The Apple Juice Fountain Jesus in Every Moment A blog by Emily Furda

The Apple Juice Fountain

Have you ever felt as if life was unfair? Perhaps you finally got something you wanted and suddenly it was gone, maybe you were close to having it, and now your dreams are dashed. In full confession, that has happened to me, and I often handle it like a mature adult: I pout. I’m so mature that I frequently remind myself of an incident with a 3-year-old whom I loved dearly. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent and now amazing young women.)

Throughout college I babysat frequently. Now, some friends kept asking when I would get a “real job.” They were right. Babysitting wasn’t a job to me. It was becoming part of a family. I had to step in and be a like a parent. I wasn’t there to put these children in front of the television all day. Yes, I immensely enjoyed any time with play doh, but it was more than a job to me. It required my heart. It also required me to sometimes be the “mean one.” One incident always stands out. I call it “The Apple Juice Fountain.”

Madison was 3, and her little sister, Carly, was about 18 months old. That morning Madison was at the kitchen table with her new prized possession, a clear cup with a green lid, and the handle was also a straw. While trying not to burn the waffles in the toaster, I heard a bubbling sound and a giggle. Madison discovered one of the great childhood joys. If you have an air tight container with liquid and you blow bubbles into it, your drink will come out of the straw just like a fountain as soon as you stop. I gently told her to please not to it so it wouldn’t spill. As soon as I turned around, just in time to catch the waffles before I had to convince the girls “blackened waffles” were a thing, I heard it again. There was that bubbling sound followed by the adorable giggle. Now I admit to making plenty of juice box fountains in my day, so I knew her joy, but this was inside, and I had to be an adult. I told her if she did it again, she would have to clean up the mess, and she wouldn’t be allowed to have her cup the rest of the morning. Her mom could decide what would happen with the cup when she got home at lunchtime.

As I was buttering those waffles and carefully cutting them into not just the appropriate size, but shape for maximum flavor, there it was again. This time she tried to hide the giggle, but she was already caught. I turned around to see a spectacular sight. She was good! Apple juice was flowing from the handle of that cup, over the small wooden table and onto the white tiled floor. Perhaps it wasn’t spectacular, but in terms of a juice fountain, the kid had skills. I gave Carly her waffles, cut into perfect squares and enough maple syrup to ensure maximum stickiness and told Madison, I needed the cup. I will admit the smell of maple syrup and apple juice was pleasant, but the puddle on the floor wasn’t. I handed her a towel, and with the dramatics of “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from Annie, she wiped the juice up so I could get the cleaner.

I asked Madison what cup she wanted for her new apple juice for breakfast, and she pointed at the now forbidden fountain maker. When she refused to make a different choice, I went with the tried and true favorite, the pink cup. With waffle cut to perfection she ate her breakfast with a glare. That expression continued through teeth brushing, clothes changing, (including a dress and warm tights) and even hair styling. She was on a roll. As far as I was concerned, it was just a regular day. The juice incident was forgiven, but she still needed to learn discipline, the cup remained off-limits. She had a choice, enjoy the fun of the rest of the morning, or be miserable. We went on our usual fall walk to see the leaves changing color, even stopping for penny candy. How anyone can sulk through a bag of gummy Swedish Fish is beyond me, but she did. Carly loved the swings at the playground. Madison parked herself on a bench and glared. By the time we got home, the wait was on. She had no interest in playing. She chose to stare out the window waiting for her mom to come home. She was waiting to “tell on me.” When I saw her mom’s car pull in, I just hung out with Carly in the family room. I could hear all about how mean I was that day. Then I heard her mom ask some questions. She wanted to know if she got apple juice in a different cup, if I did her hair, if she got her candy like she was promised, and if she went to the playground. Each answer was met with a “Yes, BUT…” In the end, she was told it sounded like she could’ve had a good day, but chose to be mean, she owed me an apology, and the cup is gone for the rest of the day. I got a hug and a smile before I left, but it took her a few minutes to admit defeat and realize she wasted her morning. She was a quick learner. That was the last fountain and the last time she sulked through a morning with me.

I hate to admit it, but I have a tendency to be just like Madison. (Well, well most of my juice fountain days are behind me. I said most, not all.) Yet, I tend to pout when I feel like God has taken something away from me that I loved or even when He says “no,” in response to a prayer, and I don’t get my way. I’ve done it more times than I care to count. Sometimes small things, like not being invited to something special or even something bigger like a job. Sometimes it can be hard to hear about other’s successes, even if you don’t want the same thing they have. You just want to feel special.

When I’m pouting about not getting my way, Hebrews 4:11 often comes to mind.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (NIV)

Discipline doesn’t always mean punishment. I can still quote my 9th grade Bible class teacher. “Discipline is training that develops character, self-control, and efficiency.” Sometimes discipline does mean taking away something until I’m ready to handle it.(You know, mature enough to not make an apple juice fountain in the kitchen.) Sometimes it means I don’t get something at all, but it’s because there is something better up ahead. I wasn’t too happy a few months ago when I found out some plans career wise would be put on hold. They were MY plans and MY timing. (See a theme coming.) I feel bad for my friends who had to put up with my whining and then my talking it over seeing if I could still make it work. I finally surrendered, and asked God what He had for me now. A few days later, I received a completely unexpected email asking for my help with a project. It was never on MY agenda because I didn’t know the opportunity existed. God knew what was coming. He knew this job wouldn’t be just a job, it would have my heart, much like Madison and Carly had my heart. I feel as if I’m living out some of my wildest dreams. That never would have happened if my plans had come about.

What about you? Are you prone to pout when things don’t go your way? Have you missed out on joy because you were fixated on what you didn’t have? It’s easy to do, believe me, I understand. (But I STILL don’t understand how someone can pout while eating gummy Swedish Fish candy!) That morning Madison missed out on lots of laughter and fun. I’ve missed out on plenty of Jesus Moments, moments where God shows me He loves me by bringing joy in the ordinary, because I was too focused on what I lost. Life is more fun when we let God be in charge.

He knows what’s best for my life. He sees the bigger picture. I have to admit I don’t. He has a plan for my future and my present. He has one for you as well. So, why not enjoy the time while we wait? It might not include a trip to the playground, but there are many good things all around us.

Right now, there is even a package of Swedish Fish candy my dad bought me somewhere around here, which I’m suddenly craving. (I wonder why?) This week, take some time and ask God what you may be missing because you’re focusing on what you want instead of what you have. Let Him use this time to teach you and make you into who He created you to be. Also, feel free to have some Swedish Fish candy.

Emily Furda

I love hearing from you. Have you ever had your own “apple juice fountain” moment, a time when you had to learn the hard way that God had good things for you? Let me know if this resonated in any way. Thank you for reading. You could be doing anything, and you chose to read this. I can’t put into words how much it means to me!

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The Gifts from a Rare Illness Jesus in Every Moment, a blog by Emily Furda

The Gifts from a Rare Illness

Do you know anyone with a rare illness? Chances are you do and may not even know it. According to Global Genes, 1 in 10 people have a rare illness. If you don’t know someone personally, then let me introduce myself. Emily Furda Jesus In Every Moment Blog World Rare Disease Day Mast Cell Disease MastocytosisHello, I’m Emily, and I have 2 rare illnesses, Mast Cell Disease and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type.

Today, February 28, is World Rare Disease Day, so in honor of it, I wanted to give you a special Tuesday edition of Jesus in Every Moment. I want to show you the rare gifts you can experience when you live with a rare illness. The name “Jesus in Every Moment” actually came from my friends asking me how I managed to not just live, but seem genuinely happy in the middle of life threatening illness. It really is looking for A Jesus Moment, any moment, no matter how small, where I can see God’s goodness.

