Sunday, December 30, 2012

Abiding Hits 100th Post

Woo-hoo! A new milestone, and I'm happy to be still blogging!

When I starting "Abiding," I wanted to record and share the "aha's" God blessed me with in my reflections, to hone my practice of writing, and to dialog with others who, like me, are learning daily what it means to surrender and be obedient in walking with the Lord through whatever life gives.

As I re-read my reflections, I see God's loving guidance preparing me for what I'm walking through today. I "connect the dots" on how He's orchestrating good things. Best of all, in blogging as in journaling, I have a record so that I don't forget all the wonderful insights He's revealed to me!

These are some of the posts that received the most attention (number of readers):
Joyful in the Wait (188) July 4, 2012. I'm impressed by a man who heard earth-shattering news and still he stood in awe of God, trusting Him to bring about His just and good plan. Even while all he saw was doom and gloom, he walked by faith and was joyful in the wait!
Wrapped in His Love (76) June 28, 2011. We were between a rock and a hard place with the choices we faced when Ted was in intensive care with a serious lung condition. But, despite the great trauma, we felt absolutely wrapped in God's love. 
A Whole New Level of Abiding (58) July 2, 2011. I sat helpless in the darkened room with only the hum and hiss of the machines and the constant activity outside Ted's room in ICU. That night I wrestled desperately to find that perfect peace again. 
Blessings for Obedience (53) March 27, 2011. On a road trip to Arkansas, I was amazed at all God promised His people if they would listen and obey. It's a great reminder and exciting to think about how He beats incredible odds!
The Aroma of Christ (43) January 16, 2011. Deadlines, expectations and other distractions had me believing I was accomplishing important work. But our real work is spreading the aroma of Christ.
Thank you God, for your unmistakable guidance and love through all of life. Teach me, each day, to more fully abide in you and walk by faith.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

On Being Still...

A thoughtful gift from my sister.
In a season of many distractions and much to do, I continue to reflect on "being still." I'm trying to let Psalm 46:10 melt into me, once again.

What does it mean to you? As a way of seeking to "soak it in," I'd love to have you comment below and share your reflections, too:

  1. To cease striving.
  2. To appreciate the quiet.
  3. To reflect on the Reason for the Season.
  4. To abide in Him and He in me.
  5. To empty myself and let Him fill me.
  6. To realize that nothing I have to do today is more important than this!
  7. To let go of control and expectations.
  8. To receive from Him what He so wants to give.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Bright New Hope

Magnificent moment of sunrise, captured in Minnesota.
Living on high alert can be exhausting.

Since we learned just how aggressive Ted's cancer had become, I once again became vigilant. Needing to ask the right questions, wanting to be prepared for whatever is next, knowing it could be a long journey, I took it all on as best I could.

But, it's hard to sleep when you can't let your body relax. So I've been practicing a lot of "letting go" of the burdens I am trying to carry:

When we learned his cancer had become resistant to standard chemo drugs, we asked God to show us a way. We know that God beats incredible odds and redeems impossible situations. We read it and teach it and share it each day. Now it is time to believe it for ourselves. We got a second opinion which offered a clinical trial on a promising new drug.

In the weeks we waited to hear if insurance would cover the costs, we knew we had to surrender that, too. God would provide, we said -- or maybe He already had, even if it wiped out all our savings (it all came from Him in the first place). Soon we got word that insurance will likely cover.

Yet, the heaviest weight I carry is the thought of losing my dear husband and all the richness of life we enjoy together.

In the sweetest of spots deep in my heart, I know the love of God is greater than anything I could ever ask or imagine. Nothing can ever separate me from His love. His care and His grace go with me every step of the way. Though I pray desperately for healing, I opened my hands and asked that God's will be done, because He has a plan for all and He knows best.

And three days after Ted started taking the drug, we began to see amazing results. It's working! It's working! A bright new hope gleams at this moment in our lives. We continue to surrender to Him and trust that it will continue. We are in awe of the One who provides all we need for each day.

(If you'd like, you can follow our journey on You'll need to enter your email and set up a password.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Reflecting on His Goodness

A reflection of trees in the water where Ted and I went canoeing recently.
Many times lately, I awaken in the night and sleep eludes me. "God, you know this situation is beyond our control." (Friends, insert your own area of concern here.) 

