Stories that Shine on an Awesome God

Archive for the ‘Survival’ Category

Old Fashioned Sanity – 3

Having survived life in an Ozark cabin, the Bible, in its preponderance of size and weight, now adorned a coffee table inside a house surrounded by Arkansas cotton.


“Sharecroppers. That’s who my grandparents were,” my soon-to-be husband explained the first time we made the trip together, “I was born right there in that bedroom.”

Beneath the coffee table, wall-to-wall linoleum stretched across the room to a door ajar.

“Right there on that bed.”

A hint of a sag hollowed an otherwise smooth bedspread.

cotton field.jpg

Voices, along with the aroma of frying okra and candied sweet potatoes, wafted from another adjacent room. His mom and his grandma, the long ago birthing assistant, prepared dinner while the two of us, not yet out of our teens, waited on the vinyl couch.

“This must be the family Bible.” I ran my hand over cracked, brown leather. Jesus, in muted colors with arms outstretched, smiled from an aging picture.

“Yep, and here,” my boyfriend opened the book, “is my family record from way back.”

“My family never had a big Bible like this.” I leafed through the thin pages, through Genesis, Psalms, and Proverbs, pausing at vintage pictures. “We all had our own Bibles, plenty of those, but nothing like this for the family.”

“I reckon this Bible helped keep the family together,” his head bent over mine. “Helped keep them sane through the hard times.”

“I reckon it did.” With care, I closed the book and sat back from the treasure. “I reckon it did.”

Still do. But I don’t reckon anymore. I know for sure the Word keeps folks sane.

Bible and Roses


My mother’s medium-sized Bible, had a black cover with corners rubbed down to expose the inner brown cardboard. Its translucent pages were marked with side notes in her flowing script. Its passages were underlined, often more than once.

As she struggled with raising four kids, farming, moving, living in unfinished spaces, teaching elementary school, or suffering the pain of cancer,  how often did it keep her sane? Many times over.

Memorizing Bible texts dominated my biblical exposure through high school. On my fifteenth birthday, my parents gave me a trim Bible with smooth leather binding. At eighteen, after I married, I carried it on the bus ride to work and nodded at blurry words during my early morning transit.

Three years later, motherhood arrived. I began to read in earnest.

Time passed. Every season brought and continues to bring different ways the Bible restores. Over the years, I have learned a few Bible reading practices that help me:

  1. Open it first thing in the morning. Even before checking Facebook. I wish I could say I always do this.
  2. Pray for the Holy Spirit to teach me and bring concepts alive.
  3. Read the entire Bible through the lens of what Jesus taught and lived. His life and words are the standard for revealing the truth about God.
  4. Look for nuggets that reveal God’s character.
  5. Read God’s own words as though he speaks them to me alone. Treat it like a love letter.
  6. Think out of the box. Be open to new meaning and interpretation.
  7. Hebrew is a rich, multi-faceted language. Learn about it.
  8. Read everything in context and try to learn about the cultural context.
  9. Think of the Words as life-giving. They are!
  10. Don’t put it down until I find at least one take-away, one treasure that brings me peace, one promise that helps me maintain my sanity.


“Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalms 119:105

Food Distribution Centers

“They need help unloading a trailer of food.” The coordinator at the flood response crisis center handed me, my husband, and a local friend a work order. “It’s a church, or what used to be.” She shook her head of gray hair as she turned to the next group of volunteers.


Inside our truck, we followed her directions through an isolated river town in the heart of the West Virginia mountains. Flood cleanup had been going on for over a week. Soggy possessions piled along the streets next to homes that were now empty shells, filled, not with children’s laughter or a mother’s prayer, but with mud and mold.


Mounds of dirt and debris lined the sides of a strip mall’s parking lot. Outside the town’s only grocery store, shopping carts tangled with twisted metal shelving. The nearest food store was nearly an hour’s drive away.

Connected at the far end, the church shared the mall’s disaster, but this flood casualty was undeniably still a church. I have seen strip mall churches before, with their flat fronts blending into the mall’s length of bland architecture with perhaps a small sign above the door, but evidently, this church had never planned to hide. Its church-y facade with cupola and cross still proclaimed its identity. From the outside.