Mast Cell Disease is incurable and life threatening. Think of it as allergic to life. I’ve had 23 anaphylaxes, life threatening allergic reactions, and somewhere around number 15 I realized I needed to give a better answer to my friends. When they asked “how do you do it?” They needed more than “it’s Jesus.” Actually, I needed to break it down and figure it out for myself.

I also have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a genetic defect in the collagen. Collagen acts like glue to hold our bodies together. My particular subtype mostly affects my joints and skin. In a healthy person’s body the collagen acts like superglue. My joints are held together with a preschooler’s glue stick, minus the glitter. So, I frequently and easily sprain, partially dislocate, or fully dislocate joints.

At some point in our lives, we will all go through something difficult. When we do, it is important to acknowledge how hard it is, but it’s also important to look for the good in the middle of the pain. Psalm 27:13 is a verse I have clung to since I was a teenager, often reading with tears streaming down my face.

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (NIV)

So, where is the goodness of God in all of this? Sometimes, when we go through something beyond the realm of comprehension it feels like the “land of the dead” not the “land of the living.” How do we find life and goodness? I want to share with you the gifts and goodness I have found in a rare world. As you read, think about what gifts you have found when you’re going through something difficult. These are just 10 areas where I see the goodness of the Lord in the middle of rare illness.

  1. Friendships

I have gained so many friends because we share a common bond of a rare life. (How else do you explain a Yankee’s fan and a Red Sox’s fan becoming friends?) I have never met in person most of my friends who have a rare illness, but our friendship isn’t any less. Sometimes there are things that can only be understood by someone else going through the same thing. While our rare illnesses brought us together, our bond goes beyond that. I still wish none of us had these illnesses, but if we do, I’m glad we have each other. We know what it’s like to be left out, so we don’t want others to feel that way. They are a gift. When you go through something unusual, you need unusual people to help you.

  1. Sense of Humor

While it’s not always true, I’ve seen my friends with rare illnesses have some of the best senses of humor. Laughter in the middle of pain is a gift and unexpected. I look forward to the daily puns one friend posts on Facebook. Someone once marveled at me for posting a funny picture of myself on Instagram while I was being observed at my doctor’s office. I was waiting to see if an injection would cause anaphylaxis or not. Humor is one of my ways of getting through something; it never occurred to me that others don’t do the same thing. Some of the quickest wit I have seen comes from patients with rare illnesses. Balloons out of gloves are classic, but I’m talking about a good unintended practical joke. During my last anaphylaxis, I had a doctor and nurse at the ER who knew me well. My doctor said I could use the restroom, and after all the time I’ve spent there I knew how to unhook own monitors. There was just one problem; she forgot to tell my nurse. I realized just how much he cared and how fast he could run when he showed up in my room in a full sprint with a face full of compassion and concern. Since she never told him my monitors would be unhooked the alarm went off at the nurse’s station, and he thought I stopped breathing and my heart stopped beating. The concern quickly turned to relief and laughter when he saw me standing up walking across the room. When you know deep pain, you cherish deep joy.

  1. Compassion

Everyone is different, but people who know great pain are often the ones who have great compassion. Never hide your problems from a friend with a chronic or rare illness because chances are, she can sense something is wrong anyhow. (Do be tactful though. I mean I don’t really want to hear about your shoes being ruined from stepping in mud when I’m in the ER fighting for my life.) At the same time, we understand what it’s like to be hurting. When you know what it’s like to hurt deeply, you know how to care deeply.

  1. Insight

We often see details others miss. Because so little is known about what we go through, we must pay attention to everything all the time. I’ve always been detail oriented, but now it’s even more so. I need to be able to quickly assess a situation. I need to see the big picture and the tiny details. I used to think it was an annoying trait in myself, until a friend thanked me for helping her because it was a skill I had and she didn’t. We made a great team. When your life depends on small details, you develop the ability to see what others might miss.

  1. Creativity

We often have to find different ways to do things. How do I fill the need for friendship when many days I can’t leave my house or have friends visit? My psychologist usually tells people to step away from social media. She told me to use it more. While it won’t replace face to face interaction, it’s different way to meet a need. Pillows are a rare and treasured commodity in hospitals. There is usually an abundance of blankets though, and two of them folded just right makes for an even more comfortable pillow for me. When you live with unusual problems, you develop creativity for unusual solutions.

  1. A Voice

Unusual problems are often hard to understand. When you have a rare illness, that means few people have heard of it, including doctors. My local hospital actually uses me to help teach residents, but I had to learn to speak up. Someone giving me the wrong medication could cost me my life. That has carried over to other areas. While I still don’t like speaking up, I’m learning it’s okay and healthy to tell a friend when I’m hurt. When it comes to the medical world, there are many wonderful doctors out there, but unfortunately others see someone with symptoms they don’t understand and write it off as a psychiatric disorder. It took me a long time to realize I could refuse treatment from someone who was causing me harm or even walk out of an appointment if needed. After so many sessions I can hear my psychologist’s voice in my head saying, “You are your own best advocate.” Just because something is difficult to talk about, doesn’t mean you have to stay silent.

  1. Love from Others

There’s a second half to that line from my psychologist. “Your mom is your next best advocate.” I’ve had to learn it’s okay to need people and to let them love me. Sometimes physically I can’t speak up for myself. Other times I’m mentally exhausted, and one more phone call for a prescription refill is too much to handle. Having someone who can help with that makes the tough days less difficult. I often hesitate to ask for prayer when I’m having a rough day. The thing about a chronic rare illness is, it never ends. So, it’s easy to feel like a bother when you need help, again. One friend said to me she hated that I felt like I couldn’t always ask for prayer. I’m learning I need to let others love me. Just because something is rare doesn’t mean you have to handle it alone.

  1. A Sense of What Matters

None of us know how long we have on this earth, but I’m even more aware of how fragile life is because I have a life-threatening illness. I’m much quicker to tell a friend I love her or how much she means to me because I realize there is so much pain in our lives. We need to know we matter. I’m also more intentional with my time. We all have 860,400 seconds in each day. “Live Forever” by Matthew West sums it up well. No, I don’t spend every moment worrying if it will be my last, but I do want to leave something that will outlive me. I know my time is even more limited than someone who is healthy. Much of my time is spend managing the symptoms of these illnesses. (I’ve stopped 6 times already while writing this blog. I had 3 moments of “brain fog” where I couldn’t figure out what to say, and three times I needed rescue medicines to stop an allergic reaction.) So, I have to be intentional with my time. I don’t say “yes” to every project or opportunity offered to me. I’ve taken writing or editing jobs that pay less than others because they meant more to me. I want to make a difference. When you know how fragile life is, you appreciate it more.

  1. Strength

It takes strength to live a fragile life. People have often said to me how a rare illness makes you strong. I have to disagree a little. I have seen people crumble under the weight of the emotional pain; it can make you suicidal. I’ve been there. It can break you. It can also make you hard or jaded. I’ve seen others cope with the pain by putting up walls around their hearts. They think by being hard they’re strong. Really, they’re hurting and lonely. I can’t handle one second of this on my own. It’s God who gives me strength. “Tough” by Morgan Harper Nichols is a song I listen to daily. I want to be free from these illnesses every day. Who wouldn’t? What I have to remember is God is the only one who can give me the strength to keep going when I want to give up. Strength to live with something you can’t understand can only come from a God whose great love cannot be comprehended.

