An Alexander Kind of Year

ALEXANDER_TERRIBLE_HORRIBLE

Be still and know that I am God. – Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

In her children’s book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” author Judith Viorst writes about a boy named Alexander who’s having the worst day of his life. Everything that could go wrong does.

Last year, 2022, was that kind of year. Although I cringe to describe it as a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” year, frankly it was. It was a challenge to keep a positive attitude and not dwell on all the Alexander-type events that occurred. I often felt like Elijah under the broom tree (1 Kings 19:3–4), when he whined, “I have had enough, LORD.”

I’m not unlike Alexander, who dreamed of escaping to Australia, where he thinks things will be better. Or Elijah, who told God he was ready to come home. I, too, long for a place of peace and rest, where there are no problems to deal with.

Oh, to be sure, the enemy has tempted me to dwell on all the “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” things that occurred and give in to whining, hurtling myself into a pit of self-pity. But God tells me that focusing on the good things will give me the peace I long for (Philippians 4:8, 9).

Psalm 46 is the prescription for the Alexander times in our lives: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore (I) will not fear . . .” (verses 1, 2).

On a day when I was feeling the stress of these Alexander times and not bearing up well, I received a handmade card from a friend. On the front were the words I needed that day: “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).

In these times I need to remember to put on my armor each day. But even with my armor on, my back is still vulnerable. I can only fight a foe in front of me, and the enemy often strikes from behind—attacking at our weakest points.

But I don’t have to worry: “For the LORD will go before (me), the God of Israel will be (my) rear guard” (Isaiah 52:12). And again: “The glory of the LORD will be (my) rear guard” (Isaiah 58:8). God’s got my back!

Yes, 2022 was an Alexander kind of year.

But through it I’ve seen the power of prayer, I’ve sensed the presence of a God who knows me well and loves me still (Psalm 139). I’ve perceived there’s a purpose for the pain, even though I don’t see it or understand it. I’ve learned that in spite of everything, prayer brings a peace that transcends understanding (Philippians 4:6­–7). And I’m getting better at Philippians 4:8 kind of thinking.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my God will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

“See,” He says, “I have engraved you on the palms of My hands” (Isaiah 49:16).

Thank you, Father, for being with me in those  “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” times of my life, for helping me to see there’s a purpose for them, and for giving me Your peace in the midst of them. Amen.

Read and reflect on Psalm 46 and Isaiah 49:13–16.

© 2015, 2023, Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Sharon’s Hands

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash                      

She … willingly works with her hands … she extends her hands to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy … give her of the fruit of her hands.–Proverbs 31:13, 20, 31 NKJV

One Saturday several years ago, my friend Sharon treated me to a girls’ day out. The daylong event was a “HeartSpa Getaway” held at a local Christian campground and included activities to nourish, refresh and renew both body and spirit.

In addition to enjoying inspirational music provided by a women’s singing group and searching soul and Scripture, we also pampered our hands, faces and feet.

Our first pampering station was for our hands. First we rubbed them with an exfoliating scrub, then slathered on a soothing lotion. The next step I was a bit hesitant about—dipping my hands in a crock-pot containing liquid paraffin. I was afraid it would be too hot. But it wasn’t, and as soon as I brought my hands out, I was instructed to hold them together in a prayer position. My folded hands were then encased in a plastic bag and wrapped with a hand towel. While we waited for the paraffin, plastic and towel to do their therapeutic work, we were to pray with and for our partners.

Sharon and I clasped our towel-clad hands and began praying. As I prayed for Sharon, whom I’ve known for over 40 years, I envisioned her hands—long and slender, with nails clipped short so they wouldn’t interfere with the work she has to do.

I remembered when these hands brought me homemade chicken soup when I was in bed recovering from my second C-section. She hadn’t known it, but I’d asked God for some homemade chicken soup when I was still in the hospital.

These hands, I realized, have spent a lifetime doing for others—cooking, cleaning, mending, gardening, canning—the million and one things that need done for a family. These hands have written countless notes of encouragement, slipped uncounted dollar bills into scores of needy hands. They could be counted on to do what needs to be done. They’d held sick children, changed messy diapers, cleaned up puke, scrubbed bathrooms, cut hair, washed dogs, wrapped gifts, rubbed backs, blew kisses, prepared Bible lessons.

They’ve been bitten, blistered, burned, calloused and cut, yet still wave a friendly greeting in a grocery store, on the street, in church. As busy as these hands are, they always take time to comfort. They’ve been clasped together in prayer for others, and they’ve grasped the hands of others as she prayed for them.

The hands are the instruments of the heart. Sharon’s hands are giving hands, for her heart overflows with kindness, compassion and love.

I thought of my daughter’s dog, Tess, rescued from an animal shelter. Tess was afraid of hands and slinked away in cowering fear when a hand, however loving, got too close. Who knows what cruelties were inflicted on her by hands that wanted only to dominate or harm?

Hands can hit, pinch, pound, punch, slam and slap. A closed hand is tight and tense. Hands that grasp and cling when it’s time to let go cannot be open to receive.

Sharon’s hands are no longer supple, smooth and nimble. They bear the scars of a lifetime of love. But they are not empty. They overflow with blessings poured out from her heavenly Father, blessings she passes on to others.

I have no choice over how pretty my hands are—whether they’re long and slender or wide and knuckley. But, as Sharon likes to say, pretty is as pretty does.

I choose what these hands do. They can lend a hand, pass on a hand-me-down, give a hand up. They can be the hands of God in a needy world.

Have you taken a good look at your hands lately?

Dear God, thank you for Sharon’s hands and the many hands that have met my needs over the years. Bless them, O Lord. Forgive me for the times my hands have hurt others, and help me to forgive and forget those hands that have hurt me. Show me how to use my hands for Your work. Amen.

Read and reflect on Proverbs 31:10–31