We parked the truck, asked how we could help, and walked through the doors.

Church – padded pews and stained glass windows. Songs of worship, words of praise. Prayers. A place of respite in a week of stress. A place for spirits to be fed with the Bread of Life.

But not this one. Not now. Not after the river had risen and with a roar, claimed its interior. Walls, ceiling, and floors, already stripped clean by volunteers, offered no such sanctuary.

Interior of WV Church

“We will use this pile of boards to keep the food up off the wet concrete,” the pastor instructed, seeming resigned to his tragedy.

We started hauling lumber to turn a church into a food distribution center, and, in the process, constructed a real life object lesson.

Church – Sometimes, no more than a social club where members jostle one another for position and recognition. Judgement without mercy. Pride. Politics. Splinter groups. Holy Spirit grieved. Pantry shelves devoid of the Bread of Life.

“I am weary of bearing them [your assemblies, festivals, and feasts]. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong. Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless. Plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:14-17

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is NOT a church. It is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. It is to keep oneself unspotted from the prideful, me-first mindset of the world.


I plunked my end of a board onto the concrete floor. I straightened my back. One American Christian church, gutted of its plush interior, had changed into a food distribution center.

Hopefully yours will too, but does it have to take a crisis?

“I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35-36

Old Fashioned Sanity

In Cades Cove, a white clapboard church stands protected by the Park Service of the United States of America and by the mountains of East Tennessee. Dedicated to worship for all ‘time and eternity,’ it has been sandwiched between a single lane road and a collection of gravestones for one hundred and seventy-seven years.

CadesCove Church

A few days ago, my family opened the doors of this church, sat on its wooden pews, and began to sing. Voices from the past seemed to join us in praise. I couldn’t tell from their ethereal voices how they eked out a meager living, but I could imagine. I could also wonder, with times so hard, how they kept their sanity.

The early cove folks were a tight bunch. Their survival depended on it. Community barn raising and corn husking were common. Midwives made frequent visits. Undoubtedly, their two Revolutionary War veterans showed the others how to live on nothing more than determination.

While we sang, other tourists stepped into the church and many of them joined us. A community of strangers soon requested Amazing Grace and Sweet By and By. Music, sometimes a snitch off key, flowed over walls bare enough to belie superior acoustics. For those few sacred moments, I entwined my heart with the past and  sang against isolationism that threatens our present.

I left that church knowing, like that long ago mountain fellowship, our impromptu community had helped to keep each other sane.

“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” I John 1:7


Local Disturbance

Two weekends ago the weather was good for flying. Not perfect. A layer of haze, hot and moist, hung in the late summer sky, but visibility was good. My husband, Bruce, eager to get behind the controls, began his pre-flight check. I stepped onto the wing, slid into my seat, and let out a deep sigh. I was ready for the break.

Plane Open

Since spring, lessons on the craft of writing have consumed me. While they have morphed my work into a better read, they have slowed its progress. This blog has been neglected entirely.

God, it’s your book, your blog. Help me stay true to your priorities.

I snapped on my seat belt.

Kids and grandkids, free from school, have also provided happy stretches of summer diversion.

God, our children are yours too. Help me stay true especially to them.

I snugged on my headphones and adjusted the mic.

Rita with Headphones

Most recently, a volley of written attacks lobbed against a loved one had thrown me temporarily off course. The vicious nature of the attacks had shocked all of us.

Father God, despite the lies, help me to stay as true to duty as the needle is to the pole, just like my husband reminds me. And thanks for this get-a-way.

Bruce climbed into the pilot’s seat and pulled down the cockpit’s glass hatch. He completed the final check and taxied onto the runway. He communicated our intent to take off. We would turn left and go north. With flaps adjusted and engine at full throttle, he lifted us smoothly into the air.

The ground below became a patchwork of homes, rivers, and fields.

Earth from air

“See.” He pointed to the top of the controls. “There’s the magnetic compass we’ve been talking about. Even with my high tech, Garman G1000 panel, there is still a magnetic compass.”

I nodded.

“So tell me again,” I said. “What makes a compass not work well?”

“Deviation. Variation. Local Disturbance. To name three. You have to take those into consideration to stay on course and for the needle to stay true to the pole.