  1. Deeper Faith

This is the most important one. I want to be clear. God did not cause the illnesses I deal with. He is a God who gives good gifts, not pain.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” James 1:17 (NIV)

As long as we’re living somewhere between Eden and heaven, bad things will happen, including rare incurable illnesses, but God is always with us. Of course, I want to be healed, but I had to stop seeing God as a vending machine. I can’t pay enough or enter a code and expect my healing to drop to me like a candy bar. He is so much more than that. I’ve been forced to dig deep into His Word, and learn who God is. While it sounds odd, I’m often the most aware of His presence when I’m lying in the ER fighting through a life-threatening anaphylaxis. True healing has nothing to do with our physical bodies. It’s about the beautiful work God wants to do in our hearts.

What are you facing that makes no sense? What hurts are you carrying? You can be confident you will see God’s goodness if you look for it. In the meantime,

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

Emily Furda

Thank you for letting me share this with you. You are a gift to me. Is there something you can relate to? Have you learned something similar during a difficult time, or is there something you want to add? Please leave a comment on the blog. You matter to me!

Entering Someone Else’s World Jesus in Every Moment a Blog by Emily Furda

Entering Someone Else’s World

Have you ever lived through something you thought was commonplace only to realize it wasn’t? For the last few weeks, rare illnesses have been on my mind frequently. Partly because February 28 is World Rare Disease Day, and I have several rare conditions. The most debilitating one is Mast Cell Disease. It’s extremely rare, life threatening, and incurable. These last few weeks have been a challenge because apparently, my mast cells think Rare Disease Day means party time. When they “party,” I have almost constant severe allergic reactions, often for no identifiable reason. Because I live this every day, sometimes I forget how rare it is.

I have been blessed with friends, who care. They check on me, and pray for me. They care about me not just physically, but emotionally as well. They want to understand what is going on. I realize connecting with friends who deal with this same rare illness is priceless. It helps me to know I’m not alone, and all these bizarre things do happen to others as well. When you live a rare life day in and day out, it becomes your “normal.” Having those who experience the same thing helps to not feel so isolated and alone. Being able to talk in medical terms instead of a long explanation of symptoms helps. Sometimes it can seem like a foreign language. There is a strange bond that forms. No one wants to be in the club belonging only to those with a rare illness, but if you have to be in the club, one of the greatest gifts is the friends you make. A few weeks ago, I also realized the importance of having friends who don’t know what I go through, who don’t experience it, or who aren’t familiar with it. Sometimes I need a reminder that what I deal with isn’t normal.

I tend to be talkative, as in I’m usually talking more than I’m quiet. I’m so grateful for friends who ask deep questions. They make sure I don’t put up a wall and isolate myself. They build bridges and come to me. I’ve had a number of conversations with friends who want to understand what is going on beyond the surface level. I’ll never forget a midnight conversation with a classmate from high school. She wanted to enter into my world. Last week was another one of those moments. My friend, Angela, was given a crash course in the biological workings of mast cell disease when I had one of those moments where I had to talk it out. It wasn’t until at least a half an hour of talking that I realized just how much she was listening. She was understanding terms very few people understand. It’s because she hadn’t just been listening that day; she’s been listening for as long as she’s known me. She wanted to understand, and realized I needed an outsider to enter into my world. I needed to know I was heard and someone cared about the tiny details. She said it helped her to understand what I go through and to know how to pray. She chose to be here. She wanted to understand as much as she could. That was A Jesus Moment, a moment when I realized just how much God cared for me by giving me someone who wanted to learn when I didn’t know I needed that gift. I needed someone to choose to enter my world.

That’s exactly what Jesus did. Think about that for a minute. He chose to literally enter our world as both fully human and fully God. He could’ve just skipped 33 years, go straight to the cross and resurrection. He could’ve also spent His entire life as a carpenter. At least He’d have a home, but He didn’t. He chose to enter into the lives of the poorest people in Israel. This verse shows His life and the lives of those who followed Him.

“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’” Luke 9:57-58 (NIV)

To truly be Christlike, we must venture into a world that is not our home, and share His love. We must choose to enter into the unknown world of someone else.

What does that look like for us today? Are we to become a nomad physically living in the wilderness? While some people do have a calling to missions and physically living in a world not their own, each one of us has that chance one way or another. It may mean having a conversation with someone who comes from a different background. It could be spending time volunteering out of your comfort zone. It may mean letting a friend explain what she’s going through. When we do that, we open ourselves up to amazing friendships. We tear down walls and build bridges in their place.

Those who are going through something outside of the norm, also have a responsibility. When Angela and I met, it was because we did have things in common. We were taking some classes and group coaching together. We have some similar goals for our lives. She truly lives up to the name of helping others be Empowered for Growth. I could’ve kept our relationship limited to just what we had in common. I could’ve easily shut down Angela and written her off as someone who didn’t understand. It’s true, she didn’t understand, but she wanted to. Yes, she gave me the gift of an amazing friendship, but she also gave me something else last week. Without even saying it, I realized just how rare and unusual my life is. It gave me permission to let my feelings out, something I don’t do very often. It can be hard to let down my guard and cry, but sometimes I need to.

I was reminded of one other conversation from last summer. I posted a picture of me passing time at my doctor’s office Instagram, and I couldn’t understand why people found it fascinating. To me it was normal; it was how I find some fun in what can be a tough situation. My friend told me I didn’t see it because it was my everyday life, but it wasn’t for many other people. She goes to the doctor only a few times a year and freaks out. I go frequently and am posting pictures on Instagram. (I had to resort to Instagram, for some reason most of my doctors remove the markers for the white boards in my room. Excuse me for expressing my creativity. Making balloons out of gloves was getting old.) My friend saw me shining a light by giving others a smile. It made her think about her life, and if I could do that when I’m in the middle of a scary appointment surely, she could be a light as well. Sometimes when you live a rare life, you need to remember to venture outside of your world, and shine a light.

When it comes down to it, we all have choices every day. Will we show Jesus’ love to someone who is different than us? Will we stay where we are with people just like us, or will we look for those who are different. Being different doesn’t have to separate us, it can serve as a bridge to make our world bigger.

We get to choose what we build. Will we build a wall, or will we build a bridge?

Emily

What about you? Do you, or have you lived a rare life? Do you know someone who does? What gifts have you found in friendship with someone who is different? I love hearing from you. Please leave a comment on the blog, and tell me your experiences. You matter!

Shine a Light: Hair, There, and Everywhere Jesus in Every Moment A Blog by Emily Furda

Shine a Light: Hair, There, and Everywhere

Has anyone ever stared at you? It’s the kind of stare when someone is looking at you for a very specific reason, but you have no clue what it is. It’s almost as if a person is looking at one part of you, not so much you as a person. It kind of makes you wonder if you should call the police, yet at the same time you wonder if this is your moment, and you’re about to be “discovered.”

I had one of those moments a few year ago, and I don’t think it will ever leave my mind. (Ok, I’ve had several, mainly because I’m a ham, or just natural awkward, but we’ll go with this one.) First, understand I have naturally curly hair. I’m not complaining one bit about my curls! In fact, if you touch them with a hair straightener, that’s the last thing you’ll ever touch. I was born with straight hair, and had the classic 90’s spiral perms with gigantic bangs. For some reason my hair started to develop some loose natural curl. Now it’s taken on a life of its own, and I love it! I’m pretty used to seeing these curls, so most of the time they don’t shock me. Apparently, that’s not the case for everyone.