Sometimes I feel like the only one who has ever been through this particular set of circumstances (though I know that is not true). My mind is working, working, working through possible scenarios as I try to fix things myself. But, of course, I am inadequate and powerless to change things.

That's OK, because I know the One who can! I turn my thoughts back to Him...

Nothing is too difficult for you, Lord. Your arm is not too short. You are all powerful. You can make a way when there seems to be no way. All things are possible. My hope is in you. Your grace is sufficient. You give me all I need for today. When I am weak, you are strong. 

In those sleepless moments, I choose to reflect on the goodness of God instead of the depth of my concern. I needn't worry about tomorrow because God can do all kinds of things -- when it is time.

I realize, gracious God, that wisdom and strength don’t come in great “chunks” bestowed upon me, but by walking with you and abiding in you, through it all. You give me daily “manna as I stay near, surrendering all, trusting and listening for guidance each step of the way.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Taking Refuge in Him

Timberwood Church in Nisswa
Traveling to join up with family this week, we found the Timberwood Church in the northern Minnesota. The message was on Psalm 37, built around TRUST; the teaching outline spelling a word with each of the letters. These are the notes I took as the pastor walked through the beautiful chapter, verse by verse:

Thrilled (vv 1-7) Bask in Him, delight, keep eyes on Him.
Reversal (vv 8-15) Things are about to change. It will endure for awhile but it will reverse.
Upheld (vv. 16-26) Though he stumble, he will not fall.
Speak (vv 27-33) Share with others what God is doing in our lives. Speak truth, move forward.
Trouble (vv 34-40) The Lord helps them and delivers them... because they take refuge in Him.

As the message was being summarized, "Don't fret; we are called to wait on and trust in Him..." I read back over my notes and it all came together so powerfully for me. I said to Ted, "We could substitute the word cancer for the references to evil and wickedness throughout that whole Psalm."

Then, tears continued as they sang a treasured song from our home church: 10,000 Reasons. Miles from home, we had visited a church where we heard a favorite Psalm preached and sang this favorite song. The message was a great assurance to us, so I guess this is where God intended us to be!

Yes, Lord, for all your goodness, I will keep on singing and praising you. In the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," I surely have 10,000 reasons for my heart to find your blessings.
Tall timbers line the parking lot.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Time for Big Faith

Big things are happening in our lives, and big things require big faith! Just when we thought the finish line was in sight from the last chemo treatment plan, we are standing at the onramp of another chemo marathon. So many risks, so many unknowns. We were shaken to the core.

But, God is in control, we know. I remember what He has already brought us through!

The Gospels are full of stories of those with big faith -- the centurion who trusted Jesus to heal with authority, the woman who touched the hem of His garment, the men who brought Jesus a paralyzed man on a mat. I read how He healed many, He cast out demons and calmed the waves. Sum it up, I said to myself. He's all powerful and He beats incredible odds!

But, He does require a big faith. The cost to follow Jesus can be great. We are asked to put aside our expectations, comforts and most of all -- our fears! We cannot cling to fear and walk with God at the same time. We cannot "hole up" in a secure place and wait things out. No, we must press on through the storm, step by step with Him... Abiding in the One who has power over all!

God, I see that if we look at the rocks in the road or the long road ahead, we will be overwhelmed. If we look at the wind and the waves, we start sinking. No, we must keep our eyes on you and follow you with a big faith. Strengthen our faith for this journey ahead.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Keeping Our Eyes on Him

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root...(Matt. 13:3-9 NIV)

Sometimes my path seems full of rocks, but the roots I've sent down deep will keep me from withering.

After Ted's cancer treatment in September, it should have been complete. But his white cells are increasing and his energy is decreasing again. He will have a CT scan tomorrow to help determine what's going on. As I watch my weary husband, I call out to my God who is my Hope.

I remember all He has already done for us. Abiding is walking in step with Him, knowing He's in control and is orchestrating what is best. Our part is waiting, trusting and keeping our eyes on Him, not on the rocks in the road.

Thank you, God, for growing our faith, making it real, for being with us every step of the way.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Letting in More of His Light

"In Him was life and that life was the light of all mankind." (John 1:4)

I let that light permeate my mind a few moments…

Light helps me see things I wouldn’t otherwise see. It keeps me from stumbling in the darkness. Light reveals the truth. It highlights beauty and exposes flaws. Light shows the way, inspires potential.