“Sounds complicated.”

“It is. Just like life,” he spoke the truth through his mic. “Deviation is a magnetic disturbance that is fairly constant and located near the compass. Deviation is caused by something like iron in the plane’s engine. If you navigated by compass, you would have to take that into consideration.”

“Deviation is kind of like making adjustments for life’s regular challenges?”

“Right.” Bruce reached his goal of three-thousand feet altitude and pushed on the auto pilot. “Variation is also fairly constant, caused by a band of iron in northern Canada and around the globe. When you fly, you still have to adjust your degrees so that you head true north and not just magnetic north.”

“And that’s like?” I asked.

“It’s called variation because the needle changes depending on where you are at over the earth’s surface. It changes with time.”

“So we might vary from our duty by where we are at in our own personal journey?”


He scanned the sky around us. I opened a book.

Pilot Bruce

“Local disturbances are the hardest,” he continued. “Significant iron deposits are scattered over the earth and can cause a local disturbance. To be prepared, you have to know where they are. If you are over a local disturbance, you ignore the magnetic compass because it can do crazy things.”

“Yeah, wow. Just like personal attacks. We get distracted while our life’s needle swings crazily, away from our pole of duty. But God allows for that, don’t you think?”

“For sure he does. At least the God I know does. He helps to keep us on course, as long as we watch and listen.”

I turned to my book. My headphones muffled the whoosh of the wind and the engine’s steady roar.

“Traffic ahead. One o’clock.” The airplane’s automatic alert system sounded its robot voice. “One mile. Same altitude.”

I grabbed the top of the control panel and peered in the one o’clock direction toward the haze.

“Where is it? I can’t see it!”

“Right there!” Bruce threw the plane into manual control and nose-dived. “Look up.”

A small plane passed overhead. It flew straight on.

“Whew! Maybe three-hundred feet to spare.” Bruce leveled our plane. “I don’t think he even saw us.”

“He probably doesn’t have an alert system,” I said. “Either that or he got distracted.” I settled back in my seat. “Woah.”

“That will make your heart race.” Bruce shook his head.

Thank you, Father. Thank you for guiding us through yet another local disturbance.

Land Under Plane Wing

Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation. Matthew 26:41

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. I Peter 5:8

How has God guided you through the deviations, variations, or local disturbances in your life?  Please share!

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Down the Drain

“Why didn’t you, God?” Esther snapped. She slammed the lady’s room stall door and jerked the lock into its latch. “We trusted you. We prayed.” She dropped with a thud onto the commode. “This was suppose to be the perfect vacation. Why did you let this happen?” She glared at the shut door.

Image of Women's bathroom entrance

Down the corridor, at their airport gate, her husband, Bob, hunched over a phone with the receiver pressed tight against his ear. Their oldest daughter, in the seat beside his, leaned toward her dad, intent on every word. Esther had heard just enough to know that the call was from their youngest daughter and her boyfriend, traveling from Nebraska to join them in Colorado, and that the two college kids had had a serious accident.

Image of Air Traffic Control Tower at dusk

“Drug how many feet by an eighteen wheeler?” Bob’s eyes had stared into hers, damp and overly bright. The first call to board their flight had been announced. Esther had fled to the ladies room.

“So now, God.” She jutted her chin. “Everyone else is in route to the slopes from three different states. The three of us here, my brother, his kids, and now this. It’s too late to call this ski trip off. We knew it was a lot of travel. A lot could go wrong. We prayed for special safety.”

She clinched her fist and hit her thigh. Hard. If she could have, she would have beat God in the chest, but she didn’t want to get that close. She wanted to hurl things at him from a distance. Things like sticks and stones. Things like words.

image of the totaled car

Through clinched teeth, she spat words that she had never uttered to any authority, much less God. Punishment would have been swift. Repressed anger had served her well. When she was a child, even her mother, when highly vexed, had denied that she was angry. “No, I’m not angry.” Her mother’s eyes would bulge. “I’m determined.” So who was she to be angry with God? God was God. One didn’t question the Omnipotent.

Esther snatched at the toilet paper. “There was no reason to allow this to happen, God. You had no right. None. You should have protected them.”