This particular “staring incident” happened mid-June, so my hair was at almost at maximum fluffiness. It wasn’t extremely humid, so curl shrinkage hadn’t fully taken effect. My family was headed out of town for the day and about halfway to our destination we stopped a Sheetz, a well-known Western Pennsylvania convenience store chain, for rations and the restroom. There are two kinds of people reading this right now. Some of you are saying “did she misspell ‘sheets?’” The rest of you are thinking about midnight runs to Sheetz for MTOs, one of their coffeez, (that is not misspelled) coke freezes, and gobs. You can probably even smell the cappuccinos right now. For those of you asking “why midnight?” the answer is, “why not?” It’s basically a mini supermarket, delicatessen, restaurant with about 3 tables, gas station, and most importantly when on a long drive, many have nice restrooms.

After applying yet another coat of fresh lip gloss I was about to leave the said nice restroom, when it happened. A woman in her 50’s with glasses and short straight blonde hair came in. Her eyes got wide as she looked at me. It was “the stare.” Then, she started to walk around me in a circle. I looked at the grey tiled floor, white walls to avoid eye contact. Then, I glanced in the mirror making sure I don’t have toilet paper stuck to me (nope, all good) and wondered what was going on. Even though I was a grown adult, a part of me wanted to tell my mom “stranger danger!” The woman’s hands started moving towards my head in slow motion as her eyes got bigger. Finally, I took a step backwards, and she seemed to remember I was not a museum display. She said “I’m so sorry, but your hair! Can I touch it?” (Uh oh, her eyes were glazing over again.) I didn’t really know what to say, but said sure. She said she had always admired curly hair, and loved how curly mine was. This was both awkward and flattering at the same time. I went with flattering, enjoying being in the spotlight, and had a good laugh. She thanked me, and we went on our way.

After grabbing the necessary rations (pretzels and gummy Swedish fish candy) we made our way to the checkout line. Then it happened again. I could feel someone staring at me. She was right behind me and HAD to touch my hair again. She said “If I were you, I’d never pull it up. I’d just blow it out as big as it could get, and wear it like that all the time!” (Looking back, should I have given her a lock of my hair to remember me by?) Then she explained her fascination. She said all of her life she tried everything to get curly hair. She spent countless hours and money on all kinds of perms, and her hair refused to take any curl. So, she resigned herself to living with the short straight hair and admiring those of us who had the curl. She said I seemed like I was nice so she just had to ask to touch it earlier. She apologized if it seemed weird. I happen to like weird, and flattery will get you everywhere with me, so I was enjoying this now, and made sure she got to touch my curls one more time.

I stood out to her because I had something she was looking for, and I didn’t even know it. Isn’t that what we’re all called to be in one way or another?

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

In a dark world, people are naturally drawn towards light. My curly hair was what had that woman’s attention, but she only approached me because I seemed nice. That’s the kind of light I want to shine, a light that makes someone approach me when she’s only laid eyes on me for a few seconds because something is different. I hope it was Jesus shining through me. The curly hair was just the thing that grabbed her attention. She gave me A Jesus Moment by reminding me to treasure what God has given me. That day we didn’t even discuss Jesus or anything related to religion, but I was able to make her smile. Sometimes simply spreading the joy of Jesus does more than any conversation can. In this verse, we’re not called the “trumpet of the world.” Jesus calls us “the light of the world.”

A silent shining light often speaks louder than words.

What about you? How do you shine? You may not be the center of attention type, but you still shine. Every time you open the door for someone, pick up a piece of garbage, change yet another diaper while soothing a crying infant, give extra time at work that you may think goes unnoticed, or even let someone ahead of you in a busy checkout line, you shine. You have something unique about you, and God will use it to draw the right people to you, if you let Him. Embrace who He made you to be right where you are. Often people don’t need a sermon; they simply need a smile.

Emily Furda

I love hearing from you! Have you ever had a hair-raising experience like this? Have you ever had the opportunity to share some light and joy when you least expected it? Please leave a comment and let’s encourage each other.

Is “At Least” Enough? Jesus in every Moment, a Blog by Emily Furda

Is “At Least” Enough?

How often do you use the phrase “at least?” Many times, we use it without thinking of the true meaning. Sometimes it’s used as gratefulness, but other times we use it to justify the behavior of others we know isn’t right.

This topic has been on my mind for quite some time thanks to a Periscope by Morgan Harper-Nichols. (Check out her latest devotional, The Daily Life. I read it every day.) How do we know the difference between being grateful settling? You do realize a story is coming, right?

I experienced both of these situations in the same day. When I was in school, I practically lived for the yearly “Speech Meet.” My school, Johnstown Christian School, was known for sending some good competitors. The Speech Meet was similar to what many schools would call a “Forensic Competition.” Students prepared monologues, poetry, group collaborations, and various styles of speaking We spent hours practicing until it seemed perfect. For some reason, instead of giving out placements, everyone was simply put in a category based on the total score, “Fair,” “Good,” “Excellent,” and “Superior.” We all wanted that blue superior ribbon. Just as much as we wanted that ribbon, we also wanted a perfect score. (Apparently, we also had issues with perfectionism. Anything less than a “Superior” felt like a failure. A perfect score was the ultimate prize. We knew we could do it, but we had to remember, judging was subjective and someone may see something we didn’t.)

Like sane people, one year we decided to use a collection of entries from Spoon River Anthologies by Edgar Lee Masters. It was a collection of epitaphs. (Don’t blame me; the English teacher approved it!) We worked hard, and did our best. Despite one stumble, we thought we had a Superior ribbon locked up. Actually, we believed everyone from our school would be getting Superior ribbons. (You see where this is going, right?) We all got “Excellent” ribbons. Once we got to the van for the two-hour ride home, our displeasure was obvious. We poured over those judges’ remarks on the papers. It turns out one judge’s score made the difference, and we were just a few points away. From that day on, the initials of the judge, C.F. became a yearly driving force in our preparation. She was strict, but she was consistent and fair. We were disappointed that day, but our English teacher encouraged us. We had to realize, at least we prepared as hard as we could that year. At least, we did our best and sometimes someone accidentally mispronounces the name of Abraham Lincoln. (Yes, it was me!) At least we were given the chance to compete. At least we had fun. At least, most of us, were under classman, and had a few more years to compete. Finally, at least we got Excellent ribbons. Those things were good and needed to be put into perspective. It was okay it wasn’t perfect, because what we had was fair and good.

On our way home, we were starving (Skittles and M&M’s aren’t that filling.) So, we stopped at the McDonald’s on the Pennsylvania turnpike. Because we were mature teenagers, we headed to the indoor playground, only to realize, we were over the height requirements by at least a foot. So, we did the next best thing; we ordered Happy Meals. I had an allergy to mustard, so I ordered one (solely for the toy) with a cheeseburger minus the mustard. The English teacher even paid for my meal. When we got to our table, I checked to make sure it was mustard free. It was, but there was one other thing missing. Rather loudly I told everyone “I said no mustard, not no meat!” (I’m pretty sure that’s not proper grammar, but the English teacher let me slide.) This time, it wasn’t ok that I paid for a sandwich and at least had bread with ketchup. I was deserving of something more. So, I politely went to the counter to show them the issue, and it was corrected. If it hadn’t been, then it would’ve been time to speak with a manager, or get my money refunded. I deserved to get what I was promised. If they had said “at least we got part of your order correct” that wouldn’t have been enough. I deserved to be treated with respect and not have them justify the problem making me keep the cheeseburger without a burger.

You deserve the same, and I don’t mean just a cheeseburger. Someone giving you at least, isn’t enough. How often do you justify settling? “My friend only calls when she needs something, but at least we’re friends.” “My husband is abusive, but at least it’s only when he’s drunk.” My employee is always late for work, and only does half of her job, but at least she’s good with accounting.” “My boyfriend won’t pray, read his Bible, or talk about God, but at least he goes to church.”

