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Christian insprirational

Sometimes I Just Cry

Making the choice to embrace our humanity

“Have you ever had the Chai tea here? It’s delicious.” The question came from a young lady sitting at a table about eight feet from my husband and me, in one of our favorite restaurants in Montrose.

We had been chatting back and forth about our information on the recent fires in the Boulder Area that devastated a community. We were strangers, but in this little restaurant that serves Himalayan food, we struck up a conversation that included topics like the recent Colorado disaster, food and eventually employment.

She and her husband were the only other couple in the restaurant beside Keith and me. They shared that they made a three-hour round trip to enjoy the cuisine in this establishment. When she asked about the Chai, I told her that I never drink anything with caffeine in the evening as it keeps me awake.

“Oh, I need to be awake tonight,” she told me. “I have to work a ten-hour shift.”

The natural question flowed from my lips, “And what do you do?”

“I am a nurse,” was her reply. “And I am getting ready to start my night shift in about two hours. It’s my sixth ten-hour shift in a row. I’m just so tired some days that even the caffeine doesn’t chase the fatigue away.”

I nodded and said, “I worked thirty years in the medical field, both clerical and clinical. I was at University of Colorado in the OR for several years. I remember those years and those hours.”

Our eyes held each other’s, connected by recognition and understanding of the sacred work we had been called to do. I waited for her to continue.

She broke the silence by saying, “I sometimes think my exhaustion will overtake me before I can get on top of it. And the things we’ve seen, and are now seeing, aren’t only exhausting to body and brain, but also to…” She trailed off.

I finished her sentence, “To the soul.”

“Yes.” She went on, “I can never remember, in my twenty-five years of nursing, when I felt so weary and even sometimes hopeless. There are days when I should be sleeping but all I can do is cry. And I do cry now.”

“Yes,” I said.

“We were trained to keep our emotions out of our work. But these days I cannot do that. And so, when I need to, I just cry – out loud and for as long as it takes to partially relieve the sadness that we were taught to dismiss,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“And I’m not ashamed of my tears now. I don’t try to hide them. I have no need to explain them or ask permission to release them. I cry because it is sad. I cry because I am true to me now.”

“Yes,” I said.

During the conversation her eyes never left mine. Her husband had gone to warm up their car prior to their departure.

“You know, don’t you?” she asked.

“Yes.” I said.

We fell silent again and accepted comfort provided in the knowledge that each one was seeing, acknowledging and honoring the heart of the other. We were two strangers who may never meet again, in a small-town restaurant, with a bond perhaps stronger than two women who’ve been friends for decades. I’ve no idea how long we remained in that posture. But I know it was enough to understand that God sent this younger woman into the company of one who had been and, in many ways, will always be where she is right now.

She got up to leave, but prior to exiting the building, she turned to look at me and offered a small, sad smile laced with determination to never be ashamed of her tears.

“Thank you, God bless you.” she said.

“And you too my friend.” I said.

As she walked out the door, I bowed my head and asked God to protect her and all our healthcare workers today. I thanked Him for opportunity to be a person in her world that for a brief moment, over hot plates of Masala and Saag, could authentically say I felt her pain and understood her tears. Then as my husband attended to paying our bill, I began to cry.

Illustration by Sally M. Cordrey, MA

Copyright January 2022, Laura L. Padgett Montrose, CO

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Instagram at laurapadgettauthor,Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page.

Don’t forget to follow my podcast episodes. You may hear the podcast on any device of your choice and on any platform where you now receive your podcasts. Or you can click on the Podcast Episodes tab on the home page of this website.

Christian insprirational

Cross and Shield

Who really fights the battle?

Ten years ago, Keith bought me a piece of jewelry that I wear often. It is a white abalone cross and shield. We were going through a particularly volatile time in our lives for many reasons. Each day I would get up and say, “I am weary, Lord. I just can’t keep fighting these battles and still do the work you have called me to do as a dance minister and author. I am so weary.”

During different parts of the journey, I took out the abalone pendant and held it close. I would envision myself standing under and clinging to the blood-stained cross of Christ with such force my arms ached. I saw me as needing to hold His shield of protection in front of me as a means of deflecting the external unpleasantness. It became quite heavy, and I would tell God at the end of the day how weary I was of it all.

I really believed it was up to me to do the work of holding the shield in front of me while physically leaning into the cross for the stability needed to keep standing. And in my efforts, I became exhausted to the point of becoming defensive and sometimes lashing out from a heart full of resentment.