“Esther, I did protect them.” The voice resonated, audible and clear. “Who is Bob talking to? Your daughter. I did protect them.”

image of man holding Phone in Airport

Esther’s hands stopped midair and flew together to cover her face. When she could breathe, she exhaled in a gush, inhaled slowly, deeply, and then tremblingly exhaled. Someone unseen had stepped inside the stall. Someone had ordained it sacred. Her ears strained for one more word. Instead, her own voice repeated, “I did protect them.”

“You did protect them?”

She hurried out and back to the gate. “Are they hurt, Bob? How badly? What happened?” She joined her husband in line to board.

“The car is probably totaled, but neither one has a scratch. Didn’t even go to the hospital.”

The two were renting a car. They would meet the others in Colorado, only one day late.

For once, words failed.

Image of clouds from above

Later, high above the clouds, she had plenty of time to talk. A humble child and a merciful, Father God held a quiet conversation in the most subdued tones:

“I was angry with you, God. I was really angry. I let you have it.”

“You sure did.”

“But you let me do it. You gave me the freedom to be honest with my emotions.

“Yes, I did.”

“So your chest, which I wanted to pound, is big enough for all of my venom.”

“It sure is.”

“So with you, I can be honest with my emotions.”

“Yes, you can.”

“About anything?”

“Anything. Especially when it comes to you and me.”

“And you talked to me. Out loud.”

“Out loud.”

“In a commode stall of all places.” Esther’s smile turned into a giggle. This God of hers had a sense of humor.

“Yes, in a commode stall, but then I like to flush anger down the drain.”

image of Sun shining on clouds from above

“Behold, you desire truth in the inward being and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” Psalms 51:6

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalms 145:17 & 18

“Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace. Zechariah 8:16

Five Years in God’s Palm



The red glow of Judie’s digital clock beside her bed read 1:00 AM. Thoughts tumbled around in her brain like shells in a rough surf. Keith’s rhythmic breathing told her he had finally drifted off. Only a few hours had passed since her husband had come home and made his announcement. Now, it seemed an eternity.

“Honey, I lost my job today.” His voice had held a tremor that his protective hug couldn’t hide. “Guess last year’s financial crash finally caught up to us. They can’t use an old guy whose heart won’t beat without a pacemaker.”

God, how will we survive? We can’t make it on just my job, even though I put in ten-hour days. We’ll lose everything we’ve worked for since we moved to South Georgia. Everything! Just wish I lived closer to Mom and Pop, like I used to. They have always been my stability and now their health is failing. My brothers and sister aren’t near them either, but with no money how can Keith and I even think about helping them?

Crawling out of bed, she headed to her computer. The warmth of her dog, Corgy, pressed against her legs. Picking up the ball of fur, she carried him to her desk where he snuggled on her lap.

Judie & clean Corgy“Keep us in your prayers,” she typed to her Facebook friends. “Keith lost his job today.”

She slipped quietly back under the covers, but she wasn’t quiet enough. Keith was awake.

“You know, Keith.” She snuggled into his arms. “I’ve got an idea. If we can’t sell our house, why don’t we try to rent it to keep from losing it? The only reason we moved here was for your job. Now that that is gone this might be a good time to relocate. Closer to Mom and Pop.”


A job and an economical place to live near her parents had not come easy. Nobody wanted to rent their house and Judie’s prediction came true. They lost everything. Living on Keith’s unemployment check and her company’s promise of a transfer for part-time work, they prepared to move to North Georgia.



Cardboard boxes cluttered the kitchen floor. Keith reached for the glasses on the highest shelf before handing them to his wife.

“Can’t believe this is our last week in southern Georgia.” The grin on her face as she took the glass from her husband said it all. She wrapped the glass in newspaper and carefully placed it in a box. Her smile disappeared. “Mom and Pop seem to be going downhill fast and I’m not dealing too well with all these changes, Keith. I know I was smiling just now, but it’s hard to smile at work. It’s getting harder and harder, not knowing what the future holds and all.”

“God’s never let us down, Judie. We know He’ll see us through.”

“You’re right.” She closed the box and opened up another one. “New life, here we come!”

