Soul Health

Like this tree, what’s going on, on the inside, makes all of the difference.

When a large tree fell on our house after Hurricane Irma, my hubby and I remarked at how healthy the tree was. It was completely green and it fell over from the roots. It was hit by two trees behind it. We just thought that it had to do with the extremely high wind gusts we received.

When the tree service removed it, the trunk told a different story. The tree was sick. It was dying from the inside. There was no way anyone could have known. The leaves were green. It looked like a healthy tree on the outside, but with trees, it’s the inside that counts.

I thought about that tree for days after they removed it. I thought about how it’s very easy to become just like that tree.

We can do all of the right things and say all of the right things. We can dress ourselves and carry ourselves in ways that look very healthy to the world around us, but inside we can be carrying weakened or dying souls.

When we carry around pain and anger, when we refuse to give the past to Jesus and let Him keep it, when we refuse to forgive someone, when we focus on what we don’t have or should have, or what others have, when we actively seek our own will over God’s, all of those things can cause sickness to develop in our hearts and souls.

And at some point, if we don’t surrender those vices, it will make us sick physically too. At some point, a strong wind of some sort, will knock us flat like that tree.

The good news is that Jesus is always ready and willing to heal us, and unlike dying trees, our hearts, souls and bodies can be restored to perfect health. But, we have to be willing to hand it all over. We have to be willing to let go of that stuff that makes us soul sick and that can be a tall order. Sometimes we have carried that soul gunk around for as long as we can remember. Even so, where has it gotten us?

If we ask for help, Jesus will help us, but we have to ask for help and be willing to surrender to Him. He will take it from there.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

A tree reminded me of the importance of soul health. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

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Tree Wisdom

A tree large enough to land on a second story roof and tear off gutters, but just happened to fall gently enough to turn on the faucet, had to be a part of Divine intervention.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, I found myself not only praying for the protection of the people in the storm, but also that God would use the situation to show Himself in unmistakable ways, ways that might show those who doubt that He is always present.

When Hurricane Irma came on Harvey’s heels, I prayed the same prayer. Little did I know that He would also take the opportunity to show His mighty hand to me, personally.

Irma deposited a tree on our house, but it did very little damage which made us very thankful. However, we had a live power line on the ground for over a week. We had power, so I wasn’t complaining, but I’d heard way too many stories about live power lines and electrocution, so I completely avoided that side of my house.

When the power company did come out, the lineman had me walk to the side of the house with him. What he showed me brought tears to my eyes. There was a rather small metal hook that attached the power line and the cable line to the house. The huge tree that fell because two larger trees, fell on it, creating a domino effect, simply nicked the side of the hook and broke it.

The lines fell to the ground, unbroken.

The tree also hit a faucet on the edge of my house, turning the water on. It didn’t break the faucet off the wall. It merely hit the faucet at just the right angle and just the right amount of force, to turn the water on.

I stared at the broken ring and the faucet in disbelief. What were the chances?

The lineman looked at me and said that we were unbelievably lucky. But, I knew it had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with God.

How often do we miss it? How often are we showered with blessings big and small that we simply attribute to good fortune or luck?

As people of faith, we are called to pray. But, aren’t we also called to acknowledge the answers to prayers and the blessings that we are so freely given? How can we acknowledge them if we don’t actively seek them?

It would have been easy to miss the Hand of God in the tree, if I had just dismissed the tree as an unfortunate accident, but the tree was meant to show me much more. God was at work, just as He always is, but I had to be willing to seek Him. And when I did? Wow!

A poplar tree reminded me of God’s mighty hand in our daily lives even in situations that we might consider unfortunate. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

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Spider Lessons

We could learn some valuable lessons from spiders.

Last week, Hurricane Irma deposited a poplar tree onto the front of our house, effectively blocking the entrance. When I was asked to take some pictures for the insurance company a couple of days later, I opened the front door and found a rather elaborate spider web. It ran from the tree to the top of the house. It was perfectly formed and ready for business.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of spiders, but when they are outside where they belong, I can really admire their intricate work. As I examined the web, from a safe distance of course, I thought about how quickly that spider had decided to take the opportunity to set up shop. That tree hadn’t been their 48 hours yet, but there it was.

I also felt a little badly for it that the tree wouldn’t be there for long. A tree service had already been called to remove it and when that happened, all of that hard work would be wasted.

Of course, spiders don’t actually think about things like that. They just do. They build webs and they catch bugs, plain and simple. They don’t worry about spinning in the perfect spot with the ideal traffic flow or about what will happen if their web gets destroyed. They are builders.

