Joy of Gardening

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Last week, I turned off my computer and completely tuned out the news. I tuned out the vile vitriol, the hatred, the distortions, the bias, and manipulations that have come to characterize the 24/7 media of our day. Alas! Media distortion isn’t new, however. Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) penned a poem in 1913 entitled The Old Stone Cross in which he takes issue with journalistic integrity (or rather the lack thereof). Here is William Butler Yeats poem:

A statesman is an easy man, he tells his lies by rote. 

A journalist invents his lies and rams them down your throat.

So stay at home and drink your beer and let your neighbors vote. (poetryverse.com)

Taking a cue from Mr. Yeats, I have done just that—-stayed home and, well, while I’m not really a beer drinker I do enjoy myself an occasional Guinness Draught Stout. It reminds me of Dublin, the city after my own heart!

In my garden, I have planted a variety of peppers, tomatoes, squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, daisies, roses, lemon grass, lemon balm, peppermint, basil, hibiscus, sage and lavender.  It the middle of my garden, I have placed a  stone statue of Mother Mary. She is surrounded by roses, pink, yellow, and lavender. In the tranquil early morning, I sit with my hot coffee, listen to the red cardinals, blue jays, brown-winged hawks, and rust-colored robins sing like a heavenly chorus high above the cherry laurel and oak trees in my backyard. It is in this tranquil setting that I meditate and focus my mind on God’s blessings, on Jesus and his message of  love, forgiveness and redemption, on Mother Mary and her obedience to God’s call in her life. In the stillness I pray. In the stillness I rest and accept those things I cannot change and I ask God to bless me with discernment to change those things that I should change, and that I have the power to change.

I find peace and truth in the quiet of my garden. I find peace and truth that only God can give. This world and all that is in it passes away. Only God’s peace and truth remain.

Isaiah 26:3-4 tells us: You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in youTrust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is the Rock eternal.

In John 14:27 Jesus comforts us: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I cannot tolerate the constant onslaught of violence and hatred in which the media relishes. They no longer report facts, but rather design “stories” to incite hatred, anger, strife, division.  High drama sells.  I, for one, choose to step back and not allow myself to be manipulated, to be made afraid.

Of course, I do not stick my head in the sand and pretend everything is perfect; of course, it isn’t.  I choose to rely on My Lord Jesus for strength in the storm. I choose to rely on My Lord Jesus for help in danger. I choose to rely on the comforting words of My Lord Jesus.

Jesus told me not to let my heart be troubled and to not be afraid.

I put my complete trust in Jesus’ holy words and  in His promises.

Jenny W. Andrews Copyright 2020

 

 

Remembering a Summer Past

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Way back in the summer of 1994 I was driving through Texas with my three year old son Alex. Life had not been kind to me. In 1991, my sister Sara Jo died at the age of 49 years old of lymphoma. In 1992, my husband decided that he didn’t want to be married anymore and he didn’t want to be a father anymore either. In 1993, my mother died of spinal cord cancer. In 1994, I lost my job as a legal review specialist at a mortgage company.

I can still remember the sickening feeling in my stomach when I was presented with the white envelope in which my one month severance pay was enclosed. I can still remember sitting at my cubicle staring at my name plaque and all my awards for being a top legal reviewer. Scattered among my awards was my little son’s photo and my mother’s funeral notice upon which Psalm 46 was printed.  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fail into the heart of the sea. . .” Each morning those words got me through the pain of loss and the challenges of the day.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Those words rung in my ears and mocked me.  My earth had given way and my mountains had fallen into the heart of the sea. I couldn’t even cry. I sat stunned. I had lost my precious sister Sara Jo. My husband whom I loved dearly had abandoned me and our baby son without even a glance backward. I had lost my beloved mother. And now, I had lost my job upon which I depended for support of my son and me.

I remember wondering how I was going to survive. I remember getting angry at God. I remember begging God to help me. I was lost in the dark. How much more could I take? How much more could I lose?

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). That verse struck me in the dead of night along with the smothering gloom of anxiety.

Be still. Be still, Be still.  I decided to do just that. I took a deep breath and decided to just be still.

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:11).

Anxiety ate away at me, but I decided to just keep moving forward. I committed this psalm to my heart and prayed it continuously. God promised me that he was an ever-present help in trouble and told me not to fear. I had to trust Him. I just had to. He was all I had left to carry me through the darkness to the light on the other side of the abyss my life had fallen into.

So, in the summer of 1994, I drove through Texas from Houston to a beautiful little town called Glen Rose. My son loved dinosaurs. I had found out about the Dinosaur Valley State Park at Glen Rose. My son was overjoyed about going to a place that had actual dinosaur prints in the earth. He loved cowboys, so I bought him a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. His little face lit up as he eyed all the ranches along the way and saw actual cowboys riding horses. The Texas countryside sparkled like a beautiful comforting paradise to both our souls. That long drive was a balm to our spirits. It lifted us up from the darkness.

