Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas 2018

By Frances Judge

Memories dangle

from the branches of our decked-out tree;

gold bead garland snakes around

treasures hung haphazardly—

Backwards and tangled

Popsicle stick squares,

sprinkled with glitter, frame silly boy smiles,

laughter I could hold forever,

blessings worth tears and trials,

And whispered prayers

Some decorations

span three generations; one Wise Man persevered;

though his orange robe tattered,

his gift will still be revered—

Calls for celebration

Ruby ballet shoes,

trimmed with gold ribbon from the year of pink lace;

Crystal girl angels declare

the great gift of God’s grace.

Share the good news

Displayed at the core,

a special glass ball, painted a violet night;

Messiah sleeps in a stable,

cradled beneath divine light.

“O come let us adore…”

Memories transcend

time, from the branches of our love-filled veins,

displaying gifts of thankfulness

to our Savior, Christ who reigns.

His love never ends

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

This Is Us After Thanksgiving

Post-thanksgiving, when the turkey carcass had been thrown away, the grease cleaned off the counters, and hundreds of dishes washed, I couldn’t wait to go to bed and read a book. It was 2:00 AM. I have heard other homes quiet down by that hour. Out of our 4 sons and 1 daughter ages 15-26, only the oldest prefers sleeping before midnight. 

I had one more task to accomplish—brushing our little dog’s teeth—a task neither one of us particularly enjoys. As I turned on the faucet to wet Keyra’s scraggly, chewed toothbrush, I found myself victim of my kids’ favorite prank. They wrapped duct tape around the hand-held sink sprayer head, so when the unaware hand washer, me, turns on the faucet, the handle is squeezed and shoots water everywhere. I was not amused. I was too tired and cold to enjoy being drenched.  

They said it wasn’t meant for me as they giggled. Hmm. At that moment, I forgot the day’s theme of thankfulness. No, not a hint of it left. I did grumble: They didn’t do anything to help today…and all they do is a stupid prank. Ungrateful blah blah blah…I should have gone to bed. I needed sleep but decided to handle my aggravated feelings first in the most mature way, of course. I’d get them back.  

My version of a prank: while they were still playing games in the living room, I tossed all their bedding, comforters, pillows, sheets and anything else floating around into the hall. Ha! So…when they are finally tired and want sleep, they’ll have to remake their beds. I’m sure that will teach them. I’m not sure what, but something. Mom can sink to their level of immaturity. 

The next morning, I was over it. Why was I angry? This is raising boys. Pranks, jokes, teasing, laughter and hugs. Now, as young men, not much has changed.  They can still drive me crazy, and I still love them. I am still thankful for them. I’m thankful my Heavenly Father still loves me even when I do something spiritually immature. 

A Bible verse I should memorize: 

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of The Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:16-17.  

Well, then. I need some work. I doubt my revenge prank was done in the name of The Lord.  Got to pray more, sleep more, laugh more, grumble less. 

“Let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4  

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” Psalm 103:8

I have much to be thankful for, most of all that God is patient and doesn’t give up on me.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

My Shopping Nightmare


If you have ever watched the movie Terms of Endearment, you must remember that humiliating scene at the supermarket. That was me last night. Tired after work, I drove with my oldest son, Stephen, to CVS for a few items because…you know they did use the word Northeaster for the storm coming. And of course we can never find the fifty flashlights and batteries we bought in the past years. And three gallons of milk might not be enough for our four grown-up sons and teenage daughter. 

I prefer using the self-checkout line so I have control, can change my mind, decide I don’t really need a bag of M&Ms, but none of those registers were working at CVS last night. The young blond didn’t look happy that I had about twenty items—I had to get more stuff because…you know when a storm is coming, you need extras like macaroni and cheese and soup and toothpaste. Anyway, I’m holding out my important CVS card and coupons because…of the storm…I got more stuff than expected and couldn’t have the total go over the sixty dollars in cash I brought. Then the girl hits total before she notices my coupons held in front of her nose.  

“Ugh.” She sighed. “I’m going to have to ring everything all over again. You have to give me the coupons before I hit total.” 

I didn’t say that she should have asked if I had coupons before hitting total or this wouldn’t have happened if they ever fixed the stupid self-checkout registers. I just watched her miserable face as she rechecked the items. If I brought more money, I would have skipped the coupons, but couldn’t do that since I cut it too close. It was the storm’s fault. 

