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Letters to the Lord: Hope For Times Like These

Easter 2021 Multi-Author Giveaway – Hope For Times Like These

This time last year we were entering a time of real uncertainty and this year that uncertainty continues. These are good times to remind ourselves to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. 14 authors have joined together to offer stories to help us do this.

I’ll be giving away copies of The Swan House which will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in June!

It’s a privilege to join with these authors, several of whom are close personal friends.

I hope you’ll join the Giveaway here.

And I’d like to leave you with a little bit of Spring.

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog.

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Letters to the Lord: Love Letters from the Lord

Once again, I’m delighted to welcome Margaret Kirby as my guest blogger this week. May you be blessed by her words as I have been.

Have you ever felt like you’re living in a book? I mean those moments when some small detail comes to your attention and you take a step back to look at it and you realize it’s somehow a symbol for what’s going on in your life in that very moment? I tend to think there are little details left along the pathways of all of our stories by an Author, trying to leave us hints and draw us back to Him. And part of living in the kingdom is walking with open eyes and open hearts, waiting and watching for those moments when His hand peeks from behind the next page over and we see Him touching the heart of our stories in the here and now. “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (Psalm 139:5-6).

Some things are so wonderful and so lofty that they require looking up or else we’ll miss them. There is so much in the here and now, so much that we can easily close ourselves off to, if we’re not careful. I’ve been noticing how my busy schedule closes me off from noticing these details, and not only that, but the way I can easily spend a whole day thinking about my own affairs and business without ever really looking up– that closes me off. Sometimes I feel like the shoulders of my soul are hunched and overburdened and my entire self is fixated only on the ground in front of me. But “when I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 139:18). When one of those little details comes into view like love notes left on my path, then I can finally expand my lungs and breathe again; it’s a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, a waking up and I look upward with all my might, searching for the face of the One who left me that little love note on the ground. “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand” (Psalm 139:17-18).

Recently, his precious-love-note-thought came to me in the form of a song. I was washing the dishes, thinking about a good conversation I had had the previous night with a dear friend, and the words came to me then, and with them the sense that I had been singing them in my head off and on throughout the whole day without really catching hold of them, without really seeing them for what they were: a reminder from the One writing my story to look up. And I held those words in my soapy hands, looking at the way they shone rainbow glints in the kitchen light as I stood there and gazed at them. It was the text of a song, “Fill this Cup,” that was resting in my mind: “I don’t know how long it’s been. I won’t step so quickly over this. Waltz across the universe, beauty more than I deserve. It’s right here, breathe it in, I’ve been missing all of this. Let the laughter sound again, let the light come rushing in. Catch the sun, raise it up, come and fill this empty cup” (by “The Dailys”).

There have been so many wonderful things happening in my life, but the busyness of everything has made me skim over some parts far too sweet for skimming. In that moment, I didn’t know how long it had been since I last looked up, and I didn’t know how long those words had been floating in my mind, but that was okay, because all that mattered was that they had roused me to breathe and to be, to watch and to waltz. And it did, it felt like stepping into a dance, stepping into a rhythm and almost a trance. I looked around me at my life, I got beyond myself to peek over my own shoulder and finally see what was truly comprising my life– not myself, but the dearness of sweet friends and family, the joy of good conversations and seeking to understand one another, the quiet silence of a moment in the woods looking at buttercups, and finding I was understood in full when I least expected it… and always the presence of the One leaving me love notes. Always. Beauty more than I deserve. It’s right here– breathe it in. I don’t know how long it’s been, but oh, I won’t step so quickly over this. Let me not step so quickly over this, sweet Lord.

Margaret Kirby is a junior at Samford University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English with a double-minor in Classics and Philosophy. She is a member of Sigma Tau Delta, the Wide Angle editorial staff, and she sings in the A Cappella choir. Some of the things she loves most are the sky, old books, the smell of coffee, and the way food brings people together. She especially loves her Southern authors (mainly Sidney Lanier and Eudora Welty), and she also considers George MacDonald to be her grandfather in the faith. Her main purpose in life is to re-discover the magic of being a little child in the kingdom of God. So when she isn’t reading, writing, or singing, you can probably find her out gazing at clouds, wandering through forests, or looking for fairies.

You can find her on instagram @margaret.kirby.writing

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Letters to the Lord: Bearing Fruit in Its Season

Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of young mothers about faithfulness as a mother. I shared different ways the Lord has encouraged me to be faithful throughout the years. One of the most encouraging things I learned early on as a mother has stayed with me and is still so relevant.
 
Here is the essay I wrote almost thirty years ago. May you be blessed by it and remember to give yourself grace as you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus IN YOUR SEASON.
 
 
 
“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in its season…” Psalm 1:3a
 
I opened my Bible to Psalm 1, ready to start my devotions with a time of praise to the Lord.  My moments with Him had seemed rushed and a little routine lately, but I knew if I went back to the Psalms, I would find songs of   praise.
I really didn’t need to read the first psalm.  I knew it by heart.  Still my eyes  devoured the words hungrily, so familiar, so refreshing.  I loved the metaphor of the tree firmly planted by streams of water.  I wanted my life for Christ to be strong and firm, but I felt like I wasn’t seeing many results in my ministry as a church planter in France.  
I had recently told my mom on a long-distance call, “What do I do?  And yet, what do I not do?”  
I cared for my two small sons and my husband, I discipled a new Christian, I held evangelistic get-togethers for women in the community, I offered hospitality to many who came through our doors, I corresponded with 300 financial and prayer supporters, I battled with another culture and language, and I felt the burden of responsibility for the fledgling church we worked with.  The list seemed endless.  Yet where was the fruit, Lord?
Often I found myself crying out to Him in despair, “Give me fruit for Your glory or I shall die.”  My personality type, which cultivates relationships easily and sees them as of vital importance, combined with my spiritual gifts of evangelism and exhortation gave me a profound longing to produce visible fruit in the lives of others for the Lord.  But caring full time for two little boys while laboring in a country which is renowned for its spiritual apathy often left me feeling empty handed.  All this work and no fruit to show for it.  No juicy reports to write in our quarterly prayer letters.  No sweet tasting words from the nationals.  Only criticism and skepticism and diapers and runny noses. 
My eyes continued down the page in my well-worn Bible:  “…like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season–“  Suddenly I stopped in mid sentence.  Three little words screamed out at me, begging for attention like my sons do before mealtime.  I reread them and reread them, and gradually a smile of real joy came onto my face, erasing the worry lines.
“In its season.”  Three simple words that I had read hundreds of times before.  But today the Spirit whispered to me in a new revelation.  
“Elizabeth, the tree bears fruit in its season, the season which is appropriate for that particular type of tree.”
Of course, Lord!  I could understand that comparison.  We had recently moved into a townhouse with a tiny back yard crowded with an apricot tree, a plum tree, raspberry bushes and black currant bushes.  It was summer now and we were enjoying the raspberries.  The young apricot tree was so laden with her fruit that all her branches bent to the ground.  But the fruit was not yet ripe.  And the plum tree did not have any visible sign of fruit.  Each tree and bush was producing in its season.
 
