Dead Bugs

“Look at the beautiful bluebonnets,” I said, pointing at the vibrant patches along the freeway.

My son, Noah, who was sitting in the back seat, said, “Mommy, I can’t see them through your dirty windshield.”

“You’re right, the bird poop makes it tough to see. I’ll clean it off when we stop and get gas.”

My husband, the scientist, spoke up. “It’s not bird poop, but the remains of dead bugs whose bodies disintegrated as they hit the glass.” He went on to explain how the pressure created by my 70 mph speed caused their bodies to explode. As if I really wanted to know.

As I continued driving, I thought about how obstacles in life can obscure our vision, just like dead bugs.

The residue of trials—discouragement, fear, and pain—can muddy the lens through which we view the Savior and His precious promises.

When we concentrate on the negative, it’s difficult to see the beauty and wonder that God places before us or envision the possibilities that lie beyond the hardships of yesterday and today.

Our only alternative is to pull over and wash our windshield. We may not be able to forget the past, but by changing our focus we prevent it from distorting the future.

Like the apostle Paul said in Phil. 3:14, we have to press toward our goals. Our goals lie ahead not behind us. God wants us take two steps forward. This is difficult to do when we are looking back.

We must also resolve to forgive those who have wronged us and to forgive ourselves. When hurts are deep this can be a difficult thing to do, but we must remember that forgiveness is a process. We have to work toward releasing the pain each day so we can allow room in our hearts for the peace and joy of Christ.

And remember the biggest advantage of a clean windshield—we can see the beautiful bluebonnets all around us.

Song of Songs 2:12,13

For, lo, the winter is past; The rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth. The time of the singing of birds is come, And the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land.

Dwan Reed, PhD, LCSW, DTM, of Tallae Counseling & Wellness Center is a therapist specializing in Depression Counseling in Spring, TX

Copyright 2010 by Dwan Reed. All rights reserved.

A Prayer in the Life of a Preacher’s Wife

The following article appears in Guideposts’ True Stories of Extraordinary Answers to Prayer – Unexpected Answers.

When I listened to our tone-deaf song leader screech, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound…”, I prayed, Dear God, please help me to endure this racket.

When I looked around the church and saw many gray heads and only a few children, I prayed, Dear Lord, help my husband to see there are better ministries we can be a part of.

When I asked for volunteers to help with the prison ministry and no one raised a hand, I said, Dear Lord, wake these people up to Christianity.

Each week, my prayer list grew longer. I could recite all of the things wrong with our church—no children’s ministry, more needs than benevolence, boring Bible classes, no church secretary, few young couples, defective air conditioner…

Whenever I had opportunity, I petitioned my husband. “Thomas, the church is dead. Why don’t we go somewhere that’s more spirited?”

He’d say, “Be patient. Things will change. You’ll see. But first we’ve got work to do.”

Work to do? Didn’t he realize it would take a submarine invasion, air raid, and nuclear battle to change this congregation?

Couldn’t he see the majority of the Vacation Bible School attendees were over seventy years old, the number of people coming to Wednesday night class could fit in our guest bathroom, and the yearly contribution was not enough to pay for the leaky roof?

I wondered, Why me? I never signed up for this ministry. The only reason I assisted was because I’m the minister’s wife.

My stomach felt unsettled as I recognized marriage to Thomas meant that I was betrothed to the church. I swallowed hard realizing that I couldn’t divorce the congregation.

Every fifth Sunday, we have a fellowship after service. One afternoon as I watched members crowded around the card tables with their plates piled high with barbeque, potato salad, baked beans, and banana pudding, I pondered, Why do they continue to attend? What is it about this church that brings them back again and again?

I listened to laughter and the musical exchange of conversation from table to table. I studied smiles and the glow on faces as people sat shoulder to shoulder. I glimpsed hugs, pats on the back, and hands squeezed in gentle encouragement.

As gray heads dined with thick black tresses, feeble legs with strong, dim eyes with bright, the tenderness and acceptance that warmed the frosty room—cooled by that defective air conditioner—also thawed my chilly heart.

I realized I had seen all the things that were wrong with our church without recognizing the things that were right.

I again bowed my head in prayer. “Dear God, please forgive me. You placed the beauty of your Spirit before me, and I failed to notice. I looked for your grandeur in ministries, numbers, and the comfort of the building but failed to recognize the jewels placed in the hearts of each member of our congregation.”