Somehow I miscounted. The total was sixty-two-something, and I had sixty-one something in my wallet. A line was forming behind me, so I handed her a toothpaste. “Can you take this off?” 

She sighed again. “I’ll have to start all over and recheck everything. Once I hit total, I can’t go back.” 

“Okay. I might have it.” I mumbled as I fished around my pocketbook with hope of finding some loose change. Nothing. Now would be a great time for the rapture, Lord. I want to disappear. My cheeks were on fire now as I called for Stephen, who was waiting by the exit, to come over and help. “Do you have a dollar?” 

He held open an empty wallet. 
At this point, I panicked. “Give me your credit card, and I’ll pay you back.” 

I was thankful when he swiped his card so it was done, but I still had to pack my twenty-something items in the two bags I brought. Too late to pay for another bag. When I’m anxious, my hands feel like they’ve got butter-slathered mittens on trying gather falling cereal boxes. No help from the blond who didn’t smile.

Stephen helped me grab the rest of the stuff, and I rushed out without looking at the faces of the people in line. At least no one said anything out loud. 

Stephen smiled. “That was fun.” 

“I’m never shopping again.” 

I realized two things when I got home: One. I accidentally bought the more expensive paper towels—the reason I was off by a dollar. Two. I forgot the flashlights and batteries.

If the Northeaster slams us, at least we’ll have plenty of toothpaste and the heavy duty paper towels to clean up what we spill in the dark. 


Why was I so embarrassed at such a small flake of life? Paying a cashier in an orderly fashion is hardly a death or life matter.  The answer has to be pride. I don’t want to make mistakes no matter where I am or what I’m doing, big or small. God doesn’t care about perfection; he cares about our heart and how we treat others. Maybe in my failure, God was pleased I kept my mouth shut. 

Scripture verses to think about:

·          “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:10

·          “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” James 3:13

·          “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:18

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Linger, Learn, Laugh & Love

Dinner time used to annoy me. I get squeamish touching and smelling raw meat, but I can deal with that phobia. My annoyance had less to do with the food preparation than the family dynamics. We cooked for at least an hour, gathered our five kids, prayed and gave thanks to God, then listened to them joke and tease each other, and in ten minutes waved goodbye as they cleared the table and ran off to their video games or whatever. As they reached the teen years, it was even harder to keep everyone together, unless cake was served of course. 

Now dinner is a fun, loud, competitive time. We are not fighting over who gets the biggest meatball or who has to exert energy, stand up, walk to the refrigerator and retrieve the milk. We are playing trivial pursuit. Split into two teams, each team gets a card and alternates in asking the questions. No board or rainbow colored pieces necessary.  

Playing as a team takes the pressure off one person feeling stupid. I have memories of dreading Trivia. My brain used to freeze under pressure. And occasionally still does. Maybe a bit more than occasionally. Okay, my stupid brain freezes a lot, but I don’t care—we’re not playing to win a million dollars, just to win more time with our family. We usually stay at the table at least an hour, even longer if teams are tied. Because of jobs, college, and sports, we don’t always have everyone at the table, but even if it’s just one of them, we stay and play a round of trivia. Sometimes we have more than seven at the table—friends are welcome to join a team. The more, the merrier.   

Last Sunday, the guest pastor at church mentioned how God wants us to linger in his presence. This reminded me of our dinner/game time. Our Father in heaven loves his family more than we can understand, so it makes sense that he wants to spend time with us. Jesus spent time with his disciples teaching, healing, but also eating, talking, and resting with them. And he wants that time with us too. When we linger somewhere, it’s because we are reluctant to leave what we are doing; we want to stay. God wants us to seek him. He wants everyone to come to him. The more time we spend in prayer and reading God’s word, the more we will learn about his love for us. It’s trivia time with our Heavenly Father.

  • “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13 
  • “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 

  • “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy.” Psalm 16:11 NKJV 

  • “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7   

  • “And surely I am with you  always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 

  • “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18 

  • “O Lord,  you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways.” Psalm 139:1-4 

  • “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” Psalm 139:7  

Note: all verses are found in the NIV Bible unless stated. 