Light is a photographer’s most powerful tool. Consider the glorious moments of sunrise and sunset: what an adventure it is to be poised to get a piece of that spectacular sky! An artist seeks to capture the elusive beauty of light – a light that brings ambiance, releases emotion and makes colors come alive. From a box of paints the artist painstakingly coaxes the colors to life to replicate a sunlit forest path, the dewdrop on a rose or a glistening pond. Oh, the treasure and pleasure of light!

But the light of Jesus Christ transcends all other light, radiating out to all who seek it. It is exceedingly more beautiful and powerful than any other light source we know. It brings life! It warms, adorns and enchants every living thing.

From the gentlest glow to a burst of tremendous intensity, He speaks into our lives. His light casts a serene simplicity on the most perplexing matters, it diffuses doubt and articulates direction. It is vibrant and undeniable, when it finally penetrates the walls we hide within. The next step is well illuminated -- we know what needs to be done.

Just as an artist's eye discerns the best colors to blend, a child of God recognizes the times she needs to draw nearer still, to be infused with His light. Sometimes it is a scrupulous process, as we are not often given a "high beam" when we ask for light. Most often, walking with Jesus and abiding in Him provides just enough light to take the next step.

Lord, you have come into the world as light, so that no one who believes in you should stay in darkness. (John 12:46) Let your marvelous light seep into every area of my life. Saturate me with your light and your life. 

Light of the world you stepped down into darkness, opened my eyes, let me see… (love that song!)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Making it Real

Our new grandson Noah (with arms up)
Just knowing we were expecting another grandchild was exciting. The anticipation grew while watching the pregnancy and seeing David and Debbie's faces beam as they talked about becoming parents. Over the months we prayed, we waited and grew more and more excited. On Wednesday night, we heard the news: Noah Alexander had arrived!

On Thursday we cleared our calendars and took a short road trip to meet our new grandson. When we arrived in town we drove around, eagerly awaiting the afternoon "quiet hours" to pass so we could see his little face for the first time.

After joyous greetings and wrapping the new mom and dad in our arms, we settled down to get to know Noah. Holding him close to me made everything "real." I am forever in love. I can't get the little miracle out of my mind. He has captured my heart.

We could think about it and talk about it all we wanted, but living it in the flesh is what made it real.

It reminded me of how we make our faith real. We can have head knowledge, gravitate toward truth and recognize spoken wisdom. I can read the Bible and say, "That makes so much sense." I may feel I know what to do in a given circumstance, but actually doing it is an entirely different thing.

Can I endure under pressure, persevere through the wait, trust God for His plan in the trials of life? Only living through these circumstances -- practicing our faith -- will make it become real. Experience is the means by which God stretches our perspective, strengthens our faith and refines our character.

So in the midst of the struggle, may I remember that the real life experience is what allows us to live authentic lives for Him. It gives credence to what used to be just concept.

Our new grandson is much more than a wonderful concept now. As I joyfully reflect on this new blessing in our lives -- now beautifully real and known to us -- I trust in God in the areas that are yet unknown.

Lord, you are able and faithful and loving. Your gifts are better than anything we can dream up ourselves. You know what it will take to grow me in the ways I most need to grow. When you ask me to wait, to persevere, to trust, give me the courage to put my faith into practice and make it real.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Well-Manicured Life?

Yesterday was quite productive. We mowed the lawn and caught up on yard work, did some weeding, tilling and planting of daffodils. I vacuumed and washed our floors, washed our sheets and hung them in the fresh breeze to dry. I cleaned and cooked fresh vegetables, baked some rhubarb bars and attended to numerous details around the house.

It was satisfying to look back on all that had been accomplished. But, then I looked at all that is yet to be done. There are so many things that still beg my attention. Where do I begin? What is the best use of these few precious weekend hours?

As I sat in church this morning, I reflected on the work I expended so much time and energy accomplishing. It was satisfying and useful, but none of it is long-lasting. It will all have to be done again. The grass will grow, the weeds will too, the floors will get dirty and we will need to eat again.

So, I pondered, what is the best use of my time today? There is much more to be maintained, because God has been so good. We want to steward all He has given us. Especially the relationships He has blessed us with. We do not want to neglect a single one.