Then one day while doing my devotions, and holding my necklace, God clearly said,”Back off. You do not need to use the cross and hold the shield out as weapons against others. You need to examine your own heart and see what is making you so fearful, angry, guilty and allowing hurts to turn to resentments.”

“Am I doing that Lord?” I asked.

“Are you not my child? I need you to understand that the shield and cross symbols are for your assurance that I am your protection at all times. And I loved and do love you enough to go to the cross for you. All I ask is that you hand Me those lies that you are choosing to believe and that are hardening your heart.”

In my darkest times, I removed my blinders and saw my defensiveness was based in the fact that I believed what was not true and I was going to great lengths to prove otherwise. I reflected upon the fact that the cross bore the weight of my past failures and temptations to retaliate. I saw for the first time that God was asking me to inventory my own attitudes and heart; then guard my heart and trust fully in Him.

This verse showed up in my devotional materials off and on for several weeks. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV). The word guard took on a whole new meaning as it became clearer every day that I needed to wear that cross and shield as a reminder that the One who protects me was/is doing the battle.

Today I still wrestle with unkindness and untruth all around me. Who doesn’t in this world? But now I more fully accept the truth of the cross and hand the shield to the only one who truly can protect me. He is able and willing to defend me, even from the condemnations of my own voice and heart that can lead to me hurting myself or others if moving from a defensive heart riddled with resentment.

Copyright October 2021, Laura L. Padgett Montrose, CO

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Instagram at laurapadgettauthor,Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page.

Don’t forget to follow my podcast episodes. You may hear the podcast on any device of your choice and on any platform where you now receive your podcasts. Or you can click on the Podcast Episodes tab on the home page of this website.

Christian insprirational

Spiritual Landslide

“I took my love, I took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
‘Til the landslide brought me down

Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too.” – Lyrics by Stevie Nicks, July 1975

Any rock and roll fan from the 70’s and 80’s knows this song, called “Landslide” by the famous band Fleetwood Mac. It was written and sung by Miss Stevie Nicks in her distinctive voice that calls us into a haunting visualization of self examination.

I’ve recently been reflecting on my purpose and path, especially since I turned seventy years old in 2021. In my times of almost overzealous self-examination, I was called by God and encouraged by family and friends to do what I do best – continue to find ways to share stories. Because the pandemic made that path look different than it ever had, I was at a loss how to do that. Enter the idea to become a podcaster and bring not only my stories of faith, hope and experience to others but those of my fellow pilgrims on this planet where together we do life.

As the podcast came together I believed, as is the message of many in my new field of communication, that each of us has a message to share with the world. I also believed that the message I was sharing was for my audience. I had no idea that I had built my world around me and as I climbed this new mountain, the reflection I gazed at became of me. Then the spiritual landslide brought my reflection and reflective process down. It wasn’t about me, in my wisdom and experience, sharing messages. It was about me learning, learning and learning from my guests. And it was to be a way of giving them platform to teach others.

There is no better and more intense example of this than when I interviewed a gentleman who had survived a plane crash thirty-two years ago. I didn’t want to revisit the gory details of the actual incident. I wanted to know how his life, mind and heart pivoted as a result of this accident.

As the interview continued there were so many gems of hope offered by my guest. But the real soul shift came when Jerry told me of his conversation with himself in the last minutes before impact. He said, “Alright, if you happen to survive and are not seriously hurt, don’t panic. Don’t flee the plane and try to help others.”

In the interview it’s not hard to hear my guest, and me, choke up with emotion that neither of us attempted to control. I realized that God was saying to me, “It is not about what happened to Jerry Schemmel. It is about what I did and am still doing with what happened to him.” This concept had been first voiced by one of my guests, Karen DeArmond Gardner, as she shared her story of pivoting out of domestic abuse and into a new life. But it really hit home in the dialogue with Jerry.

I thought about this interview and particularly Jerry’s self-talk during a time when he believed he had seen the last day of his human life. I have wept tears of gratitude for the landslide that God sent to show this child that as I get older, I do want to be bolder and relinquish my need to build my life around me and my perceived reflection.

I do still believe that the podcast can and should be used to bring help to a traumatized world in need of wisdom, hope and healing. I more than ever believe I have no control over how the messages are received, and that my job is also to share the lessons I have learned. These lessons are coming from those people God has graciously placed in my life to help this child grow older and boldly walk into the change He is authoring, even if it means dismantling my own flawed reflection.

Copyright Laura L. Padgett Sept. 2021 Montrose, CO

To hear my entire interview with Jerry Schemmel, click on the podcast tab on the homepage of this website. It will be available anytime after 3 a.m. on Wednesday, September 8, 2021. To purchase a copy of Jerry’s book, “Chosen to Live: The Inspiring Story of Flight 232 Survivor, Jerry Schemmel”, go to Amazon Books.com and type in the title and author.

