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Smokey Mountains

View Over Unending Mountains
Fill my Heart and Soul!

We took advantage of a long Labor Day Weekend to spend time together as a family — all eleven of us!  It was awesome waking up each morning to the sun rising over the Smokey Mountains.  There wasn't another house in sight as we were awed by the view God created just for us to enjoy!

"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

— Psalm 47:10 —

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Sunday morning, I went out on the screened porch.  Overwhelming feelings of His power and majesty engulfed me as I stared out at the expanse of these overwhelming mountain ranges.

As I read in His word, I found this verse and devotional in Psalms. When a specific verse, or even a page touches my soul as it did this day, I get out my Bible markers and pens just to make sure to remember this day always! Later, as I flip through, memories of joy and content come flooding back into my life – memories of family and of our special time together.  I remember that God reached into my soul and spoke to me – just as if He were sitting right beside me on that porch.  
 

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"Here the soul may learn something of what rest is, as day after day one opens one's heart to let the sweet influence of nature's sabbath enter and reign. There is but a faint type of what we may find in Christ.

In the pressure of the greatest responsibilities, in the worry of the smallest cares, in the perplexities of life's moments of crises, we may have rest in the security of God's will.  Learn to live in this rest.  In the calmness of spirit it will give your sould will reflect, as in a mirror, the beauty of the Lord; and the tumult of men's lives will be calmed in your presence, as your tumults have been calmed in His presence." — Hannah Whitall Smith —

 

God is Alive in Our Home…

"God is Alive in Our Home…" By Nancy Alexander


And at The Center of Our "Every Day"…

Yesterday was such a beautiful, warm and sunny Spring day.  As Steve and I sat in our office, the birds were flitting from limb to limb as if they were pleading for us to come outside.  They really wanted us to fill their empty feeders. I can always tell when our feeders are empty, because their songs change; they are much louder as if to be calling out to us:  "Feed me, feed me, please!"  It takes a lot to fill up our many bird feeders, and we had just purchased a 50 pound bag of their very favorite — sunflower seeds.

"You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence…"
~Psalm 16:11~

I glanced over at my favorite little devotional book, "Jesus Calling".  Before I knew it, I was picking up my book and pen, and was on my way down the steps into my neglected "Secret Garden" walking along the winding, weed infested, stone path anxious to curl up in my favorite chair as I escaped into our Pergola. 

view from our Pergola

View of our house from inside our Pergola

 

My Pergola is now almost enclosed with the yellow Lady Banks Roses, and purple Wisteria.  These cover the top like a head full of hair in badly need of a trim.  But, oh, these climbing rose clusters are so beautiful in the spring as they open out so full and pretty in their splendor! 

Lady Banks Roses covering my Pergola

This picture was taken last year when the Lady Banks roses were in full bloom!

 

I wanted to commune with God in all of His majesty as I renewed my mind and spirit in my secret hideaway.  All over, the flowers were popping their little heads up for Spring, and the birds were singing even more loudly as I walked outside.  Steve would be coming soon to help me fill the feeders, but for the moment, I was alone with God, enjoying the earth He created just for us.

"Somebody cares and always will,
The world forgets, but God loves you still,
Somebody cares and loves you still,
And God is the someone who always will."
~Helen Steiner Rice~

I have tended to avoid our garden and Pergola for a while now — it seemed to me like the weeds had grown taller than the flowers and shrubbery.  We have had many more important things to focus our attention on.    But, yesterday, the outdoors was calling to me as I walked outside into my own "Secret Garden" to talk to God as I enjoyed the fresh warm air of Spring.

Our garden always required a lot of time, attention, and money.  And, for a while now, many much more important things have taken the place of our "secret garden".  So, as I sat in the pergola reading yesterday, I was reminded of renewal and of beauty that is sometimes hidden — but is still there all the same.

