Friday, August 11, 2017

True Freedom

by Cindy Hester

A couple of weekends ago while relaxing in Galveston with family, I happened to walk into the living room of the condominium where we were staying just in time to hear my nine year old grandson singing his heart out along with Toby Mac. He had no idea anyone was around, so he was giving it all he had singing from deep within his heart. The joy was palpable, especially when he got to the chorus. “When love broke thru, You found me in the darkness, Wanderin’ thru the desert, I was a hopeless fool, Now I’m hopelessly devoted, My chains are broken” - at which point he raised his arms to heaven joyfully breaking his wrists free from invisible chains. I could barely keep from shouting.

I had read an article earlier that week about how at one time the circus trained elephants to stand in place by latching a metal collar around an ankle, and chaining the collar to a stake in the ground. While still small, the stake held strong against the baby elephants’ attempts to break free. During the struggle, they would experience painful cuts which served as painful reminders of the consequences of such attempts. Once an adult, due to the elephants’ size and strength, they could have easily released the stakes in the ground. However, painful response learned as babies kept the adult elephants bound by a shackle that in reality held no power over the animal.

Often, we as humans are held bondage by such learned responses. We need the knowledge of our reality and strength in Christ to understand those restraints hold no power over us. I know from personal experience, however, that even after we realize we can pull the stake from the ground; it takes the power of Christ to sever the metal collar, chains, and stake we drag around after breaking free from the hold of the ground.

 Still others escape the physical prison holding them hostage yet continue attempting to function while still bound in chains - much like a prisoner who masterminds his escape yet his hands remain chained together. The prisoner may escape the prison, but until someone breaks him free of his chains, his ability is limited.

 I know what it is like to be bound by chains, even after escaping the prison of abuse. It has taken the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s matchless grace to break the chains of worry, anxiety, shame, guilt, inferiority, and hopelessness I carried into my new life. The old devil still comes around trying to slap that collar around my ankle and pound that stake back into the ground. However, by God’s grace I have learned to recognize his manipulation and lies. I have learned to run to my Father’s truth in order to refute the lies with which the enemy attempts to keep me grounded and in place.

You see, our Heavenly Father designed us for freely given, unconditional love and grateful obedience. Forced, ingrained restraint was never his plan. He wants to see us sing with palpable joy of how our chains are broken because we have personally experienced His grace setting us free. If you long for this freedom, it is yours for the asking. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him should be saved.” John 3:16-17

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

That Wonderful Hot Mess Called Motherhood
by Cindy Hester

Moms, are you ever guilty of measuring yourselves against a standard put out there by the world that is impossible to meet? I am not sure why we are so hard on ourselves. I mean after all, anyone who watches the news or pays attention at all to the world around us can see enough evidence of shortcomings to go around. It is often so easy to pass judgement on another mother simply because it makes it just a tad easier to deal with our own inadequacies –real or perceived.

If you are at all familiar with my writing, you know I love to write humorous stories about my Mom. The reason is not to make fun of her. It’s actually quite the opposite. Mom has a genuine approachability that touches the lives of others by putting them at ease in her presence. She understands the power of being able to embrace and own up to her humanity. Because of this quality, many women have found comfort and acceptance in her presence.

Mom has learned to find the humor in even the most difficult of situations – especially those related to parenting. This is a strength I greatly admire. Although she has developed this wisdom more in her later years, every so often I still hear her speak of how she failed us kids in one situation or another. The amazing thing is I remember no failures on her part. From my perspective, all I remember is a loving Mom who was doing her best to bring up four quite challenging children in a less than perfect world. (Okay, I was the challenging child, but it makes me feel better to include the other three.)

Trust me; I have and I still am providing my children plenty of anecdotes to share about their Mom. Like the time I was stressed from trying to meet too many challenges at once and forgot to put the car back in drive after realizing I was stuck out a little too far into the street at a stop sign. I was taking college courses studying between providing rides to after school activities and helping with my children’s homework and class projects. This particular afternoon I had just picked up my daughter from band practice (actually it was flag practice with the band.) The kids were tired, hungry, and grumpy. It was in the middle of a teaching moment about the importance of getting along with one another that I finally saw the opportunity to pull out onto the main street. I put the petal to the metal, but instead of going forward, I slammed into the poor woman behind me.

