Fear or Faith?

I invited my friend, Shirley Mewhinney, to share her recent experiences
during the unexpected crisis that has rocked our world.

There isn’t a better message for our world today than Gail’s blog title, Live Above Fear!

In our private times, and even in public, most of us are experiencing moments of fear and anxiety as we wait out one of the most severe times of testing our nation has ever faced, a new war known as COVID-19.

I’ve heard that our current world disaster closely rivals the last great crisis, World War II, for its toll on our national resources and stamina. I was born during the World War II era, so along with my age, my diabetes puts me in the current highest COVID-19 risk category. Needing to accomplish tasks while isolated in the confines of my own home has increased my anxiety.

Thoughts rush through my mind:  What is happening out there? Why can’t I have a part in helping with such great needs?  How will I keep myself supplied with the products I need? How can I stay safe when the enemy is invisible? Am I taking enough precautions? Will my loved ones be safe? How can I live above fear?

Early one morning I woke up with food on my mind, not because I was hungry; but because I felt anxious about how I could maintain my routine of going out to purchase fresh produce and other healthy food to keep my well-controlled diabetes stable.

Feeling somewhat helpless, I reached for my daily devotional book* published in 1993 and turned to March 17. I discovered a message relevant to 2020. The title was a question, “Do You Worry?” followed by a passage from Psalms.

All living things look to You for food,
and You give it to them at the right time.
You open Your hand, and You satisfy all living things.
Psalm 145:15-16

The author then explained that the word “worry” comes from a word meaning “to divide.” When we worry, our focus is divided and we become our own problem. I knew I needed to refocus and trust God to provide what I need.

A couple mornings later, I woke up concerned about my health. What does a person do if they begin experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus? During my isolation, I had heard many “don’ts” but hadn’t discovered many “do’s.”

Again, I reached for my devotional book and turned to March 19. “Trust in the Lord” was the heading this time, accompanied by another portion from Psalms.

God, I look to You for help. I trust in You, Lord.
Psalm 141:8

The author spoke directly to my heart’s concern when he said, “Do not put your hope in things that can change—relationships, money, talents, beauty, even health. Set your sights on the things that can never change: trust in your heavenly Father.”

God knew I needed to trust Him for nutritious food and ways to respond to health issues. I refocused my thoughts on His love and faithfulness. He is the One who never changes, though everything in our world may shift, instilling fear in our hearts.

Some may remember how brave and united our country was during World War II.  Civilians and military alike were rushing into harm’s way to save our nation. Today, heroes in our nation and around the world are putting themselves in danger to avert the spread of this invisible virus, and one great way we can all participate and live above fear is to pray for them and one another as we have been doing in all times of threat.

Even though we have and will suffer heartbreaking losses personally and as a nation, we can trust our never-changing God. With His power and grace, our nation did come back following World War II, and we will come back again from COVID-19.

* Walking with the Shepherd, by Max Lucado






Slices of Time

What is the hardest thing for you to give up on a daily basis?

For me, it’s my time. Since I’m a planner, it’s a continual challenge to release time to spend with people and get involved with things outside my agenda. In the past, I gave more priority to my projects than to people.

However, in recent years God showed me the importance of sometimes letting go of my neatly-arranged plan so I can enjoy opportunities to spend time with others. Even when it’s only a slice of time, the beauty and the memories that fill my life make it worth it. Time with people is more often at the top of my list now.

This life-changing lesson from God produced a willingness and a desire to build a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Uncle Miles. When my Aunt Elia passed away, his life changed drastically. Mine did, too. Her death was one of many cascading illnesses and death among my family within a short period of time. In my sorrow, I cried out to God, “Father, please don’t take Uncle Miles yet. I can’t say goodbye to anyone else right now. Please let me have more time with him.”

God gave me six years. Those were the most memorable years in our relationship, because Uncle Miles and I became close friends, not just family. Our friendship filled the empty places in both of our lives. We began calling each other every weak—he from the west coast and I from the east side of the country. We discussed family memories and happenings, but he always wanted to know about me. And I asked about the highlights and downsides of his life at the retirement center.

It didn’t matter that he was in his 90’s. He stayed engaged in my life. Each year in the fall, I traveled to Oregon for two weeks to see family and friends. I made time to visit Uncle Miles often, talk on the phone in between visits, and enjoy some meals together. We also started a tradition of taking a day trip together, usually drinking in the beauty of the Colombia River gorge and enjoying the majesty of Mt. Hood. Though hindered by macular degeneration, he remained in charge, cautioning me and making sure I didn’t miss any turns.