There is a big difference between gratefulness and justifying being mistreated. If you have to justify someone’s behavior, chances are, it’s not enough. Accepting the bare minimum from others, means they see you as minimal, someone disposable.

God makes it very clear what He expects from everyone:

You must be impartial in judgment. Use accurate measurements—lengths, weights, and volumes—and give full measure, for I am Jehovah your God who brought you from the land of Egypt. Leviticus 19:35-36 (TLB)

He was commanding people to not show favoritism. They weren’t to overcharge for the goods they sold. They weren’t to take advantage of one another. God brought His people out of slavery in Egypt, and He didn’t want them being mistreated again. Through Jesus, He set you free from the slavery of sin, and He doesn’t want to see you enslaved by anyone else’s behavior.

So how do you know if “at least” is gratefulness or settling. Ask yourself what is really going on. Is someone treating you fairly, and pushing you to do even better or is that person giving you the least they can possibly get away with?

If someone is giving you the least, it’s time to reevaluate the situation. When we say “at least,” that means we’re taking the least. Maybe it’s time for an honest, but respectful conversation. If the situation doesn’t change, then, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the relationship.

Did you really think that was the end of the story? It’s true, as a freshman I had many things to be grateful about that day, and the judge, C.F. was being fair. She was pushing us. Over the next several years we learned her name was Carol Fletcher. It was both a joke and a driving force to ask ourselves if Carol Fletcher would approve of our work. It was no secret we hoped to not have her as a judge, but she was always there. At the same time, speaking for myself, I wanted the perfect score from the hardest judge. Finally, it was my senior year. We had earned plenty of superior ribbons over the years, but never a perfect score. This was our last chance. Taking a risk, we chose excerpts from Shakespearean plays, which were pieced together like a daytime drama. (Again, the English teacher approved it!) The day of the competition one of the guys developed a problem with his eye on the way to Pittsburgh. He could barely see, but he did his part flawlessly.

The competition was in a church and sitting in the pews we saw her. By that year, we could tell who she was by just the back of her head. It was our last performance, and there she was. Our enemy who we also secretly respected, Carol Fletcher. We did all we could. Standing in front of the sanctuary we gave our best performance ever while trying to enjoy the bittersweet moment. Then there was nothing left but to wait for the scores. One by one each category was announced. We got our superior ribbons and were happy, but we wouldn’t know if we had a perfect score until later. We knew our English teacher was proud of us. I was a little sad knowing this would be the last time she would lead me into a competition, even though I knew she’d guide me through many things for the rest of her life. (Did I ever mention that English teacher was my mom?) With a huge smile, she handed us the judges sheets. Fifty was the highest possible score. We kept seeing “50,” but one mattered most, and it was the last page. There it was: “50” with a note underneath it. “Congratulations, you earned it! Carol Fletcher.” I looked up, and saw her watching us with a huge smile. All of those years she had been watching us. She knew we wanted a perfect score, but she held everyone to a high standard. I can’t speak for my friends, but for me, the perfect score was nice. What was even better was knowing years of work and showed in our performance. We earned that score from the one who pushed us.

Perhaps we all need to take a lesson from Carol Fletcher. Be fair. It’s fine to reward hard work and real effort that bears good fruit, but don’t settle for less. Don’t call something perfect when it isn’t. Guard your heart and life with the same respect she had for us. She made us better. I’m forever grateful. I may never see her again, but she taught me so much.

Never settle for “at least,” not from someone else, or yourself.

Emily Furda

I’d love to hear from you! Do you have a “C.F. in your life? Has someone pushed you and made you better? Please leave a comment on the blog. You’re important to me.

A Table in the Valley Jesus in Every Moment a Blog by Emily Furda

A Table in the Valley

Have you ever felt as if you’re walking through “the valley of the shadow of death” either figuratively or literally? It’s dark, and you wonder if and how you’ll survive.

Lately a few lines from Psalm 23 have been on my heart. I can’t get the out of my head. (Yes, I know there is a lot of empty space in there.) I hate that I had to take a break from writing for the past few weeks. Thank you to those who asked where I was or wondered if something happened. Something did happen, and that’s what put these verses on my heart.

I have Mast Cell Disease. It’s an extremely rare, incurable, life threatening, allergic like disorder. The best description is “allergic to life.” Every day my body is fighting an allergic reaction, often it’s “idiopathic,” no known cause. On a good day, it’s mild. On the worst days, well it is walking through the valley of the shadow of death. I frequently experience anaphylaxis, a life threatening allergic reaction which causes me to be unable to breathe. I need epinephrine at home and then more treatment at the Emergency Room. Last week was one of those trips to the ER. It’s also one of the driving forces of why I have to look for Jesus In Every Moment (you know, the overall title of this blog.) While so far, I have a 100% survival rate when it comes to anaphylaxis, and I do anything I can to distract myself while I’m receiving treatment, the truth is, I know my life is in danger. (I know my best friend would appreciate it if I stop joking about not seeing the “white light” yet, but hey, I get my laughs where I can.)

Last week, laying in that hospital bed in the ER, hooked up to monitors, receiving multiple medications, while looking cute in my rainbow Vogmask and custom penguin hospital gown, (I’m even allergic to the gowns they have at the ER, plus they’re ugly.) I couldn’t get Psalm 23:4 out of my mind.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” (ESV)

I knew I was in a place well equipped to prevent death, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel the shadow of it. I usually have music playing while I’m there, and this time was no exception. I had to remember I didn’t need to fear because God was with me. No matter the outcome, He was there. (In case you were wondering, I did survive.) Yes, God was there and I lived, but where was He in the details? This was my 22nd anaphylaxis. Was he really there caring for me?

Yes, He was. I often talk about A Jesus Moment. It’s a moment when something good happens, in any situation. When we recognize those moments, we are seeing God show up. So, where was He? Where did I see His hand working? What was good about a life-threatening situation?

I had an EpiPen at home, medication that saved my life.

I had my parents to help me.

I had my mom to take me to the ER and stay with me.

I had friends who were praying for me and encouraging me.

The road was icy, but we arrived safely.

There was a parking spot next to the door.

I had access to medical care.

I had a custom gown that didn’t cause an allergic reaction. (and looked cute!)

I had one of my favorite nurses and one of my favorite doctors.

I was taken care of quickly and with skill.

They followed the unique protocol necessary for someone with Mast Cell Disease.

My nurse, Chris, was fast on his feet, and quickly got more epinephrine when I needed it.

He managed to get my IV on the first try.

I was given a room with a door that completely closed so I wasn’t exposed to other triggers that could cause another reaction.

Pillows are a scarce commodity in the ER, but two blankets folded just right are even more comfortable.

We had a good laugh when my doctor said I could unhook my monitor so I could use the restroom, but never told my nurse. He was VERY concerned when the alarms went off.

I was stable enough to eat a snack, and Chris was able to get me the good graham crackers.

They still had up Christmas decorations that made me smile.

After a few hours of treatment and observation, I was able to go home.

God was everywhere. Finding Him in those little things did something huge. It brought joy!

Somewhere around 2AM when I was enjoying my graham crackers, Psalm 23:4 came to mind.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” (ESV)

While that may have come to mind because of the snack, I’m pretty sure that verse isn’t literally referring to the best graham crackers ever on a hospital tray. (Seriously, they have the good brand!) Yet, it did seem like a metaphor unfolding. That verse says “He prepares a table.” It never says God forces us to eat.

Do we miss see God moving in our lives because we choose to never partake of joy giving things He provides? We have to choose to let God take care of us. We also have to do our part.