Understandably the woman got out of her vehicle angrily shouting things I cannot repeat. Embarrassed and defeated, I got out of truck, insurance information in tow, attempting to tell her how sorry I was between sobs. She paused as she caught a glimpse of three big sets of eyes staring at her from the back window. Taking in the hot mess that was me at that moment in time, she looked me straight in the eye, put her arm around my shoulder, and in a deep southern drawl said, “Girl, you gotta’ let somethin’ go! I know from experience that you need to get you some help with all of these things you are juggling or you’re gonna’ lose it!”

This woman had no idea just how much was going on in my life at that point in time. She may never know how much her direct words of wisdom and understanding meant to me that day. Thankfully there was no major damage to either vehicle, and I left the situation comforted, understood, and with a new friend.

Moms, we need one another. I watch as my daughters-in-law struggle to meet the demands of motherhood in today’s world. I see stories of mothers on the nightly news whose sons or daughters have taken on a life they would have never chosen for them. I have watched my own Mom struggle through watching me make mistakes that undoubtedly broke her heart. I have felt the many prayers she has lifted to heaven on my behalf and on the behalf of my children, and I have seen the results of those prayers. To be perfectly honest, I still fight carrying the guilt of the many mistakes I made as a Mom and a Step-Mom.

Today I feel the need to reach out to Moms of all ages and backgrounds with a word of encouragement. The common bond we hold is the love we have for our children and the hope to which we cling for them to experience goodness in their lives. This hope is not in vain because is there is a God who loves and cares for our children even more than we ever could. He not only wants them to experience goodness, He created them for this distinct purpose. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I also want to remind each of you that goodness in the lives of our children often comes at the culmination of a learning experience. That learning experience can be painful for them and for us. Whenever I find myself watching my child go through such a time, I am reminded of the wise words of that woman years ago. It does me no good to worry and fret. It does neither of us any good for me to attempt to control or “fix” the situation. I have ”gotta’ let somethin’ go”. I have to release my child and his or her situation into the hands of a loving God with far more wisdom than I could ever obtain. He is incredibly able “to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:13

Finally, I want to inspire each of us to find the humor in the many “mistakes” we make as we are learning to become the Moms God wants us to be. The love we show our children far surpasses meeting any standard the world gives us to measure up to. None of us has the wisdom on our own to be the perfect Mom. We must learn to simply bring our hopes as well as our disappointments and failures to our Heavenly Father seeking His will and His forgiveness. Be honest and real with one another, and “bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Messenger

by Cindy Hester

As I sat straightening my desk before leaving the office, a dear friend and co-worker stepped in my office with a handful of paperwork. I gazed in amazement at the smile on her face. The hat she wore looked appropriately fashionable and exceptionally flattering on her.

After a few minutes of small talk, our conversation took a more serious turn as we began discussing her treatments. She shared the most difficult part for her was the sheer exhaustion and lack of energy she was experiencing. She went on to describe her frustration with finding it difficult simply to function - especially the days right after treatment.

On one such day, feeling the need to get out of the house she decided to drive to the store. She pulled into a parking spot. Her energy completely spent and her spirit totally frustrated, she leaned her head against the steering wheel. Tears flowing as she fought back the urge to give up. She felt so alone and discouraged.

Out of the corner of her eye she became aware of a man watching her. He appeared to be an employee of the store, so she paid little attention. A few minutes later, he had made his way over to her car and gently tapped on her window. Armed with a kind smile, he motioned to a piece of paper in his hand. On the paper he had simply written, "Your hair?" She wiped her tears and in response mouthed the word "chemo". He turned the paper over to write another message. Compassionate, understanding eyes watched as she read the words, "It will grow back," and with a smile he walked away.

A sense of renewed hope saturated her depleted body and soul. She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had used this willing human vessel to share His message of strength and hope when she most desperately needed it.

We are placed here on this earth for a specific purpose for such a time as this. Our broken, fractured world needs the message of hope that we as children of the living God who have been saved by His matchless grace have been given to share. Resist the temptation to hold back out of fear when God places it on your heart to act in such a way that blesses, encourages, or uplifts, someone He puts into your path. You may never know the incredible impact of God's powerful love through your obedient act of Spirit-led courage.