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page.

Don’t forget to follow my podcast episodes. You may hear the podcast on any device of your choice and on any platform where you now receive your podcasts. Or you can click on the Podcast Episodes tab on the home page of this website.

Christian insprirational

I just never talked about it

It was not my intention to do a podcast. Nope, not me. But God called me to do just that in the season of Covid. After months of prayer and coaching, I felt ready to bring positive messages from survivors of all kinds of traumas and pivotal points in their lives to help minister to a hurting country and world. It was my understanding, after seeking God’s guidance, that he wanted me to use my gifts as a storyteller and my experience as a radio talk show host to help bring some hope and light to a world in great darkness right now. I knew I could not do this without Him and a team of faithful friends and family who joined me in promoting the thoughts that He was giving me to share.

I was not without some timidity when it came to starting something like this (which is huge as you can imagine). But I knew if I obeyed, He would bless the work He was calling me to do. I could never imagine the blessings He had in store for me too. And bless me He did with the stories of my guests (all of them) that have begun to shine light in my personal little world, and encourage me to continue seeking His will, His guidance and His healing.

One current example of this is found in an interview with a lady named Karen DeArmond Gardner, who survived thirty years of domestic abuse in her first marriage. I had asked her to be on the podcast because I believe her book, “Healing from Domestic Abuse: Reaching for God’s Promise of Real Freedom” is needed to bring truth to a situation that is often silenced, overlooked and even ignored.

In this book, Karen does not focus on what happened to her but what Jesus is doing with what happened to her. She says this is not a self-help book but an invitation to walk into the fullness of God’s love. She tells us that leaving is just the beginning of healing, as she busts myths about what domestic abuse is, why women are not always able to get out of the situations, and why even churches are unlikely sources of support and help in the abusive marriage. Among the many, many nuggets of wisdom found in these pages as we walk into the love of God and learn to trust again, Karen shares that we must acknowledge what happened in order to offer it to God for our healing as well as asking Him what He wants to do with our experiences.

After the interview concluded, I was unsettled, sleepless and very, very sad. For several days, I asked God to reveal what He wanted me to see. I worried that technically I may have not dotted all my i’s and crossed all my t’s. But as I listened to the interview again during the editing process, I saw very clearly that my Heavenly Father was telling me there were pieces of my past, my childhood, I needed to acknowledge, revisit and offer to Him for healing.

It was not my intention to drag all those memories up again or search for ones I had forgotten. What good could that do now? But I knew just as I was learning to trust God and obey His guidance in the new realm of podcasting, I would be blessed by accepting an invitation into the healing He was offering me through the work of my friend and sister in the Lord, Karen. And so, it began.

As the child of alcoholics, I’ve spent a great deal of time learning about their disease and recovering from the effects of that disease. Likewise, I’ve spent a great deal of time excusing the acts of domestic abuse and violence I saw as a child – putting it down to the result of the drink. And I never talk about it. It never occurred to me that the scars of feeling unsafe have, are and always will affect my ability to trust fully, if left unaddressed.

So, today, thanks to God and His desire to heal me, and others, with podcast guests’ stories of hope and new life, I move into a new season of healing too. It will not be easy but I know I can trust the outcome if I rely upon the One who will answer the questions and show me how He will use what has happened to me too.

Let the healing begin.

Karen DeArmond Gardner’s interview is in two parts and will air on August 18 and 25. You can hear that by clicking on the tab on my website called “Podcast Episodes” or looking for “Livin’ What You’re Given” Podcast wherever you get your podcasts – Spotify, Apple, Stitcher, etc.

Copyright August, 2021 Laura L. Padgett, M.A.

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page.

Don’t forget to follow my podcast episodes. You may hear the podcast on any device of your choice and on any platform where you now receive your podcasts. Or you can click on the Podcast Episodes tab on the home page of this website.

Christian insprirational

Keeping My Beak in My Own Business

My husband, Keith and I, couldn’t help laughing at the red-headed finch as he tried to eat out of a hummingbird feeder. We were at our kitchen table watching the hummingbirds come and go as they enjoyed their breakfast. Their delicate balance of swiftly flapping wings and taking sustenance has always been a delightful way to start our day. We’ve found it particularly interesting when they perch on the little plastic resting shelves on the feeders while eating. This delicate dance was a stark contrast to the finch who despite gymnastics, including standing on his head, was unable to extract food from the tiny spout.