In Snook, Texas, I stopped at a little market and bought a two-dollar lottery ticket and won 500 dollars. The cashier gave me the money on the spot. I was shocked. I walked back to the truck with the cash and was speechless.

That has been twenty-six years ago this month.  God has brought me through  those dark days and has given my life light, purpose and joy. In Him, I place my absolute trust. He promised me that he is my refuge and strength. He was then, is now, and will forever be my refuge. He is my fortress upon whom I depend.

 

Jenny Andrews Copyright 2020

 

 

Remembering My Brother George Willie

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This is a sketch of my brother George Willie. I sketched this from an old photograph. He drowned at age 16 the summer before I was born. He and some friends had gone to a lake and were celebrating the end of the school year. While I never knew him, I knew the void that had been left by his absence. My mother, father, and older brother and older sisters never stopped grieving over his loss. His memory haunted that space inside their hearts. I always felt like a stranger on the outside looking in; all I know of him is what they told me. He was almost six feet tall, liked to joke, was good at math and wanted to join the United States Air Force after high school graduation. Sadly, those dreams never came true, his life was cut tragically short. Sixteen years is such a short, short time.

Sixty years ago today, my brother died at sixteen years old. On that sunny June day in 1960 he had no idea that he would never see the next day. Life is so very fleeting; it is so very fragile.

I know one day that I will see him, that I will see all those whom I love who have crossed over into eternity. I love my brother George Willie although I never met him. He is my brother and I feel that he is my guardian angel and that he is always with me. I look at his photograph which I keep on the shelf of remembrance in my home and I know that he is  with God.

Psalm 90: 12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Number our days. Life is so short and so precious. We often get so caught up in life’s dramas that we forget that this life is not forever on this earth.

I choose to look towards eternity. I choose to look towards the hope and promise that one day I will be in the glorious presence of my Lord. I trust that it will be a homecoming, that I will meet my brother George Willie and spend eternity with all those whom I have loved.

Jenny W. Andrews copyright 2020

What’s Essential?

 

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Six weeks later, liquor stores are still open.

Churches are still closed.

Lines wrap around the liquor store’s sidewalk, shoppers maybe two feet apart , wait to purchase spirits.

Churches are still closed.

Liquor stores have been classified as essential by the powers and principalities that control this world.

Churches are still closed.

Only God Himself can save me.

 

 

Jenny W. Andrews Copyright 2020

Original Art:Woman with Blue Hat

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This is a drawing I did a few years ago. I like to use a lot of color.

In our current climate of worry, stress, and anxiety, I would like to encourage everyone to switch off your devices, tune out the constant media bombardment of horrible news.

We can’t stick our heads in the sand, of course. But, for your mental health, please, please take a break from the news. Switch it off for a day or two days. Or maybe don’t turn it on for a week. Or longer.

Pick up some color pencils and a sketch pad and go to it. Be creative and colorful. Have fun.

Pick up a notebook and a dictionary. Choose as many rhyming words as possible and write ridiculously funny sentences. Write limericks, ballads, rap songs. Write the worst possible country song you can come up with.

Laugh.

The  Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time, a season for everything. There will always be sorrow; but, there will also be a time of joy and peace.

These dark days we are experiencing now will not last forever.

Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us of God’s promises.

For I know the plans I have for you,” Declares the Lord.”Plans to prosper you and not harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.”

Hope.

With God, hope is eternal.

As we approach the Easter season, trust in God’s promises. Light is at the end of this dark tunnel that we are experiencing right now.

Romans 8:38-39 reminds us of God’s love through Jesus Christ our Lord.

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Revelation 21:4 reminds us that God shall wipe away all our tears.

“And God shall wipe away all the tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any pain, for the former things are passed away.”

Life will always have sorrow, death and pain. That is just a fact.

Life will always have beauty, joy, and wonder. That is just a fact.

It is my prayer that we all stay safe in these challenging times.

Take a break from the constant media coverage for your mental health. Spend quiet time with God, unburden your soul before Him. Trust that He will always be there to wipe your tears away. Trust that He has plans for you to prosper.

Trust completely in God and in His promises.

And draw a picture, write a song.

And share it!