Just as I started to feel overwhelmed with the possibilities (or should I say responsibilities?), peace entered my mind as I realized the BEST use of my time is to surrender and give myself fully to Him, to stop trying to DO so much and to focus on BEing instead. To look to Him for my fulfillment -- because it is not found in any of these other things. I am to abide in Him and draw my refreshment, strength and direction from Him, to grow in His grace and live in His love.

Gracious Lord, I lift my eyes, once again, to you. I refocus on what's important -- giving control of every area of my life to you. I give you the gift of myself. Do with it what you desire of me.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Joyful in the Wait

When I read the book of Habakkuk recently, I realized what a man of faith he was. Though he heard earth-shattering news, he stood in awe of God and trusted Him to bring about His just and good plan. Habakkuk could be joyful in hope even when he only saw doom and gloom. (Read his short inspirational story.)

The prophet at first pleaded with the Lord, "Why aren't you doing something?" Then, when he realized that God had a plan and was working, he was humbled and awed. He was encouraged in the wait.

How I need to remember that in my life! When the waiting gets long, I will remember that one day "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (2:14)

And even though I don't see things happening, I can know the Lord is at work. "Though the fig tree does not bud... the olive crop fails... there are no sheep in the pen... yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God, my Savior." (2:17-18)

God wants us to be joyful in the wait. That is the mark of our faith. "The righteous will live by his faith." (2:4) We all have things we are waiting for. The wait is what draws us close to God and we realize our dependence on Him. The waiting actually becomes a blessing.

If I live by faith, I am sure of what I hope for. When my desires are like God's, they are as good as done. They will surely come to pass -- but in God's time, not mine. I can live in faith and joy because God's plan is the best. He gives the ultimate. He won't settle for the lesser things for us -- His love is too great!

What are you "waiting" for? Can you have joy while you wait?

Oh Lord, thank you for your goodness, your graciousness, your love and mercy. Why does doubt ever even cross my mind? I will be strong and take heart as I wait for you, Lord!

The book of Habakkuk is a short little ancient book, but it answers some of the timeless and major questions of life.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Skipping to the Good Part

Do I pick the sweetest option?
This morning I read how Jeremiah prophesied, but no one wanted to listen. His message was too negative – exiled to Babylon for 70 years?! Jeremiah warned that God was greatly disappointed, hurt and angry that His people would worship other gods. If only they would repent and come back to Him, things could turn out much differently. But, they wanted to keep doing things their own way. And they chose to believe the (false) prophets who said that Israel would break the yoke of Babylon and be restored within two years.

Do I do that? Do I believe what I want to believe instead of making the extra effort to discern the truth? Do I ask advice and choose the option that seems sweetest to me? Or am I willing to go with my gut and do the hard thing, if necessary?

I continued reading the book of Jeremiah and came to the familiar verse we all love to quote: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11)

It’s interesting how we skip to the good part, wanting to believe this scripture is a word for us. It can be... but realize that God spoke that word to tell His people He still loved them, even though He would have to discipline them. He gave them hope, promising it would all be good in the long run. He would restore them after 70 years of exile – a long period of discipline. The next two verses are essential: “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:12-13).

Yes, God does have good planned for us, but it may first require some discipline on our parts. If we do what is right, then He can do what He longs to do in our lives. We can’t just keep doing things our own way and waiting for everything to fall into place because God has plans to prosper us. We need to be calling on Him, praying to Him, wholeheartedly seeking Him. We need to be listening to Him and doing what He has told us.

I admit I sometimes lack discipline. I could be exercising more self control at times. I want to be doing what He has already told me, things I already know I should be doing. Whether it is controlling my tongue, my tone or my portion size, wisely using my talents, or jumping in and doing something I have been procrastinating about, there are certainly ways I could practice more discipline.

God has good plans. He sees our future, our potential, and He is longing to bring it about.

 Are we willing to do the hard thing? Will we put in the required discipline?

Dear God, I want to do my part so that you can do all that you want to do. Tune my ears to the truth, even when it is not as positive as what I might like to hear. Help me to be disciplined in doing the things you’ve already made clear to me.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Eyes of the Lord

He sees our potential, like this fern in its infancy.
I’ve been fascinated reading through the Bible chronologically, especially when comparing the stories in Kings and Chronicles. Scholars say the books of 1 & 2 Kings are written from man’s perspective and the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles tell those same stories from God’s perspective. The life of a king was often summarized in one of two ways: “he did right in the eyes of the lord” or “he did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”

As I read both the stories side by side, I noticed how King Abijah is portrayed negatively in 1 Kings 15 (“he committed all the sins…; his heart was not fully devoted”) – but in 2 Chronicles 13, the content is three times longer and there are many positives (“the Lord is our God and we have not forsaken Him”).