“What in the world has possessed that bird to think he can get his large, blunt beak into that little hole that’s meant for a long, needle-like beak?” It just seemed preposterous to me that with his own feeder full of bird seed meant for him and the other larger birds in our yard, he would waste his time and energy trying to eat in what seemed to be an impossible situation.

Long after Keith left the breakfast table, I remained glued to the scene of what I considered silly, albeit, entertaining. The finch was less than thirty feet from a feeder designed for him to have his fill of bird food. Yet, here he was hopping from one resting shelf to the other, poking his beak into the too-tiny holes and coming up empty without exception. Was he just being nosy? Did he think he needed to know what was going on with something that had nothing to do with him? Was he participating in the mindset of “the food’s always sweeter on the other side of the yard”?

As is God’s way sometimes, I often find myself in a classroom designed to teach me a lesson by using creatures outside the human variety. I am the first to admit, I would not voluntarily register for such instruction on God’s syllabus. But if I pay attention, I can find myself sitting, learning and understanding lessons that were not apparent to me through other means. So it was that morning.

I reflected on the finch doing everything he could to have what another bird had, while completely ignoring what had been designed and supplied just for him. His frustration was evidenced in his loud squawking and increasing pace of hopping from one shelf to the next. He would have what his fellow birds had, no matter what the cost. This would be even if it meant he would go hungry while the other large birds sucked down all the bird seed meant for him too. He had no concern, apparently that he appeared insane in his unsuccessful feeding frenzy.

Just look what he was missing in his pursuit of something not meant for him. Just look what he was bypassing in an attempt to figure out something that had nothing to do with him.

Whoa, wait a minute here. This was one of those moments when I think that although I love the book of life, the actual lab can be a little tough to handle. I’ve been known to try and avoid that part of the class altogether.

Wasn’t I just last week trying to fit into a situation where I did not belong? Wasn’t it me whose beak, not too long ago, had been stuck into something that was none of my business? How many times have I envied another for the gifts given to them and how God has provided in their direction, while blatantly ignoring what He has given to and provided for me? Had I really forgotten the lessons learned, (the hard way) of being spiritually hungry due to my own refusal to take from the hand that always knows what I need? I can’t count the times I have tried to force solutions that I really believed were the right ones for me, or another, just to find I was sometimes performing insane and unproductive (even harmful) antics in my stubborn persistence.

Oh my, there was that laboratory evidence of the book of life’s great lessons. I was amazed, amused and very humbled to think I was so quick to judge this bird for his attempts to secure food in a way not meant for him, when all along God was trying to show me what happens when I try to force solutions to satisfy my own needs and wants.

Now knowing how much God loves me, I laughed out loud. What a brilliant and gentle teacher He is. His examples are never condemning or demeaning. But rather He finds ways to demonstrate what might be going on and what I might want to look at to make my walk with Him richer and my human life more peaceful and fulfilled.

I made another cup of tea and sat to watch as the hummingbirds fed and the red-headed finch moved on to his own feeder. I guess he finally figured out he had no business sticking his beak into something that was not his business, was not meant for him and certainly would never bring a yield for his best interests. And as I ran my finger around the rim of my cup, I mused that the red-headed finch was not the only one that day who learned to keep his beak in his own business.

Copyright July, 2021 Laura L. Padgett, M.A.

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page.

Don’t forget to follow my podcast episodes. You may hear the podcast on any device of your choice and on any platform where you now receive your podcasts. Or you can click on the Podcast Episodes tab on the home page of this website.

Christian insprirational

Granny on the Gridiron

“No way, no thanks. I’ll be the ref. I know the game of football and I can officiate,” I pleaded. But my protest was met by somewhat selective hearing from the twelve-year-old, self-appointed mini NFL general.

Our inter-generational church group was on a mission trip and because we all had worked so hard, we decided to take the kids to a park for a little run and fun. In the park there were several kids from the local community and they were delighted to see more kids arrive. Now they could have a real game of football – with enough participants to make up two teams.

When the appointed captains began to choose sides, it became apparent one team was short by one player. The captain of the less populated team looked at me and said, “Okay Granny you be on our team.”

“Oh no. That is not happening. I’m the ref.” I stated.

“No, we need one more and we just have to settle for you.” He turned his back and walked onto the field to discuss goal selection, coin toss and other details of what was an impending game for them, and an invitation to traction for me. I had no time to be offended by his tone or his assumed authority.

Now I can hear a lot of folks out there saying, “How rude that he would address you as ‘Granny.’” Well, that was not my first, second or third concern. I felt like I had just fallen off a boat into deep water without a life jacket and the realization that I am less than an excellent swimmer.