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I was ecstatic with the thought.  I had often heard about the seasons of a woman’s life.  I had even spoken on the topic.  But now I saw a larger frame of reference–“the fruit in each season of a woman’s life.”  Ah, yes!  This was my season for sowing.  Planting seeds of love in my sons’ lives, spreading fertilizer on the skeptical terrain of my neighbor’s heart, tilling the newly sprouting seeds in my critical Christian friend.
Perhaps as the Lord looked down on my weary tree He saw my branches over laden with apricots which were not quite ripe.  Not quite, but soon.  In its season.  Or perhaps He saw me like the plum tree which right now only offered its branches for shade and swings.  No fruit yet, but someday!  Someday the fruit would be there, delicious and welcomed.
 
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Each true tree of Christ would indeed produce fruit, again and again, but only in its appointed season.  How tempted I had been to look at the masses of fruit produced by missionaries in other countries.  If only…I had thought.  But God had called my husband and me to France.  Mine was a different tree with a different fruit.  Nonetheless, it was fruit for Jesus, and it would last. 
I left my devotions that day jubilant, carefree, happy.  Three simple words, spoken with the depth only God’s Word can provide, had lifted my burden and filled me with praise and hope.  I laughed to myself from my kitchen window as I watched the boys pull off raspberries from the bushes.  Then they headed to the apricot tree, little fingers easily reaching the low draping branches.  Quickly I opened the window and yelled out to them, “No, no boys.  Don’t pick the apricots.  They’re not ripe yet.”  Then, before closing the window, I added, “But they will be soon.”
 
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Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser, c1992

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog.

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Letters to the Lord: Never Let Me Go

I find it almost impossible to believe that exactly one year ago, Paul and I were heading out on a Trans-Atlantic cruise, to celebrate my 60th birthday and our 35th anniversary. Little did we know all that awaited us in 2020 as Covid-19 struck the world. For today, I want to look back on a journal entry I wrote while I was on that floating city.

Lectio Divina: Jeremiah 20:7-8

So this happened, Lord, which of course You know because in a sense, You MADE it happen. It is one of those hugely mysterious, almost scary, and yet comforting things about You.

I’m on the ship, the Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s crown jewel, and she is a jewel. We’ve been at sea now for 7 days, changed time zones four times and seen land zero times since we set sail.

And it is absolutely perfect. I’m sitting on our little balcony deck on the seventh floor of this humongous 18 story ship. A city on water.

I have loved every minute of this cruise and often, I’ve said to myself, “I imagined it right. Just right.” Throughout each day, I’ll turn to Paul and say, “Have I told You how absolutely tickled I am to be here?” He’s heard me chuckle and giggle and laugh more in these past seven days than in many, many months. It is perfect.

This is what I imagined and hoped and prayed for. We’ve not had any internet in a week and that’s been amazing. There is no lack of activities in this floating city! And the food! Yes, abundant and huge variety and so many different places to eat.

Anyway, I could write for hours about all this cruise is for us and for me, but right now, I want to write about the Lectio I did this morning. Days are long or short on board, but they are all mine, all ours! But really, they are all Yours, Lord.

And that is what the Lectio is about.

So I’m reading in Jeremiah and have just finished the chapters about the Potter and the Clay and the Clay Jar. Now those, I am sure I could do a great Lectio on. That was my thought. But I, like my dear Abbie in The Promised Land, am an obedient pilgrim, and I will keep reading as is the plan. I remembered all the other Lectios I’ve done in rather obscure places and always, You spoke to me as I followed the reading I was already doing.

But chapter 20 of Jeremiah starts off really, really grim: Jeremiah beaten by Pashhur the priest. And it’s all about Terror on Every Side and then the punishment Pashhur is going to receive and all his household too because he prophesied lies. Ugh.

Those are the first six verses, and as I read them, I literally thought, “Lord, bummer. Every time up until now when I’ve done a Lectio, well, it speaks, but this seems like divine wrath and judgment and it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t stir my soul but makes me disappointed in You. That You really can’t orchestrate my life so that wherever I am You invade.”

Stupid, silly reasoning, but those were my thoughts, Lord.

And then I turned the page.

Because I was at the bottom of the page and the next page starts with this header: Jeremiah Compelled to Preach. And I draw in my breath and read the next six verses, 7-13, and I feel Your presence and Your power and Your might, Lord. Like the rolling ocean just below me, so vast and unbelievably wide with the sky touching the ocean and the shimmering crystals of life dancing on the surface as it is kissed by the sun.

I felt You saying, “Ah- hem, Lizzie,” but in a loving yet stern voice. “Don’t ever doubt, don’t ever question, dear, my presence and my power. Just don’t.”

So timidly, tail between my legs, I read those verses, three times, out loud. Slowly.

And here are the things that pierce my heart, as Jeremiah speaks: “I say, ‘I won’t mention him or speak any longer in his name.’ But his message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. I become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail.” V. 9

And that’s exactly what Paul and I were talking about last night. I can’t get away from my writing because, Lord, every time I try, this is the message I get. It wells up inside of me, the stories, the inspiration, the absolute inability to not write. I have to write! Even when I say to You that the journey is rough and unpleasant, filled with potholes, filled with disappointments, I have to write.

And goodness, at least I’m not poor Jeremiah with real enemies who want to stone him and exert all kinds of other violence on him!

His message is gloom and doom, but it always encourages repentance.