Another example is the account of King Manasseh in 2 Kings 21: “he did more evil…, caused Judah to sin…, and he shed so much innocent blood…” But, in 2 Chronicles 33, the account tells of how the Lord got his attention, how God then heard his humble prayer and was moved to restore him and “Manasseh knew the Lord is God.”

These examples show that when a human relays a series of events, he may focus on the negatives – but not so with God. He looks for the good, remembers the positives and focuses on the potential!

Regarding the One who sees all and knows all, 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

God is for us. He longs to see us persevere and to succeed. How different would our own stories look if we saw them through “the eyes of the Lord”? Instead of phrases like “missed the mark,” “stubborn” or “fell short,” we might see words like “adapted,” “faithfully pursued,” or “patiently trusted.”

How might God be seeing your life differently than you do?

God, thank you that you have a plan for my success. When I see the negatives, I will remember that you work all things together for good. When the wait is long, I will be patient and remember your timing is perfect. When the road is hard, I will listen for your voice to direct my next step. If God is for us, who can be against us?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Set Apart

His roots set him apart.
I noticed the unusual tree right away. His knobby knees in the air, he appeared to be sitting on a rock at the edge of the trail -- a tree in "the thinker" pose in the middle of the Great Smoky Mountains.

I played with the personification awhile and wondered what trees would think about. Was he sitting there thinking of sending down deeper roots? Was he enjoying the view -- the beautiful ribbons of smoky blue-gray ridges stretching for miles in the distance? Was he taking a few moments to be still and listen to his Creator? Maybe he was longing for a weary hiker to join him on the rocks for lunch in the shelter of his shade.

I thought of this tree with tenacious roots that held him securely near the top of the ridge where the ferocious wind blows. His roots had sustained him through many storms. Obviously, they stretched deep enough to give him life. He was thriving here on the ridge near Clingman's Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. 

I first noticed this unusual tree because his exposed roots set him apart.

I hope to be known and recognized by my roots, too.

God, let my faith set me apart. My identity is in you and with strong roots I am connected to you, abiding in you, living on your strength instead of relying on my own. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Blessed is the One Who Trusts

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord...
On our recent drive across South Dakota, my eyes were drawn to one healthy tree standing alone in the vast plains. It was the only thing green for miles, it seemed, because it was sinking its roots down deep for refreshing.
"But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." -- Jer. 17:7-8 NIV
It was precious family time with my mom and dad, as they didn't want to make the drive themselves. We stopped at an overlook and I took this picture. Back on the road, the four of us talked a long time about how God sustains in unbelievable ways when we trust Him. We all could identify with having seen God's refreshment through hard times when we kept our focus on Him. It often required waiting, but as we looked back, God was always lush and generous in His answers.

I am so blessed to have family and friends that trust God, too. I am not a lone tree in the desert. I can flourish because others have helped me grow my roots deep through the years.

Thank you, Lord. My confidence and sustenance comes from you. Even in the droughts and discouragements of life, you have the power to keep me flourishing. I will abide with you forever.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

New Leg of His Journey

He was a good man -- thoughtful, gracious and easy to be around. He was adventurous, creative, vibrant and fun. And now our dear friend is gone. His valiant battle with cancer is over.

It happened only days after the Women's Breakaway, where I had shared the details of how Ted and I had ridden a roller coaster of health issues last summer, hanging on for dear life. In the most frail of moments, we had clung to our faith and surrendered to God's bigger plan -- whatever that would be.

For Ted and I, things turned out far better than we anticipated. We found ourselves receiving amazing answers to prayer.

For our friend, this is not what we thought would happen. He was only 49.

Yet it begs me to answer once more, can I trust God to be God? Can I surrender again into the hands of a Loving Father who has a bigger plan that we can't see?

Again, it's time to dig in with my deepest roots that keep me strong. I call out to God, telling Him of all that boggles my mind and burdens my heart. I surrender and rest in Him because He is Author and Creator and the way the story will unfold is for Him to decide.