I directed my panicked stare to one of the other adults in the group, (30+ years my junior) and tried to silently present my case while my head shook and my eyes widened to assume 80% of the real estate that once was my face. He shrugged, smiled and I succumbed to what appeared to be my destiny.

Blessed with a quick mind and fueled by an intense sense of cowardice, I formulated an emergency plan. I would just hang out in the backfield and help guide the guy or gal with the ball handed to them. On the first hike of the ball, the intended runner fumbled the ball right into my hands.

“Run Granny,” he shouted.

It didn’t take long to realize this was great advice as I stared down an advancing wall of little defenders who were between me and the direction of our assigned goal. I can’t remember what came from my mouth but I hauled my 5′ nothing frame in my best moves to maneuver around the string of goal-stealing units.

Okay, spoiler alert. I am a gold medal winning Irish step dancer and ran track with quite a few victories in my earlier days. Note: The latter was in the previous century. It is amazing, however, how muscle memory can be resurrected in a moment when life and/or limbs appear to be in danger and one’s life passes before one’s eyes.

I ran, dodged and sidestepped my way three quarters of the way down the field before I ran out of bounds, leaving not just a few of my teammates and opponents behind. Please know I didn’t give a toss about victory. I just wanted to go home with all the parts I had arrived with. Knowing that this little shenanigan of mine was going to be costly, I chose to end the sprint with a face-saving out-of-bounds exit.

“Man, Granny can run.” The cheers and whistles from the quarterback and my teammates were welcome relief when considering that just moments before I was pretty sure I’d be greeted by a choir of angels crooning, “Welcome home, your race is completed now.”

The rest of the game I did my best to not carry the ball and was successful at it. I also tried to remember where I had seen the closest Walgreens, where I could pack a cart with Advil and Epsom Salts.

The game ended, (Praise God), and my teammates slapped me on the back and thanked me for being a good sport. They kept saying how surprised they were that a woman of my age could run and move so well. I resisted temptation to say, “You think You were surprised?”

That night, after my hour in a hot tub and then an Epsom Salts bath offered to my aging frame in apology, I reflected on the game, and the kids. And even though I was going to be sore for a few days, I decided it was worth it to see their smiling faces. It was beyond precious time to be with a group of kids from different backgrounds, ages, sizes and colors as well as different locations and in some cases different languages. All they wanted was to just be together, live, laugh and have some fun. I wondered if that was a little glimpse of Heaven.

When my husband asked what I was giggling about, I apologized for keeping him awake and told him to go to sleep. I assured him I’d be joining him in Slumber Ville as soon as the Advil kicked in.

This story is dedicated to my dear friend Nathan Heimer, who witnessed the whole thing and we both lived to tell about it.

Copyright June, 2021 Laura L. Padgett, M.A.

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page.

Don’t forget to follow my podcast episodes which will begin on June 9, 2021, my 70th BD. You may hear the podcast on any device of your choice and on any platform where you now receive your podcasts. Or you can click on the Podcast Episodes tab on the home page of this website.

Christian insprirational

The Mortar Man Cometh

Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?

—Job 12:12, NETš

In honor of my upcoming 70th birthday in June, I wanted to offer this piece, previously published on my blog as well as in my award-winning book, Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Short Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments. Age is a gift from God. I praise Him for every minute, day, month and year.

Despite modern-day messages to the contrary, the aging process can represent a glorious time filled with gifts not necessarily available in our youth. One of those is wisdom we gain that affords us critical thinking skills. These are especially useful when making healthy choices for our well-being. For example, we can choose to fight to retain our youth, which is impossible in reality. Or we can elect to accept ourselves, even with signs of aging, as we grow older. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to look and feel our best, but we should understand the futility of buying into the culture’s definitions of what our best should be. Basically, it all depends on whether we choose to listen to the world’s view of aging or to God’s view.

This point was brought home to me one morning as I walked in a mall, after an exercise class, and sipped on a hot vanilla latte. A salesman emerged from behind a kiosk with a pitch aimed at convincing me I couldn’t possibly pass up the opportunity to purchase his age-reversing face cream.

He made an attempt (unsolicited) to guess my age. He tried flattering me by offering an estimate that was twenty years younger than my actual age. He then told me what he did not like about my face. In his opinion, my wrinkles had to go. It was fortunate for me that he had just the product to fill in the cracks, smooth out my face, and make it “real pretty.”

