What Do You Do When There's Pain in Your Life?

by Sally Matheny
What Do You Do When There's Pain in Your Life?
     Some of you, dear friends, have hearts in a vise of tension; your minds consumed with worry and fear, your bodies suffering. Physically and emotionally injured.
     Whether it's small or large, what do you do when there’s pain in your life?
     Even the sting of a paper cut lasts longer that we think it should. Just when we think it’s over, something settles in and irritates it. How can  a thing so little produce such a bite?

     But we know from experience, paper cuts heal. They are like pelting rain compared to the more serious squalls in life—broken relationships, job loss, disease, and physical pain.
     Recently, I’ve dealt with a new, physical pain in my life. Although a bit overwhelmed by its painful onset, I waited for it to heal. As the weeks passed, discouragement tried to settle in and irritate the healing process.
     At times, we respond like an animated feature. You know, where one little guy sits on one shoulder and another little guy sits on the other shoulder; trying to convince you in their conversation.
You’ll get over this.
(Nah, this is probably your lot in life.)
It takes time. Maybe you should try this and this … and this … and this!
(Time, schmime. This is for the birds, let’s pitch a hissy-fit. Let’s gripe and grumble!)
     It’s time to flick the little cartoon characters off our shoulders and consult the real deal. God’s truth brings comfort and healing.
Storms of Life
     I was reminded of this the other night when my little boy crawled in our bed, afraid of the booming thunderstorm. Reaching across and placing my hand on his head, he relaxed and tried to fall back asleep. Moments later, I moved my hand up a little to see if he was asleep and he quickly slid his head back up under my hand. I smiled thinking of the comfort my hand brought him.
     Even though my son was afraid, I was not. I knew the brevity of thunderstorms but my heart longed to comfort him until it passed.
     Then I sensed God’s gentle hand on my head. As warm tears trickled onto my pillow, I thanked my heavenly Father. He knows the depth and the length of my injury. It's His desire to heal me and during that healing process He longs to offer me comfort, mercy, and even treasures along the way.
     Just as we long to comfort our children when they are hurting or afraid, so much more does God want to comfort us. Let’s seek Him fervently, and nestle closer under His loving hand.

     Are you trusting God in the midst of life's storms?







Teaching Kids Life Lessons at the Circus: Thriftiness & Tightwadiness

by Sally Matheny
Balancing between thriftiness and
tightwadiness is a delicate act.
     Not long ago, we took our nine-year-old son to see his first Ringling Brothers Circus. The tickets were expensive, so I tried to think of ways we could save money during the event. Walking the tightrope of thriftiness is not easy, but it produced valuable life lessons at the circus.
     There’s a thin line between thriftiness and tightwadiness. Balancing between the two is a delicate act requiring great skill. Some may think it’s embarrassing to eat snacks out of a Ziploc bag at a public event. I do not. Our homemade goody bags are usually healthier than their offerings and definitely cheaper.
     Also, prior to our trip, we had several conversations with our son about souvenirs. Our gift to him was a night out to the circus. If he wanted a souvenir, he’d have to use his own money. He insisted circus souvenirs were not desired and his savings were allotted for Legos. I encouraged him to take some money, just in case he changed his mind.
     When the big night finally arrived, we got a late start, and barely had time to hit a drive-thru for dinner. Being the frugal mom, I offered desserts from the snack box we keep packed in the van. Not bothering to turn on the light, I fumbled around for the treats. After the distribution, I enjoyed one of the three chocolate peanut butter squares of my new, Skinny Cow candy and placed the rest in my purse for later.

Saving Money
     The late start also forced us to pay ten dollars for a nice uphill hike to the Civic Center. We didn’t mind. Our excitement and the chilly air brought us to the entrance quickly. I didn’t see a sign mentioning no outside food. The security officer checked my handbag and didn’t say a word about my bagged snacks. She’s probably a thrifty mom, too.
     Herded inside, we smelled buttered popcorn and pepperoni pizza. Thankfully, our bellies were full so we searched for our seats. Up, up, up we climbed. Shortly after locating our seats, the show began. Lively music came from the mini orchestra. The ringmaster’s enthusiasm ignited a rush of applause. After a parade of animals and clowns, various acts appeared in the arena. My husband asked for his snack bag but our son was too excited to eat. He dared not take his eyes off the roaring tigers and their tamer, or the eight dirt bikes zipping inside a metal sphere all at once.
     After an exciting first half, the ringmaster announced an intermission. The guys were quite thirsty by then so they set off to find a drink. Occasionally, a vendor meandered through the crowd shouting, ““Popcorn, popcorn! Who wants popcorn?” or "Get your snow cones, here!"
I bet those snow cones cost five dollars. I bet they’ll splurge on one. 
     Reaching in my purse for the rest of my chocolate candy, only one square emerged. After a thorough search for the other square, I determined it must have fallen on the van floor. Oh, what a waste, I thought, making a mental reminder to search for it later.