One year, after delivering him back to the center following our trip, we sat in his apartment and talked some more. Words full of encouragement and mutual admiration and affirmation flowed between us.

Finally, we stood and hugged each other good-bye. “Honey, thanks for spending time with me. Really enjoyed your visit and especially our trip today.”

Knowing that I was leaving the next day, we looked into each other’s eyes with love. I believe he knew he would never see me again. I was unaware. Perhaps that’s why God prompted me to say, “Uncle Miles, I’ll see you next time . . . but if not, I’ll see you in heaven.”

Uncle Miles died less than three months later, not from an illness, but unexpectedly one early morning at the age of 97. It’s been three years, and I still cry about his absence at times. Yet, I have no regrets because God showed me how to give up my time more freely—even small slices of time—so I wouldn’t miss the chance to build memories with my uncle that I’ll cherish forever.

What memories have you been able to build with a special person because you adjusted your plan and spent more time with them?


Life Through Loss 
Available at Amazon Link




Memory of Love

You’re my favorite granddaughter!

My grandmother—affectionately called Grandmartie—showered me with love and filled empty spaces in my young life and into adulthood. She had that way about her.

My mother and father worked full time, which gobbled up much of their time.  Fortunately, Grandmartie lived close by.

I loved being at my grandmother’s house. Memories flooded my heart when I came across the pictures of me sitting on her lap, along with her dog Judy. And blowing bubbles on her back step with my brother Greig.

My grandparent’s spacious backyard allowed room for Greig and me to play, and became the place of family gatherings when the weather permitted. How well I remember perching on their lawn swing, and leaning over the edge to let the juice and seeds of my scrumptious slice of watermelon fall on the grass.

Some days after school, I’d bound up her backstairs, calling “yoo-hoo,” a greeting I learned from her. The delight in her face when she saw me trot around the corner into the kitchen sent an undeniable message: “You are special. I’m glad you’re here.” Often, she’d ask, “Want me to fix you an eggnog?”

Quality time. That was her greatest gift. It didn’t matter what we were doing together. Her presence poured love, personal interest, security, and devotion into my heart. Her words and teaching built confidence within me that eventually overpowered my shyness.

After I went away to college and then ventured to California to begin serving with Cru, an international Christian organization, her influence continued. I looked forward to receiving Grandmartie’s personal notes, crafted in her beautiful, unique handwriting.

She believed in me and prayed for my future. My choice to join the staff of Cru brought her joy, because she had talked to me about Jesus from the time I was small. She knew I had stepped on a path where I would have the chance to help others know about Him.

After living and working in California for seven years, I accepted an overseas assignment with Cru in the Philippines. Soon I began receiving Grandmartie’s airmail letters relating her latest ventures and news of the family, as well as encouraging words and wise advice.

Then she and my mom began talking about traveling to the Philippines for my first Christmas. A wrinkle in that dream plan surfaced when someone knocked her off balance at the retirement home, and she broke her hip. Still she was determined to make the trip to see me. After six months of vigorous therapy, she boarded the plane with Mom. Her age? 86!!

Little did I know that my Grandmartie still had more years ahead to love and nurture me. Just short of 100, she left this earth to be with her Lord and Savior. Yet, her legacy of love has enabled me to become the woman she envisioned and the person God designed me to become.

The greatest gift anyone can give us is love. What special person has poured love into your life?

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God;
and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 


Learn, Live, and Hope

What has happened in your life so far this year?

Have you started pursuing one of your resolutions? Maybe you’ve taken a risk and tried something new. Perhaps you’re at a standstill, overwhelmed by your long list. Or you’ve check off one major thing and you’re smiling right now. If you allowed God to refresh you through a friend this week, you’re probably energized to take the next step. Undoubtedly, we’re at various stages in our journey.

I’ve adopted the above quote as my motto for this new year. Maybe it has resonated with you, as well. All of us lived yesterday in the best way we could. Yet, certainly we can learn from a decision we wish we hadn’t made, or a conversation with a family member or friend that didn’t go well, or the way we allowed fear to shatter our confidence in a certain situation. We can give all those things to God and learn from yesterday.

We’ve already lived yesterday, but now we can embrace the present. Today, let’s live in the moment, capturing all we can from each experiences and allowing joy to overcome even a disappointment. If we put our heart into whatever is happening in front of us, we won’t miss what God has prepared. How is today going for you?

We don’t know how tomorrow is going to play out, but we can have hope because God has a good plan for the rest of our future. Scary unknowns may be lurking, but we can let go of those thoughts, trust God, and return to enjoying today! If we belong to God, we are assured that He will equip us to handle whatever tomorrow may bring.