This is where my mind checked out and I politely nodded like a bobble headed dog in the back of a 1960 Cadillac. I wasn’t trying to be discourteous, but my thoughts wandered to the image of a former neighbor. When I was a little girl, we lived next door to a man named Mr. Mueller. Every day he went to work in his big white panel truck, dressed in overalls and a checkered shirt. He carried a metal slate with a handle and a small tool with a triangular blade called a trowel. He was a bricklayer, and these were the tools of his trade.

One day I asked Mr. Mueller about these interesting gadgets. He informed me that he used them to mix up something called mortar and put it into cracks between bricks. The mortar, he told me, held the bricks in place, filled in the cracks, and made brickwork look real pretty and smooth.

I heard someone cough, realized I was being rude with my mental time travel, and came back into the company of this modern-day mortar man who didn’t like my face. He offered to do his magic by smoothing the rough parts of my face and making me look more desirable. His smile faded as I looked past him in anticipation of seeing my childhood neighbor. The anti-aging guru stepped around me to try his luck with the next potential customer. I moved on and enjoyed my latte.

That night, I couldn’t help studying my mug in the mirror. I made faces trying to find what needed to be plastered up. I smiled and then frowned. I wanted to see why I simply could not live without a half-ounce jar of a concoction developed to make my face acceptable.

As I began my survey, I was struck by the stories reflecting back at me. I saw a little girl who survived a family riddled with alcoholism, domestic violence, and abuse. Some smile wrinkles represent the madness of my early twenties with the parties, music, protests, and fierce intensity spent on self-definition. Other lines fade into strokes of sadness as I thought about many friends who never returned from Vietnam. Still other lines represent furry at the injustice my sisters and brothers of color have experienced, and still are experiencing, at being denied something that is supposed to be guaranteed in our country—equitable treatment on all levels.

I ran a forefinger over creases signifying indescribable joy when I first held my child after his birth. These lines sit next to those carved from anguish felt when standing beside others as they buried their precious babies.

Tears filled my eyes when I remembered the night I found and accepted Jesus. I rocked gently in the rhythm of the dance we’ve done for over forty years. In gratitude to Him, I acknowledged the blessings of family, friends, and the opportunity to grow through forgiving and being forgiven.

In my face that night, I saw tracks of a lifetime that has seen good and bad, joy and disappointment, fear and faith, love and loss, and the precious gift of over six decades on this earth. Although I have never considered myself a traffic-stopping beauty, I was puzzled to think my face could be considered offensive to someone with no understanding of the treasure represented by each fold or furrow. I sent up a little prayer asking God to protect that young man and many others in our society from being brainwashed by the sales pitch he had memorized.

I turned off the light and headed to bed. While submerging into a pillow, our Lord played a musical poem and guided me into dreams. Even in semi-consciousness, I knew God was revealing His truth about beauty and who defines it.

“I’ve put you dear one in this time and this space

Sculpted your life, plotted the course of your race

And even though life is both leather and lace

There is nothing, sweet child

I don’t love on your face.”

Photo by Sandee Flanagan

Copyright May 2021, Laura L. Padgett, M.A.

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page.

Christian insprirational

The Holy Hoover

“I am so tired of wind. What purpose does it really serve anyway?” I grumbled as I made a cup of black tea and sat by a window where I could see the trees and bushes dancing with their invisible partner. Even though windy spring days are common in Colorado, I can be caught off guard and fall into complaining about the inconvenience and, what I consider, discomfort.

I wanted to go outside for a walk that morning, but the wind kept me inside because it plays havoc with my ears and sinuses. Instead of walking, I chose to sit by the window, sip the tea and complain to God that this weather element He created seemed a little useless, in my opinion. I persisted in explaining that physical exercise is one way I keep my assigned temple healthy. The wind continued to blow. I continued to offer my logical arguments against the squall outside my window.

My annoyance was short-lived as my attention was captured by a small tree not far from the window where I sat. It was engaged in battle with the fast air movement. With each wind burst, dead leaves (remnants of the previous year’s foliage) were released. It was as if the wind was a natural vacuum cleaner, removing debris from the branches. As the tree let go of what was no longer of use, it appeared to stand taller and straighter, relieved of unnecessary baggage. I imagined Mother Nature in her multi-pocketed apron pushing an invisible upright Hoover sweeper around each tree branch.

I was hypnotized by the pattern of air gusts met by branch resistance and then the relaxation of the branches as the wind force lessened periodically. I became lulled out of my discontentment and focused on a scene playing out in front of me. When the tree was almost entirely free of dry lifeless leaves, I thought it would no longer be engaged in the war with the wind. But as I squinted and peered closer, it appeared there was a small branch determined to hang onto one dead leaf, no matter the cost and even if the branch broke under the pressure exerted by the air stream.