Jenny W. Andrews copyright 2020

 

 

Comfort in the Storm: Psalms

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The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

Truly my soul waiteth  upon God; from him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved. Psalm 62: 1-2

I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. Psalm 18: 1-2

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 

He maketh me lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though, I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Psalm 23

 

Source: Holy Bible, King James Version, Book of Psalms

 

Today, I got notice at the community college where I teach English that today is my final day of work until sometime in mid-April. That is a long stretch of time not to work. My community is completely shutting down. What hurts most is seeing church services canceled. I understand the reason for social distancing, of course, but this is the time that we really need to be a faith community and support each other. We need to offer our prayers up to our God who hears us, comforts us, and holds us in His arms.

Even if you cannot physically attend church, please remember to pray without ceasing. Please do not lose your faith in our God who promises peace and healing. Please lift your hands toward our God and plead for His mercy. It is without limits. His love and His compassion knows no boundaries. This world is hurting; God is the answer to this suffering. He offers healing. Please reach for Him. Trust Him. He is our strength and our rock and our light in this darkness.

May God keep you, bless you, and surround you with His love and His compassion.

Amen

 

Jenny W. Andrews, Copyright 2020

Living Fearlessly

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Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears-” Les Brown (Brainyquote.com)

I saw this quote in a 2020 journal I purchased a few weeks ago. It got me to thinking about all the opportunities that I have personally not taken because of fear of failure, fear of rejection, undefined fear, fear that I was not capable enough to actually succeed if I attempted to take action on something I truly wanted to accomplish; fearful living is not living at all.

2020 is a fresh start and I have challenged myself to dedicate at least two hours daily to my writing.  So far, so good. I refuse to listen to that negative voice that tells me all the reasons I shouldn’t even try; I refuse to give into fear of failure and fear of rejection.

Truth is that in this life we are all limited editions with limited time in this space. Think about it-no one will ever in the history of this universe ever be exactly like we are as individuals. There will never be an exact replica of you or me. We are each unique with our own passions and dreams; we are incredibly precious souls who are here for such a short time when we consider the millennium that has come and gone, and is yet to come.

Lately, I have been looking back over old family photos. Some of the photos date back nearly a hundred years. I look at my grandmother’s face from so long ago and wonder what her joys were, as well as what her fears were. I have a photo of my father when he was in his early twenties. His face was tense and there was a haunting sadness in his large dark eyes; I wonder what was the source of that palpable sorrow. What did he fear at that moment? The year was during the early days of the The Great Depression. Had he been afraid of hunger? What fears had dogged him? How had those fears impacted his future?

Fear robs us of our future; it robs us of our potential. Fear paralyzes us with its worst case scenarios and catastrophic imaginings. Nothing is ever as bad as we imagine. We do not realize just how much power we do possess within our own spirits to accomplish great things for ourselves, as well as for others.

II Timothy 1:7 says: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Psalm 27:1 says: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

The Lord is with us in our sorrows; He is with us when we are afraid, as well.

A strategy I have implemented in 2020 is to fight back against those fears by reminding myself that God has given me a spirit of power, not a spirit of fear. When I am not strong enough (which is often), I remind myself that the Lord is my strength.

It is my total reliance on the Lord’s strength that gives me the courage to live fearlessly even when negative thoughts try to tell me otherwise.

 

Copyright 2020 Jenny W. Andrews

 

 

A Favorite Quote

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“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.”- Vince Lombardi

 

 

Life has it’s ups and downs.  In my last blog, I wrote about my cousin Betty and her passing from this earthly existence to her eternal home.

Nothing in this life stays the same. We are all moving forward on our journey. At times, it is easy to give into despair and anxiety. It is difficult to accept this life’s twists and turns, but we must accept these changes whether we feel like it or not.

Like Lombardi implied, it is getting back up that truly matters.

These last few days I have prayed and read scripture, shared my feelings with my best friend, and released my sadness at the loss of my cousin Betty. Life is about changes, nothing remains the same. We have to grieve; we have to also honor this precious, fragile existence and not give into the abyss of despair.

This morning as I was eating breakfast I looked out the window at the majestic oaks in my back yard, and I watched hawks gracefully soar across the light blue sky. The sun peaked through the branches of the cherry laurels. Squirrels darted from branches high above oaks. The world in the early morning hour was truly beautiful.

I am thankful to God for this life that He has blessed me with. It isn’t always easy, but I know that He is with me just as He promised. God keeps His promises and I know that I am not alone. God gives me the strength to get back up even when I don’t think that I have any strength left.

 

Jenny W. Andrews Copyright 2020

Goodnight, Betty

 

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On January 21st, my cousin Betty died of cancer. Her last days were spent with family. Hospice provided the necessary in-home care with a morphine drip. Cancer is excruciatingly painful and nasty. She was down to only fifty-nine pounds when she died.

On my cousin Libby’s last visit with Betty, she told Betty that she loved her so much; Betty, although weakened, sat up and said “I love you more” with emphasis on the word “more.”