I think we might be able to learn something from spiders. How often are we hesitant to share our faith or to do what we know we are called to do, because the timing isn’t right? How often do we ignore those nudges to call, or help, or share, or listen, or speak, or simply act, because the conditions aren’t what we consider ideal?

How often do we forget that the God we serve can make His voice heard and advance His kingdom in any type of circumstance? How often do we miss the opportunity to be a part of it because we don’t deem the situation to be ideal? How many times do we miss blessing others and miss being blessed ourselves in the process?

What would our faith look like if like spiders, we were always ready and willing to get to work, no matter what the situation looks like? What if we weren’t afraid to fail? What if when our plans got knocked down, we just simply dusted ourselves off and rebuilt? What would our world look like if all Christians were willing to act that way?

I think it would be amazing. A spider reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Building Christian Character, Trusting God | 2 Comments

Hummingbird Wisdom

Some hummingbirds reminded me to always lean into God, especially when the storms come.

Last week in Georgia, in preparation for Hurricane Irma, we were told to secure all of our deck furniture, lawn furniture, outdoor potted plants and anything else that might become a projectile in the raging wind.

We did as we were told well in advance. We even moved our chiminea, which I thought was way too heavy to be an issue, but better safe than sorry.

However, when it came to my hummingbird feeders, I decided to wait until the last minute. I sought advice from my mama who was further south. She and my daddy have like twenty hummingbirds or more every year. She told me she had taken theirs down for the storm.

I kept watching mine and planned on taking them down midday when it was supposed to get bad. I didn’t want them to become missiles. But, we have around ten or twelve this time of year and they are in a feeding frenzy. They have to double their weight in preparation for their flight to Mexico or South America, depending on the bird.

As the hours passed, the number dwindled to four, but still I was hesitant to remove their source of food. What if the ones that remained were behind because they were very young or very elderly? I kept watch and as the wind whipped the trees, the feeders didn’t move much.

I kept telling myself as soon as they stopped coming, I would run out to the deck and remove them.

The storm came and went and the birds never stopped feeding, so I never removed the feeders. By the next day, they were all back. They were all in a frenzy again, dive bombing one another and fussing at each other.

In the days that followed, when people were without power, and trees and limbs were down in our area, I couldn’t stop thinking about those four birds. The wind was whipping. The rain was pouring, but those birds relentlessly continued to feed.

Where were the other ones? Did they just take cover somewhere?

I am reminded of times in our own lives when the storms come and life gets bad. Those are often the times that we become so overwhelmed that we stop our spiritual practices. We stop going to church. We stop meaningful prayer time. We stop reading our Bible. We attempt to take shelter from everything including the One source that can feed us and sustain us.

Four little hummingbirds in a storm reminded me to be vigilant and to always lean into God, especially when the storms come. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Building Christian Character, Choosing to See the Bright Side, Trusting God, Watching for God | 1 Comment

Fallen Poplar Tree Reflections

Sometimes blessings show up in the most unexpected circumstances.

Last weekend as the state of Florida geared up for Hurricane Irma, those of us in Georgia did the same. We were told to secure all of our deck furniture and anything else that might not be able to withstand the hurricane force winds that we might be getting. We were expecting the winds and rain on Monday.

On Saturday, my hubby and I attended a prayer service at our church specifically focusing on the hurricane. As people of God, we believe that the Creator of the wind and the rain also has the power to contain it.

When we returned home, we battened down the hatches and waited. It was amazing how beautiful the weather was on that Saturday before the storm. It was difficult to believe that calamity was heading our way. But, isn’t that always the case with life? Aren’t we usually happily sailing along blissfully unaware, when disaster strikes?

When Monday arrived and the forcasted weather with it, we kept watch. We lost power, cable and internet around 4:00. The giant oak trees in my backyard swayed with the wind gusts and I prayed that they would stand. My family and I made the best of our situation and played cards and board games.

At around 6:00, when we were eating sandwiches for dinner, we heard a crash. A neighbor’s poplar tree had fallen on the corner of our house, pulling all of our power, cable and phone lines from the house, onto the ground.

When the storm passed, we were amazed. Not one oak tree fell. We didn’t even have huge branches down. Those trees would have done some major destruction and possibly even caused injury, but they held.

While we braced for days without power because we had lines on the ground, our power was restored within 24 hours. On the following Friday, the cable guy came and looked at the damage and told us they couldn’t touch their lines until the power company got theirs off of the ground.

Saturday morning, we had cable and internet restored.

As I write this, all of the lines are on the ground, yet we have power, cable and internet. While I know there’s an explanation, I also know that God had His hand in it.