Learn, live and hope. Let’s contemplate these words today as we stand in the crossroad between yesterday and tomorrow.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11, TLB

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Presents or Presence?

Just imagine…Christ’s birth opened the way for us to be in the presence of God.

“But to all who received [Jesus Christ],
He gave the right to become children of God.

All they needed to do was to trust him to save them.”
John 1:12

In His presence, we are able to feel His love, experience His peace regardless of our circumstances, and hear His assurance that His plan for us in 2020 will unfold with perfect timing.

“In [Jesus Christ] and through faith in him 
we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” 
Ephesians 3:12 

In the midst of our busyness at Christmas time, let’s pause to thank God for His incredible gift of Jesus and to relish our privilege to sit in God’s presence as we pray.

A New Kind of Thanksgiving

Photo by Ashwini Chaudhary on Unsplash

“A little boy in a Vietnamese immigrant family was learning English. He had
a particular problem with ‘g’s’ and ‘l’s’. On Thanksgiving Day, he attended
church services with his family. After the service he shook my hand and said,
‘Happy Thanksliving!’ Not a bad description of real thanksgiving. When we
are truly thankful, it radically affects our living.”

This devotional story by Dr. Lloyd John Ogilvie moved my spirit. Reading it also unleashed a new commitment within me. Beginning today, I want to freely and genuinely express thanksgiving to God, and to the people around me, every
day so I’m truly engaged in “Thanksliving.”

Will you join me? Let’s make this Thanksgiving Day and all the days beyond it
an experience of “thanksliving” and watch how it changes our lives.

The Downside of People Pleasing

I still struggle with what people think of me.

Proof surfaced during the opening night of the annual Word Weavers retreat in Leesburg, Florida. We were asked to dress as our favorite detective to coincide with the theme: Your Identity as Writers. I chose Miss Marple, the unexpected detective created by the famous mystery writer, Agatha Christie. My costume was a big hit! So what could go wrong?

Well, the MC asked us to come to the podium and explain who we were. My introduction brought smiles. Unfortunately, I threw out two more comments as if I were the real Miss Marple. The first brought a chuckle, the second dead silence and blank stares. Hurrying to my seat, my mind bombarded me with accusations. “You talked too long. Why did you try to be clever? You changed their positive view of you.”

After wrestling with my thoughts for a while, I remembered the solution…once again. My new freedom allows me to make mistakes without focusing on what people might think. It felt good to let go of that silly incident, confess my self-centered thoughts, and thank God that my flaws and imperfections help me be a real person to the people I meet.

“I am full of mistakes and imperfections and therefore I am real.”
Shaun Hick

Leigh McLeroy, in The Sacred Ordinary, explains, “I was a performing child, and I remember performing well—not only because I wanted the satisfaction of doing a thing rightly but because I wanted the praise that typically comes with achievement. . . . (My parents) praised my efforts and my accomplishments, and I liked that very much. But I also believe . . . that they would have loved me just as much had I not performed so well. I believe this because I love the children in my life, even when they don’t shine. . . . Where love is concerned, it’s belonging that counts—not performing.”

She ends with I Corinthians 13:7-8, “[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. . . .” Then Leigh asks, “What could you do that could make [God] love you more? He has already given everything to make you his.”

God longs for us to bask in His love, the best defense against whatever our minds might prompt us to do, especially in front of an audience.

Have you had an embarrassing, people-pleasing moment? What did you learn from it?


Intentional Gratitude

Author Terri Blackstock said, “I was recently complaining to some friends about some stresses in my life, and one of them wrote me an email that I will never forget.”

That email came from her author friend, Athol Dickson. His heart had been crushed by the loss of his mother after an agonizing struggle with cancer. He couldn’t think about God, pray or read the Bible. Nothing pulled him out of his despair. One day his wife insisted on taking a road trip together, and during their drive, he saw the most beautiful sunset he’d ever seen. He wept with gratitude for that sunset. From that moment on, he began looking for God in everything and finding reasons to be thankful.

Athol instructed Terri, “Starting immediately, thank God for every gift He gives, from those as small as a whiff of honeysuckle or jasmine in your backyard, to the realization that you just had a few moments without back pain, to really big things like [hearing news that someone you love is safe.]

“I’m talking about the practice of intentional gratitude. ‘Intentional,’ because it involves an aggressive effort to remain aware of God’s gifts as you move through your day, and to actively acknowledge each gift with a simple, ‘Thank You.’

“. . . In a life filled with the practice of intentional gratitude, there can be no ‘Yes, but . . .’ or “It’s not fair,” or “Why me?’ downward spiraling kinds of thinking. The two attitudes simply do not mix. Also, to focus on life’s gifts you must live in the moment. With the practice of intentional gratitude, there is no time for regrets about the past, or worries about the future. There is only thankfulness for the here and now.”