I devote time to reading God's Word and I preserve some quiet time to listen for His wisdom. I trust in Him for comfort and refreshing. My hope is in eternity where we will see our loved ones again and walk with God in a new world of splendor beyond human description.

And the Comforter comes near, once again. My mind opens a bit wider to let in more Light. The Holy Spirit brings peace into the most perplexing situations; Love shows up in our darkest hour; and Hope appears in the midst of our emotional pain.

Our friend will live on in the hearts of all who had the blessing of knowing him. While we will miss him deeply, he has inspired us to live with that same courage, humility and grace that he and his sweet wife have so beautifully demonstrated.

Now he has gone on to a new leg of his journey. As Christ-followers, we don't grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13-14 NIV). Our earthly lives are only a small segment of the journey -- a temporary separation -- in the face of forever.

Heavenly Father, great is your love toward us; your faithfulness endures forever. (Ps. 117:2 NIV) You are omniscient, and you have the greater good in mind, always. We will fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:18 NIV

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Deeper Roots, Abundant Waters

(Click the image to enlarge.)
While on our wild ride last summer, Ted and I learned to trust God in a much deeper way and to realize the richness of His love can carry us, no matter what we may be facing in life. Surrendered in those darkest hours, we found ourselves infused with grace, bathed in God's beauty and wrapped in His love.

Yesterday, I was privileged to share our story at the Women's Breakaway in Chilton. I used the tree image as a handout to summarize how we need to strengthen our all-important roots. Each of the roots plays an integral part in stabilizing the tree to weather the storms of life.

After both presentations, several women shared with me their stories of strength through adversity or told me this message was exactly what they needed to hear. One woman told me through great tears of joy that she had come to know the truly indescribable peace that passes all understanding amid a hardship in her life.

My friend Barb noted how this immediately opened the way for these women to connect on a deeper level -- it normally takes much longer to develop that level of intimacy. "God loves relationship," she said.

See how important it is for each of us to share with others what God has done in our lives? Whether it be one-on-one or in a group, these stories encourage and strengthen our faith and give God glory. We all face circumstances requiring strength beyond our own.

We can't do it ourselves -- we need Him. As we stretch our roots deep into God's ever-flowing streams of refreshment, we practice (practice, practice) abiding in Him. There is nothing in this world that can compare to the refreshment we find there. It is always, always there -- in abundance! If we remain in Him, we can bear much fruit.

I closed the presentation with the profound words from a card David and Debbie brought up to the hospital last summer:

A mighty wind blew night and day.
It stole the oak tree's leaves away,
Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark
Until the oak was tired and stark.
But still the oak tree held its ground
While other trees fell all around.

The weary wind gave up and spoke,
"How can you still be standing, Oak?"
The oak tree said, "I know that you
Can break each branch of mine in two,
Carry every leaf away,
Shake my limbs and make me sway.

But I have roots stretched in the earth,
Growing stronger since my birth.
You'll never touch them, for you see,
They are the deepest part of me.

Until today, I wasn't sure
Of just how much I could endure.
But now I've found, with thanks to you,
I'm stronger than I ever knew."

Dear Father, thank you for your bountiful love and amazing strength. Help us to stretch our roots deep into the abundant waters you so freely give to all who put their hope in you.

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

I Sometimes Forget Good Friday

A Holy Moment in the Smokies
God loved us so much He gave His only son to be crucified to redeem us from our sins.

Why would we fear anything when His love for us is so real, so deep, so powerful? Why would we ever have difficulty letting go and asking that God's will be done, rather than our own? How can we, even for a moment, forget what He has done to show His love for us?

And yet, there are times I hold tightly to the things I want, the direction I desire, the goals I have in mind. When His answers seem too slow, I forget that it takes time to orchestrate all the right details into place. When I yearn for these things now, I forget that He sees all and there is a greater good down the road if I will be patient. When life is difficult or painful, I sometimes forget that I am in the crucible with Christ and He is doing His awesome work to mold me for His glory.

I was reading in 1 Kings 11 where God told Jereboam through Ahijah the prophet that He would give him 10 of the 12 kingdoms. If only he would follow the Lord's commands and walk in His ways, God would be with Jeroboam. "I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and I will give Israel to you," He said.

But that never did come to pass, because Jereboam built shrines to other gods and did all kinds of evil, and God could not do all that He wanted to do.