"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusts in him,
And He helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
And with my song I praise Him."
~Psalm 28: 6-8~

As I was reading and praying to God, I noticed that my clay pots had lost pieces of their rims from the cold of winter.  Many of my flowers in pots that had come up year after year were not coming up.  Grass was growing taller than the flowers dispersed throughout the garden.  My rustic, shabby chic, painted furniture in the pergola was falling apart.  Loose pieces were either hanging on, or lying on the ground.  Neglected paint was noticeably peeling off.  Bushes in desperate need of a trim were much taller than they should be.  Grass and weeds which had been cut back by a weed eater last week (instead of being pulled up), were now filling in our stone pathway again.

 

I looked over into the corner, and was amazed at how
the small limbs of Wisteria that I had wound
throughout the lattice five years ago had now grown into
large, curling extensions of that beautiful, flowery vine.

 

"I am the vine; you are the branches. 
If you remain in me and I in you,
you will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing."
~John 15: 4-6~

 

  As I looked around more,
I could see God's hand all around me. 
Day lilies and lamb's ear were growing
right in the middle of the stone pathway.

Lamb's ear growing on my pathway

 

 

Bumblebees were drilling their holes in the pergola
making a home for the season. 

 

 

I was amazed that our Japanese Holly ferns are fuller
and greener than I have ever seen them before.

 

 

 

My concrete angel, even though she was surrounded by tall grass,
was still looking very beautiful peeping through the
ground cover which had come up from three years ago.

 

 

Pretty flowers were showing off their colorful blooms as
if they were not conscious of the weeds that surrounded them.

 

 

 

The forsythia vine growing up my back porch was
shouting out in all of it's glory that God is alive —
He is always here — He is always in control —
He can bring back beauty out of anything.

 

    
"God always gives you all the grace you need.
So you will only have to suffer for a little while.
Then God himself will build you up again.
He will make you strong and steady.
And He has chosen you to share in His eternal glory
because you belong to Christ.""
~1 Peter 5:10~