Athol went on to say that a default setting in life is to take details for granted, when in fact almost every part of every day is a direct gift from God. He told Terri, “It’s not easy, but if you do take this seriously and work at it until it becomes a routine part of life, I promise unconditionally that you will regain your joy.

Terri decided to take Athol’s advice and try “spinning” her thoughts around. Instead of being perturbed about a crisis that cost her a lot of money, she thought to herself, “God provided every penny that we needed.” Instead of whining about having to do something she didn’t want to do, she adjusted her thinking to, “God gave me the strength to get through that.”

She explained, “I realized I was going through most of my life ignoring those things that God deserved thanks for. I wasn’t looking for God, so I kept missing Him . . . . Once I reviewed times when God quietly worked in my life . . . it changed my brain. Dread became anticipation. Complaining turned into praise.”

As I read those last two sentences about dread and complaining, I knew God was shining His flashlight on me. I’d allowed dread to infiltrate my mind and block my thankfulness to God for opening a door to something wonderful.

I had followed the encouragement of my publisher to become a member of AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association). That membership paved the way for me to register for the upcoming AWSA conference in Nashville. Immediately following the conference, the Christian Product Expo (CPE) will begin. My publisher invited me, as one of their authors, to be present at their book table at CPE so I can meet people, and sell and sign my books. I’ve been given a chance to step into a far-reaching network of writers and speakers who love and pray for each other and support one another in their endeavors. Without the open door to join AWSA, none of this would be possible.

You would think my excitement would be mounting as I contemplate these upcoming happenings in Nashville. However, I have allowed “dread” to run wild. What am I supposed to do to prepare? What promotional materials do I need? What should I expect during the training? Who will I room with? What clothes should I pack? How will I keep track of where I’m supposed to be with such a packed and varied schedule?

By focusing only on the unknowns, I created pressure for myself. Finally, I recognized my sin. When I confessed it and began expressing gratitude to God, my dread changed to anticipation! Now I can’t wait to learn new ways to enhance my writing and speaking ministry. I’m looking forward to meeting many new friends, embracing each day, and watching God orchestrate all the details.

These days my journal is full of thanks to God because I’m noticing the big and little ways He is filling my life with meaning and purpose. Getting into the practice of “intentional gratitude” has increased my joy of living life with God.

Is there something you would like to intentionally express gratitude to God for?

“As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 
having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and
established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and
overflowing with gratitude.” 
Colossians 2:6-7


*Excerpts from “A Note from the Author” section of the book, If I’m Found, by Terri Blackstock.









Where is Alan?

Ever since my divine encounter with Alan, the man at the sea, I’d wondered what had happened in his life since our long conversation at the beach several months before. (Enjoy the full story in my February post: https://liveabovefear.com/2019/02/25/man-at-the-sea/)

Today, I waved goodbye to my nephew Casey and his daughter Piper as they headed home after our overnight stay at the same beach where I’d met Alan. Grabbing this opportunity to look for Alan, I headed for my car.

While winding through the back roads, I prayed, “You are God so you know exactly where Alan is today. Please lead me to him.”

God’s plan of precision was unfolding while I drove. My turns on the road were only guesses as I passed by high-rise hotels and looked for a lower white building I remembered seeing behind Alan when we talked on the beach. Searching for the public steps he may have taken, I saw a nearby parking lot—but those slots were private. Spotting a service truck parked in a grassy area on a side road, I pulled in beside the vehicle and jumped out. Realizing my bumper stuck out slightly into the road, I got back in and pulled the car up a bit.

Satisfied, I reached for my book to give Alan, if I found him. I wandered toward the parking lot near the beach steps. As I crossed the street, I came face to face with a tall, thin women holding her dog and obviously heading for the beach, too. I hesitated, but she motioned for me to walk ahead of her.

As soon as I took a step forward, I heard, “So what book are you reading?”

I stopped, turned around, and held up the book. “This happens to be something I wrote.”

She looked at the title and sub-title, gasped, and threw her arms around my neck.

Stunned, but wanting to acknowledge her obvious trauma, I said, “You have faced rejection, too.”

“All my life.”

“I felt rejected during my growing up years,” I confided.

We exchanged names and the story of her sad life experiences tumbled out. Teresa mentioned being part of an Alcoholics Anonymous group. Could it be?

“Teresa, the reason I’m carrying this book, is I met a man named Alan on the beach several months ago. We talked about rejection and he wanted to read my book, so if I find him I want to give him this copy. He said he’s part of an AA group here. Do you happen to know him?”

