Chicken Soup, Nudgings, and Hot Seats



"Madonna Nativity" (c) 2011 Waiting for the Word, Creative Commons
“Madonna Nativity” (c) 2011 Waiting for the Word, Creative Commons

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him “Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” – Matthew 1:23 (NIV)          

I can never remember a time when I doubted the presence of God in my life.

There are, however, occasions I struggle with my feelings. Sometimes the One who promised never to leave or forsake me seems to do just that.

Like the time I was in the hospital after giving birth to my second child by C-section. I’d developed a mild but mysterious fever, so my doctor determined I shouldn’t nurse my baby until the matter was resolved. While I accepted this outwardly, my heart cried, I want my baby!

The hospital was miles from family and friends, and winter had arrived, so I had few visitors. Feeling miserable and abandoned, I remembered my mother’s homemade chicken soup, which she made when I was sick, and which never failed to make me feel better. Suffering with Alzheimer’s disease, though, she wouldn’t be making it for me now. Lord, I prayed, when I get home, I want some homemade chicken soup. 

Chicken soup
Chicken soup

Eventually the cause of the fever revealed itself, and I was discharged to spend another week in bed. A day after I got home, my friend Sharon arrived, bringing supper. Yep, homemade chicken soup.

Coincidence? I never believed it was. For me, it was God-incidence.

In the 37 years since, God’s presence in my life has been evident over and over. Not every time I think I need a tangible sign, but enough to bolster my faith and hope in the silent, where-are-you-God times.

Like the time one November I sensed a definite nudging towards the end of my quiet time to go to town and get groceries. Go now, the inner voice urged. My prayer chair became a hot seat. I glanced out the window. Overcast, but no precipitation.

We all know how fickle the weather could be in these parts. Especially in late November. I checked the forecast online and knew that if I didn’t go then, our Thanksgiving would be minus homemade pumpkin pie with extra creamy Cool Whip, my special candied yams, and the aroma of turkey wafting through the house, unless I wanted to fight Old Man Winter on the 12-mile drive to town and back. I left within the hour—and got home just as the snow, ice, and wind arrived.

Then there are the Bible verses that leap off the page and burn themselves into my mind and heart, the gentle proddings, the encouragement from others just when I need it. I could go on, but like the apostle John wrote as he closed his gospel, “If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:15 NIV).

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, a time for preparing our hearts for the celebration of Immanuel’s birth. As the first Advent candle is lit, remember the times God showed up in your life, the occasions He clearly whispered and sometimes shouted, “I’m here!”

During this Advent season, be like Brother Lawrence, the monk who saw God even in the hectic kitchen where he worked, and “practice the presence of God.”

Because He’s here, you know. For He has said, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

As I light the first Advent candle and begin preparing for the celebration of the birth of Your Son, dear God, give me an increasing awareness of Your abiding presence in my life. Amen.


Read and meditate on Isaiah 7:14Matthew 1:18–25



View from our campsite along the Maple River in Michigan, October 2016
View from our campsite along the Maple River in Michigan, October 2016


“We can’t see the road ahead, so we must take it as it comes, not as we wish it would be” (Our Daily Bread, 10/20/16).

  “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” – Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 6:34 (The Message)

Every year my husband and I spend weeks getting ready for our annual weeklong fall camping trip. Dean works on the camper and the truck, and packs the man things (tools and that kind of stuff), while I plan our destination, route, activities, and meals, as well as clean the camper and pack all the food and clothes.

This year, I spent the three days prior to our departure preparing meals for 10 days on the road so that all we’d have to do was “heat and eat.”

My plan was to read, relax, and recharge, so I crammed a large tote bag with the stack of magazines and books I’d saved to read, and downloaded several novels on my Kindle. I envisioned myself reading while Dean drove, and spending hours plopped in a chair by the campfire, lost in a world of words.

And since we both love to hike, I researched the trails in the areas where we’d be camping.

The plan was to spend a weekend at a campground in Fancy Gap, Va., with our daughter, Jaime, and her family, then drive to Michigan to visit our son, who’d moved there at the end of last year.

So, did everything go according to plan?

Of course not.

First, there was the drenching rain for the first two days, thanks to Hurricane Matthew. But not to worry. I’d packed plenty of games, and our campsite had cable TV.

But when sun finally came out on Sunday, I couldn’t go hiking with Dean, Jaime, and Adam because I had to keep my leg elevated for 24 hours. I’d stumbled into the metal step to the camper Saturday evening, which warranted a trip to the ER 20 miles away and seven stitches.

Then, there was road fatigue.

Whatever was I thinking when I planned the trip? By the end of the two-day drive from Virginia to Michigan—on roads we were totally unfamiliar with—I was road weary, cranky, and sore. Since the route we took was new, I couldn’t enjoy the sights or read. I had to be the navigator. It’s a wonder we’re still married.

We did have a lovely campsite along the lazy Maple River in Michigan—and, because our stay was through the week during the fall, we had the campground to ourselves. But there weren’t any trails to hike. And even if there had been, we couldn’t have gone because Dean’s knee, which he wrenched at the end of August, was too painful.

On Sunday morning, we headed for Pennsylvania in a downpour, arriving home nine hours later—after 10 days, five states, and 1,880 miles.

Was I disappointed in the trip?

Not at all. I’ve learned the difference, you see, between plans and expectations. A plan is a detailed scheme about what you want (or plan) to do. An expectation, on the other hand, is a belief  you’ll achieve something.

See the difference? We planned our trip and prepared for it, but I didn’t set any expectations. I let the trip unfold before us, moment by moment—and the unexpected became an adventure of discovery instead of a disappointment.

On the journey of life, I’ve learned, if you want to be happy, don’t expect anything, except to expect God to work His sovereign will in your life. Plan, prepare, pray—then leave the rest in His hands.

Thank You, Father, that You travel with us on this journey called life. Amen.