The tree has been removed and the insurance company has been contacted.

Honestly, I don’t know when I have felt so blessed. The tree stayed on the house for a week and every time I saw it, I was reminded of how bad it could have been. I was reminded of the people who lost their homes and people who lost their lives and I was prompted to offer prayers for them.

That fallen poplar tree made me more thankful than I have been in a long time. It’s falling, reminded me of the power of prayer and the power of God. It reminded me of what’s important and what’s not. It reminded me of the beauty of the generosity of neighbors. It reminded me to be at peace because God is in control.

Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

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Four Blessed Years

Thanks for four years!

Last week, Graceful Gaines turned four. For the past four years I have written in this space. Each year when it comes time to renew my domain name, I prayerfully ask God if I should continue. My hope has always been that sharing parts of my journey will encourage my readers to reflect upon where they are, where they have been and where they would like to go. My aim is to challenge the people who read these words to actively seek God in the world around them, to walk closer with Jesus and to ultimately reflect Him back to a dark world who desperately needs Him.

In the past four years here, my faith has grown tremendously as well. When I have to write about my faith, I have to consciously think about it. In order to write about prayer, I have to pray a lot.

We all wonder if we can make a difference in the world. We all wonder if it’s possible to share Jesus with others. Most of us feel ill equipped to do so. After all, most of us aren’t Bible scholars or preachers, right?

As I write this, my tiny little corner of the internet has had 32,696 views. By social media standards, that’s not a lot. But, I think it’s a start. I will never know how many of those page views may plant a seed. I will never know how many of those seeds will sprout.

Faith doesn’t work that way. I am simply called to plant and you are too. It may be in a completely different capacity than what I do. Your calling is completely unique to you, but you are called. We all are.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this blog. Thanks for the comments. Thanks for the Facebook likes and thanks for the shares. Thanks for encouraging me as I prayerfully try to encourage you.

Graceful Gaines has been an amazing blessing to me and I pray it has been a blessing to you too. I hope it continues to bless us and help us to glorify the awesome God we serve.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Building Christian Character, Trusting God | 8 Comments

Faith Family Reflections

Christian community helps us shine our light brighter.

Last October Hurricane Matthew hit the United States. South Carolina incurred a lot of damage. I remember being incredibly worried about my friends there, or as they say, friends who have become family.

My daughter attended a Salkehatchie mission trip in South Carolina four years ago. The following year, she wasn’t going to attend. There were some financial considerations. We had changed churches and she kept trying to back out, but God clearly wanted her there. Forces beyond her kept pulling and not only did she attend, I went too.

It was life changing for me and the next two years, our entire family of four went. The people there have become part of our faith family and they are very dear to us. So when Hurricane Matthew came through, I reached out to them and told them they were in our prayers.

I diligently prayed for them as well as for the people who’s homes we had worked on together. I even got a special, specific prayer request from one of them and I prayed without ceasing. They all ended up being okay. No one was hurt and they didn’t even have much property damage. I celebrated their blessings with them.

This year, as Hurricane Irma headed towards Georgia, I got a text from one of them offering us a place to stay if we needed to evacuate. She said her home was open to us. The next day, I got a Facebook message from someone else telling me he was thinking about my family and praying for us. I fought tears as I shared it with my family. That night, someone else put out a prayer request on the group Facebook page asking for prayers for their Georgia Family. We truly felt covered in prayer as yet another person offered us a place to stay if we needed it and told me to bring my parents too.

I can never express how strongly I believe in the power and importance of prayer. I can also never truly show my gratitude for the faith family that God has blessed me with or to that faith family for prayer when I desperately need it.

Christ-centered friendships are different. They are special and they are blessed. We need Christian community. It makes us stronger people. It makes us better people. It makes our light shine brighter. It makes us more effective Kingdom Builders.

Isn’t that something we all should want?

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Community, Friendship, Salkehatchie Series, Watching for God | Leave a comment

One Nation Under God

May we never forget who really protects us.

Today is the 16th anniversary of 911, or as we now call it Patriot’s Day. It’s almost impossible to believe that it’s been sixteen years since that horrific day. I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I got the news.

I’ll bet you do too.

I remember rocking my three-month-old baby to sleep that night with tears sliding down my face and wondering what this world had come to. I remember wondering how it was possible for, that degree of hate to exist in so many people.

I remember praying, a lot.

I remember picking up my Bible and actively getting more involved in my church.

That single event in American history brought many Americans back to God. People who hadn’t been to church in years, returned. People who had never been to church decided to actively seek God.