Think of how frustrating it would be if you cooked the perfect meal, complete with your family’s favorite foods, and all they did was stare at it, then complain because they couldn’t taste it because they weren’t eating. They aren’t babies who need to be spoon fed, and neither are we.

God’s love, provision, and goodness are here for us at every moment, but we have to reach out and grab it on our own. He won’t force us to accept Him or the gifts He has for us. Sometimes it’s hard to find the good in horrible situations. I can tell you I’m not a perfect example and never will be. When I knew I was going to need to use my EpiPen, I was silently begging God to stop the reaction. Afterwards, I was mad because this happened again. I wanted to be at home in my comfy bed sound asleep, not on a thin mattress in the ER with an IV in my arm. I definitely don’t like having hives on a daily basis, or having to stop as I’m writing to make sure my oxygen levels are okay. Yet, God is good. One night last spring after I used my EpiPen and was grabbing my bag to take to the hospital I said out loud (rather angrily) as tears were streaming down my face: “Show me where you are!”

And God did.

He knew I was hurt, angry, and scared. He also knew I was desperate to find Him. Just like that night a week ago, He showed up in many little places. I had to simply keep my eyes open and know that even though the enemy of Mast Cell Disease and the shadow of death from anaphylaxis surrounded me, He placed good things right in front of me.

I do sometimes question how much I should share about Mast Cell Disease. I don’t want to be known for having the scary, rare, life threatening illness. I want to be known as someone who finds joy in it all, and hopefully shares that with others. This quote from Morgan Harper-Nichols for QWCdevos perfectly sums what I hope to be:

No matter what kind of things are thrown her way,

She will not break.

And not because she’s unbreakable,

But because her joy in the Lord is unshakable.

Sometimes it’s a hard choice, but when you ask God, He will help you. He may also throw in some graham crackers just to make you smile.

I have a challenge for you. (Come on, it’s been a few weeks.) Today, think of one good thing no matter what you’re going through. Find the joy. Ask God to show you where He is, and He will. I’d love to hear what it is, so consider leaving a comment on the blog as well.

Emily Furda

A Treasure Hidden in Plain Sight Jesus in Every Moment A Blog by Emily Furda

A Treasure Hidden in Plain Sight

Have you ever been on a treasure hunt or maybe even an Easter egg hunt? There’s something fun about looking for a special treasure, even if it’s chocolate coins and not real gold. (But if any of you have found a real treasure map with buried treasure, that is so cool!) My parents always had a treasure hunt for me at Christmas when I was a little girl. Early Christmas morning, we’d open presents while I had some chocolate milk and a piece of one of my mom’s nut rolls. At the end, there was always a treasure hunt for a special present. “Special” didn’t necessarily mean expensive. It was just something that would be fun.

A few days ago, my mom and I were laughing over one particular treasure hunt. When I was four, the toy I wanted more than anything was a “Sea Wee” She was a tiny plastic mermaid who came with a baby mermaid, a comb for her hair, and a “magical floating lily pad.” (“magical floating lily pad” = a sponge with holes in it so she could “float.”) Playing in the bathtub until my little fingers were like raisins was a highlight of my day, and a Sea Wee was my idea of a treasure. My parents gave me clues, and I ran all over the house, while wearing my pink flowered flannel night gown and Sesame Street Bert and Ernie slippers. My parents were laughing hysterically because they kept saying the present was right in front of me. I figured out from their clues, that the present was my Sea Wee, but I couldn’t find her anywhere. In the middle of their laughter, my aunt called to say “Merry Christmas.” I expressed my frustration to her “I can’t find it ANYWHERE!” as my parents almost landed on the floor from laughing. In my defense, I was four. I was certain I checked the couch. I KNOW I checked it thoroughly, maybe. Finally, I turned around, and there it was, one blue Magical Floating Lily Pad! The bright blue edge was peeking out from inside a pile of dark brown pillows. It was right in front of me. My treasure was hidden in plain sight.

How often are we like that when it comes to God? He has so much He wants to show us. In our haste to get out treasured prize, we insist we’ve listened to His every word, and looked everywhere. In reality, we haven’t heard anything He’s said and are looking in all the wrong places. Jeremiah 33:3 tells us how much God wants to show us:

“‘Call on me in prayer and I will answer you. I will show you great and mysterious things which you still do not know about.’” (NET)

I don’t know about you, but I’m excellent at the “call on Him” part. Where I fail is the “waiting for the answer.” I’m quick to ask God when a promise He made me will be fulfilled, when a need will be met, or how I’ll make it through the day. I ask over and over, never giving Him a chance to answer. When I slow down, usually He reminds me of the promises He has fulfilled, sometimes they’re even stepping stones towards the fulfillment of the bigger promise. Many times, that need is met in an unexpected way, or I realize it wasn’t as pressing of a need as I thought. Usually, I’m the one who has myself spinning in circles focusing on what’s going wrong to the point that I miss out on His peace.

The next time you find yourself unsure if God is really listening or if that treasure you’re hunting for is ever going to be found, remember a little girl with curly hair hunting for a blue “magical floating lily pad.” Have a laugh at my expense, ask God, then listen for His answer. If all else fails, check the couch.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah!

Emily Furda

Do you have a funny Christmas memory like this? Maybe it’s about yourself, a sibling, child, niece, or nephew? I’d love to hear them. We could all use a good giggle. Please leave a comment on the blog. You’re important to me!

Jesus in every Moment a blog by Emily Furda

The Picture of a Lifetime

 

Have you ever stopped to take in the joy on a child’s face at Christmastime? Seeing the wonder in her eyes is priceless. Have you ever looked at her parents when they’re watching her take in the moment? Sometimes you’re witnessing the moment of a lifetime and may not know it.

A number of years ago, I worked for Santa; his beard and glasses were real. Technically I guess you could say I worked with Santa. I spent six weeks taking pictures of him with children (and adults) at the mall. I was disappointed when I was given a shirt with a photography company’s name on it to wear. I was really hoping for an elf costume, complete with pointy shoes and candy cane striped tights. Most days were enjoyable. Santa had a comfy chair and beautifully wrapped red and green boxes next to him. He even had a backdrop of a beautifully decorated family room and fluffy “snow” everywhere. You could hear Christmas music, smell fresh pretzels baking at the shop a few spots away, and see people enjoying their shopping. The kids were so excited to see Santa. Of course, all that holiday cheer also came with tired feet, a sore back, and the stress of keeping a long line of excited children entertained and happy. It also included a digital camera, computer, and printer that seemed to hate me. It was always in the middle of a rush when the computer froze or the printer ran out of paper. I admit, some days my Christmas spirit needed a boost, usually it came in the form of a candy cane (or 3) and some freshly baked soft cinnamon pretzel sticks.

There is one moment I will never forget. It was a late afternoon weekday, the time of day when it was usually slow. I noticed a dad walking down the main hall ahead of his wife and daughter. He looked nervous, then stopped to talk. He explained to me his daughter Noel* was coming (Her name has been changed for privacy reasons). Noel was 10 years old and was obsessed with Santa. This sweet child with dark curly hair loved Santa so much that her parents had to keep out some Christmas decorations all year long. Noel also had cerebral palsy. It was difficult for her to control her body movements, and it was hard for her to communicate, even with her parents. As she got closer her eyes lit up, and she laughed as she saw Santa. She had a red bow in her hair and was wearing a Christmas sweater. Her dad nervously explained there was one issue. She loved Santa, but was afraid to be close to him in person. She was 10 years old, and they didn’t have a single picture of her with him. Silently praying, I asked God to help us find a way for Noel to get her picture. I didn’t know how, but I knew God was going to come through. I was praying for A Jesus Moment for this family, for something good to make them smile. I did my best to assure Noel’s dad we would make this happen.