It didn’t take long to understand that if the branch would relinquish its grip on the dead leaf, it would no longer be in this uncomfortable and dangerous struggle. Now surely the branch does not have the cognitive ability to make the decision to release that which is dead and no longer serving it. But what about me?

God in His wise and patient teaching used a beautiful natural illustration to gently show me that in my own life I can sometimes hold onto elements that are not producing any positive good in my life. I closed my eyes in prayer and thanked God for this sweet lesson in His vast classroom.

I knew God was giving me an exercise in health that was valuable beyond that outdoor walk I was unhappy about missing. As I sat quietly listening to the wind, I asked God if there were things I needed to release for my mental and spiritual health. I asked Him to show me where there were areas I needed to forgive. Perhaps I needed to ask forgiveness or reach out to a friend I may have hurt. I asked Him to help me inventory where my resentments and entitlements lay in the face of so much loss and denial of what I wanted, especially in the last year and a half.  I truly wanted to know what God was trying to Hoover away.

Before leaving my chair by the window, I looked at the ground beneath the tree and noticed a brown, dead leaf. When I looked up to the little tree branch, I saw it was no longer resisting the wind. It was straight, and the wind was blowing around, but not at, it. I was thrilled to see the emergence of a new, tender, baby leaf in place of the dead one.

“I see Lord. Looks like I may need to let go of some useless matter in my own life, in order to make room for new growth in You, huh? Okay, nice one,” I said. After two deep sighs, I smiled and decided to make another cup of tea.

Now I can’t honestly say I welcome the windy days in my little western Colorado community with open arms, for reasons I mentioned at the start of this post. But I can say that I understand all things in God’s creation can be seen through the lenses of learning, growing and maybe even releasing. I am beginning to understand more deeply that nothing in God’s created universe is without use. And sometimes, He just asks that I embrace a needed cleansing as spiritual discipline.

Copyright April 2021, Laura L. Padgett, M.A.

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page.

Christian insprirational

We Are All One

Please join me today in welcoming my friend and guest blogger, Claire Cassell, as she shares a true story with a needed message in a time when many of us have lost friends, family and associates due to toxic polarity in our country. Claire’s story of heart choices, told through the lenses of honesty and humility, touched me so deeply that I wanted to share here with you. Thank you Claire. This is timely and truly a step in the right direction for reconciliation needed right here, right now.

By Claire Cassell

I hadn’t talked to my step-sister in a long time. We were both born in St. Louis, but we didn’t grow up together. We had the same dad but had different mothers. We never got together for holidays as kids, but when we became adults, we exchanged Christmas cards and signed them with love. She would call every so often when she and her husband traveled through my city on one of their trips around the country. Even though she was technically part of my family, I didn’t feel close to her and always felt some guilt for not reaching out to her more or showing interest in her life.

I knew that she would be at my niece’s wedding and so I called her ahead of time to let her know I would be there. I decided that when I did see her, I would show interest in her and try to make a real connection. My call was an attempt to begin the process of reaching out. As I listened to the phone ringing and my heart beating, I hoped that it would go to voicemail and I could leave a quick message. “Hello?” she answered. After I caught my breath, I said, “Hi, this is Claire. I’m going to the wedding next week. I heard you were coming too.” We exchanged small talk for a few minutes.

Then she said, “I just dropped off my ballot,” and proudly announced who she voted for. My heart quickened and my hand tightened around my cell phone as I blurted out, “Well, you and I are on opposite sides of the fence.” Suddenly, my step-sister, with whom I was attempting to make a connection, seemed like the enemy. All of my judgements raised their ugly heads like monsters coming out of the deep. I pictured myself talking to her at the wedding, which would happen right after the election, dreading how awkward our conversation would be. I wished I had never made the call or accepted the invitation to the wedding.

When I came out of my trance, I heard her say the words, “That’s okay.” I paused, and thought, that’s “ok” when so much is at stake in this election? Her nonchalant response didn’t match the urgency I was feeling around this particular election. Was it OK that we were on opposite ends of the political spectrum? Knowing this, would we still be able to make a connection as family members? Then, somewhere out of my unconscious mind, the words came floating up, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; (Democrat nor Republican), for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

A memory sparked in my mind remembering my step-sister babysitting me when I was very small and she was a teenager. She was kind, loving and fun. I never understood why she always went home to another mother and didn’t stay at our house. My dad tried to explain to me that she was my half-sister, but I didn’t understand why she couldn’t be my whole sister.

