I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13

Joan began attending another Baptist church, near Caruthers, and we quickly followed. We were attending this church when our son was born in 1980. I became very involved in the young married couples’ group and made several lifelong friends. Another married couple, Bob and Bernice Pierce, began mentoring me in my spiritual growth. This godly couple proved to be a true blessing throughout the next few years of my life.
Although I don’t recall specifically what I was going through emotionally at the time, one evening I found myself crying near the church parking lot, having my first conversation with Bob. He was such a loving and tender man. His height, thin build, and gentle tone of speech reminded me of Abraham Lincoln. He put one long arm around me and said, “Judy, I don’t know what you’re going through right now. But, I want you to know that we have a promise from the Lord that we can lean on when times are tough. It’s Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”
“Okay. Thank you, but I’m not good at remembering verses, but I’ll try to memorize it.” Not trusting in myself.
“If you can memorize it, you’ll always have a verse that you can cling too, when times aren’t so good.”
I’ve never forgotten the impact this verse has had on my spiritual journey through the years. Up to that point in my life no one outside of my family had had such a profound impact on my spiritual life as this couple did. Bernice Pierce was just as precious as her husband was. Shortly after we met, she told me that she was a breast cancer survivor, not once, but twice. I knew that this woman truly knew Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She seemed to have God’s Holy Spirit emanating from deep within her heart and it manifested itself in the way she spoke and in the way she prayed. Any time I had the privilege to be with her was a memorable one. Those times left an imprint in my heart and they were beautiful representations of Christ’s love for me.
My last memory of Bernice centers on a warm and breezy afternoon as I drove my ‘69 Corvette convertible towards Fresno Community Hospital to say my final good-byes to my dear friend. I walked into her hospital room, and as I entered her smile and the precious glow of her face, gave me a peace in knowing that she knew she would be making her journey to heaven soon. Though her skin was pale and she wore a covering over her head because of what the chemotherapy treatments had taken from her.
“Oh, Judy. Come here and let me hug you.”
Crying, I said, “Bernice, I had to come and see you one last time.”
Other close friends were present, as well, and we talked about old times; social get-togethers, swimming parties, Bible studies, Mary Kay parties, and Mexican feasts at Sal’s in Selma, California after church on Sundays.
She said, “Some day, we’ll all be in heaven together having the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, at one long table, big enough for all of us, and Jesus will be at the head of the table!”
I said, “Eating Sal’s Mexican food!”
Everyone laughingly agreed especially Bernice.
Bernice and I hugged and cried together. We knew that we wouldn’t see each other again on this side of heaven, and we both knew that she was ready to meet the Lord. Within a week, she did.

Excerpt from Made New: A Hippie Chick’s Journey From Abuse to Forgiveness

Freedom!

Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Thomas Jefferson
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/freedom.html#xZoKSuuR41b2GWu6.99

October 2011: Pismo Beach, California.
Inviting aromas of Splash Café’s world famous clam chowder, served in a toasted San Luis Sourdough bowl and Mo’s Memphis style hickory smoke barbecue drifted up Pomeroy Avenue, towards the rocky cliffs separating the Central coast from the rest of the state.
My husband and I were on another vacation to an area of California that’s all too familiar for both of us, since that was the area where we met and fell in love. We leisurely made our way past rows of storefronts on our way to the pier and miles of sandy beaches stretched along the pacific coast.
Warm afternoon breezes and valley tourists packing up, preparing for the two and a half-hour drive back to the San Joaquin Valley.
Strolling hand in hand, reminiscing over previous years, once again taking in the thunder of the waves, and the cool, hard sand beneath our bare feet. Another pursuit, searching for a unique, yet somehow abandoned, discarded, home of a sea creature.
We sat down together on the soft warm sand, watching surfers riding an occasional wave and skim boarders sliding over a sheet of sand that looked like a giant mirror reflecting a biplane in the clear sky above.
I stopped a young man and asked, “I’ve never seen this before. The sand looks like it’s an enormous sheet of smooth glass. What does it feel like when you skim over it?”
“It feels like you’re floating on it.”
“Wow, that’s amazing!”
“Yeah. When it’s not this smooth, and we try to skim over it, we fall off our board a lot easier. We love it when it’s like this.”
“That is so incredible! You guys have fun!”
Two others, around fourteen, tucked their boards under their arm and waved goodbye.
Watching from a distance, I commented “If they’re fortunate enough to have a father who cares about their day, I bet when they walk into their house, Dad says, “Hey son, what did you spend this nice day doing?”
To which his reply may be, “Oh, John and I spent the day at the beach, skimming waves. The conditions were perfect.”
I don’t have a penchant to go into a political discussion, but I wonder if we really realize how good our lives are in this country.
Pete and I sat snuggled together and began an in depth contemplating conversation about how privileged we are and how much we take our freedom for granted. The reality of a difficult economy has kept many families from being able to afford to go on long vacations, but consider how freeing it is to be able to pack your family in the car and say, let’s go to the Coast for the weekend.
It’s so commonplace for us to just jump in our own car and drive anywhere we want to go, whether it’s to the grocery store, an afternoon matinee, or to a nice restaurant with a list of entrees a mile long.
If we think about it, one hundred years ago, only the wealthy would have had the type of luxury we enjoy today.
How about those living in impoverished nations? I have never been to a nation as poor as many third world countries, but by what I’ve read and seen in documentaries it makes me extremely thankful to be an American. I’ve never experienced the horrors of starvation and unhealthy living conditions friends have told me that they’ve experienced on a vacation or perhaps while sharing God’s love on a mission trip.
May 1998, after landing at Charles d’Gaule Airport and standing in the security line for what seemed like hours, Pete and I hopped onto a shuttle headed into the city of Paris. Naturally, everything was printed in French and the buildings had roofs that reminded me of old Disney movies like Peter Pan and the 101 Dalmatians. I felt as if I had landed on another planet. This was my first visit to a foreign country and it felt exactly like that, for me, foreign.
While in France we toured ancient castle ruins and saw how severely Christians were tortured for their faith as we made our way south towards vacationing for a few days along the Mediterranean coast. I was so thankful when we landed on US soil that I felt that I would kiss the ground.
Living in this Great Country, we have our own citizens living in unhealthy conditions and families that have a hard time making ends meet until the next payday, or those who are homeless, living on the streets, searching through a restaurant’s garbage to find something worth eating.
Why can’t we see how our nation is so fully loved by God? How is it that we’re so privileged and we’re able to live in a country so richly blessed, when there are so many souls in our world suffering? The amount of various responses to that question, is way more than I could possibly answer.
Sometimes, I think we lose sight of the freedom God has given us. We tend to take each other for granted.
Don’t forget that we live in the United States of America, where freedom reigns.
Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Thomas Jefferson

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