Hope In Spite of Everything, #WQWWC

Image from Reelreddy.com

The year 2020 has been difficult for a lot of people, all over the world, affecting different individuals in different ways. The pandemic brought some difficulties to me, although some trials were already in place apart from it.

Thankfully, the virus itself did not hurt me or my loved ones very directly. I do live in the New York City area, one of the areas hardest hit early on in the spring of 2020, and I remember continuously reading of a new victim of the virus in my Facebook feed. Only one of my brothers may have had the virus, but he was never sick enough, thankfully, to be hospitalized.

My animal care business came to almost a standstill, partly because nobody could travel and, partly because working people, who sometimes needed care for their animals while they were away from home, were now working at home. A few years earlier, I’d already lost my job as a newspaper reporter, a job I enjoyed and held for 10 years.

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

My job loss from the paper coincided almost exactly with my mother developing some health issues: breast cancer, which, scary as it sounds, was not as great an issue for her in the long run as something more crippling, a severe spinal issue that left her chair-bound and in agonizing pain whenever she tried to move. Strangely, these two health issues for mom, as different as they are, developed simultaneously. Mom had to have some scans done for her cancer, and the nurses were shocked to see how excruciating it was for her to get her body in position for the scans. It was, perhaps, a blessing to my parents that I was home and able to be my mother’s caretaker, but it also made things complicated for me personally. I now had a “job” that was consuming most of my time and energy but wasn’t paying me and was making it challenging for me to do something that would pay me.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Then, in August, I had another setback when my father and I were both attacked by a dog I was caring for. For my father, the injury was serious enough to require two surgeries. (The function of his hand is fine. One surgery closed the wound, and another was a skin graft.) This made me wary for a long time of taking in unknown animals.

I had all sorts of hopes for myself as a writer and book author and built this website shortly after my newspaper job ended, but it seemed I had countless distractions and obstacles to even giving my site the attention it deserved and needed. To frustrate things further, I experienced a computer failure, and for a very long period had no access to any of my book works in progress. Anyone who is a writer can feel the pain of this scene below from Little Women, though unlike Jo, in spite of very frustrating circumstances, my document losses were not permanent.

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

In spite of all of this, in recent times, I am feeling more hopeful than ever, downright cheerful even. I am a strong believer and have always had hope in God even through my problems, but there were times when I thought His ideas for my life must be very different from mine. That is probably still somewhat true, but I also feel that He just might indulge some of the hopes I have for myself.

There has just been a snowball effect of hopeful changes in my life. My mom’s pain has greatly improved for mysterious reasons. Spinal surgery seemed to fix things temporarily, but this was followed by a serious and lasting regression. Now, for unknown reasons, she is better, not perfect, but better. Both of my aging parents require more of my help than at an earlier time, but mom is also more independent than she was at her painful worst, which frees my time up considerably.

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

I am beginning to get more and more animal care jobs and new clients, and, in between things, amazingly, I am finding time to write. Writing and creative expression seem so key to my happiness.

Just a short while ago, I took a walk with a little doggy and prayed that God would help me be creative. I’ve already explained that I’m a strong believer. I talk to God often, and I like to be creative. I don’t know how often I pray to be creative. Seconds later, I looked at a tree I was walking past, described it in my head, then later reworked it into a haiku and posted it to the blog with a photo of the tree. That little haiku became my most popular post.

I thought to myself that haiku are short and simpler to write than a novel or a long article that requires research. If I have an audience for haiku, I ought to write more of them. One thing led to another in a way I’m not sure I can even explain, but I became aware of blogging poetry challenges and poetry communities on WordPress. I began writing more poetry and just about quadrupled my blog views and engagement, at least on some days. I felt I was connecting with people and not just putting out words into the stratosphere that went who knows where. I still want to write novels and articles and all sorts of things, but I think I will continue to write poetry also.

I did not plan, at first, to make this post so personal, but I suppose, what is applicable here to you as the reader, is that, no matter how dismal things may look at a certain time, you can never tell how future events may unfold in a positive way.

Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

I know not all of my followers share my exact beliefs, but bear with me. I’d like to share a song on hope that comes from a Christian faith point of view. Somewhat recently, I watched a video on CCM music put out by an unbelieving (or at least neutral) YouTuber, who shared that it was his least favorite musical genre. In many ways, I agree with him, which might surprise you after what I just told you. I feel much of today’s CCM music is lacking in creativity (and sometimes has some other issues.) The YouTuber made an interesting comment as an outsider, sharing that he feels that music of faith should have a lot of passion, feeling and conviction. This is a Southern gospel song, and I don’t think you will find any lack of feeling or conviction here. It has some poetic lyrics.

The hope that is within us, erupting from the sand

Is pure and clear refreshment in a dry and weary land,

No scorching circumstances can stop that eager flow

of hope that springs eternal. It’s hope that floods my soul.

This was written for Marsha Ingrao’s Writer’s Quotes Wednesday Writing Challenge. Marsha assured me that I had a week to get in my participating post. I see I’m getting mine in just in the nick of time.

No Greater Love

Photo by Justin Casey on Unsplash

“No greater love has any man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13 NKJV

In 2006, during a mission in the Adhamiyah section of Baghdad, Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis was riding in a truck with four other soldiers when an insurgent dropped a grenade into the truck from above. McGinnis announced the grenade and then pinned it down with his body, although his comrades claim he had time to jump out of the truck and save himself. He sacrificed his own life and saved the lives of four others.

On Memorial Day, we acknowledge the soldiers who died sacrificially so that we could live and live in freedom. The Bible says in John 15:13, “No greater love has any man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” This is exactly what McGinnis did for his friends.

Jesus died sacrificially, but His death accomplished something different than that of a soldier’s. Through His death, we can have not only a fulfilled earthly life but an eternal life in heaven. Only a sinless, perfect lamb, the Lamb of God, could accomplish this for us.

Thank you, Lord, for our freedoms, for the sacrifice of soldiers and for Your son’s sacrifice for us. Thank you, that through Him, we can be reconciled to You, put on His righteousness and enjoy heaven with You.

The Heavens Are Telling

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Psalms 19:1  NKJV “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork.”

The heavens, or the sky, can have a lot of special looks. There is the beauty of a multi-colored sunrise or sunset or the painted skies of the aurora borealis as seen in the far northern parts of the world.

Photo by Lightscape on Unsplash

Rainbows are lovely also with the full spectrum of color.

Photo by David Brooke Martin on Unsplash

A stormy sky when lightning strikes can be impressive and majestic.

Photo by Max LaRochelle on Unsplash

Space as seen through a telescope, such as these nebulae, is an awesome sight.

Photo by Aldebaran S on Unsplash

The Bible says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork,” in Psalms 19:1. It is evident from observing the heavens that they must have a Creator. No one would ever look at a spectacular work of man’s creativity such as Michelangelo’s David, a Rolex watch or a spaceship and think that these things came about as the result of chance, random processes or an explosion. We understand that they are the results of creative design. In the same way, the heavens declare the glory of God.

Dear Lord, thank You for the beauty of Your creation and for the ability to see Your glory in it. Help us to reflect on You as we observe the world around us.

© Susan Joy Clark 2021

Below, Franz Haydn’s “The Heavens are Telling,” based on Psalms 19, from The Creation.

Sunken and Forgotten

Panorama of the sunken Titanic, asisi F&E GmbH, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:19

The Titanic collided with an iceberg and sunk into the ocean in 1912. It wasn’t until 1985 that the Titanic‘s exact location was found. Treasures from the sunken ship began to be recovered in 1987. These included, among others, a deck chair, stemware, ticket stubs, letters from passengers and the menus from the final meal onboard.

When we repent of our sins and ask God’s forgiveness, He drops our past sins into the depths of the figurative ocean, and unlike with the wreck of the Titanic, He will not recover them again, dredging them from the ocean depths.