A divided country came together. No one saw political parties. No one saw color. We were simply all Americans, and for the majority of us, one nation under God. It became very PC to fly our flag again.

It’s amazing what can happen in sixteen years. We can become complacent. We can become divided. We can even convince ourselves that we are completely self-sufficient and don’t need God. We would be wrong.

As I write this, Hurricane Irma is ravaging the state of Florida. The entire state of Georgia has been placed under a state of emergency. Our area schools are cancelled in preparation for the very heavy rains and winds that are expected. South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama are also in the path in one way or another.

The folks in Texas are still reeling from Hurricane Harvey.

I don’t know whether it’s a total coincidence that all of this is happening on 911 or not. As a woman of faith, I’ve come to learn that there are rarely coincidences.

Sixteen years ago, as a nation, we mourned the horrific loss of thousands of innocent lives and we turned our focus back to God. As we remember those people today and contemplate the natural disasters whirling around us, may we once again be convicted to do the same. May we become a nation of the prayer warriors that we are called to be.

May we once again proudly be, One Nation Under God.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Building Christian Character, Watching for God | 3 Comments

A Call to Collective Prayer

Prayer may be the only thing than can deliver us.

Last week I sat with my eyes glued to my computer screen, scrolling through pictures of the devastation left in Texas by Hurricane Harvey. I mourned for the victims. I prayed for them and I was incredibly moved by all of the kindness and compassion that has poured out all over the country.

While our nation was reeling from that disaster, Hurricane Irma formed and she is even bigger and meaner than Harvey. She is also heading towards my state. My daughter’s college has cancelled classes for the rest of the week and asked the students who were able to, to evacuate.

While I looked at the pictures of the damage that Irma had already caused in the Caribbean, Hurricane Jose formed right behind her into another sizable hurricane.

While my eyes and thoughts were focused on the ocean, another story caught my attention. Several western states are on fire. There are National Parks that have been threatened. Homes have been lost and thousands of acres have been burned in fires that have been impossible to control. The states of Washington, Oregon, Montana and California are in flames.

As I contemplated all of the devastation and what it means, a Bible verse kept running through my head. “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

It occurred to me that perhaps now more than ever, we need to be a nation of prayer. Instead of focusing on all that divides us, maybe we should focus on the God that unites us and has continuously blessed us since the very beginning.

We often talk about being one nation under God. Perhaps it’s time to get on our knees and humbly seek Him and His will. We know that nothing is impossible with God. Maybe we should truly live like we believe it. Prayer works.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

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Hurricane Wisdom

There’s a peace that comes from knowing that God can calm the storms.

I received an anxious text yesterday from my daughter who is attending college in South Georgia. She said that Irma is heading straight for them.

While we are all still glued to the television and reeling from all of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, in Texas, a new hurricane has been busy forming and growing. Hurricane Irma is already stronger and bigger than Harvey was and is marching towards the United States.

I texted her back that she had plenty of time before Irma makes landfall and it may not even strike her area. She texted back that they were watching the path on television and that it was headed for the Georgia coast.

I pulled it up on my computer and looked at the models. The hurricane’s path depends largely on what’s going on with the jet stream when it collides with it. It could go into the Gulf of Mexico. It could hit South Florida. It could hit Savannah or the Carolinas. There’s no way to know at this point.

As I continued to read the article, there was an interview with a lifelong Florida resident. The wisdom of her words really struck me. She said that she doesn’t worry about these things too much. She said that she had water. She had her music and she prayed.

If any people in the entire US are hurricane veterans, it would be the Floridians. Their state has been slammed by hurricanes more than any other. They know what to do. They know when to evacuate. They know when to stand fast. They know how to rebuild. I suspect many know very well how to pray.

They have learned all of these skills from experience.

My own child was raised much closer to the North Georgia Mountains than the coast. Hurricanes are for the most part, a foreign concept. She doesn’t have the benefit of the experience of the woman who was interviewed from Florida.

I thought about that lady long after I read her quote. I thought about how our lives are often overrun with hurricane types of situations. Sometimes it’s just those outside bands of wind and rain. Sometimes it’s the flooding. Sometimes it’s the full force of the hurricane and sometimes, there’s another one that follows closely behind, like Irma.

But, when we live out our faith and keep our eyes focused on Jesus, we know we will survive. We can even get to the point where we can say that we don’t worry about it too much; we just pray. But, that kind of faith takes years of walking with Jesus and knowing that He will sustain us.

Deep, enduring faith takes time, but it’s worth it. The peace that comes from knowing that we worship the God who can calm any storm, is absolutely priceless.

A hurricane reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

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