Sometimes, You know, Lord, that I wonder if I water down the Gospel. If I don’t shout it loudly enough. But I feel You saying again, as You have said umpteen times before, “Just keep doing what You’re doing, Lizzie. Just keep it up.”

So Lord, as Jeremiah said, “I have become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail.”

You prevail, You always prevail. At least, I want You to always prevail and how thankful I am when You remind me again of Your absolute infinite knowledge and power. And love.

Another thing that stuck out to me was when Jeremiah said, “But the Lord is with me like a violent warrior.”

I don’t usually think of You this way, Lord, but it’s true. And today, as I was first lamenting my Lectio, first thinking that You aren’t predictable, which You aren’t, but I was seeing it as a disappointment, You show just how unpredictable You are by hitting me over the head with a message straight from Your heart, IF I WILL ONLY TURN THE PAGE! That’s it, too, isn’t it, Lord? You ask us to keep turning the pages in our lives and trusting that You will keep showing up, page after page after page. Sometime in a mighty, almost violent way, sometimes in a still small voice, and sometimes in the desert, the silence.

But You are always there. You are always with me. You. Never. Let. Me. Go.

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog.

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Letters to the Lord: Mozart, Billy Joel, and Jesus

Ten years ago this month, Paul and I visited Vienna and got Mozart and a whole lot more. Here’s the story:
I wanted Mozart in Vienna.  For the entire week of visiting with missionaries who do refugee work on the outskirts of Vienna, I had thought of Billy Joel whose song ‘Vienna’ had captured my heart 30 years earlier when I was a Freshman in college.  Slow down you crazy child… when will you realize, Vienna waits for you?  I was that young overachiever for Jesus, the girl who hadn’t quite figured out about the Holy Spirit empowering me—the gal who was doing her best for Jesus on her own strength and being worn out.
But the Spirit had blown through my heart in college and I had started to understand.  And Billy Joel was right—I could slow down, from time to time.
All those years ago, I had traipsed through that magical city with two college friends.  We ate a sacher torte on the sidewalk in front of the Hotel Sacher, we snuck into the stables to see the Lipizzaner stallions.  We stood breathless in front of the works of art in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, amazed to see in real life the paintings we had studied in our art history class.  We peeked into St. Stephen’s and St. Peter’s.  But I had not gotten Mozart back then.
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And on this day in Vienna, with my husband, celebrating (six months late) our 25th anniversary, I wanted to hear his music.
The week had been magical enough already.  Something about our new job—pastoring missionaries in Europe—felt so right.  Time after time in the past week as we’d listened to dear, brave missionaries share with us—their joys and victories, their defeats and fears—I had thought to myself, “Oh, Jesus, now I see why I had to go through those things—through depression and chronic pain, through the betrayal of close friends and the heartbreak of a friend who decides not to follow You and the rip-your-heart-out pain of watching my children suffer, through walking with others after tragic deaths of loved ones and learning deep dark secrets of godly people.  Oh, okay.  Now I understand.  It was so that You could prune me and teach me, of course, so I would learn to hold on tight to You, to surrender to Your will, to believe You could keep me where You’d called me.  All that and so much more, yes, but it was also for this.  So these missionaries could see in our eyes and hear in our voices and feel in their hearts that somehow we got it.  We got them.  We understood.  And we cared.”
This was what Jesus had been preparing for us for so many, many years.  And we’d had the privilege of coming to Austria and meeting these missionaries, many of them for the first time, and being in awe of their lives and work.
And we kept mentioning two little words: ‘boundaries’ and ‘permission’.  Like all good missionaries, we’ve had a hard time figuring out if and when we need boundaries and how to give ourselves permission to rest.  We have so many good excuses—we owe it to our supporters to work hard—they are giving sacrificially—and to those to whom we minister who truly need us.
We saw that these missionaries, like ourselves, needed permission.  ‘Come away with me and rest,’ Jesus says.
So I thought we should be a good example of this principle.  Before we embarked on this trip, I had begged Paul to let us have this one day in Vienna, alone, to soak up His goodness.  We’d need the time alone after a full week, I had reasoned.  And Paul, after lengthy mental debate, had agreed.
So we’d had our day alone in Vienna.  We’d climbed 337 steps up the steeple ‘Steffi’ in St. Stephen’s, we’d walked down Karntner Strasse and Graben, we’d toured the opera house.
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After our opera tour, a red-caped young man with a non-German foreign accent had approached us, offering to sell us tickets to attend a concert of Mozart and Strauss that evening.  I’d read about this tactic on the internet.    I had almost ordered a ticket on line.  Surely I could have Mozart this time.  But it was very pricey and some of the comments online were not so positive.  Was it worth it?
So I had waited and hoped.
I’d written down the price for the cheapest tickets, and I’d prayed, “Lord, I know it’s impossible, but if I could get the cheapest tickets for half price, could we have Mozart?  That would be a good missionary price, wouldn’t it?”
One of the missionaries said that I might be able to bargain with these young salesmen. 
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So I’d tried to do just that with the young man.  Paul is the bargainer, but he didn’t look up for it.  I spoke to the young man in English and then in French—he was happy to hear we lived in Lyon.  He also came down on the price some—not half price but a good bit.  All part of the salesmanship plan, I knew.  We were playing a game.  But we didn’t have enough cash anyway to pay right then, and he didn’t take credit cards. 
“I’ll be here until 6,” he told us. 
We walked away, me humming that Billy Joel tune and hoping for Mozart.  But I could tell Paul wasn’t enthusiastic.  He was worn out from sightseeing.
So we escaped to a beautiful little park behind the Hofburg Palace and sat in the sun and relaxed. We even ordered a Sacher torte and Earl Grey tea, sitting at the Palmhausen café in the Burggarten.  And, as a final blessing in the week of seeing missionaries, Terry and Donna Jeanne came for a short stroll in Vienna.  We hadn’t seen them in 16 years, and I could still remember the fierce tug on my heart when Donna Jeanne and I had waved good-bye in Crete all those years ago.  We’d grown close, sharing our hearts during three different IT conferences in the ‘90s, talking about our kids—she had five at the time and I had two.
Now she had seven and mine were grown and we sat in the sun and it had only been moments, not 16 years. And as I sat there with that precious couple, I said in my heart, “Lord, I don’t need Mozart.  This is enough.  This day with Paul and then time with dear old friends.”
But I did mention to Donna Jeanne about Mozart and the concert and our 25th anniversary.  Her eyes lit up and she said that when she’d attended a Mozart concert years ago, she felt like she’d died and gone to heaven.
So Paul smiled and we walked back to the red-caped salesman.  He was surprised to see me.  “I didn’t think you’d come back.”
We talked about the tickets.  Seeing Donna Jeanne, he asked “Are there four of you?  If so, I can give you one ticket free.  I’m allowed to do this once a day.”
Donna Jeanne smiled her sweet smile and said that unfortunately she and her husband couldn’t stay for the concert.  But eyes twinkling, she added, “But this woman is a famous author.  She’s from France.  You should give her the free ticket!”
I was shocked.  So was the young man.  He looked at me, and I nodded that I was an author, albeit not famous.  “Oh, she didn’t mention it,” he said sheepishly.  Why would I ever mention that?  But Donna Jeanne is like that—she mentions things.
To break the tension, I asked him where he was from, and he said Algeria.  Algeria!  I told him that some of my novels were about Algeria’s war for Independence from France.  His eyes lit up and he said, “You get the free ticket.” 
A free ticket!  And he bumped us up to VIP status for the cheaper price.  I was laughing, as were Donna Jeanne and the young man.  I had prayed for tickets at half price, but never had I imagined that the way the Lord would answer that was by giving us one that was free!
When God shows up in such a fun way, well, I’ve learned that this is His hug to me, but that’s not all He’s up to.  It’s much bigger than that.  I asked the young man his name.  
“Riad,” he said. Then he told me he was from Kabyle.  I know about Kabyle—it’s the part of Algeria where a revival is going on for Jesus.
I promised him that I would send him one of my novels if he left me his address.  He enthusiastically agreed and scribbled it for me on a piece of paper.  As we thanked him for the tickets (he almost forgot to ask Paul to pay, so happy was he with the conversation), I imagined that one day perhaps Riad would be talking with Terry or Donna Jeanne or another of the missionaries about this Jesus that he would read about in my novel.  
As Donna Jeanne and I left Riad, we whispered to each other, “This is so like the Lord.  He gives more than we ask.  He surprises us with good things.  He wants us to give ourselves permission to enjoy His love to us.” 
Even Paul seemed pleased.
The missionary life has so many challenges.  But every once in a while, and more often than we’d expect (sometimes more often than we accept), God just blesses us with something more, something delightfully extravagant.
So I got Mozart in Vienna.  And it was heavenly.
~Elizabeth Musser, March, 2011