As humans, we may have a tendency to dredge them up ourselves, but this is not of God. Once God saves us from our sins and His Son’s righteousness is put on us, God sees us in this light, in the righteousness of Christ. We should not do any of this ocean diving, but we should sincerely repent and, looking forward, in Christ’s strength, resist future sin. Humanly, in the weakness of our old nature, we can still sin and sometimes fail. Isn’t it assuring to know that God’s grace and forgiveness surpasses anything human?

Thank you, Lord, for your wonderful amazing grace and for truly tossing our sins in a “sea of forgetfulness.” Help us not to dwell on our regrets but on righteous living in You. Give us the strength to live Your way.

© 2021 Susan Joy Clark

A Beautiful Heart > A Beautiful Face, #WQWWC

Quote by Karen Salmonsohn, Good Looks Fade. But a Good Heart Keeps You Beautiful Forever. [PIC] – Positively Positive Positively Positive

It might be cliche to say, “Beauty is only skin deep” or “It’s what’s inside that counts,” but there’s a reason why we have these expressions.

Years ago, when I was a teen, a girl I had recently met was talking to me about boys who were flirting with her. She told me — as if she were annoyed — “I know they’re only interested in me because of my looks!”

I wasn’t able to relate. At that point in life, I had never suspected a guy of being interested in me based solely on my looks, and it also appeared to me that she was a little overconfident and on the verge of bragging. She was rather an attractive girl with bright greenish-blue eyes and curly blonde hair.

Photo by Angela Ng on Unsplash

Years later, I had more of an understanding for how she was thinking. Some years back, I spent some time on an online dating site, and the majority of men who contacted me initiated contact in a way I did not prefer. They complimented my photo — which might not sound too awful — but they also said little else.

I had made out a profile filled with interesting information about me, and, in many cases, it seemed apparent that these gentlemen had not bothered to read any of it. The photo was all that mattered. The girl I met as a teen wanted to be appreciated for reasons other than her appearance, and, at that time, I understood her feelings. I did end up speaking to a couple of guys who did connect to me through mutual interests.

Our appearance is, perhaps, the least important aspect of our being. I’m not saying we should not dress nicely, beautify ourselves, take care of our health or any of these things, but, comparatively, it is far less important than our character and inner qualities.

The Bible says in I Samuel 16:7, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” Character is certainly more important where God is concerned.

Photo by Ryan ‘O’ Niel on Unsplash

It does feel at times that we live in a world where people are consumed with appearances. Shallow people exist, and perhaps some women would love to be adored for their beauty and nothing more. Still, it seems beautiful and average people alike, on some deeper level, want more of a meaningful connection.

Appearances are also something over which we have little control. We can change our weight up or down, but we can’t change our height. We can learn cosmetic and hairstyling techniques, but we can’t change our actual features short of plastic surgery.

I read once that it is better to compliment a guy on his sense of style (something he’s wearing) than on something more personal like his features. I think the same is true for women. It’s more of a true compliment to show appreciation for someone’s personal tastes and style, their creative expression put into their appearance, than to compliment them on aspects of themselves over which they have no control.

Photo by Zeny Rosalina on Unsplash

I think beauty can be seen in all sorts of people when they’re good people. Do you ever find that an attractive person, who is arrogant or shows poor character, begins to look less attractive and an average person, who is full of kindness and personality, begins to look more attractive?

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash
(Yes, this is an attractive face but seems to show a lot of personality also.)

So, compliment and appreciate people on their choices of jewelry, ties, shoes. It’s a great opener. (I just complimented a stranger in the grocery store on an interesting floral jacket she wore.) And let’s look beyond appearances and appreciate others for the strength of their character.

This was from a prompt on Writer’s Quote Wednesdays from Marsha Ingrao. The theme was beauty, and bloggers were asked to respond with any form of post on that theme but had to include a quote.

What are your thoughts?