She continued to pack silently, talking only to God: Thank You, Father, for the many blessings You have given us these last few months. Every need has been met. I know this move is the right thing.


Keith’s unemployment ended the same week that Judie was given a full time position. Thank you, God.  Thank you for giving me this chance, and Your timing is perfect!


Sugar smells of warm pecan pie permeated her mom’s roomy kitchen. The hum of familiar voices drifted from the living room. Pop, weak but seemingly well, told humorous stories to his adult grandchildren. Mom, instructed to rest awhile, smooched on her newest great-grandbaby. Judie’s daughter-in-law placed a heaping bowl of mashed potatoes on the serving counter.

Judie & Popjpg“No salt in these,” she said. “We’re cooking for Grandpa this year and everything’s homemade.”

Judie lifted a pan of savory dressing from the oven.

“This dressing sure brings back memories.”

Wes, her second oldest brother, glanced up from washing lettuce and smiled. “All those Thanksgivings in Arkansas. Right?”

“Yep. With grandma and grandpa. Sure miss those days. I miss Grandma’s candied sweet potatoes.”

“She could sure spread a feast.” He began cutting carrots into the salad.

“Now it’s us three making dinner.” Her daughter-in-law grinned and arched to relieve her back. “Or maybe I should say the four of us.” She rubbed her pregnant belly.

“Hey, sweetheart, in there!” Judie directed her voice in the belly’s direction. “Grow good for your grandma.”

Then she leaned over and gave Wes a snug, side hug. “I miss the food, but mainly I miss the people. Now we’re the grandparents! I love you, brother. Thanks for your help today. I love all my family. I wish today would last forever.


It was dark by the time Judie got home from work, kicked off her shoes, and sank into the recliner. Her dog, Corgy, lay motionless on his bed near her feet.

What a day! A promotion is nice, but it means I can’t let up. Can’t anyway, with Keith not able to work. Gotta keep going. Can’t lose my job. Gotta call Mom at the hospital and see how Pop is. See if there’s anything they need me to help do.

As she reached for her phone, Corgy opened his eyes and gave his tail a weak thump.

“Hey, Sweetie Bear. Don’t feel good do you?” She picked him from his bed and settled him in her lap. Getting very old aren’t we? You’ve always been my baby and now you’re sick and there’s no extra money for a vet. So, we’ll just stay here at home together and I’ll nurse you, best I can.”

Her dog let out a long sigh as Judie dialed the hospital’s number.

“It’s a very hard evening tonight.” She later updated her Facebook friends. “My dad is suffering and not doing well, and I think God may call him home soon, but when that happens, I know he will no longer be in pain, and when he wakes again, he will be looking in the face of Jesus.”

Her next update read: “My canine best friend is very sick too. I don’t know how to help Corgy except to keep him comfortable. He has been with me almost thirteen years, from the minute he was born, I knew he was my dog. I’m trying hard not to cry……………”

The next day all she shared was: “My Corgy is gone.”

Time and energy were at a premium. Closing her computer, she grabbed her purse and followed Keith out the door to the car. The decision had been made to bring Pop home to die. They were on their way to help get him settled. Today she would miss work. Even though her oldest brother and his wife were there and had been helping with Mom and conferring with Pop, she longed to be with him, longed to do what she could. Anything.

They helped move the hospital bed. Watched pain meds being given. Said good-bye to the hospice aids. When Wes’ car pulled in, Judie met him in the drive.

“Oh, Wes! He’s going so fast!” She threw her arms around her brother’s neck. His close, wordless hug was the comfort she sought.

“So how’s it going?” His moist eyes met hers. After discussing the day’s events, they entered a quiet house of waiting.

Later that night, Pop was resting on clean sheets. There was nothing more to be done. She would have loved to stay the night, but she wasn’t needed. It was time to go home.

“Pop,” Judie bent over and placed a kiss on his beloved, craggy face. “We’re going home, but we’ll be back. I love you, Pop. I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” he rasped. “Take care now.”

Wes walked her to the door. “Sis, I’ll call you if anything happens.” His hug warmed her as she walked out into the cold December night.