Second note:  we have played other games that work well at the dinner table too: Family Feud and Head’s Up on the iPhone are fun alternatives to Trivia.
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Saturday, September 29, 2018

When Tomorrow Doesn't Follow Yesterday's Plan

“…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If The Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

I know I can’t control the universe, or even what the next minute brings. Lord, help me accept the unexpected.

Last Saturday I missed my daughter’s JV tennis match. Again. I read the school schedule: away game in Bellemore, 10:00 AM on Saturday. This was the only game on a Saturday. The rest of Jordan’s games are after school before I get off work. I have tried to make those games, leaving work early, and still missed her play. Saturday was perfect--I could go to her game on the way to my parents’ house. That was my plan. My plan.

Back to James 4: “…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.” I know, I know, Lord. But why? Why can’t a day go smoothly as planned?

Jordan took the bus to the game at 8:30 with her team.  Since I am not the most punctual person, I got my butt up early, packed my stuff, set Google maps, and made sure I was driving to Bellemore with enough time.

On  this beautiful sunny morning, I looked forward to watching Jordan play my favorite sport, the sport she loves as I drove along the Ocean Parkway and blasted Mandisa’s songs on the radio, singing “You’re an overcomer…!”. I pulled into the parking lot at exactly 10:00 AM next to the soccer field. I had to run around the school to find the tennis courts in the back of the building. Jordan was walking across the courts; I figured they were practicing and about to start the matches. 

I was wrong.

Jordan rushed over to me. “Why are you so late? I just finished.”

“Are you joking? It’s 10:00.” Actually, 10:03 after running around to find the courts. Still—the game should be starting not ending.

“We left the school at 8:30. You should have left then. We start playing as soon as we get here.” She  smiled and said it was okay, but I could see the disappointment in her eyes.

Ugh. My heart sank. Another Mom fail. It was done. Over. And I missed her win a challenging match. 

Okay, apparently, tennis begins when both teams get to the courts. The wonderful schedule on the school website doesn’t say anything about accounting for flexible time. It would be helpful to know they may start an hour early. 

I hate to be disappointed, but I feel worse disappointing my kids. Yes, I know missing a tennis match isn’t the worst thing a parent can do, but I tend to focus on my mistakes. I want to be the perfect parent, but it’s not possible. I can only try and pray they remember the effort. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect either.

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

I’m one of those who sweats the small stuff—not just small, but every crumb of life. I need to refocus every day.

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

If you are reading this and reflecting about your own disappointments, no matter how small or how colossal, overwhelming, and discouraging, please join me in refocusing. God loves us; he cares for His children. Jesus came to show us this love to help us through this life.

We can overcome the struggles by turning to the Lord. Praying. Asking what we can learn from a situation. Thanking Him. He wants to give us joy in all circumstances. God understands our emotions and every muddled mood swing.

And “Glory, glory, Hallelujah!” sometimes days go as planned...

I did get another chance to see Jordan play later that week. Owed time from work, I took a half day and drove to that game an hour early. She won that singles match too.

No matter what we go through, God is there, always loving us. 

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” 
Ephesians 5:1-2

Visit my website at francesjudge.com

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Free Giveaway for Childhood Cancer Awareness

FREE giveaway for Childhood Cancer Awareness! 3 winners will be randomly chosen at the end of September 2018 to win a free copy of my novel Randi's Steps or a $10 gift card to Barnes and Nobles. 

To win: subscribe to my free monthly newsletter at francysnewmorning.com

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Those Days

Keyra sympathizes 

Ever have one of those days? The kind that makes you wonder if there is a reason for the dark cloud hovering over you; words you don’t usually say out loud dive out in center. “What the?” might slip out, disguised in a cloud of pity. 

Yesterday was my turn. After battling with my heavy duty bike lock for five minutes in front of the Doctor’s office, I finally gave up and parked it inside the building under the stairs. (See past blog about bike getting stolen.) Now I regret not listening to my ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) doctor and having my earwax cleaned out every few months. I let a year go by until they got so clogged I couldn’t hear, like my head was stuffed with a pillow. You might be thinking, “So what? Get the gook suctioned out.” That’s what I thought. The problem was I used eardrops which melted the wax and let it harden again onto my eardrum and ear canal. The pain of ripping it off was worse than going to the dentist and feeling the drill. Doc had to give up before getting it all out or he would rip it off my eardrum which he informed me would hurt more than what I already experienced. Okay, I’m good. I can hear a little better. Get me outta here. 