There was one excited little boy who came to see Santa, and we thought it might help if Noel saw him with Santa. She was so excited to hear him tell that little boy “Merry Christmas,” but the moment Santa said “Ho, ho, ho” to Noel, she wanted to go, go, go! We tried the usual anxiety reducers. Her dad sat with Santa, then her mom, both times she cried. We realized she was calmer if Santa was completely still and quiet. She was also less anxious if her parents were standing by Santa, just not sitting in his lap. I was asking God for creativity and supernatural calm. Then, those boxes wrapped like presents gave me an idea. If I could sit on one while being the official candy cane taste tester, certainly her tiny frame would fit. I carefully place a box in front of Santa, and her mom sat on it. Noel watched, but wasn’t afraid. We found the perfect angle for the camera to make it look like she was very close to Santa in the photograph, but she was at a distance that made her feel safe.

Her mom stood just behind Santa as he did his best to not move, and her dad slowly walked with her. She backed away a few times, but when she realized we wanted her to sit on a box wrapped like a present, instead of with Santa, that seemed okay. Her dad helped me to get a big smile from her, and at the last minute her mom ducked down behind Santa’s gold chair so she wouldn’t be seen in the photo. Everyone praised Noel for how well she did, and I was staring at the monitor waiting for the photo.

There it was, the photo of a lifetime.

Her dad started to tear up as he told Noel and her mom to come over. Noel jumped up and down when she saw herself with Santa on that computer screen. She kept looking at the screen and back to Santa. He reached down into his bag, and without saying a word, pulled out a candy cane and held it out. With new found confidence, Noel let her mom walk with her so she could take the candy cane herself from Santa’s hand. That moment was A Jesus Moment for all of us. Santa was just a fun, make believe part of Christmas, but God gave a real gift of joy to that family.

In the midst of the chaos and joy we knew to pause and save this memory just like Mary did on that first Christmas:

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19 NIV

Her parents and I had tears in our eyes as those photos printed. They began to look at all the little things for sale on the table. Then Noel’s eyes fixated on a snow globe. The base was a beautiful Christmas scene, but it had a space where you could put a picture inside and watch the snow fall around it. Her dad asked her if she wanted it. Since she wouldn’t let go, we assumed the answer was yes. My boss gave us permission to discount items at our discretion. This seemed like one of those times. I asked her if I could see it for just a minute. She was skeptical, but let me hold it when she saw I had a photo of her and Santa in my hand. Her eyes were brighter than any tree when she saw HER picture with Santa inside that snow globe. With smiles and happy tears, they finally convinced Noel to let us put the snow globe in a box so it wouldn’t break on the way home. They asked if Santa could wish her “Merry Christmas.” She said “yes.” This time he had an extra cheery “Merry Christmas” just for her, and she squealed with delight when he said “ho, ho, ho!” Santa and I could hear her laughing as they made the way to their car.

We were still smiling when we saw her dad running back to us about ten minutes later. I was worried the snow globe had broken. Out of breath, he asked if I had deleted the pictures on the computer yet. I told him I hadn’t, and he fell on the counter with relief. He said when they got to the car they realized these may be the only photos they ever got of Noel with Santa, and they wanted as many prints as they could (This elf might be tearing up as she types this). It wasn’t about Santa, it was about a little girl’s dream coming true and being able to remember it forever. He left with a grin, and tears in his eyes.

The rest of that season at the mall was filled with the usual mix of all kinds of mayhem and moments to remember (as well as pet photo night, one moment we all wish we could forget), but none compared to the moment with Noel.

I’m still disappointed I never got to see Rudolph, but I was told it was forbidden. I hated to see that Christmas season end, but in February I got A Jesus Moment as a late Christmas surprise. It was a letter from Noel’s dad. It took some time because he sent it to the mall, the mall forwarded it the photography company who then sent it to me. Her dad said in the letter they wanted to apologize for never getting my name. I read with tears rolling down my cheeks as he talked about that day and all of Christmas. Of course, the snow globe was a permanent fixture in Noel’s room. That year, when people came over for Christmas, Noel didn’t show them Santa decorations, she showed them the pictures of her with Santa. By letting me gave a glimpse into their home and hearts, he gave me an amazing gift. Noel would be in her 20’s now, and I think of her every Christmas even though I’ve never seen her again.

Never take for granted how much a small act of kindness can mean to someone. 1 John 3:18 is a perfect reminder.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

This year, what can you do that makes a difference? Can you be the one to give a family like Noel’s a special memory? Maybe you can be the one to let an elf at the mall know her work isn’t forgotten. A phone call or asking in to speak with a manager about something good someone did, is a priceless gift. Those moments are ones that will last long after the lights are taken down and the candy canes are gone. They can last a lifetime.

Emily Furda

Thank you for reading. I appreciate you so much. Have you ever been a part of a special Christmas memory, either on the giving or receiving end? Please share it on the blog. Those stories are fun, and add extra sparkle to every season

Jesus In Every Moment A Blog by Emily Furda

There are Nice People in the World

Have you ever seen a stranger so down that she looked defeated? Her eyes are lifeless. What if you could change that?

Proverbs 12:25 tells us: “Worry weighs us down; a cheerful word picks us up.” (MSG)

One December evening my mom and I were doing some Christmas shopping at the mall. I had just picked up my new purple glasses at Lenscrafters, and we were now in a very crowded JCPenney’s store, but it didn’t dampen our mood. Seeing people lovingly pick out gifts always makes my heart smile, but all the walking made make my feet and back hurt. (Three inch heeled boots were a bad choice of footwear that day.)  I was finished before my mom, so we decided to split up. We were upstairs, but on the first level, just outside JCPenney’s main entrance were some very comfortable chairs, so we decided to meet up there.

I was standing in a long line waiting to pay for my dad’s Christmas present. Christmas music filled the air, you could see the gigantic wreaths and garland with oversized Christmas ornaments hanging in the mall, and smell the aroma of freshly brewed coffee from the gourmet coffee kiosk. It felt like Christmas. Then I noticed her. Standing next to me was a woman in her 60’s. She was wearing a cream-colored sweatshirt with a Christmas tree on it, she had short, white, curly hair, and beautiful red glasses which complimented her perfectly. Her head was down, and she looked defeated. In case you can’t tell, I’m a bit of an extrovert. I’ll talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime, and this woman needed some holiday cheer. I leaned over, and told her how beautiful her glasses were. She looked up with a puzzled look on her face. So, I said it again, telling her just how beautiful she looked and how perfect the frame was on her face. Her eyes suddenly lit up, and her eyes sparkled more than the gold tinsel decorating the checkout counter. She thanked me, and with a grin on her face she turned and hurriedly got out of line as if she was looking for someone. I didn’t give it a second though as I paid for my dad’s shirts. (He wanted them. This wasn’t a Christmas afterthought.)

I was so relieved to find one of the comfy chairs downstairs was unoccupied. I sat next to a new mom holding her infant daughter, Aisha. She was trying to overloaded, holding a fussy baby, shopping bags, and trying to get a bottle out. I helped her get the bottle, and we chatted while I waited for my mom, both of us enjoying the oh so comfy overstuffed black leather chairs.

My mom found me, and wouldn’t let me peek into her bag. (Clearly this would require a stealth mission on my part later on.) As we headed upstairs to get a slice of pizza, she told me she had to tell me what she just witnessed. She said she saw a woman wearing cream colored sweatshirt with a Christmas tree on it, short white curly hair, and beautiful red glasses come almost running to her daughter. The woman loudly exclaimed. “There ARE nice people in the world!” Her daughter looked puzzled and asked her to explain. Her mom, with sparkling eyes, told her the story of someone complimenting her glasses. As my mom walked by, she told that woman she did indeed have beautiful glasses. This woman was like a kid on Christmas morning!