Now, fifty years later, the choice was mine. Was I going to accept my sister who grew up in a different house with another mother and who was now on the other side of the fence? As I prepared to respond to her, I felt another spark inside, but this time it was in my heart. “No matter who wins the election,” I said, “I love you, Barb. See you at the wedding.”

Claire Cassell currently serves as a pastor at Abiding Hope Lutheran Church in Littleton, Colorado, a chaplain at West Pines Chemical Dependency and Behavioral Health Center and a Spiritual Director and Life Coach. Over the past forty years, she has served in parishes, campus ministry, chemical dependency and chaplaincy settings around the country. She loves teaching spirituality classes, workshops and retreats and has been practicing and teaching Qigong for over 30 years. She has a passion for the healing arts and is a Reiki and Healing Touch practitioner. Claire lives with her husband and two dogs in Arvada, Colorado and enjoys hiking, swimming, gardening and kayaking. If you would like to connect with Claire she can be reached at ccassell123@gmail.com

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page.

Christian insprirational

Not Now God, I’m Busy

The hardest thing about meditation, for me, is well…meditating. It requires chromosomes I believe are lacking in my DNA. Here are a few examples: sitting still, thinking of only one thing at a time and being in a quiet space (no music, etc.). But, several years ago I was invited to a class on contemplative prayer where I learned a technique that can provide ways to control my wandering, and sometimes, unquiet mind.

This is how it works. When entering into my sacred space with God, I picture myself sitting on the bank of a slow-moving river. I am under a large tree that shades me as I relax on luxurious green grass. If an unwanted thought comes into my mind, I don’t fight it. I simply put it on a little sail boat and send it down the imagined river with a promise to catch up to it soon. This has proven to work well for dislodging distractions, for the most part. The problem is that this practice to avoid distractions can become a distraction in itself.

That was the case last week as I sat considering my next steps moving forward with an artistic project for 2021. I believe this project has the go ahead from God and therefore, left it up to Him to provide details of how to work it out. As patience is not my long suit, I can easily give up the pursuit of celestial answers in favor of engaging in my gold-medaled, championship anxiety dance. And that is where I began to go as weeks turned into months and still there didn’t seem to be answers I needed/wanted.

In times of confusion and impatience, I’ve learned that turning to other believers and artists is helpful for refocusing on focusing. So, after talking to another artist about my dilemma and hearing her promise to pray for me, I resigned myself to bring the situation, and myself, once again before the Lord to await answers. As I quieted my heart and closed my eyes, pesky little thoughts entered into my meditative process. Refusing to be rattled, I took deep breaths and recited the verse, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” Psalm 119:105.

I did my usual packing of intruders onto pint-sized sail boats and sending them flowing down the river, promising to return to them later. This time, the miniature thought-laden boats didn’t sail away. Instead, they turned around and came back upstream with their passengers stubbornly demanding attention.

After several attempts to enforce the merrily, merrily on your way technique, I became exasperated. I told God,“Lord, I do Not have time for these interruptions. I’m Trying to hear what You are telling me about proceeding with our new adventure.”

The more I asked for help and shipped off the intrusive sailors, the more they returned until they lined up side-by-side on my grassy cerebral shore. I narrowed my eyes, told them to go and explained (with little patience now) I had no time for them at the moment. With unexpected clarity my vision began to make out a pattern. The uninvited attention grabbers were docking their vessels in a certain order.

They appeared to be methodical and calculated steps for the construction of God’s new assignment for me. I sat motionless for several minutes until I saw this was what I’d been asking for. Although I had no time to hear what God was saying because I was listening for what He was saying, He brought His precious cargo of answers. I laughed out loud (yes in the sacred, silent space) before my delight turned to panic. I had no doubt the little crafts with their informative freight would soon float away into the sea of “Should have written that down.”

After scribbling frantically for fifteen minutes and watching thoughts go peacefully on their watery way, I got out of my chair, walked into the office shared with my husband and sat down with a thump. Not realizing I spoke out loud, I said, “What do you know about that? Humph.”

My husband asked what I was thumping and humphing about. I tried to explain but recognized my verbal communication skills had boarded the last boat out of port that morning. Observing some puzzled looks from my man, I gave up and said, “Just got some stuff sorted out, I think. Amazing how God works, huh?”

After hubby announced that I looked like I could use a nap, I said, “I do feel a little tired right now. I think for the rest of this day, I’m going to make time to just relax and go with the flow.”

Copyright March 2021, Laura L. Padgett Montrose, CO

Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page

Check out the books I have published

“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & NobleAmazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page

The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page.