Letters to the Lord: Disappointment

My dear friend, Kim Platt, joins Letters to the Lord again today to share about disappointment. I always appreciate Kim’s thoughtful prose. I know you will too.

I can feel the tears forming in my eyes as it slowly dawns on me that I am joining the Zoom call at the wrong time. I’ve been looking forward to this all day. But I am joining at the end, not the beginning. I’m confused and frustrated. What has happened? What have I done wrong? I’d put it in the diary at the first chance. Did I get the time wrong? Stupid me, of course the time was wrong; late evening for me would be even later for my friend hosting the contemplative prayer evening. Why didn’t I notice when I was looking at the times this morning, double checking because it was a priority for me?

So I sit very still as the others share their reflections from sitting with Psalm 46. I don’t want to distract. But the stillness seems at odds with the emotion filling up inside. Lord, I so needed this today. And now it seems stolen. Should I just leave the meeting now and try and join the Roman’s Bible study? But I already told them I couldn’t join tonight. I’m trying to take care of myself in this time of isolation. My mind is racing: what should I do?

I stay on the call. I listen to lovely summaries of the fruit of the lectio. I see some faces I know and some I don’t. Then there is a song at the end.

Stay with me, remain here with me, watch and pray!

Stay here and keep watch with me. Watch and pray, watch and pray!

Watch and pray not to give way to temptation.

The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.

My heart is nearly broken with sorrow. Remain here with me, stay awake and pray.

Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by.

Father, if this cannot pass me by without my drinking it, your will be done

Taize

The song washes over me. Jesus knows disappointment. I make it to the end, I swallow the tears. I breathe. I apologize for joining so late. I thank them for sharing what they got from the verses. “Make glad the city of God,” hits me. My friend says that the timing issue is probably her fault. I say, I still should have realized it was wrong. I work with time zones every day in my member care job.

I chat with those who stay on the call for another 20 minutes or so. I feel the emotion changing to calm. The disappointment is losing its power. Everyone agrees to meet again in a month.

I’m sad I missed it. It wasn’t my fault. But I need to have grace. I don’t have to blame someone. Often anger is my response, not tears. So it’s progress that tears were the first response. Anger often needs a target. But this time I call for grace. I ask the Spirit to help me.

I tell my husband what happened. I tell him it wasn’t my fault—why is this so important? I tell him I was looking forward to it. I’m not angry, just disappointed.

For me this is what growth looks like. It’s recognizing when certain patterns derail me. It’s calling out, “Lord, help me.” It’s choosing a different route—and seeing if the outcome is different. Because anger doesn’t bring about the righteous life that God has planned for me.

James 1:20 NLT

Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

Especially anger that is fast. Because God is slow to anger. Slow anger, that is angry about injustice and holiness. Most of the time my anger is about me. It’s selfish anger. It’s about my image. It’s about my ambition. My anger is about protecting myself from the pain that comes with loss.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,

    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. 

He will not constantly accuse us,

    nor remain angry forever.

Psalm 103:8,9

But God is my example. He is slow to anger. Anger is not his default response—that would be love. And when he is angry, it’s not forever. That’s what I’m trying to learn, and this time zone catastrophe helped me see that I can choose the impact of the painful loss over the destruction of blame and anger that seethes and rots inside my heart.

I’m disappointed that I missed out on a wonderful reflective evening of stillness and calm. But I gained a confidence in God’s transforming power in my life.