Free Flowing Water
     Meanwhile, the guys were weaving in and out of the crowd in search of liquid refreshment. Those tiny snow cones demanded eleven dollars! Our son deemed the red, white, and blue ice worthy of eleven dollars, but his dad did not. During their thirsty search, they found nothing less expensive. Finally, my husband said they would quench their thirst with the free flowing water fountain. A scowl darkened our son’s face. Dad declared the cool water delicious but the boy kept his distance, shaking his head no. Dad drank until content and then mentioned they better get back to their seats. Dryly, our son said, “Wait a minute,” and bent down to partake of the water.
     Zigzagging through the crowd again, this time the brilliant colors and buzzing sounds of circus trinkets beckoned the boy. They paused to look at a few of the overpriced plastics before moving on. Other kids’ holding their mementos made the boy consider using the cash in his pocket. He preferred using his dad’s cash but knew that was inconceivable. Suddenly, the ringmaster’s shout was heard and the band’s music blared. Pondering time ran out and they hurried back to their seats.
     Memory of the shiny trinkets faded as sequined gymnasts propelled high in the air, spiraling through hoops as they leapt. The tricks of the elephants, dogs, and even a pig captured our full attention. Then, to all the kids’ amazement, a wooly mammoth appeared. His long tusks and brown hair swayed above his familiar-looking feet. Funny how my son knew the real identity of the mammoth, but insisted I needed to take a photo of the “unicorn” and the “Pegasus.” I guess some of the high costs of circus attendance go toward intricate, believable costume designs.

Wooly Mammoth with Revealing Feet
     The finale showcased lots of beautiful costumes, talented animals, and hard-working entertainers. Then, the cheerful crowd bubbled out of their seats and made their way to their cars. The vendors made their last attempts to entice sales. However, our son had grown content with the experience and decided he didn’t need any of their gizmos.
     On our way home, we stopped at a QT gas station. My husband treated everyone to frozen ice drinks. The colorful QT cup was twice the size of the one at the circus and cost only sixty-nine cents!
     Whenever our son recounts his fun night at the circus, there is no mention of tightwadiness. He tells about all his favorite circus acts. And with equal enthusiasm, he always shares about how the circus drinks cost eleven dollars but he got one twice as big at QT for sixty-nine cents. He’s very proud of his QT cup!
     The circus tickets were well worth the money. The life lessons learned were priceless. My son learned the benefit of delayed gratification, the value of a dollar, and the sweet satisfaction of a fun, circus experience with his family.
     I learned a lesson as well. If you drop chocolate candy in a dark van, immediately find its whereabouts. Otherwise, you may give Candy Crush a whole new meaning. Apparently, my missing candy did accompany me to the circus.
Ahem. Sometimes, being frugal can have an embarrassing end.
Share ways you teach children to be frugal!


Love Never Stinks

by Sally Matheny
“Love stinks." Have you ever said that?

I remember spouting the sentiment when I was a teen. No surprise there. A teen's heart can be extraordinarily tender.

However, I recently overheard an adult say. "love stinks." The remark caused me to ponder.

Is it possible for love to stink?


What Do You Cherish Most?

by Sally Matheny

What do you cherish most?

Perhaps you have a favorite football team or maybe you cherish your own home team (a.k.a. the family). Aside from the precious people in your life, what do you cherish most?


There’s a book of photographed stuffed animals, by Mark Nixon, titled, Much Loved.  They aren’t just ordinary stuffed animals. They are comrades who were hugged and tugged until they became unrecognizable stuffing.  Some barely held together with tiny stitches of love.
I thought about that book one day when I was cleaning out my attic and stumbled upon two cherished companions—my teddy bear and my husband’s teddy bear.  They were similar in size and color, and even had the same creative name—Teddy.  Both had great ears, trained to listen only to children. They had bravely traveled on many adventures, physically, and through the imaginations of their owners.

Because we loved them so, we defended them. They were never coerced to a donation box or into a yard sale. We outgrew the bears but they safely retired to a protected Rubbermaid habitat in the attic.

Cherished Teddy Bears-Hers & His
There’s another large, plastic container located inside my closet. My family has instructions that in the case of an emergency, save lives first, and then, if they can save only one item, grab that container!

It holds our wedding album, baby books, and special items regarding the adoption of our youngest child. Scrapbooks chronicling the first year of each of our children are tucked inside. Whoever has to tote that heavy container out of the house is lucky I haven’t scrapbooked every year of my children’s lives. Between the three of them, that would total fifty-one years!

I know the saying is to cherish the memories, but my memory isn’t so good. So I treasure the large collection of photos and videos that help prod the thoughts and emotions back for me. 

As a child, I treasured things like teddy bears and trinkets.  As an adult, the things I hold dear relate to my experiences with the people I love.

I must have this. I must have that.

Some people say, “I cannot live without this,” or “I must have that.” This may be as simple as a morning cup of coffee or as demanding as living in a certain neighborhood with a certain kind of car. But what should we cherish the most in life?


Consider Proverbs 4:7-9 (NIV): 

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.”  

It’s okay to appreciate the things we have, but more importantly God says we are to adore the understanding of His Word.

It may cost us our time, a friendship, or a job. Whatever it costs us to love, to defend, and to treasure God’s Word, it is worth it. If we embrace His wisdom and pray for understanding, we will be lifted up and honored with a glorious crown of eternal life.

Wow. My teddy bear, my photos—nothing I have, not even the people I love dearly, can do that. My best investment is to seek understanding of God’s wisdom. 

What about you? What do you cherish most?