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grillsmokeMy eyes burned as the smoke blinded me. I knew I had to stay there and finish the job, but smelling like a chimney all day wasn’t what I had in mind. I closed the cover and stepped back. There were only a few more hours left, and I knew it would be perfect—if I had the patience to wait that long.

As I stood there staring at the beef brisket barbecuing in my charcoal grill, I thought about how brisket, being a cut of beef from the lower chest, has a significant amount of connective tissue. The meat must be cooked slowly, over a long period of time, to tenderize the connective tissue. The result, if done properly, is a tender, tasty, beautiful piece of meat. If not, it can be a disaster—tough, overcooked, chewy, and dry. 

The key to breaking this down is cooking at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. This could be twelve hours or more. This takes an investment of time and effort. You have to plan ahead and be patient with the process. It can be a labor of love if you know the results. If you do, you will be rewarded with a meal that doesn’t compare with much else.

While I waited, the Lord brought to my attention the similarities between the process of tenderizing tougher cuts of meat and the process of helping to tenderize other people’s hardened hearts. 

The process is a consistent level of love over a longer period of time. It isn’t a flashy, in-your-face, get-your-act-together mentality. It needs time and patience to have its perfect work. 

“But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:4 NKJV)
Patience is an act of love. You are willingly enduring a level of suffering without complaint. I am not saying it is easy to do, but the Lord tells us the result will be worth the effort.

I was reminded of Julie’s letter last month, and the hope she placed in being able to affect a certain classmate’s negative attitude over the course of the semester. The easy thing to do would be to just avoid contact with this person and try to stay happy through dodging her.

Well, she has an update, and I will let her finish the story:

vialschemistryI was a bit on edge already, and my class just started! I just couldn’t handle being exposed to the poison. I had a couple of weeks to prepare myself for what was to come and thought I was ready for anything that would be thrown at me. I got sideswiped by a poison that had nothing to do with chemistry, and it had the potential to knock me off my feet. I couldn’t get away from it, and the longer I was exposed, the more damage it was doing to me. I knew I had to do something.


My summer college class started last week, and I saw firsthand the impact the poison of negativity can have on a group of people. There are about 25 of us in the class, and there was one person who continually spewed forth negativity about everything. With her untamable tongue, she interrupted the professor with rude commentary, and on our lunch break, she complained about the college’s academic advisors, our younger classmates, the lab activities, the long school day, the short lunch break, her parents, her job, the weather, and on and on.

She had a chip on her shoulder about everything. The world was conspiring against her, apparently. She talked like a victim that had no control of anything in her life, and she oozed negativity with every breath. It didn’t take long to see that no one wanted to be around her. We were all being infected.

Poison, in any form, is insidious. Sometimes it tastes sweet and goes down fine, only to cause problems later. Other times, the poison has a bitter taste, and even a small exposure causes immediate damage. This was the latter, and everyone knew it.

perseverancerockI’m sitting here on a beautiful spring day making flash cards to study for my final math exam, and my eyes are welling up as I think about how the Lord has helped me, and how far He has brought me. In just a few days, I will wrap up my first year of college—25 years after finishing high school. It’s a huge milestone for me. I didn’t think I’d even be alive to graduate high school, let alone attend college. But, here I am.

When I was in junior and senior high school, I struggled with life, and I made a lot of bad decisions. I was lost and hurting. When things got hard and the going got tough—at home, school, or in relationships, my default response was to high-tail it out of there. I skipped school, and I ran away from home. Drugs and drinking became my escape. Every time there was a problem, my coping skills involved running away, masking the pain, violence, and ‘looking for love in all the wrong places.’ At that time, I was so depressed, I didn’t care if I lived or died.

“Any temptation you face will be nothing new. But God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can handle. But He always provides a way of escape so that you will be able to endure and keep moving forward.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Then, my now husband, Jon, came into my life, and I started to get glimpses of what a better life could be like. I started to have hope for my future. I started putting in the effort, but I still had undeveloped skills in so many areas. Jon supported and encouraged me to press forward and not give up. 

I applied myself, and with Jon’s help, I became the first person in my family to graduate from high school. 

This was a massive accomplishment for me. It chokes me up sometimes when I think about how special it was to wear a cap and gown, walk with my class, and get handed my diploma on graduation day.

Then, I became a mom right out of high school and worked as a nursing assistant in a nursing home for a couple years. It was there that I realized how much I loved spending time with the elderly and taking care of them. I couldn’t get enough of hearing their stories. Helping them with their most basic needs and helping them feel loved and valued felt like an important role, especially seeing how many people didn’t have any friends or family visiting them.


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