I have seen that so often in the stories of the Bible, and I know it happens in our lives, too. God cannot do all that He wants to do if we do not trust that His way is best, surrender our own agendas and walk by faith, following wholeheartedly after Him.

Oh, Awesome God, I do not want to ever forget what you've done for me. I love you and I trust you with my life. Show me where I might be slowing you down or resisting your plans. I want to abandon my agenda and follow yours with all my heart.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Unplug to Recharge

Serenity at St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park
In today’s electronic age, it seems counter-productive to “unplug to recharge,” but I have found that “unplugging” is absolutely the best way to re-energize me!

Oh, yes, I get energy from people and I love to be social. The encouragement and support of friends  gives me great boosts of borrowed energy. During the stress and emotion of this past couple weeks, in fact, this has really lifted me. But to keep going and find peace and strength, I need to preserve enough time to “find the quiet.”

I find the quiet by reading the Word, soaking in its wisdom and journaling what I’m learning. I can also find it by taking a walk or a ride by myself. Sometimes I find it waiting in line or taking a few minutes to kick back and listen carefully to the One I need most to connect with. I wonder why I even let other things steal my quiet when my greatest need is to be with the Source of all power and true refreshing.

Amid multiple priorities and lots of people I’d like to spend time with, I’m always working at carefully protecting that quiet space. No matter what is happening – the more that is going on, the more I need it! Even in tiny and consistent increments, unplugging from the things of the world and going in to His presence does everything to recharge me. It is this “abiding on the Vine” that washes and revives me, nourishes and strengthens me, gives me direction and vision.

Upon returning from the quiet, I find I have much more to offer – serenity, wisdom, compassion, perspective, balance and creativity…things I would rather not live without!

How do you refresh and recharge? Where and when do you “find your quiet”?

Dear God, Grant me the serenity in pockets of quiet, the courage to fiercely guard that time and the wisdom to know when I need it!

"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." (Jer. 33:3 NIV)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Testing My Roots

Just after my last post about growing "tenacious" roots, I have the opportunity, once again, to test those roots! Just how strong are they?

I had to bring Ted to the emergency room the very next day. He went through all kinds of medical testing throughout the day to determine the cause of his confusion and slurred speech. 

Long story short, his lymph nodes appear to be doing something new. Again, they wonder if his cancer is morphing. He had surgery this a.m. to give the doctors a lymph node to analyze and see what to do next. Ted's condition is stabilizing, yet there are numerous unknowns. All this will take time -- results don't often happen overnight -- so we need to be still and hold fast to those tenacious roots.

Long periods of waiting in the emergency room on Sunday made my mind return to the most traumatic times of last summer. Instead, I calmed myself and chose to concentrate on the peace beyond belief and the blanket of God's love surrounding me. I know that God is in control and good comes from His hand.

In his book Knowing God, J.I. Packer noted,
"As Christians grow stronger and are able to bear more, he [God] exercises them by the pressure of opposed and discouraging influences as they are able to bear -- not more (see the promise, 1 Cor. 10:13), but equally not less (see the admonition, Acts 14:22). Thus he builds our character, strengthens our faith, and prepares us to help others."
He gives us what we can bear -- not too much, not too little. He knows what we need and He is here with us through it all. I take comfort that the God of the universe -- who hung the stars, who created the glaciers that carved the magnificent mountains, who numbered the thicky curly hairs on Ted's head -- knows all that is going on inside of Ted's body, too. We can rest in His loving kindness.

Master of the universe, Creator, King and Lord, we feel safe with you. We trust you each step of the way.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Are You Growing Tenacious Roots?

Tenacious roots.
How can I ever forget what a miracle it was that Ted survived the wild roller coaster ride of medical issues last summer! Our church, friends and doctors are always amazed to see him looking so healthy and doing almost everything he did before the illness and surgeries. (Even his hair has grown back thicker and curlier than ever -- a visual reminder to all of what God has done.)

Remembering the toughest struggles, we had no other comfort than to send down tenacious roots, putting our total trust in God. We recall the unbelievable feeling of being wrapped in God's love, and fully relying on His loving guidance that made the next step possible. We were truly abiding in Him.

Ted and I would never want to repeat those events, but we also never want to forget them. We were lifted by the power of prayer in a rich and loving community of friends (thank you!) and the awesome way God worked as we held tightly to Him. Our perspective is so much richer, and we could not have gotten here another way. We want to steward this experience and never miss an opportunity to share that it is very possible to have God's perfect peace even when your world is spinning out of control around you.

