April McGowan

Thankfulness In Shadow and Light

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If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past few years, it’s that thankfulness is a manner of being. It’s something you either shroud yourself in, or something you try and pull on like a tight pair of jeans straight out of the dryer. I find the former much easier!

All around me are posts about thankfulness—because at this time of year in the US, we’re celebrating Thanksgiving. I could list a thousand things I’m thankful for—but someone else might not have one of those, and I’d leave them feeling less. And confusing monetary and health advantages with being blessed by God is fraught with issues. So instead of being thankful for singular things, I’m going to encompass them. No…that’s not cheating!

The other day, outside of my bible study class (Bible Study Fellowship—if you’ve never attended, you need to!), I was waiting for my friend to pull her car up for our ride home. The sun, having been in hiding for well over a week, blazed down, blinding us all.

As I waited, enjoying the musky smell of fall leaves and wet bark dust heating in the sun, a grandmother walked by, holding the hand of her sweet toddler grandson. As soon as they left the shade of the building, the little one grabbed his face, covering his eyes from the blinding light. She gently pulled away one of his hands and led him from the building, across the parking lot.

His free pudgy hand still clumsily covered his clenched eyes, and she smiled down lovingly at him, encouraging him on with her kind tones, leading him. He didn’t peek in between those fingers. He didn’t pull back and ask what she thought she was doing leading him into traffic without his being able to see. He didn’t panic. He just toddled along, his hand in hers, completely trusting grandma to take him wherever he needed to be.

I was immediately reminded of the lesson I’ve been learning in Bible study (on my own and this class): God is completely trustworthy. Not only when I can see where I’m going. Not only when I’ve got an inkling of the future—but always. Even when I’m blinded by my circumstances. Especially then, I’d say.

So that’s what I’m thankful for most of all. My Father’s hand leading me and drawing me, with love in His eyes, compassion in His touch, and gentleness in His voice. He never lets me go.

The happiest of Thanksgivings to you and yours!

Psalm 139:9-12 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. (complete passage here)

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Special

door to graceJasmine works with young women, giving them a plan not just for survival, but hope for a rewarding future. You see, she knows how important that is—because she was one of those girls once. She had nowhere to turn, so she ran. And things went from bad to worse. While my novel, Jasmine, is a fictional tale, it’s based on some pretty horrible facts.

Take a minute to imagine with me. You’re a twelve year old girl with a neglectful family. Your parents fight—even beat you. Your mom’s addicted to alcohol, and your dad’s always angry. The refrigerator doesn’t have much food in it. School’s tough. You feel like an outcast because you can’t connect with anyone. Every instinct in you tells you to stay where you are, because home is the only place you’ve ever known—even if bad things happen there, at least you know what to expect. And then comes along this guy. A wonderful, attentive guy that dotes on you and listens to you. He’s a little older than  you, too. Suddenly, you feel appreciated—even adored. He buys you nice gifts and tells you how pretty you are. It’s the first time anyone has shown you true concern and affection. You feel special. So when he asks you to run away with him, you don’t have to think about it long. This is it and he’s Mr. Wonderful, your very own Prince Charming. You go.

And that is where the fantasy stops. Before you know it, this guy has given you over to another guy. He’s not kind or adoring. He’s demanding and cruel. There’s no getting away. If you did get away, you’d have nowhere to go. Your parents don’t want you (or so this man keeps telling you)—and now you’re damaged goods. You’re more alone than you’ve ever been. Plus, that cruel guy, your pimp, is now controlling your every move—he’d probably kill you.

Such is the plight of many runaways. Some meet Mr. Wonderful in their own home towns, or at the mall. Some meet him after they’ve ended up on the streets. Either way, the result is the same. It’s all a huge lie, and now they’re trapped in a life they don’t feel they can escape. They need help.

Most of us don’t know what to do with that kind of information. How do you help someone like this? But there are places that know just what to do. Door to Grace is such a ministry. They’ve built a wonderful network to reach out to exploited children and give them a safe place to live while recovering. And they lead them to the Savior that can heal the hurts—the ones deep down that no one else can see.

Please take some time to check out their web page (click here) and donate. Help get a girl off the streets, give her back a secure life—let her know there are real people who thinks she is special and worth saving. Thanks.

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Don’t Speak

Don't SpeakDo you find it hard not to offer advice or try to fix things—not to speak when someone is in need? I have to admit, I’m a reformed fixer. And if you know me personally, you know I love to talk!

In the past year, I’ve had the privilege to sit in silence next to friends and even a stranger here or there. In December, I was on the phone with a gal in customer service at my internet provider who really needed someone to listen to her. She mentioned it was the first Christmas for her and her kids since their divorce. She went on to tell me about their new apartment, their plans for the holidays, and how things were hard, but going better than she expected. She must have shared with me for fifteen minutes (I hope they weren’t recording THAT call for quality assurance). After a while, she apologized for keeping me so long, but I told her it was okay, and I hoped she’d have a wonderful Christmas. After I hung up, my daughter came by my desk and asked who I’d been talking to. I told her I didn’t know and she gave me the strangest look!

In other times this past year, I’ve had close friends sharing tough times or experiencing deep grief. In those instances as well, the best thing to do was for me to stay silent and listen, holding their hand and offering to pray with them.

When I was a kid, we’d drive past farmland with rows of trees and bushes planted. If I tried to see them all, they’d be this big blur. But when I focused on one at a time, I could see the straight rows they were planted in, and the pathways in-between. Slowing down to listen is like that. And oftentimes, when we are listening, God will speak to our hearts about how we can best be there for others.

James 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…(full text here)

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