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

 I’ve been living cross-culturally since 1988. I love listening to people and helping them hear themselves and hopefully hear God. I love speaking and teaching. I’m recovering from breast cancer that shook me to the foundations in 2017. I live by the seaside in Wales and work from home with my husband. I’ve raised 4 children in countries ‘foreign’ to me and am now enjoying 2 grandchildren. I’m a member care specialist with One Collective. You can read more of my devotional thoughts on my blog: https://plattmom.blogspot.com

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Letters to the Lord: Rats on the Beach

Years ago, I got a little surprise at the end of our 20th anniversary celebration in North Africa. And the lesson I learned is still applicable today as life continues to be unpredictable…
It had been the perfect vacation, really.  The perfect get-away for Paul and me, the perfect way to celebrate twenty years of marriage.  A trip to Tunisia.  How exotic, we thought.  The price was right and so we left our teenaged sons and Odette in Lyon and headed to the sunny beaches of Tunisia for a week in October.
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We’d had plenty of warm, sunny days, with only one rain shower on Thursday night.  We’d had luxurious time to laugh and love, to walk by the sea and sit by the pool and read a novel—I think it’s the first time I’ve ever read a whole book on vacation—time to talk about our sons and our work, time to enjoy a game or two of Spite and Malice at night on the green felt-covered card tables, time to dance in our room to some of our favorite ‘oldies and goldies’, time to go to the spa for all different treatments—algae treatments in the hammam, massages and hot baths.  
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There’d of course been time to discover a bit of this country, with it’s loud music and its colorful souks, the merchants in the different stores all offering the same gaudy goods—pottery and leather goods and fake Nike Tshirts, spices and ‘shiskas’—those long metal pipes you can smoke for an hour—rugs and jewelry and chess boards made of olive wood.
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We’d sampled the native food—although the hotel offered a wide European variety—and we’d played it safe and drank plenty of bottled water.  We’d ridden camels and visited the Berber market in a neighboring town.  We’d had the perfect mix of relaxation alone and sightseeing.  We’d even made friends with a cute young French couple and had several open conversations with them about faith.
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Yes, it had been the perfect vacation.
Of course there were things that weren’t truly ‘perfect’—the roads and beaches were strewn with empty bottles and cans, the music at the hotel tended to be loud and obnoxious, the spa treatments and the food and the excursions all smacked of giving a little less than what you expected.  But that was all fine with me.  I was alone with Paul, we were together and, if the truth be told, considering the price of the ‘sejour’ and a few negative things I’d read about this hotel right before we left, I felt everything was better than I’d expected.  I’d been relieved and delighted and happy and content and filled up.
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Then we headed out on Saturday morning for a last walk on the beach.  This was our first morning walk.  Usually we waited until later in the afternoon, after our spa treatment or excursion.  Today Paul and I planned to walk toward Hammamet together on the beach and then he’d go out to the road and take a jog, while I returned to the hotel via the beach.
It was going fine, truly, in spite of the empty water bottles and Coke cans being tossed along in the sand by a gentle breeze.  Despite the cigarette butts we dodged as we walked in the thicker sand toward the water.  And despite the camel and horse droppings that occasionally lay in dirty piles nearby.  We were talking and laughing and enjoying.  
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And then I saw it.
A rat.  A dead rat laying a few feet to our left, discarded on the beach.  
“Oh, Honey! Yuck!”
Paul gave a little smile and nodded and held up three fingers, signifying this was the third rat he had seen on our little walk.
“Three?!”  I was astounded.  And horrified.
I have never in my life had a panic attack.  I’ve had plenty of other physical and psychological problems, but never a panic attack.  But at the sight of that dead rat lying so gruesomely on the sand, something in me snapped.  I clutched Paul’s hand and began to whimper.  “I think I’m gonna throw up.  There’s no way I can walk back on this beach alone.  I want to go home!  I’m tired of Tunisia!”
Amazing how one little helpless dead rat can bring such a violent reaction in an otherwise fairly stable woman.  Paul’s reaction to the rat was mild amusement and a maddening lack of surprise.  After all he’d grown up in Brazil, and I guess he’d seen a lot worse things than rats on the beach.
But to me, I felt insulted in my very sensitive inner being.  It didn’t help at all that we encountered three more dead rats as we progressed along the beach.  I was quickly loosing touch with reality.  I had visions of these rats being caught on the end of the tide and tumbling down on my toes.  Perhaps one was not quite dead and would still have enough energy to sink his rabid teeth into one of my toes.  
“This is revolting!” I acknowledged, as if Paul had not already gotten the hint, with me gripping his hands and panting and grimacing and threatening to throw up.
“It’s okay, dear,” he soothed, which was, of course, no comfort at all at that moment.  
“Easy for you to say! You’re heading out to the road, far from the rats.  I have to face them all again alone on my way back!  You don’t understand, Paul.  The sight of those dead rats conjures up awful images from my childhood when I’d go to the barn to feed our horses and hear those rodents running above in the hayloft.  Of when I’d put a hose in the water buckets and find a floating and bloated rat there, victim of the poison we’d put out.  These are very traumatic memories from the past, honey!”
“But you survived,” he chuckled.
“Barely,” I seethed.
And then Paul did something he rarely does.  He took my hand and squeezed it and said a bit sternly, yet with underlying humor, “Resaisis-toi!  Get a hold of yourself!  Calm down.  Everything is going to be okay.”
It is rare that Paul reprimands me.  Even though I knew this reprimand was half humor, I did not appreciate it.  He didn’t understand!  He didn’t remember those rancid rats in the barn, and he wasn’t at home the day the mouse ran across our kitchen floor when we were starving seminary students.  He didn’t hear the ‘whack, whack, whack!’ of the neighbor’s shoe as he came to my rescue and put an end to the varmint.  Even now, back in Lyon, some clever mouse was lurking in the pantry, dodging all the traps Paul had set for him.  
Still, I was able to take a deep breath, accept Paul’s hug and let him jog away while I turned to face the rats of my past.
As I walked back toward the hotel, I wondered why this had upset me so much and I concluded quite simply that these rats had caught me off guard.  I had prepared myself for loud music and possible diarrhea or some other intestinal aliment, had prepared myself for strange tasting food and even for empty bottles on the beach.  In my over-creative mind, I had braced for the worst and when it turned out to be much better, well, I was pleasantly surprised and pleased.
But rats on the beach!  Surely this went against every shiny vacation pamphlet ever printed.  Enjoy a week of sun and sand on miles of white Mediterranean beaches.  Find shells and camel dung and a few scattered dead rats to make your vacation complete.
Rats on the beach did not fit into any of my preconceived vacation categories.  If the truth be told, they didn’t fit anywhere in my life.
But they were here in all their gray, decomposing glory and I was going to have to ‘get a hold of myself’ as Paul said.
Isn’t this how life is?  We prepare ourselves for certain things and expect life to work that way.  Sure there will be a few bumps along the way.  But when the diagnosis is cancer or the hurricane hits our town or the unexpected expenses dry up our savings, we tend to panic.
As a Christian, I have a rock solid faith that the Lord will provide for me, for us.  He always has.  And over the past forty-plus years, I have gradually gotten rid of the ‘if only’ excuses in my life.  ‘If only I had more money, I’d give to charity,’ ‘if only I felt stronger I’d volunteer,’ ‘if only our house was bigger, I’d open it up to the youth group…’  I’ve learned through the years that I have to start small.  Jesus said, ‘He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much.’
So I’m pretty good about avoiding ‘if only’ excuses.
But I haven’t quite gotten past the ‘what if?’ questions.  ‘What if Paul has a heart attack and dies?’ ‘What if something happens to one of the boys?’ ‘What if my books don’t sell?’  ‘What if there are rats on the beach?’
‘What if something I haven’t expected or calculated into my plans for my life happens?’
This morning I was reading in the book of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet of doom and gloom.  His words were hard, disheartening.  And then suddenly, I stumbled upon one of my favorite verses in the Bible, one of the first ones I’d memorized in college.  I knew the reference by heart: Jeremiah 29: 11-13.  I’d quoted it probably hundreds of times.  But this morning I wasn’t paying attention to the chapter and verse as I read along and it caught me by surprise.
“For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.  “Plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days, when you pray, I will listen.  You will find me when you seek me if you search for me with all your heart.”
I was reminded again, reassured of what I have known and believed for a long time now.  The Lord knows and cares and He has something prepared.
I can hear Paul’s words again, “Resaisis-toi!  Get a hold of yourself.  It’s going to be okay.”
There are so many unexpected turns in this life.  I cannot look ahead and prepare myself for all of them.  It is a waste of time and a lack of trust in the Lord to do so.  Some things will be unpleasant, they will make me want to cover my eyes and cringe or burst into tears or worse.  But God has a plan and it is for good.
With this in mind, I can face the unexpected.  I can walk confidently along the beach past 6 dead rats (yes, I counted them) without having a panic attack.  It’s going to be okay.  The vacation isn’t ruined.  The rats have even provided me with a nice little anecdote to tuck inside my brain for later, for the next time I’m forced to face something unpleasant and unexpected.  I’ll remember that, with the Lord’s help and presence, I got a hold of myself and I can surely do it again, even if it means confronting a dead rat on a dirty beach.
~Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser, 2005
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ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog.
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Letters to the Lord: On Winning