The next day she opened her computer and typed: “My dad passed quietly in his sleep this morning. I was so lucky to have him as my father. Pop, you sure did fight a good fight. I am hurting because you are gone, but joyful that you are at peace. It won’t be long before we all are together again. I love you so much Pop. We will take care of Mom for you.”

Pop's FuneralThe decision had been made for her mom to live with her sister in the Midwest.

“Mom, won’t ever live here again,” her oldest brother had informed her after the funeral. “She can’t live alone.”

Two days later, tears streamed down her face as she watched the car with its precious, petite, white-haired occupant disappear from sight.



It took time to get back to her Facebook friends, but when she did she wrote:

“I now know what true love is. It is letting go of someone you love very much for their sake.

How much my dad suffered hurt me worse than his death did. I am so glad he is now at peace.”

There came a day when the rush and surge of the past months’ trauma mounted until her dam of emotions finally burst. In the overflow, she once again shared with her friends: “I’m feeling the pain of losing Pop, my animals and Mom moving. On the other hand, I am also looking forward to a new grand baby, spring coming, and I’m happy at work. Next week Keith and I will be married 17 years. Every cloud has a silver lining.


“Whew, what a long day this has been.” Judie came through the door and slumped on a kitchen chair. “I don’t know what happened, but I am hurting so bad.”

“So sorry, honey.” Keith looked up from wiping the stove. “Maybe my home cooked meal will help you feel better.”

“Oh, Keith, what would I ever do without you? You spoil me.”

“Love spoiling you! You’ve just overdone it. Perhaps a good night’s rest will do the trick.”

It was noon the next day when she knew she was in serious trouble. Looking for inventory, down on her knees at work, she had to call for help to get up.

At home that evening she told Keith, “This feels like when I had that uterine mesh implanted years ago. I don’t know if I have the strength for this. Let’s pray for a miracle.”

“Yes, and then let’s get you to a doctor.”


After going from doctor to doctor, with little success, Judie decided she was not like fine wine, where older is better. “I am tired.” She told Keith. “I now know what it means to be ‘not as young as I used to be’ and I realize Pop was right. He always said, ‘Getting old is not for sissies.’”


Wes had spent the spring making repairs so their parent’s house could sell. Now it was fall. The house had not sold, and Judie was scheduled for surgery. One day after work, Keith met her at the door. “We’re moving!”


“Yes! Your Mom, your brothers and sister have offered us Mom and Pop’s house. It was their idea. We can live there free of charge except for doing the upkeep. It will save us money on rent. We won’t have to worry about a place to live. And my mom needs a place. We both know she does. The house is plenty big enough.”

“Keith, this is a wonderful idea! What an honor! Just to think, me the baby of my family, taking care of my parent’s home!”


Photograph of House


“It’s comforting to be here,” Judie told her Facebook friends the first weekend in her new home. Her son and family had just left after bringing lunch over. “It’s comforting to be surrounded by memories of my parents and family, sharing love and joy. Thank you again, Mom and family, for allowing me to make this my home. Thank you, God, for my family and friends.”

Four days later they rushed Keith to the hospital for a pacemaker replacement. Finding work for him now was out of the question.


Another Thanksgiving was coming around. A Thanksgiving without her parents. It had been almost a year. Judie pondered what she would do.

I might go to the cemetery and talk to Pop, pour my heart out, actually. But I know he can’t hear me now, just like I know God can. And I’ve learned God has a very good Ear.



Lily of the Valley sweetened the air as Judie wandered through her mother’s flower garden. Iris spears were already pushing their healthy way skyward. Late daffodils tossed their heads in the light breeze. Tears sprang to her eyes.

I’m too emotional. Maybe it’s better not to think so much. Oh, how I miss Mom! I wish she were here, but I know she is better off where she is. She is 82. How many more times will I see her? Here I am, in her home, surrounded by her flowers and plants and all she loves, but I can’t reach out and hug her. I can hear her voice on the phone and see her on Skype, but it’s not the same. Besides, Keith’s mom needs us now, but sometimes I find that difficult. Sometimes I want to be selfish, but I can accept things as they are. I am thankful I have a home that can be shared. I have friends all over the South. I have a family who loves me. I have a wonderful job. As long as I don’t think about it, I’m okay. But the ache in my heart is always there.