so blessed so grateful

As I stood looking up at the flowers opening their blooms
in a splendor that only God could have created,
I felt SO blessed — SO grateful that He had seen fit to bring
this neglected "Secret Garden" back to life for us to enjoy.

~~~~

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which
God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
~Philippians 3:14

But, even more so, I felt overwhelmingly grateful and SO blessed that He had seen fit to work in MIRACULOUS ways in our lives with miracles that brought His Grace, Joy and Forgiveness back into our marriage.  So, when I say we spent the last three years ignoring our "Secret Garden", we spent those years saving and renewing a marriage which could have been so easily destroyed by the insidious chronic diseases — Celiac, and Fibromyalgia.

God got our attention!  He broke us down, He pruned us, He carried us, He covered us with His love, He gave us encouragement, He gave us hope.  He redeemed us, and He forgave us.  He "looked through our faults and saw our needs".  And, He brought our "Secret Garden" (a marriage now definitely made in Heaven) back to life — just as He did our "Secret Garden Outside", when just a few short weeks ago, it was dead — full of weeds — needed pruning, and in need of renewal.

"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another,
as good stewards of God's varied grace."
~1 Peter 4:10~

I talk all of the time about chronic diseases and how they can destroy all that is good and pure and loving in an entire family.  And, it can!  I feel as though God has given me a ministry to help all of you who email me almost daily, talking to me about the trials and the pain that you face.  There IS hope!  God is there — He is always with YOU!  And He DOES answer prayers.  I know — He answered mine.

Some Words of Encouragement


"Some Words of Encouragement"   By Nancy Alexander


A Story of Hope…


Today I'd love to share with you a story from my daughter-in-law, Sara. She is the mother of three of my wonderful grandchildren. Sara is always looking for those teachable moments with the children and one came along the day Wyatt brought his Mommy a flower.
 


While Sara has a love for flowers like I do, she is still new to the world of gardening. It was a couple months ago when she discovered a bag of unplanted bulbs in her garage that had never made it into the ground. Determined to not let them go to waste, Sara and Wyatt (he's 3) worked together to get them in the ground. Several weeks of cold weather that followed left her wondering if those neglected bulbs would survive, but about 2 weeks ago tiny green sprouts begin to peak out of the ground. Everyday, Sara and the kids would check their progress, delighted when little buds began to form. Wyatt was especially excited about the flowers!

One day in his excitement, Wyatt decided to do something really special for his Mommy. He spotted one green shoot standing proudly out of the ground, with yellow bud on top. The flower hadn't opened yet, but that didn't stop Wyatt from snatching it right out of the ground and proudly bringing it to Sara. "This is for you Mommy!"  he said with a sweet smile on his face as he held the stem in his chubby toddler hands.  His older siblings immediately recognized that the flower was not ready to be picked and began lamenting that Wyatt had ruined Mommy's favorite flowers. A conversation on forgiveness and grace quickly happened and all was forgotten. 

Sara was disappointed of course. She too had been waiting with skeptical anticipation to see if those neglected bulbs would actually bloom. But like most days, Sara decided to choose hope and placed the bud in water in a vase of Forsythia stems on her kitchen table. Two mornings later, everyone was delighted to see the bud had opened during the night into a beautiful daffodil.

As the kids looked at the stunning flower, Sara said these powerful words to them, "This flower is just like all the miracles in our lives. We all thought this flower was going to die because it was picked too soon, but God allowed the flower to bloom so we can enjoy it and be reminded of His love for us! You see, we all make messes and mistakes, but God can take our mess and make something beautiful out of it! All we need to do is trust Him!" 

Since that day, the children have delighted in watching the other buds began to open up. So far, no one has picked another daffodil for their Mommy, but I'm sure when they do, Sara will be delighted to receive their gifts of love! 

Whatever challenges you are facing today, I pray that you will be encouraged by Sara's words.

Know that there is no mess that can not be cleaned up by God's loving presence in your life.

He loves you so much and has such wonderful plans for you!

My Husband, Steve


"My Husband…" By Nancy Alexander


As He Drives off in the Dark…

It is 5:50 am, early on this Thursday morning, as I wave and blow kisses to my Steve as he drives out our driveway in the dark.  My heart is full knowing that this man who has to be at work at 7 am, after a 45 minute drive, gets up this early to attend a Bible study before the long drive ahead of him. 

I woke up with Steve this morning at 4:30 (which is sort of hard — as you might imagine).  Actually it takes 2 alarms on the clock, and my iPhone singing "It's a Beautiful Morning," to make us roll out each side of the bed after five quick kisses — yes, it has to be exactly five!

I know…you're saying 4:30 am??  Yes, that's right!  You got it!  Well, actually it isn't 4:30 every single morning of the week.  On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, it is 5:15 — we actually get to sleep in on those days.  And…I'm sure you're saying…you don't "really" have to get up that early with your husband, do you?  Well, no, I don't.  But I will, no matter what, for as long as I am able, or until God decides my time on this earth is over.  I know how blessed I am, and I will never take that for granted.

So, this morning, I got up with Steve, showered, dressed, fixed my hair, and put on my makeup.  A pot of coffee was already brewing in the kitchen with inviting smells seeping throughout the entire house.  His breakfast and lunch were stacked nicely in the fridge ready to be tucked into a well used lunch bag.  As I packed this bag and fixed coffee in a travel mug, Steve sat down a second to take his supplements with O.J.

Then we were off to our regular spot in our office.  As we're running just a little late this morning, Steve picks up "Jesus Calling", instead of our regular devotional book, "Quiet Times for Couples", which takes a little longer.  Each devotional, each and every morning seems as if it were ordered up by God just for us on that particular day, as it always seems to address something going on in our lives.  Some days, to our amazement, our morning devotional repeats or delves more deeply into the theme or subject of our night-time devotional.  This always amazes us, because they are from two separate books, by two separate authors, and we are not even on the exact day that each says that particular devotional should be read.  We then turn, facing each other and hold hands, as we both pray for family, each other, friends who are facing devastating illnesses, and the amazing business God has blessed us with.

You're probably thinking by now — either you're the perfect married couple, or a little crazy!  Well, no, it is neither!  You see, we haven't always done this.  Our life now is different than the life we lived for almost 40 years as a married couple.  There were MANY trials, and with my chronic illnesses of Celiac and Fibromyalgia going undiagnosed for almost 30 years, there was more stress, separation, and loneliness in our marriage than I will talk about here. 

I am writing this today, because as I watched my Steve drive off in the dark to a Bible Study which starts at 6 am, I was overcome with gratefulness for God's goodness — for His undying love for us — and the knowledge that He created us and He saved us!  He saved our marriage!  He is now and forever at the center of our lives!  My heart is overflowing today with these blessings from above and the thoughts that God never gave up on us as we broke under the pressure and strayed to places we wish we had never been.

Here is a prayer that I wrote about my husband I found it this morning dated 3/25/08.

"Lord, I have learned today that to become the wife of my husband's dreams begins with prayer.  I want to be his prayer warrior lifting him up in prayer on a daily basis bringing his work, his life, and any problems he may have to You on a consistent basis.  Help me to be persistent in my prayers for Steve by lovingly and willingly taking the time throughout my day to bring him to You.

By your Grace, I pray that you will fill me with your Holy Spirit by giving me strength in trials and to love Steve as you would have me love him — till death do us part.  I need to be loved and cherished by him and to give him the honor and respect he needs as the spiritual leader of our home.  I want to honor him, to love him, and to be aware of each and every one of his needs.

Lord, I pray that you will be with me as I make sure to pay close attention to his needs, desires, dreams, joys, and sorrows.  I want to look closely into his heart because I absolutely adore him.

I thank you so much Lord, that we can both feel your strong hands shaping and molding each of us into the partner that we each need and want.  I can feel your miracles as you are softening our hearts.

Help me, Lord to keep a record of NO WRONGS, either written or in my heart.  Be my guide in erasing these images and records from my heart and my soul.  I thank you that you have honored me with the gift of forgiveness.  I ask your blessings on Steve each and every day of his life.

I truly want to protect our marriage, Lord and grow our love to heights that neither of us can possible imagine."

Romans 8:28 
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him,
who have been called according to His purpose."

Have a wonderful day my love!  I'll see you tonight, as you drive back home to me…to us! 
~Your Laney~

Fun in the Snow in the South

 

"Fun in the Snow" By, Nancy Alexander


Snowing in the South and Having Lots of Fun

 

My last posts have been long and sort of serious.  But, they have been important! 
I have felt a real burden to write about my life with Fibromyalgia, and what I am now doing to be cured.

 

 

But, today is going to be on a lighter note.  Yes, it is snow!  Snow in the South!
And Steve and I are having a BLAST!!  WooHoo~~ 

 

 

 My handsome hubby, Steve playing in the snow — and making sure we have plenty of bird seed out for the birds! They really let us know when the feeders start getting low by flying up on the back porch making loud noises!

Steve and I have been working in our office a lot yesterday and today.  We have large windows, looking out over such a pretty site.    As I am working, I have my camera sitting right here beside me; I can take a lot of the pictures without even standing up!   Just look at the pictures of these beautiful birds we look at while we work. It is easy to work (even when you're working on a business plan for 2011) when we have such a beautiful view!

 

Steve and I have been at home watching and enjoying the snow for several days now.  It is beautiful as this white blanket has engulfed our yard, the street and everything in our garden.  We just ventured out for the first time, and although the roads are still a little slick, we loved it.  We also slid some — but guess what??? I didn't even say a word.  Used to be…when my muscles were so bad, and we would slide in the snow, my nightmare would be that we would get stuck somewhere, and have to get out and walk!  Well, I couldn't walk too well at that time, so I was terrified.  But, not so today!  It is beautiful, peaceful and fun.

Above is a picture of our pergola.  We really enjoy this in the summer and always look for deer tracks in the snow all around it! Those are such peaceful animals, I dearly love to see them walk through our yard.  Even though we live in the city, I can be sitting at my desk working during the middle of the day, and see deer walk down the center of our driveway right in front of me.  I, personally, think they are a sign from God, of his peace, grace and love!  Those are the feelings I feel when I look at these magnificent creatures!