On this cold, rainy, and dreary Saturday night in the midst of winter and sorrow I ponder the meaning of this life, of the space of years that Betty lived, that I have lived, that we all have lived. What is the sum total of our days from the hour of a birth until our final breath? What have we all done here on this earth in that space allotted to us between our first breath and our last? Did we say “I love you” enough? Did we spend enough time with those who meant  the most to us? Did we share the treasures that Our Lord blessed us with? Were we petty and cruel? Were we apathetic and unforgiving? Did we waste our hours in front of a computer screen or television screen when we could have been sitting across a table drinking coffee and laughing with that person we loved most in the entire world? Did we lend a hand to the lonely and lost? Did we share? Did we love? What are the sum of our days?

I cannot go back and relive one lost second of my life. If I could, I would gather all my cousins around me and we would spend endless hours just laughing and talking and drinking sweet tea and eating pecan pie way into the late hours of the night.

It is said that time waits for nobody. This is true. You nor I can stop its passage. You nor I have the power to go back and spend one more second with those whom we loved. Once time passes, it is gone forever.

I plan to call my cousin Libby tonight and make plans to spend a week with her in the spring. This life is so precious and fragile; none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

Libby and I talked earlier about how Betty is home with Our Lord and that she is no longer suffering. I truly believe this to be the case. God created us and we return to Him. I truly believe that one day I will have a homecoming and I will see my Lord face to face and that I will see Betty and I will see all those whom I have loved in this life.

This life is not the end; death is not the end. Our spirits are eternal.

For now, I say Good night Betty, but I know that at the end of these earthly days, I will be reunited with her and all those whom I have loved.

Good night, Betty.

 

Copyright 2020 Jenny W. Andrews

 

Surviving Cancer: My Brother

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Many of you might remember that last fall I posted that my brother Harold had been diagnosed with Stage Three lung cancer. He underwent chemo and radiation which was, of course, not easy. My brother is twenty-one years older than I am. I am the seventh and final child in my family and interestingly I was born on my parents’ twenty-fourth wedding anniversary. My brother has always been a second father to me. I have depended on him throughout my life; the thought of losing him last year was devastating to me. I begged God not to take him from me.

Today, my brother celebrated his seventy-ninth birthday. For this birthday blessing, I praise God. Each day is a blessing because none of us are promised tomorrow. Each day is God’s gift to us. Cancer makes that fact abundantly clear.

My cousin Libby, pictured between my brother and me, is also a cancer survivor. She had a rare form of uterine cancer when she was twenty-eight years old; she just turned seventy-six in November.  Birthdays are blessings, indeed.

Of course, one day we all leave this earth and go back to God from whence we came. That is inevitable. It is just the cycle of life. This reality should motivate us rather than depress us. In the limited time that we have on this earth, we should be motivated to do good, show compassion, love fully, forgive, and be thankful for the gifts and the life that God has blessed each of us with. It is not easy, of course, to always feel happiness. Sometimes the darkness falls heavily on each us and we dwell in a dank and bottomless abyss from which we fear that we will never escape. But, we will because there is God who loves us and is never far from us. God is with us in our struggles; God is with us when we are down in the abyss. He is with us in the sunlight and in the dark of night.

My mother Gracie Lee died of spinal cancer in 1993 at seventy-two years old and my sister Sara Jo died of brain cancer in 1991 at forty-nine years old. Trust me with I say that those were the darkest days of my life losing my precious mother and my beautifully amazing sister. Cancer is cruel; it is ugly and it is unrelenting in its devastation. I begged God back then to spare my mother and my sister. I blamed God when they died. I told Him that I wasn’t going to speak to Him ever again. Like a good father, God  let me rant and He waited with open arms when I ran back to Him. His love is unfathomable, it knows no boundaries. His love and His forgiveness is all-encompassing.

Today, I sat across the table from brother at his favorite restaurant and watched him enjoy his Chicken Tortilla soup. I remember him when his hair was black and now it is white like snow. I remember when he used to drop me off at my elementary school over fifty years ago, now. Time doesn’t wait for any us. Today, I lingered in the precious moments of this day, my brother’s seventy-ninth birthday, and thought just how blessed we are on this earth to have life, to be able to survive the suffering, to be able to laugh in spite of the pain.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us. There will always be that inevitable ending looming in the distance. I choose to let that fact motivate me to celebrate each rising sun as a blessing.

I turn my heart toward God, lift up hands, bow my head and praise Him for this day and for all the days to come. I give Him my fears and my hopes and trust that no matter what is to come He will be with me, that He will lead me and those whom I love Home to that place where there will no longer be any suffering. I believe that one day I will see my family again in that place beyond this plane of existence.

My heart is filled with thankfulness.

 

Copyright 2019, Jenny W. Andrews