"Lord, transform my heart to love like you. Give me Your eyes of compassion to recognize souls in need of a reminder that You love them beyond measure. Help me to be a vessel that reveals Your true existence in the simplest of miracles to bring about the greatest of change. I I ask these things in Your matchless name, Amen."

“God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Simpler Times - Happy Birthday to Me

by Cindy Hester

Since April is my birthday month, I thought I would share a true story from my childhood that still makes me laugh to this day. It’s hard to believe 50 years have gone by since it took place. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed recounting it. Cindy

I have always heard it said if you want a job done right, you've got to do it yourself. Well, I guess that theory must have hit home with me at an early age. It was early spring, and my 6th birthday was just around the corner. I really don't know how it snowballed so out of control. I just remember innocently swinging out on the playground at recess and someone mentioning my upcoming birthday. One thing led to another and of course the subject of a party came up. The next thing I know everyone wants to know if they are invited. Me being the people pleasing child I was, I invited them all!

I was never much of a party planner, but I had a friend who could plan a trip to the bathroom and make it seem like a vacation. Before I knew it, I was obeying orders by creating and distributing hand-written invitations to well over 20 of my friends at school. I can remember not being too terribly worried because I never expected they would actually show up.

As I began getting positive responses from almost everyone, the fact I had not yet told my parents about the party began to sink in. My stomach churned every time I thought about the dilemma. If I told Momma and Daddy, they might say no, and I had already said everyone could come. But if I didn't say something, there would be no cake or punch, or worse, I could be in major trouble!

The days rocked on to that fateful Friday of the party. I stood miserably in the bus line with all of those children headed to my house with presents. My momma still knew nothing of the mayhem that was about to descend upon her. Little did I know she had been planning a family party on Saturday at my grandparents’ house. My grandmother was baking my favorite cake, and all of my cousins were planning to attend. Dad had been preaching a revival that week, and I am sure she had not had time to clean house for a party much less bake a birthday cake. 
I remember one of my friend's moms running up with my present handing it quickly to her daughter who was waiting in the bus line with all of the other kids headed to my house. She told her daughter to be sure and call whenever the party was over. Inside I my conscious silently shouted "TELL HER THERE IS NO PARTY!!!" but nothing would come out of my mouth!

The whole bus ride home I was sick at my stomach. You have to understand, back then there were no Party City stores, and grocery stores did not yet have pre-baked birthday cakes - at least not in small towns. A birthday party was usually a big family celebration with home made cakes and punch. 

The bus finally screeched to a halt in front of my house and children began pouring out one after the other until around twenty-five kids were running in my front yard. There stood Mom, her hair rolled in bobby pins and tied in a scarf. She wore no makeup and had a look of absolute horror on her face. If looks could kill, I probably wouldn't have lived past the age of six. 

God bless her. She must have looked past the anger and panic she had to be experiencing to see my trembling lower lip and the big tears about to spill down my cheeks. She decided to refrain from embarrassing me in front of my friends. Instead, she went inside and began calling my aunt and a few others to join us (and to help bake a cake, and bring ice cream and something to drink.)

We played Red Rover, chase and dodge ball. I opened presents and played with friends until parents began arriving. It actually turned out to be a really good party. (Although it was the last I planned on my own!!)

I did have to sit through a long, long lecture on honesty and respect, and I did have to dry the dishes every night for about a month...but I sure got some good presents! All that said, though, my Mom inadvertently did get me back the next year.

I had the biggest crush in second grade on this boy. He had these big green eyes, and I thought he was soooo cute. Luckily I drew his name for our school classroom Christmas party (that was before we had to worry about offending anyone by celebrating Christmas.) Well, it just so happens I knew the perfect present for him. Perry Brothers had the coolest metal Tonka truck that I just knew he would love. I figured he would really think I was the coolest girl in school whenever he opened that present.

Well, to put it mildly, it was a rough morning...I was nervous, and I forgot his present! The school let me call Mom to bring it to the party so he would have something to open. Mom was a little late, but I just knew it would be worth it all whenever he opened my best gift ever. All other presents had been opened and it seemed almost like a movie. It was perfect. Everyone was standing around his desk watching. The anticipation grew to a fevered pitch. Then, much to my horror, he holds up a pair of huge granny panties and a floral house dress! Just what every little boy ever wished for! His face turned blood red, and with a puzzled look on his face he looked at me as though I had pulled a prank on purpose. I am not sure he ever spoke to me again!