I started laughing and told my mom what happened. I don’t know what this woman had experienced, but I’m sure glad God let me run into her. This time, it was my turn to have my eyes light up like a Christmas tree when I realized one simple compliment had a profound impact.

Brennan Manning in The Ragamuffin Gospel sums it up well:

“In every encounter, we either give life or we drain it. There is no neutral exchange.”

I want to be one who gives life. It turns out, it doesn’t take much. What about you? Can you give life to someone today?

Emily Furda

Thank you for reading! Please leave a comment on the blog and let me know if you’ve ever experienced something like this. Also, feel free to share this if you know someone who might enjoy this.

 

Jesus in Every Moment a blog by Emily Furda

The Gift of Inclusion

Have you ever felt left out? Maybe you remember being picked last for the team, passed over for the promotion, not invited to a party, or realize you’re on the outside of an inside joke. We’re all human, and we forget things. Unfortunately, sometimes we forget people. Sometimes, it takes an extra effort to include someone. That’s a priceless gift we all a can give.

I’ve mentioned before, I have Mast Cell Disease. It’s a rare, incurable, life-threatening illness, best described as “allergic to life.” For many people with chronic illnesses, being left out is almost a given. We know we can’t do all the things someone who is healthy can, but it’s still nice to be asked. It’s amazing when someone goes out of her way to include you.

I love Christmastime! I’m pretty sure I have frosting in my veins, tinsel in my hair, and may have started listening to Christmas music in October. I’m THAT person, the one you either completely relate to, or the one you wish you could put inside her gingerbread house forever. There’s no middle ground. I have always enjoyed a good “Secret Santa” gift exchange, but the Mast Cell Disease makes everything difficult. (If you’re unfamiliar, people in a group are randomly assigned each other’s names, and pick out a gift for that person.) I have so much fun picking out a present for someone. It’s fun going from store to store looking for that perfect gift she’ll love. (By “store” I mean website to website while I’m wearing purple penguin Christmas pajamas and drinking hot cocoa.) Mast Cell Disease has made me extremely sensitive to fragrances, even indirect contact with anything from essential oils to a candle can send me into anaphylaxis. So, being on the receiving end of a mystery gift from someone, well that’s scary. This weekend, I received one of the best gifts I could ask for.

My friend, Mercy, and another friend of hers wanted to coordinate a Secret Santa exchange. This candy cane lover wanted to desperately join in, but knew it would be a risk for my health. I was also reminded sometimes, we don’t get things because we don’t ask. Sometimes, we’re left out not intentionally, but because we’re not asking if there is a way we can be included. So, I sent Mercy a message explaining my dilemma. It turns out it was no dilemma at all. Within minutes I was part of the fun. All I had to do was ask if whoever ended up with me would mind making sure it’s fragrance free. It’s not about getting a gift; it’s about getting to be a part of the fun. Mercy already gave me the gift I wanted most, to be included. She gave me A Jesus Moment, a moment where something good happened. Those are moments where Jesus is showing us He cares.

We have all felt left out at some point. If we’re honest, we’ve also left someone else out at some point. I’d like to propose a solution to this exclusion: communication. It can feel scary to speak up sometimes, but you don’t know if you don’t try.

If you’re in a situation where you’re often excluded what can you do? If you’re the one who is doing the planning, what can you do to make sure others are included?

Here are 5 ideas.

  1. Be realistic and hopeful.

Before you decide you have to be excluded, see if that’s really the case. At first I thought it would be too much to include me, but then I realized maybe not. Now, if this was a candle exchange, I’d know to sit this one out.

If you’re the one planning, think about the people involved. Stop for a minute and see if there is someone who you may be missing. Is there someone you automatically left off assuming she’d say “no?” Pause for a minute and think. Is there a way you can include her? Also, even if you suspect she can’t come, being asked is a gift. Even if she’s said “no” 99 times, ask again because she needs to knows she’s wanted and belongs. Who knows, the 100th time may be “yes.” (Unless she’s told you to stop asking. Then, respect her wishes.)

  1. Clearly communicate needs and the ability whether or not they can be accommodated.

Be honest. Don’t assume someone knows what you need. If your single friends are planning a night out, they may forget you need to be home earlier because your toddler doesn’t give you Saturday mornings to sleep in. Instead of assuming you can’t go with them, ask if they’d mind meeting up earlier. If you have a shellfish allergy and someone suggests Red Lobster, ask if they’d mind someplace different, and be ready to suggest one.

If you’re in charge of an event, try to think ahead. Perhaps you know your friend has a child who deals with sensory overload. For this year’s Christmas party, do the lights have to flash on the tree for that one night? Can they be set to stay on or just unplugged? If someone deals with chronic pain, ask if she needs anything extra. Maybe you need to set aside the comfy recliner so her back won’t hurt from squeezing onto the overcrowded sofa. Also, don’t make a big scene about it. Let her decide how much your other guests need to know.

  1. Plan

You don’t have to wait for friends to include you. If you have some unique needs, or simply want to see your friends, take the initiative. Also, make sure they know anything special in advance. For example, if I’m planning something, my friends are asked to not wear perfume.

If you are the friend wanting to include someone, allow extra time and maybe money. Include her in the planning so she knows her needs are being considered. If she is allergic to gluten, find out where she gets or how she makes gluten free desserts, and have some on hand when she comes over.

  1. Be willing to hear “no.”

This one is hard, but sometimes things can’t be changed. You may want to go out with your friends, but they can’t change the time a concert ends, and you can’t change what time you need to be up the next day. Remember it’s the situation, not your friends that’s an issue.

Sometimes you may go out of your way or desperately want to include a friend, but she has to say “no.” Sometimes the needs are just too complex, or she may be too exhausted. For someone with a chronic illness, things can change in an instant. One of the best gifts I can get, is hearing a genuine “It’s okay” when I have to cancel last minute. It also helps when friends remind me in advance I have permission to back out if I need to. If the plans can be changed, offer to do it. If not, see if there is a way she can be included somehow. Heading to a concert? Grab her a t-shirt. Going out to eat? Ask if she wants you to drop off some take out on the way home.

  1. Extend grace.

If a situation happens where you are left out or someone makes a rare mistake that causes harm, respond in love. Assume the best. If these are your friends, you’re likely friends because you care about each other. If someone accidentally wears perfume around me, I do have to quickly remove myself from the situation, but I can choose how to respond. I need to give my friend a chance to apologize. (From a distance or maybe over the phone, if she’s still wearing the fragrance)

If you’ve left someone out, or without thinking made a mistake that caused harm, be quick to reach out. Be understanding that in the moment, your friend may come off as angry. She may be angry, but she may also be tired or not feeling well and come off as mean when it’s not that at all. If she is angry, give her the space she needs to be angry and communicate her feelings, but don’t let her berate you. There’s a line between communicating and disrespecting someone that shouldn’t be crossed.

Being included is a gift and a fantastic way to show Jesus to someone. Romans 12:9-10 sums it up well:

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (NIV)

Show love to each other, hold onto the people in your lives who matter to you, and put each other first. Hospitality isn’t about inviting people over for dinner. It’s a state of mind and heart that heals and bring hope.

Emily Furda

Is there something you can think of that I missed? Have you been in a situation where someone cared and it made a difference? Please leave a comment on the blog and let me know. Also, feel free to share this, if you know someone who it might help.