 
It’s Super Bowl time. How do you feel about WINNING? Here are a few of my thoughts from about thirty years ago which still ring oh-so-true to my soul today.
 
 
Lord, sometimes I wish I could just win once in a while.  Nothing big.  Just the little daily battles that wear me down ’til I tire of fighting.  Like the kids.  How I wish I could make them stay asleep at night.  Inevitably Paul and I will crawl into bed, whispering a few sweet words to one another before turning out the light.  Sure enough, no more than five seconds elapse before one of the boys starts howling.  Oh, just to rest my weary head on a pillow for more than two minutes.
 
 
And in the middle of the night–be it nightmares, stuffy noses, lost pacifiers–whatever, they wake up.  Let the baby cry.  Okay, go ahead.  We do it. Then the three-year-old wakes up screaming.  It’s just not worth it.  We can’t win.  So we walk around bugged-eyed, pushing in pacies, taking toddlers to go pee-pee.  Anything to get them to BE QUIET.  And in my mind, I think:  someday I’m gonna win.
 
 
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Someday these little frustrations will be gone.  But I won’t have won.  I know there will be a different set of problems to face with the kids.   And in our ministry, more and more acquaintances will call right at dinnertime with their sad stories.  Others will stop by to spill out their lives on my freshly vacuumed carpet.  I can never win, I suppose, in this life, if winning means that things go MY WAY ON MY SCHEDULE.
 
 
But wait a minute, Lord.  You didn’t win either, did you?  You tried to rest, and crowds crammed in around you.  You healed a man and hundreds of others rushed for help.  You closed your eyes for a much needed nap in a boat, but angry waves scared your friends and they woke you.  Yet you weren’t FRUSTRATED, like I get.
 
 
Somehow, even being God, so perfect, you knew that earth days are filled with interruptions.  Necessary interruptions.  Holy halts.  Changes of course.  Just to chip away a little more at our prideful paneling, until the sacred temple shows through.
 
 
You washed your friends’ feet.  You served even when others spat and mocked and hit you.  You didn’t come to win, did you?   Or to prove your point, or to have your life neat and organized.  You came to lose, to lose EVERYTHING on that piece of wood.  They taunted you, “Win, win, Jesus, if you can.” 
 
 
But you stayed and lost.  You lost so fully that you won forevermore.  Won for everyone who would embrace that paradox.
 
 
Maybe I don’t have to win after all.  Maybe after I have lost time and time again, I will finally, ultimately lose myself in you, and what will emerge is “that gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in the sight of God.”
 
 
Change my perspective, Lord.  Prune the pride that must prove I am right.  Soften the harsh words that tumble out of a tired mother’s mouth.  Let me lose the little battles so that I can win the war.
 
 
But it is only in being with you that I can learn the art of losing gracefully.  Only in arming myself with your weapons of wisdom and love that I can “fight the good fight”.  Only in laying down my life, day after day, for little boys, hurting friends, and straggling strangers that I can hear, “Well done.” 
Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser, c1991
 
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ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog.

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Letters to the Lord: The Crystal Goblet and the Sippy Cup

Years before I ever penned a novel, I wrote short essays about every day life. I usually tied in a spiritual analogy, which was simply my way as a harried mom and missionary of making sense of my life. Here’s one of my favorites from my early years of being a ‘Mommy’.
 