Judie again sat at her computer and shared with her friends. “I did go to the doctor yesterday. He refused to treat me. Said I had already had surgery for that repair and he wasn’t going to touch it. I lost a day of work and paid a $45 copay for that information. I made another appointment closer to home. Hopefully I can get some answers. This next doctor is one I have gone to before, and I hope she can help. If not, I will have to go out of network, I’m afraid. But I’m sure God has a plan. I’m not worried.


“My spirit is sad for my body today.” She typed. “I know that sounds strange, but I don’t see me and my body as being the same thing at all. My body is totally dependent on me. And my body apparently isn’t doing too well.

Judie after surgery

Judie after surgery

I am praying I have made the right decision, because it’s finally hitting me what I have to do. If I have counted correctly, this will be surgery number 23. I’ll hit 25 before this year is over.

I’m not really scared, well, not of pain, not of what ifs, but some decisions you make in life you can never change. Since the deal with the mesh, I find it very difficult to accept medical help. However, in this case, I seem not to have a choice. My body has been in pain for a very long time. I have to do what I can to take care of her.

God has been kind in providing all my needs. I pray for His continued healing and support. I pray for your support as well.”



During Judi’s last surgery the doctors had inserted hardware in her back. Now it was infected with MRSA bacteria. She was back home with an open incision. Keith prepared to change the dressing.

“Now turn over. Get comfy. I’ll just take this dressing off and clean you up.” Keith’s hands gently removed the bandage. He inhaled sharply.

“What? What’s wrong?”

It’s just, I can see the hardware in your backbone, but lie still. Let me finish.”

“Oh, Keith!” Judie buried her face in her pillow while her tears flowed.


Judie lay on the couch. Keith methodically moved the vacuum across the carpet. Satisfied with his job, he reached for the plug and silenced the vacuum’s drone.

“Come sit beside me, Honey. I’ve been watching you work. It’s been so hard on you, me being sick and you taking care of your mom too.”

“At least I know I’m needed.” He placed a kiss on her forehead. “And you can do light chores.”

“I don’t know how I would have made it through these months without you. In my darkest moments you have cared for me, held me when I’ve cried, put up with me when I’ve been frustrated. I love you so much. So very much.”

“We’ve been through some hard times, sure enough.” Keith agreed. “But God has never left us.”

Judie laced her arms around his neck and drew him close for a lingering kiss. Then with his face close to hers she searched his eyes. “You know, with money the way it is, I can’t buy you a Christmas gift this year. Will my undying love and gratitude be enough?”




Judie was back in the hospital. “I had another surgery this morning on my back.” She updated her friends. “Apparently I had a screw loose. For those of you who know me, that is probably not a surprise. But I mean this literally. The MRSA had infected one of the screws in my fusion causing it to loosen. My doctor took out both screws on the left side, cleaned up all the infection, and sewed everything back together. I am praying all goes well this time. Thank you so much for all your prayers and support. Please continue to pray for me as I fight this battle.



All did not go well. After still another surgery to completely remove the hardware in her back, Judie continues to fight her battle. When she shared the facts of this story with me for Penpoints of Light she wrote:

“For the last eight months I have been unable to work. Where would we be if God had not put us here in Mom and Pop’s home? Does God care about us? Absolutely. All our needs have been met, all our prayers answered. Yes, things have been difficult, but mine and hubby’s love has gotten stronger, as has our faith. I know I am surrounded by family and friends who lift me up and a God who holds me in the Palm of His Hand.

* * * * *

“God did not promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain,

but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.” — Unknown

We all have a choice.

To trust and praise God in the hard times

Or to turn our face away and curse him.

Whatever our choice, He has promised to never forsake us.

He will always walk with us.

It’s up to us to take His hand and experience His presence.

* * * * *

Have you ever wondered how a God of Love can let such hard things happen?

Take a bit of time and listen to “If God is so Good” by Herb Montgomery.

Story contributed by Judie Plumley and written by Merita Atherly Engen

Many thanks, Judie, for sharing the glimpse of God that you have gained in your hard times. Our prayers are with you and Keith and all of your family.




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