I would sit in chair and just listen to what I felt God was saying to me. I began discovering the blessing hidden in the quiet.

sea gullI was in quarantine for seven years. Eventually, my health recovered to the point where I could take “field trips” and visit stores. One of the things that shocked me was the sheer volume of noise. I can remember walking into Walmart and clutching my hands over my ears. It felt like I was being bombarded by sound. All around me, people were talking and laughing, and above all their clamor, canned music was playing. The intensity of the sound made me nauseous. When I went to restaurants, I had to make sure my seat was facing the wall—watching the movement of people in conjunction with the high volume of sound would bring on a migraine. After seven years of sensory deprivation, it was difficult to readjust to movement, noise, and extra stimulation. But as time passed, I slowly adjusted. I began enjoying the noise and excitement again. It felt like I’d been asleep for a long time, and I was suddenly awakening to life! It was wonderful!

butterflyI still have some health issues, and I’m not completely integrated into my old lifestyle yet, but each day, I’m getting better. As I continue to recover, I’m trying to take the lessons I learned during quarantine with me. And one of the most important lessons is that although the world can be exciting, taking time out to enjoy quiet times can be a blessing. I never want to forget that in complete silence comes the greatest sound of all—the whisper of God telling me that He loves me and that everything is going to be okay. I never want to get so busy and enamored with “noise” that I forget the simple beauty of peace.

 

Ocean at sunset 2“In quietness and confidence is your strength.” – Isaiah 30:15b (Living Bible)