I have two favorite drinking containers in my house.  One is a crystal goblet and the other a sippy cup.  The goblet is fragile, delicate, capable of holding fine, rich wine, but always in danger of being broken.  The sippy cup is made of bright, durable plastic and comes equipped with a lid that fits tightly on top, allowing a child to “sip” without spilling.
 
Now if someone asked me which one I valued more, I would be hard put to respond.  They each have an important role to play in my house.  
 
The sippy cup is used daily, over and over again by my children.  It slips out of the hands of a child quite often, bouncing on the floor, undaunted.  I take it on picnics where it can hold juice, milk, cola or coffee.  I have washed the cup hundreds of times, but I am never afraid of breaking it and its bright color has only faded a little throughout the years.
 
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When my kids invite their friends over to play, a colorful array of sippy cups (for I have many) adorns the kitchen table at snacktime.  I know the cup can withstand an army of little, sticky fingers reaching and grabbing for it.  It enjoys being part of the crowd.
 
My crystal goblet is hardly ever used at all.   It sits, most of the time, untouched in the back corner of a cabinet filled with wedding treasures.  It has a fine, thin stem leading to a beautifully hand-crafted body and everything about it looks delicate and costly.  When on a special and rare occasion, I do take it out and place it on the table with my fine china and silver, it shines with pride, content to be in its rightful place.  Lifting the goblet carefully to my lips, I delight in the taste of the wine it contains.  
 
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To be sure, I must be vigilant not to drop this goblet, for it would shatter into hundreds of pieces.  Even after the dinner is over, how carefully I wash it.  One quick move or unconscious click against another dish would spell disaster.  But I appreciate the goblet for the precise and regal role it plays in the extraordinary moments of my life.
 
I have two little boys in my house.  One is a sippy cup and the other a crystal goblet.  They are  both treasures beyond worth to me, but how I must handle them differently!  
 
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My sippy cup kid is effervescent energy from the moment his rosy red cheeks greet me in my pre-dawn stupor until I tuck his untamed little round body into bed at night. He charms all ages and knows how to get the response he wants as his big, blue eyes peer up at me from under unkempt, blond locks.  Friends and strangers alike cannot resist the urge to pinch his over-sized cheeks.   Eager to be a part of every activity, he dusts the kitchen with flour as we bake a cake together.  His laughter and love of life are the music of our household, with his theme song being, “I can do it all by myself!”  He is rough and tough, taking many a tumble without a single tear in the eye.  He will swallow even the most awful tasting medicine without a word, and will endure a hard pop on his little bottom without a flinch.
 
My crystal goblet child is bright and sensitive.  He is shy, and hides in a corner when guests come.  To look someone in the eye is a chore.  He at times seems out of place among the other children because he gets hurt so easily.  A bumped knee brings big tears, a bloody mouth, high pitched screams.  But by far it is the bruised ego, the fragile feelings, that are hurt most often.
His whole inner make-up is delicate, from his ears to his intestines and especially his soul.  Each new endeavor is wrought with worry.  “I can’t” he cries in frustration, because he will do something not just well, but perfect or not at all.
 
At times I tire of handling him so carefully, wondering why one wrong word will break him into a thousand pieces.  But when he feels secure and understood, he shines like the goblet on a well set table.  And from his small lips and large eyes flow knowledge past his years: a gentle phrase, a profound observation, a deep, passionate joy.
 
There was no instruction book that came with my sippy cup or my crystal goblet.  Common sense helped me figure out the obvious use for each one.  I have never once poured milk into the goblet or set my sippy cup on a table shining with china and silver.  Therefore, I can’t recall ever being disappointed with either container.
 
No instruction book came with my boys either.  Common sense helped a lot, but sometimes it got pushed to the side as I expected my sippy cup kid to teach me profound truths like his brother.  Or I wanted my crystal goblet child to be as tough as his sibling.  And I grew disappointed with my boys.
 
Fortunately, I did have an instruction book for “life in general” and in it I found one gleaming
verse that set me straight about my kids:  “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6).  I once heard a well-known pastor preach on that verse.  What he said made sense.  The original meaning of the verse indicates that it is the parent’s responsibility to discover the talents, traits and “bents” of each of his children and train them up in this way.
 
Some things will of course be the same.  Both a goblet and a cup must be washed with soap after each use.  Both hold liquid and both are put to the mouth, not the ear.  But what goes inside the drinking instrument and how it is handled, ah there’s the difference.
 
So I observe my kids.  They’re growing up in the same home with the same rules and the same love.  But I’m learning how to encourage each one in “the way he should go”.  I’m wrestling with one and writing poetry with the other.  I’m savoring the sippy cup kid’s sloppy kisses, and I’m lingering over a rich, delicious phrase from the crystal goblet child.   I’d be hard pressed to tell you which one I appreciate more.  They have both filled me with joy and my cup (or is it my goblet?) overflows. 
 
Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser, c1994

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog.

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Letters to the Lord: See What I See

Today, I’ve asked my amazing mother-in-law, Doris Ann Musser, to share a few of her thoughts that were inspired from what she observed in a church service a few years ago. I think you will appreciate her thoughts.

Sitting quietly on the back row of church today, I was following the order of service with a blank brain. Pastor announced a hymn. The couple in front of me stood.

Child was immediately on the chair reaching arms to Mother. In one swoop that probably had happened numerous times already, Mother moved Child around to the front of her body naturally, supporting her with clasped arms.

Child snuggled into that special place on Mother’s shoulder as her head leaned against Mother’s soft neck. Her face was a picture of trust and happiness. Her little arms went around Mother’s back as she gently and slowly rubbed up and down. From time to time her arms simply hung limp, confident in Mother’s hold. Movement varied from tight hugs around Mother’s long pretty hair, to nesting in her shoulder with dangling arms.

During this whole time Mother was rocking side to side continuously in tempo with the music in a methodical rhythm. It was apparent this routine had happened frequently over several years. Child was much older than a baby. Her shoe tips hung almost to Mother’s knees. One never gets too old to desire being held by Mother.

In those moments, Child had no worries or cares. I was admiring a beautiful portrait. A lovely picture of perfect peace.

Tension was leaving my body. Oblivious to the music and worshipers, I was drawn into the scenes before me.