I suddenly thought of the words in I Corinthians 1:28-29, “God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”

I bowed my head again and asked God to help me be like those people as I strive to understand His amazing grace, veiled beneath the sights and sounds of an imperfect church.

Copyright 2010 by Dwan Reed. All rights reserved.

Thank God for Ugly Feet

There are two situations in life when strangers tend to bare their souls—When you’re sitting next to them on an airplane and when they see you wearing a black orthopedic boot.

I consider myself attractive, but my feet—that’s another story. I remember when my first serious boyfriend saw me in sandals. After choking with laughter, he howled, “Your feet, they look like hands.”

I’m not sure why God gave me size 10, flat, narrow feet with abnormally long toes, but I think it has something to do with His sense of humor. What would the world be like if we were all completely normal. Quite boring, I imagine.

As a child, I longed for a daintier pair of feet. In middle school, we read about foot binding in China. I thought this might be the cure to my rapidly growing feet but decided I couldn’t’ endure having my toes broken and bound underneath my soles with bandages.

Eventually, I accepted my “sasquatch feet” (as affectionately referred to by my father). I learned how to avoid drawing attention to them by not painting my toenails or wearing open toe sandals. I mastered the art of bending my double-jointed toes underneath my feet. This especially came in handy when encountering a cute guy on the beach.

I never imagined that my feet could get any uglier, but they did. After years of wearing shoes not made for big, flat, narrow feet, I developed a matching pair of bunions at the base of my big toes. These bony protuberances stuck out like sore thumbs. To make matters worse, they caused my toes to angle outward, giving an odd slant to my feet.
Not only did bunions make my feet look like Tyrannosaurus Rex remains, they hurt. It became impossible for me to wear heels or anything not made of soft leather or rubber. I knew I had to do something to alleviate the pain.

Although I’ve never been a fan of the knife, I decided to take the plunge. I selected the most painful foot for surgery. After a speedy outpatient procedure and one week in bed, I was up hobbling around with newly embedded screws in my foot.

As I ventured out into the world wearing my black orthopedic boot, I noticed right away that something was different. Strangers smiled at me. Many stopped to ask, “Did you bleed much?” “How long do you have to wear that boot?” “Are you in pain right now?” “Who did your surgery?

Some took off their shoes to show reveal their own battered feet.

“Look, I need surgery too. Eventually I’ll get up the courage.”

“Were your bunions as bad as mine?”

“See my hammer toe and ingrown toenails. Does your doctor work on those too?”

I was surprised that people were so willing to expose their feet, many of which were more hideous than mine. For years, I hid beneath clunky clogs and tall boots, but strangers were unabashedly exhibiting some of the grotesque deformities I’d ever seen. I wondered where their confidence came from.

I thought about Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. He didn’t say, “No, John. Step aside. You have corns and calluses.” Or “Luke, I don’t want to touch your sweaty feet and nasty bone spurs.”

He demonstrated that he is willing to touch us, even in places we’re not proud of. He is willing to love us—bunions and all.

When the Savior gazes at us, he doesn’t see our deficiencies. He sees the beauty of our souls. The imperfections of our earthly bodies are of little concern to Jesus. After all, He promises to one day give us beautiful eternal ones.

I Cor. 15:50-52, “…Let me tell you a secret. Not all of us will die, but all of us will be changed— in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the sound of the last trumpet. Indeed, that trumpet will sound, and then the dead will be raised never to decay, and we will be changed.”

When my orthopedic doctor gave me permission to retire my black boot, I had my toenails painted. Two years later, I am wearing bright red polish and open toe sandals. I no longer view my feet as a shortcoming but as proof of God’s unconditional acceptance. I rejoice in my imperfections because they are a reminder of God’s love.

Thank God for ugly feet.

Copyright 2010 by Dwan Reed. All rights reserved.

Surviving Spiritual Storm Season

“Have you been watching the news?” asked my husband, Thomas.

“No, I’m unpacking.”

“Well, there’s a hurricane heading this way,” he said.

“You’re joking,” I laughed. We just got here.”

Thomas was silent.

“Are you still there,” I asked.

He sighed. “We better get things ready. I’ll be home soon.”

It was October 1, 2002. A tropical disturbance that appeared in the open Atlantic on September 21st began traveling toward New Orleans as a category 2 Hurricane. Hurricane Lili, as named by the National Weather Center, was predicted to be a four or five by landfall.

“How are we going to prepare for this storm?” I thought, while sitting in the middle of a living room filled with boxes from our recent move to New Orleans.

I had no clue. The only natural disasters we faced in my hometown of St. Louis were tornados. When the storm warnings sounded, we would hide in the basement or a bathtub. I doubted that approach would work with a tropical cyclone in a city one to sixteen feet below sea level, depending upon where you are standing.

I knocked on my next-door neighbor’s door. He appeared in dark green rain boots and a waterproof hat, even though the sky was still clear.

“Hi, Mr. Benny”

“Hello, Mrs. Reed. What can I do for you?” he said looking at his watch.

“Well, as you know we’re not from around here. And we’ve never experienced a hurricane. Can you tell me how to prepare for the storm?”

“Okay, you need a raft, one month’s supply of water, a generator, tarp, flares, coals and logs, a tent…”

Mr. Benny’s survival list would either prepare me for Hurricane Lili or Armageddon.

I knocked on another neighbor’s door.

“Excuse me, but I forgot your name.”

“I’m Sherry,” she said.

“Oh, okay, I’m Dwan. Would you mind giving me some advice on how to prepare for this crazy cyclone heading our way?”

“Sure, Honey. You need some tape for your windows, canned goods, one week supply of water, and the usuals—batteries, flashlights, etc.”

“I noticed you just said one week’s supply of water and you didn’t mention a raft or a tent.”

She laughed. “You must have been talking to Mr. Benny across the street. I’ve lived in New Orleans for years and I’ve never had to raft my way out of here and the stores usually only shut down for a week so you don’t need a lot of supplies.”

I was really confused. How could two New Orleans natives have such different opinions on how to prepare for a hurricane?

###

The same is true regarding spiritual storms. Just as people’s opinions vary on how to prepare for a hurricane, they also differ on how to plan for obstacles. But, God’s word makes it plain.

The Bible tells us to:

Use a spiritual-tracking guide to assess where tropical disturbances are brewing.
I Cor. 10:12,13,“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it.”(ASV)

We all have potential whirlwinds in our life. If we’re not careful, cyclones will rise up that could have been avoided.

To prevent tempests, examine your life and ask yourself questions like this: How is my marriage? What are my children struggling with? Am I a good steward of God’s blessings? What relationships need improving on my job? How much time do I spend in prayer and Bible study? What are my spiritual goals? Am I taking proper care of my earthen vessel?

If any of these areas exhibit a low-pressure system, seek God’s help immediately!

Learn to recognize God’s voice.
In the height of a storm, gale force winds rage, showers pound, thunder quakes, and hail cracks. With all the clatter, it’s easy to misunderstand what we hear. A violent surge of wind can mimic a knock at the door. Branches scraping a window can sound like voices. A twister can imitate the roar of a freight train.

Spiritual storms can be noisy too. God calls out to us as the winds rage, but so does Satan. When we’re not familiar with the Savior’s will, it’s easy to follow the wrong path.

No one can lead us astray when we are grounded in Truth. By studying the scriptures daily and learning God’s will, we can clearly His voice when trials and tribulations assail us. His words contain the spiritual solution for any issue we encounter.

The Bible is our life jacket. The Lord’s message brings peace, healing, and meaning to our lives. We come through the storms of life victorious, growing in faith, hope, and love day by day.

John 10:3-5, “The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.”(The Message)

###

Hurricane Lili peaked at a category four in the Gulf, but by the time it reached New Orleans on October 3, 2008, it was a one. Although a minor hurricane, the city suffered significant damage from gale force winds and flooding.

It’s difficult to know how big or small a storm will be before it makes landfall. Yet despite our lack of information, we must get ready. When prepared, we’re better able to face the difficulties that lie ahead and grow spiritually from each cyclone, tornado, or hurricane that comes our way.

Copyright 2010 by Dwan Reed. All rights reserved.

“Three Things I Learned in Prison”

I’ve learned a lot from my time behind bars. No, not as an inmate…as a volunteer. For the past three years, I’ve worked with VIPS (Volunteers in the Prison System). Our team is composed of ladies from several Houston area Churches of Christ. We teach classes at Plane State Jail in Dayton, Texas on everything from recovery to character.

The prisioners aren’t the only ones who benefit from our interaction. I’ve learned some valuable lessons, as well. I’d like to share a few of them with you.

1. God gives second chances.

I’ve witnessed inmates, who were formerly enemies to themselves, their families, and society, give up long-standing, harmful habits and lifestyles to follow Christ. They are proof that as long as blood is running through our veins and we are in our right minds, we can follow Paul’s example—“…forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before. I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13,14 ASV)

2. God will bring us to our knees.

Many of the inmates at Plane State are repeat offenders. They’ve had numerous opportunities to change their lives, yet have persisted in their old ways. Before transformation can take place, the hardened criminal often has to hit rock bottom. And not just rock bottom, completely bottomed out—upside down, topsy-turvy.

Inmates share stories of losing their husbands, health, homes, jobs, and even their children. We’ve prayed with ladies who’ve have had their custody rights temporarily, and in some cases permanently relinquished by the state.

How much does one have to lose before they give up a life of sin?

This question brings to mind a game my friends and I played as kids. One of us would bend the other’s thumb back until they cried, “Uncle!” The challenge was seeing if you could handle the pain without submitting to the command. It never worked for me. I said, “Uncle!” as soon as my thumb went backwards. But other kids could endure the pain until their thumb turned shades of red and then white.

Just like in the game of “Uncle,” some of us have really high pain tolerances and it takes a lot to get our attention. Rock bottom for one is not necessarily rock bottom for another. Because God loves us, He does what’s necessary to save our souls. This includes, giving us a ticket to the deepest recesses of agony, where our soul cries desperately for Him.

I can’t imagine being brought lower than a Texas prison cell with no heat in the winter and no AC in the summer.

My prayer is that my stubbornness will never require God to bring me to my knees.

3. God gave us resilient spirits.

Beyonce sings, “I’m a survivor. I’m not gon’ give up, I’m not gon’ stop. I’m gon’ work harder. I’m a survivor. I’m gonna make it.”

I’ve met some real survivors in prison. Women who’ve battled major obstacles since birth: poverty, single parent homes, drug and crime infested neighborhoods, inferior schools, and parents incarcerated. They’ve been molested, abused, and trafficked for someone’s perverse pleasure. As a result, they’ve spent their lives searching for love, moving from one destructive relationship to the next.

These inmates were left empty, hungry, barely hanging on, yet not destroyed. They survived because God gives each of us the ability to rebound no matter how difficult things are. No matter how low we’ve traveled, God can remake us into his daughters or sons as Paul mentions in II Corinthians, 5:17, “Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.”

The Lord will bring us back to life, if we let Him, and He can do it anywhere, even from behind prison walls.

Copyright 2011 by Dwan Reed. All rights reserved.

A Spice Rack of Coping Skills

During my first year of marriage, I accidentally set the stove on fire. I didn’t realize that wet fish and boiling grease don’t mix. Although I still don’t have the Mind of a Chef, I no longer burn vittles. I have progressed from the early years of seasoning my chicken with only salt and pepper to using a variety of spices such as garlic parmesan seasoning, onion powder, poultry seasoning, Cajun spices… My dishes have gone from simple edibility to savory, flavorful, and downright interesting fare.

I’ve learned over the years that spices are very important to a good cook. In the same way that special seasonings create a variety of flavors, a repertoire of coping skills provides a variety of ways to approach the obstacles of life. As a therapist, I often meet clients who have only two or three methods to deal with anger, depression, shame… Their coping skills usually consist of (1) go smoke a cigarette, (2) cry, or (3) call a friend. There is nothing wrong with crying or calling a friend, but we need more in our spice rack than that. Just like it takes more than salt and pepper to season brisket, most of us need more than a few coping skills to deal with life, effectively.

Over the years, my clients and I have brainstormed lists of coping skills that help in dealing with difficult feelings and life stressors. Below are some of the ideas generated. I hope you find these helpful. Feel free to pass them on.

Prayer
Meditation
Read Bible
Deep breathing
Attend a support group
Counseling
Exercise
Sing
Volunteering
Take up a hobby
Journal
Make something
Eat a healthy snack
Draw
Look outside
Watch a funny movie
Read a book
Listen to music
Go for a walk
Go for a drive
Visualize a calm place
Hug self
Large movements
Talk to a friend
Warm bath
Cry
Massage
Aromatherapy
Take a trip
Get your nails done
Gardening
Spend time with animals

Children and Coronavirus

Helping your Child through the Coronavirus

Pandemics are tough for adults to understand and respond to, and even more difficult for children who lack knowledge and experience on how to overcome challenges. A common result of natural disasters, pandemics, and major life crises, in general, is that children are severely traumatized and have difficulty managing their emotions. A child should be able to be a child even during nationwide upheaval. Their innocence and fun should not be halted.

Following are some suggestions for you to help your child, during this difficult time.

Children react to disasters in a variety of ways. Some become tearful and clingy. They may regress to earlier life stages (i.e., bed wetting, fear of the dark, thumb sucking), become irritable or aggressive, or withdrawn and worried.

Youth are not good as adults at communicating their feelings verbally. Children tend to act their feelings out. Let your child know that they are important to you and that you are interested in how they are feeling. Give your child lots of hugs and reassurance that everything is going to be okay. Spend one-on-one time listening to their perspectives. Some children (and adults) process events by talking about them over and over again. Children ask lots of questions. Try to answer their questions the best that you can. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know. I will try to find out for you.”

Children need lots of encouragement during an event like this. Praise them for any small or large contributions they made in helping the family make it through the crisis. These contributions might include: doing what they are told, not fighting with their brother or sister, keeping their bedroom clean, staying inside, and keeping up with their homework.

For young children, play and art work is a good way for them to express their emotions. You can learn a lot about what a child is thinking and feeling by observing their play or art work. Encourage your child to write a happy ending to this crisis, or to draw it in a way that is empowering for them. Don’t be worried if you see them playing out crisis scenes over and over again. They are expressing their feelings and learning to master their environment through repetitive play. If your young child seems particularly distressed about any aspect of the pandemic-crisis, seek out a licensed counselor.

Children can become overwhelmed by disturbing media messages about the pandemic. Be sure to monitor your child’s intake of television, radio, newspaper, and social media. When children see television images relating to the pandemic over and over again, they become frightened for their own safety and that of their loved ones. Remind your child that they are safe and that the adults around them are working daily to make sure that they are going to be okay. Discuss how God is in control and He is guiding us through this difficult time.

Helping others is a powerful way to divert children from their own worries. Identify people or causes in your community that your child can assist with. There are various ways children can help others who are impacted by the pandemic, such as writing encouraging letters, baking goodies, making artwork, cleaning up yards, and making care-packages.

This is a good time to model self-care for your child. Children need to know that no matter what happens, we still have to take good care of our bodies and our minds. Let your child see you exercise, make good food choices, get the proper amount of sleep, and spend time in relaxation.

Be careful about burdening children with adult issues, such as, how this pandemic is affecting your job, your fears about your family and friend’s health, your concerns about the spread of the virus, your frustration with your child being out of school, quarantine etc. Dealing with adult issues over which one has no power or control is frustrating and scary for a child.

Staying inside can become quite boring for children (and adults). A regular routine is very important for children. Below are a few suggestions of things that your child can do alone or with others in the home, after they have completed their school work and chores:


1. Read the Bible and learn more about their favorite Bible characters.
2. Write a letter to a single or elderly adult who lives alone.
3. Complete a puzzle.
4. Look at pictures of puppies or kittens online.
5. Play a game. Learn a card game.
6. Put on a play.
7. Try on all their clothes and put together new outfits. Have a fashion show.
8. Bake with an adult.
9. Do artwork. Color.
10. Look in the mirror and do a self-portrait.
11. Write down all the things they are grateful for.
12. Interview family members.
13. Go on a home scavenger hunt.
14. Read. Write a book. Write a song. Write a poem.
15. Have a parade in the house.
16. Exercise and stretch. Dance
17. Move in slow-motion throughout the day.
18. Skype with a friend.
19. Collect bugs
20. Wash the car.
21. Plant a garden.
22. Do tongue twisters
23. Play hide and seek.
24. Have a picnic on the living room floor.
25. Play charades
26. Play hot potato
27. Arm wrestle
28. Make crazy hairstyles


More suggestions at https://familyeguide.com/boredom-busters-110-fun-at-home-activities-for-families-kids-2/

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