Poor Momma had gotten the boxes mixed up and brought my great-aunt's present instead of his truck! At first I was so angry and embarrassed. However, the anger and embarrassment only lasted until the moment I Iooked up and saw past my anger at her trembling lower lip and the big tears about to spill down her cheeks. I remembered the grace she had shown to me the day I showed up with 25 uninvited guests for a birthday party she ended up hosting without any preparation.

I probably did give her a long lecture that day on the way home as we later laughed recounting the story to my aunt and my grandmother. Somehow I don't think I was able to get her to dry the dishes for a month as punishment for her crime. Instead we decided to call it even. Little did I know, I had begun to learn one of the most important lessons I would ever take with me in life..."Gratitude is born in the heart that takes the time to count up past mercies." 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Power of Petals

by Cindy Hester

Every time I see beautiful flowers I think of my grandmother. She had the most incredible gift. As a child I remember sitting around the breakfast table sipping coffee (more cream than coffee) and learning gardening tips from Dewey Compton on the radio. My grandmother always had her pen and notebook in hand fervently recording every word. She had a God-given talent of successfully using these tips in her garden and making it seem deceptively simple.

 Her ability to graft and bud plants especially amazed me. Often passersby would stop to take pictures or to ask if they could pick a bouquet from her garden. Miss Clara (Maw Maw Moore to us kids) would stop whatever she was doing to put together a unique bouquet, taking special care to wrap the stems in a wet paper towel to keep the flowers fresh until they could be put into water. Rarely was the time we left her home without a bouquet or a cutting from her flower garden.

 She often used this talent to bless others. She loved sharing her home-grown, hand-picked bouquets to lighten the spirits of those in the community who were sick or who had lost a loved one. My grandfather ministered to so many as a friend and pastor. To this day I can close my eyes and see him leaving home with a bouquet of my grandmother’s flowers in one hand and his Bible in another going to visit someone in need of encouragement. Many times I would be playing in the front yard of their home, and a couple would pull into the driveway with a marriage license wanting my grandfather to perform their marriage ceremony. While my grandfather counseled with the couple, my grandmother would go mix up a cake, get out her best lace tablecloth, and go out to her garden to cut fresh flowers for decorating the living and dining room for the ceremony.

Thinking back, I believe these flowers were an outpouring of Clara Moore’s soul. Their beauty and splendor represented her character. Although an humble person who preferred remaining in the background, her quiet dignity and the sweet fragrance of her character created a beautiful atmosphere. Like her colorful bouquets, she silently commanded the respect and admiration of anyone blessed to be in her presence. Today I saw a rose, and for a brief moment she was there.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

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GOD IS SO GOOD!! "Well, in ONE WEEK God has absolutely blown our socks off!!! Randy has now not only met his $1,000 goal, but surpassed it! We will have a total next week when he turns it in and all the donations have made it to him. We want to thank everyone that gave and shared his video from the bottom of our hearts for letting the Lord use you! You have sown into the heart of a little boy that I know is going to continue on to do big things for God! You have also sown into our church, who has such a heart and hunger to love people and show them Christ. And most of all, you have sown into the Kingdom of God! Proverbs 11:25 "Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered." Thank you for every sacrifice you may have made to lend in a work of great trust and faithfulness! It was amazing to watch the Lord at work this week. John and I decided from the beginning that we would give Randy $100 to start him off but that we would let the Lord do the rest and show Randy what HE CAN DO when we step out in faith. I had no idea his video would reach so many people and he would meet his goal so fast! We serve a mighty God! And even now this boy isn't stopping. He has plans for lemonade stands and to continue seeking out chores to keep raising money! I am a proud mama tonight and I pray that Randy's love for God and that fire burning in him will only continue to grow! Again, thank you to those who were a part of something that will always mark a very special work of God in Randy's life! I pray abundant blessings for all of you and I pray God exceeds your expectations! There is just nothing too big for our God!" (Written by Randy's Mom, Chelsey Dodson Sheffield)

A Poem for Bear By Maw Maw Cindy My dear little Bear who sleeps soundly and tight So peaceful and trusting, your cares free...