            Loving, comfortable,

                        warm, natural, easy

                                    and precious in God’s sight plus mine.

God spoke to me silently.

“You are looking at a picture representing my Son.

Come to Him for support, encouragement, and forgiveness.

Jump into His open arms eagerly.

I sent Him for this purpose…to receive and comfort the needy and hurting.

Believe in Him. He will hold you tightly and never let go.

Your arms will be free to pass His love to others while He holds you.

It’s good and proper to cling to Him, but I know there are times when you are weary and drop your arms like that precious Child.

Never fear.

His hold is firm and reassuring.

He moves and sways with you until you are at peace.

His arms are gentle and strong.

He loves you.”

Did you see what I saw??

DORIS ANN MUSSER has been sharing her creative talents for 87 years, spanning the globe from Lewisburg, West Virginia, to Brazil, France, Haiti, and China, and back to Kentucky where she lives now. She has her one and only, Harvey, waiting for her in heaven, but remains delightfully busy on earth keeping up with her five children, their spouses, thirteen grandchildren, and twenty-two great grand-children at last count. She has friends around the world and loves all things Mickey and Charlie Brown.

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Happy New Year! Bonne Année!

Dear Friends, Chers Amis,

2020 in review; un vol d’oiseau sur 2020:

January/Janvier: In Georgia on Lookout Mountain; En Georgie sur Lookout Mountain

February/Février: Elizabeth turns 60; Elizabeth a 60 ans

March/Mars: Long before Covid, we reserved a Trans-Atlantic cruise to celebrate me turning 60 and our 35th anniversary and as a way to get back to our beautiful adopted country of France. We set sail from Florida on March 1 and arrived at our home in Rochetaillee on March 14, just before going into confinement! We were extremely thankful not to be stuck at sea! Bien avant Covid, nous avons réservé une croisière transatlantique pour célébrer mes 60 ans et notre 35eme anniversaire de mariage et pour retrouver notre belle pays de France. On part de la Floride le 1 mars et on arrive chez nous le 14 mars pour démarrer le confinement, très reconnaissant de ne pas être coincé à l’Atlantique.

Lena Sky Musser is born on March 21, happy and healthy. Thank you, Lord, for new life!
Lena Sky Musser est née le 21 mars en Georgie et se porte bien. Merci, Seigneur, pour une nouvelle vie!

April/Avril: Confined in Spring; le confinement chez nous pendant le printemps

May/Mai: We stay confined at home, thankful for spring flowers;
Nous restons confinés à Rochetaillée, toujours reconnaissants pour le printemps et ses fleurs

June/Juin: Still staying home and enjoying the yard; Toujours chez nous avec le jardin

July/Juillet: We enjoy a day in the Beaujolais region; On profite du Beaujolais

August/Août: An almost-empty plane for our trans-Atlantic flight to the States;
Un avion presque vide pour notre vol vers l’Amerique

September/Septembre: What a joy to meet Lena and spend a week at the beach with Andrew, Lacy, Jesse, Nadja, Quinn, and Lena! Quelle joie de recontrer Lena et passer une semaine a la plage avec Andrew, Lacy, Jesse, Nadja, Quinn, et Lena!

October/Octobre: Precious moments with Elizabeth’s father and Chris and Ashlee; Des moments bénis avec le papa d’Elizabeth et Chris et Ashlee

November/Novembre: Chris proposes to Ashlee and she says “Yes!” Chris demande la main d’Ashlee et elle dit “Oui!”

December/Décembre: The whole family finally together; Toute la famille ensemble enfin!

Good-bye, 2020! Adieu, 2020!

January 2021/Janvier 2021: We finally get to see Paul’s mother, wonderful Mamaw! On a enfin la joie de visiter la maman de Paul, notre chère Mamaw!

During this new year of 2021, we wish you courage and peace in your hearts, no matter the state of our world. Nous vous souhaitons une année 2021 pleine de courage et de paix dans vos cœurs malgré la condition de notre monde.

“Peace I leave you, My peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful.” Jesus-Christ, the Gospel of John

“Je vous laisse la paix, je vous donne ma paix. Je ne vous donne pas comme le monde donne. Que votre coeur ne se trouble point, et ne s’alarme point.” Jesus-Christ, l’Evangile de Jean

Avec toute notre amitié,

Much love,

Paul et/and Elizabeth

paul.musser@onecollective.org; elizabeth.musser@onecollective.org

USA: 80 S. Victor Drive; Flintstone, GA 30725; USA

France: 898 Quai Pierre Dupont; 69270 Rochetaillee-sur-Saone; FRANCE

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Letters to the Lord: What I Want for 2021-A Prayer

Dear Lord,

In 2021, I want to worship more and worry less.

Worry less about the world, about my family and my writing and our workers and whatever else comes to mind (there is so much to worry about right now, Lord!), and instead, trust, trust, trust You with these things and these people.

And then I want to ENJOY the life You have given me and the way You have allowed me to serve You by serving others and writing truth. Enjoy and receive whatever other gifts You give me as an extra, unexpected, unmerited, gladly received surprise, gifts that are not needed, not grasped for in a desperate wanting way. May I die to entitlement and be reborn to joy in the simple goodness in life (Yes, there is still so much goodness in spite of how dark things appear! You shine the light! The Light!)

In 2021, may my soul be lighter (Your Light to make it lighter), not because life is easier (Oh, Lord, it seems to get harder and heavier!) but because I know You better, the Great Bearer of my burdens and of all the world’s. May I take Your gift of life, sacred, holy, salutary life, and twirl around in it and toss out the joy and the heartache and the redeeming love for others. May it spiral up like Hope. (Oh, how we need Your Hope!)

Lord, You know my anxious heart; You know my penchant for melancholy; You know my hard, stubborn pride, my mind that never stops, that runs to comparison and guilt and complaining and controlling.

But God.

You know, but You are bigger than my worried heart. In fact You are the BIGGEST and the BEST. Please take over my soul and spirit and the gifts You have bestowed on me so that I give them back with laughter and love and a bubbling joy that this, this, THIS is Epiphany: Worshiping and adoring the Baby who became Savior and Lord and Who sits on the throne.

Please, Lord. Even in such a time as this.

Amen.

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog.