Three Hours to Go

It would be awesome if I could come up with something wise and wondrous to say about the new year and new decade.

I can’t.

In the past 24 hours I’ve spent quite a bit of time praying for multiple people who were in absolutely crazy and even dangerous situations. One of them even commented that it was as if 2020 decided to go out as insanely as it’s been.

No, I don’t expect things to change dramatically overnight, though I do look forward to the new. I’m just glad. I’m glad I’ve grown this year, instead of the opposite. I’m glad I’ve learned this year, instead of stagnating. I’m glad I’ve loved people this year, instead of…yeah.

I’m particularly glad that my God has been with me every step of the way, because He never leaves me or forsakes me. At one point this year, when I was having a rough moment, He said, “You never walk alone.”

Mic drop

That’s the answer, and I thank Him for it. Whatever comes in 2021, whether it’s as crazy as 2020 has been or is truly a whole new era, I’ll be ok because He is with me.

Happy New Year.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Christmas Memories

At church tonight, several people shared their favorite Christmas memories. Of course such things make me think, and I had an epiphany.

My two favorite memories are about getting “nothing.”

I don’t mean that literally, but close. The first was the Christmas after my mother left an abusive marriage. We had so little money that we had no Christmas decorations. On Christmas Eve, after my sister and I went to bed, Mother went to the tree lot and bought a little white-painted stick for next to nothing. Then she laid out our two small gifts each as if they’d come from Santa.

My dismay when I saw the “tree” on Christmas morning probably hurt Mother’s feelings, but the love I felt… We may not have gotten much, but we were grateful for what we got and were even more thankful for the fact that we were safe, secure, and together in our own home.

The other memory… I think I mentioned it here at some point. My favorite place to be, Christmas or not, was my grandparents’ home. They weren’t rich, but they made each of us feel like we were their favorite and always chose gifts they felt we would appreciate. That year my gifts were a pair of socks and a plastic dime store nativity scene snow globe. It spoke love to me, and still does today even though it was destroyed years ago.

As parents, we so often feel the need to produce for our children. Maybe, instead, we should take time to look at the memories that mean the most to us. I honestly remember very few gifts from my 58 Christmases, but I remember a skirt, a piece of candy, and a plastic snow globe – because they spoke of love.

Merry Christmas.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

From Separation Springs Life

Photo: Tammy Cardwell

I raise succulents, and my favorite is a pot of hens and chickens that came from my grandmother. Occasionally, leaves will fall from that plant, and when they do something marvelous happens.

New life

Hidden within the leaf is the power to create a whole new plant. While on the mother plant, the leaf is beautiful, but when you take it away from the mother plant new life springs forth.

This can happen anywhere. These leaves in my garden will eventually take root and flourish right where they are, but the new growth happens even if the leaf falls on the sidewalk, and it will continue until all of the fallen leaf has been sucked dry by the new life.

This is much like the life of a new Christian. First, they must be taken out of their old life. Until that happens, they can’t grow. Pull them out of the world, however, and you’ll see new life spring forth. Even if they’re out there on their own, on the sidewalk so to speak, they’ll flourish on their own for a while.

But like these leaves, they must eventually be planted. They must put down roots and stay where God wants them so they can grow spiritually. If they don’t, if they fail to find and latch on to the spiritual nourishment they need to survive in this world, they’ll be like the leaf on the sidewalk, eventually shriveling up once the initial burst of life is over and the cares of this world leave them empty and dry.

Life, especially spiritual life, is a precious thing. We must care for it and encourage it in ourselves and others. I’ve made mistakes with leaves like these, moving tender new plants into the wrong place and forgetting to care for them, and they’ve died. The results are a good reminder of what not to do where my relationship with God is concerned.

Sometimes I need those reminders.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Celebrate Jesus 24/7/365

Many years ago, in my crafty season, I made Christmas letterhead that said “Celebrate Jesus!” It was my modest attempt to remind those I loved that Christmas was really about celebrating our Savior.

But then, at some point that Christmas, it hit me. The celebration isn’t limited to one season. LIFE should be all about celebrating Him!

And so my signature was born.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Suck It Up

Photo: Tammy Cardwell

I love succulents! They are amazing in so many ways; one of my favorites is their ability to suck up water when it rains and store it for use during dry seasons.

I want to be like that! I want to stay full of the Holy Spirit, full of the Word of God, and full of love so that dry seasons, times of trials and troubles, don’t catch me unprepared. Yes, I may take a beating and look less than my best in the midst of the battle, but when it’s over I’ll still be standing!

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

My Thorn

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul shares about his “thorn in the flesh.” Theologians have tried to determine what that “thorn” was for centuries. Other than what we learn from Scripture, that he felt it was to keep him from pride, we don’t know that much.

We do know that Paul repeatedly asked God to remove this affliction, but God simply reassured him: “My Grace is sufficient.”

I am Paul. I have a thorn too. It’s called anxiety. Now, I am well aware that bi-polar disorder and depression are issues in my family. I get the science. I also know that my childhood was particularly anxiety-triggering, so I get the psychology.

Several years back, I spent about three months on an antidepressant, and twice in my life I’ve had to keep anti-anxiety medication at hand for those times when it got out of control. As a Christian, I hate this. Like Paul, I feel like I should be able to pray the right prayer or quote the right Scripture and it be gone forever, but I’ve learned it doesn’t always work that way.

“My Grace is sufficient,” God said…and still says. The Word also says, in 2 Corinthians 9:8, that God will cause all grace to abound towards me so that I will have every sufficiency for every good work. And this “every good work” may well be the key.