“Tall, skinny?”


“He lives up the street and attends often. Our group meets tonight so he may be there.”

“Would you give this to him?”

“Sure. I can’t believe this.” I couldn’t either.

Knowing this wasn’t the end of our conversation, Teresa suggested we move to the shady area so her little dog, Maxie, wouldn’t have to stand on the hot concrete.

Like friends who’d known each other a long time, we lowered ourselves on to the inviting green grass and continued our story telling. We realized the differences in our experiences, yet the complete understanding we shared created a bond.

In spite of all the trauma she’d endured, Teresa had set her sights on a two-year degree in social work. She is working against enormous odds, but her unfailing belief and trust in God since the age of 31 will undoubtedly fortify her as she moves toward discovering God’s eternal plan. Her passion is to help others know they are not alone.

God merged three lives into one beautiful story. Teresa helped me find Alan, and I listened to Teresa’s hurts and reinforced her hope in God for a better life.

“Teresa, we have to take some pictures.” We laughed and hugged, and made sure that one picture included her sweet, compliant dog Maxie. After all, he was the reason she was heading to the beach at that divine moment in time.

We exchanged cell phones and emails so we could keep in touch. As soon as I arrived home, I texted a handful of pictures.

Joy bubbled up inside me when I read Teresa’s response. “You blessed me today…God with skin.”

Will the Real Person Please Stand Up?

Tend Your Garden

“Gail, remember to tend your garden!”

Shirley is the kind of friend who sends me alerts whenever she discerns I’m forgetting to pause and tend my own personal garden. To give myself permission to slow down and go someplace or do something that allows me to relax, recharge, and reflect. To rest in a way that restores my soul.

Little did I know that my summer project would create a perfect environment to help this happen more frequently.

My well-used white wicker porch set no longer beckoned me outside. My heart longed for some pretty, comfortable, and durable chairs as well as a matching table. Fully expecting an extensive search, the moment I stepped into the patio display of a nearby store, my vision came to life. The high back, glider/swivel chairs, with colorful pillows casually thrown on as a suggestion, as well as the perfect-size glass-top table, screamed “Gail.” The patio sale, that reduced the price by $50, added to the thrill of the find.

A comedy of errors ensued as my neighbor Pam and I placed the huge box in her truck, lugged the individual pieces to my patio, and began assembling the first chair…only to discover the plastic bag containing screws, bolts, and directions was missing. After picking up the crucial bag from the store, our stressful DIY project continued. A little while later I called Stacey, the store manager I now knew on a first-name basis, and explained our predicament. Taking pity on us, she allowed us to bring everything back to the store so they could put it together for us. Patrick, their charming “assembly expert,” loved being our hero.

After carrying the completed set to its designated spot on my porch, and thanking Pam profusely, I released her to tackle her own weekend condo projects. With nothing else pressing to accomplish that day, I prepared my lunch and carried it outside to enjoy my new, colorful oasis.

While slowly gliding back and forth in my comfy chairs, I read my book and listened to the birds chirping. The flourishing fern, displayed in my large, cobalt-blue pot, brushed my soul with delight. Periodically, I drank in the beauty of the pink cypress tree, and flowers and foliage gracing the backyard beyond my enclosed porch. Without realizing it, two hours had passed. Smiling, I declared out loud, “Time stands still out here. I could easily stay all day.”

Inspired, the next day I gave myself another challenge: find the right flowers to plant in my clay pot, which had sat empty way too long. I set off to the perfect garden store. Spying one of the employees watering an extensive array of plants, I dashed over and presented my need. Immediately, she shut off the hose and led me to some small yellow, pink, and orange blossoms, called purslane.

“These flowers will quickly trail out of your pot.” She added, “I’m Debbie, and you can find me here any time.”

After pouring in the potting soil, I arranged the plants diagonally, as Debbie had instructed. Sure enough, even by the next morning they were peeking out of the pot.

To celebrate this fun and relaxing adventure, and the creation of my new getaway, I took my dinner out to the porch that night to grab some more leisure time.

A creative twist from God: the sweet, colorful blossoms close at the end of the day and open again in the morning. Now each day, after pulling back the curtains and stepping on to the porch, I say good morning to my new little friends. Then I peacefully move into a quiet time with my heavenly Father who knows the little pleasures that help me “tend my garden.”

In what ways do you stop and tend your personal garden so you are refreshed, revived and ready to walk back into the various arenas of your life? Sometimes it only takes a pause.

“The music in a song isn’t just the notes.
It’s the space between them.
A song without rests, without timing,
isn’t a song. It isn’t music.” 

John Ruskin