My bike ride to work was fine. Work was fine—I’m happy as long as I can write during my lunch break and drink coffee—until I experienced the job hazard of working in medical records. I dropped two chart binders on my toes. Wearing comfy thin fabric unfashionable sketchers didn’t help. The more I walked around the building, the more my toes swelled and hurt to touch and bend until I was limping my way home. I could still pedal with my heel, but I needed to walk. We had tickets to a Broadway show the next day. We only do this once a year. Why now? 

Now the guilt. I realize how small my problems are. My sister suffers with chronic back pain, never complains, and I’m whining over a few sausage toes that will heal in less than a week. I should be thankful it’s just “one” of those days and not a month or years. The pain also changed my focus. Before smashing my toes, I was concerned about what to wear to the show. Did I have time to shop for a new outfit and get a haircut? And I really needed new shoes…but all that didn’t matter when I felt pain. My puffy slipper boots felt the best. Style…who cares? I was able to walk ten city blocks and see the show.  

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. God wants us to have joy no matter what kind of day we are having. So let us not be tempted to say “What the?” Every day should be one of those “good” days if we know God loves us and watches over us. 

Please share how you overcome distractions and stay focused on God.

Visit my website here: francesjudge.com

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Onward Team Mom



When asked if I have kids, I answer yes. They are still my kids even if three of them are in their twenties, and two are teenagers. The Mom feelings haven’t changed much since I felt the first fluttering in my belly and began to worry about their wellbeing. Now that they have survived chewing on Legos, climbing monkey bars, and running around the block playing manhunt (teenage tag / hide and seek,) without too many broken bones, I have new worries as they venture out into young adult life. How will they pay their college loans? Will they drive safely? Will they still have faith in God? I have this gnawing feeling that everything is out of my control now. Probably because it is.

When they were young, I could fool myself into thinking I had some control. I shopped for their food, cooked the meals I wanted them to have, and dressed them in the non-designer, hand-me-down outfits I liked. Even at a young age they began wiggling out of my clutches. In my obsessive health food stage, when I wouldn’t give them any sugar or processed food, they wouldn’t eat half of what I prepared for their nutritious meals. Slowly, I started allowing a few cereals that came with a toy in the box. Skippy peanut butter replaced the natural stuff—no one wants to stir the unfortunate layer of oil every day. White bread showed up in our kitchen again. I don’t remember if there was a single day I said, “I give up. You win,” but somehow my little ducklings took the lead in the food department. Dinner always included Trader Joe’s chicken nuggets for the pickiest eaters. “Peanut butter on crackers for lunch?” Okay. “Granola bar for breakfast?” Sure, At least you’re eating. Don’t judge until you’ve tried cooking for five kids who inherited different taste buds.

Back to the control issue…I should have realized this was the beginning of loosening the cords I held wrapped around my knuckles. Actually, I would never loosen them voluntarily—it was more of a tug-of-war battle. I need more faith to see God was helping to pull their side across into the mommy-free zone. Not fair at all, but who am I to argue with the Creator of the world? He will remind me that they are his children who I prayed for and was blessed with the opportunity to raise.  But I’m a mom, the one who applies Band-Aids and instinctively wants to prevent the booboos. Time to let them make their own decisions and learn from their own mistakes.

When the nurse first handed me my eight pound squirming, screaming, perfect baby, she should have warned me the little peanut would grow up and slip out of my arms. So I’m thankful for the days of homeschooling, the days of playing street soccer and stickball, the countless hours of driving kids to sports and sitting on cold benches, and summer days of applying layers of sunblock, smelling like coconuts mixed with cherry ices, and walking home from the beach with a cup of sand stuck to our legs. And nothing compared to snuggling with my freshly bathed, Ivory Soap kids and reading stacks of picture books. Our house was never as clean or quiet as I’d like, but it was never boring, and I went to bed knowing all my kids were safe.

If I worry about all the things that could possibly happen to my kids as they leave for college and travel and commute to jobs and become adults, I won’t be able to think. I’m better off remembering how God encouraged Joshua: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Maybe when they officially move out and live on their own, or at least pick up their dirty socks, I’ll stop calling them kids, but I’ll still be Mom who needs a hug now and then.

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