I heard something the other day that struck me: “Good lumber doesn’t come with ease. The stronger the wind the stronger the trees.” Hearing that woke me up, in a sense. It’s the battles that make us stronger. Paul was a mighty man of God, strong and fearless. Why? Because he’d fought many battles – and won many battles. I think that thorn in the flesh, or rather his ongoing war with it, helped keep him spiritually strong.

And I think the same thing is true about me. Like Paul’s thorn, the anxiety is an almost ever-present thing. I’m constantly at war with it, fighting and winning most of my battles, and losing a few. It’s intentionally, purposefully, faithfully fighting those battles that helps me grow stronger spiritually.

Knowing that I deal with this, and must DEAL with it rather than whine about or ignore it, keeps me aware of the importance of not letting my guard down, of staying vigilant and being careful to properly tend to both body and spirit.

Do I like waging a constant battle with it? Not on your life. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. What I do appreciate, however, is the way God uses something that originated in the pits of hell to help me become stronger in so many ways.

God’s grace is sufficient.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Oh Lord

I come to you as a child of the church. Some of my earliest memories center around Sunday school and the sanctuary. We weren’t always in church over the years, but we were there enough that I accepted Jesus in the summer after sixth grade.

On that day, at summer camp, in a chapel by a lake, I accepted Him as my Savior. It was years before I accepted Him as my Lord.

You hear the question all the time: “Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” And you hear others answer, “Yes.” It seems you especially hear them answer affirmatively if they were raised in church like I was – because that’s the response you’re expected to give.

In actuality, though He was undeniably my Savior and I knew it in the depths of my soul, I had no clue what it even meant to accept Him as Lord. Worse, I didn’t know there was a difference. I guess I figured “Lord and Savior” was all the same thing. But…lordship?

I knew what it meant to follow the guidelines I was taught in church.

I knew what it meant to obey the rules laid down at home.

But Jesus as Lord? I didn’t even know what a lord was, or not until I started studying certain historical time periods.

Throughout history, the lord of the estate or region was the one who ruled – similar to a king, but on a much more personal level. If he were a good lord, he kept his eye on you, saw to it that you had what you needed to get your work done, knew if you were sick… He accepted a certain level, a high level, of responsibility for you.

And you? If you truly accepted him as your lord, you obeyed him and submitted completely to his authority. You made sure you knew what he expected of you and you did it. You learned what pleased him and tried to make him happy. You were his and he was yours, and you considered it an honor to serve him.

It was after gaining this understanding that I began to grow up as a Christian. Jesus’ question in Luke 6:46 is relevant, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do what I say?” Here is reality; it’s one thing to say He is your Lord. It is another thing entirely to live with Him as your Lord. Honestly, it seems that most Christians today don’t even know what He says. How, then, can they let Him be Lord? So…

Number 1: We learn what He says. The very first thing we have to do, of course, is start listening to Him. Read the Word and truly pay attention to it. Pray and genuinely listen to what He has to say to you. Be in the church He calls you to and let the minister He has set there guide you as you learn.

Number 2: Act on what He says. Always do what He says, and put forth every effort to please Him. Remind yourself continually that He was never supposed to be only your Savior, but also your Lord.

Accepting Jesus as your Savior requires a heart change and a declaration. Accepting Jesus as your Lord requires action – continual, faithful, intentional action.

Salvation is free, but accepting His Lordship requires effort – an investment of time, heart, intentions, and actions.

But oh, the rewards on that investment!

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Don’t Just Read

Inspire Bible – NLT

When I first started actively serving God, I thought I was doing great just to read a few verses every once in a while. I loved it when what I was reading fell in line with things I was experiencing or what ministers were teaching me. Even so, all too often it was ONLY reading.

By that, I mean that… It’s hard to know how to express it. I had trouble making connections, probably because I didn’t have much of a scriptural foundation. I also found myself reading, and then forgetting what I’d read. It was frustrating.

Things changed when I started using tools. Bible studies helped me make connections, and those connections helped me remember. Learning that it was ok to write in my Bible also made a huge difference because those notes reminded me of things I’d already learned. I considered dipping my toes into tried-and-true Bible commentaries because I knew that’s what a lot of wise people did, but the very thought intimidated me for some reason.

Now, with smart phones, things have changed. We have even more access to tools, and my current favorite, the Through the Word Bible app, has revolutionized my Bible experience. You can simply listen to the app, which is how I started, and it’s great. For months, it was my go-to for my drive to work.

I then moved on to first reading and making my own notes and highlights, then listening to the commentaries and making more notes. I’ve read these verses who knows how many times, but I’m getting more out of my reading today than I ever have before.

Yeah, I don’t just read anymore. I’ve changed the way I experience the Bible, and the Bible is changing me in increasingly greater ways.

We will live by the Word forever – starting right now. Don’t just read it; make it yours so that it can change you into who God wants you to be.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Hindsight and the Future

How many adults, with twenty twenty hindsight, wish they had given more while in high school…or in college..had put more effort into preparing themselves for their unknown future? Hindsight serves one important purpose; it helps us learn which mistakes to not make next time.

And there is a next time. We were put on this earth just as we were put in school – to prepare ourselves so that we will be ready to live the future that waits for us in Eternity. It is our responsibility, while we are here, to develop the closest possible relationship with God and to learn His Word, which we will live by forever.

My memories of school, and all the things the adult me would have done differently, help keep me aware of this truth. While I do forget and deviate from my preferred path on occasion, I try to continually be growing in the things of God, learning all I can about His Word and His will for my life, and getting just as close to Him as I can. I don’t want to just make it through the ultimate graduation; I want to excel now so that God can use me exactly the way He wants to in the next phase of my life.

Life is the childhood of our immortality. -Goethe

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C