Now whenever I struggle (usually with lesser things), I practice drawing on that same powerful strength, remembering that God is loving and strengthening me as powerfully as last summer.
I'll be sharing my journey of faith at the Women's Breakaway on April 14 in a breakout session called "Sending Down Deeper Roots." Please pray for me to let His words flow through me to minister to others who are hurting. 

Dear God, our Rock and Refuge in ALL of life, thank you for your faithfulness and truly amazing love. By the experience you gave us, help us help others to grow tenacious roots.

It was majestic in beauty, 
with its spreading boughs, 
for its roots went down 
to abundant waters. 
(Ezek. 31:7 NIV)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Who Are You Listening To?

Snowy creek in my neighborhood.
In 1 Kings 12, the newly crowned and wet-behind-the-ears King Rehoboam consults the elders who had served his father Solomon. They confer and give him wisdom on the issue, but he’s not sure he likes their answer. He then asks his peers for a second opinion. He favors the answer of his pals – more money, more power for him – so he acts on their advice.

If you’re not familiar with the outcome, read the story of how that one decision led to the division of the kingdom, and ultimately to the demise of the nation of Israel. Heavy!

So, who do we listen to these days?

I had to ask myself if I am seeking wisdom from the best sources. Do I allow current thinking to shape my mind and influence my decisions? Do I “go with the flow,” pick the most popular answer or the one that seems easiest or somehow beneficial to me? Or am I making a conscious effort to explore the issue and its possibilities, get in the Word, study God’s wisdom and character, seek His Truth and listen for what God would want me to do?

Where else can we get solid counsel? As many admired leaders have shared, the secret to success is to surround yourself with wise and positive people. I would much rather take advice from someone whose wisdom is tried-and-true, or even someone who has failed and learned, than someone who has only grandiose ideas.

What kinds of media, television or online sources do we allow to creep into the sacred ground of our sound minds? Are we walking with authentic role models with character and integrity? Or are the personalities we are letting in dragging us down, slowing us in a quagmire, draining our energy?

I am inspired and strengthened by the positive, uplifting music, prayers and promotions of my favorite Christian radio station. I am encouraged by the praises and perseverance of authentic and thoughtful friends striving to make a difference. I am blessed by those who passionately pursue the heart of God in their daily living.

With the ubiquitous influence of today’s media streams threatening to mold our values, shall we borrow the words of our faith-filled ancestor Joshua: “Choose carefully whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”

Lord, help me keep my ears tuned to you, my heart sensitive to your ways. Give me wisdom to navigate the distractions and to recognize wisdom and truth when I see it.

What’s your advice? How do you ensure you are getting godly counsel?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Bookends of Life

On Saturday, my cousin was laid to rest. The age of 52 seems way too early to say goodbye, but God has a time for everything and He had called Tim home. The wonderful childhood memories of hide-and-seek, ice fishing with lots of cousins and uncles, watching The Wizard of Oz year after year, playing "button-button-who's-got-the-button?" and Christmas visits came alive again in my mind.
Oh, the joy of having cousins!

The joy of having cousins, the gift of fond memories, the difficult times that demand a deeper trust in God... I'm still counting my blessings -- in all things.

Then, that same afternoon, we learned we will be grandparents again! David was patiently showing us something on the computer when I realized the wallpaper pattern was taking the shape of an ultrasound image (squeals of delight)!! He and Debbie have been so eager to start this new chapter in their lives, and we are thrilled for them.

The hope in tomorrow, the excitement of new experiences, the sweetness of a baby... the blessings continue.

I try to grasp the brevity of life. Wasn't it only yesterday I was cozy with my cousins watching the Wicked Witch of the West? Now I'm looking back to a "Kansas" I can no longer enter and looking ahead to a place I cannot yet step into. I can only live for today, embracing the richness and having no regrets.

In one day I have experienced so many emotions.

Thank you, God, for the whole range of life. You have a time for everything... A time to be born and a time to die... a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance...(Eccl. 3).

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tell Yourself the Truth

In San Diego last summer.
It has been a busy season and I haven't posted since November. Ted had hip resurfacing surgery to take care of some bone spurs and I have been busy helping him heal. But I love to blog and am happy to take time today to share a few thoughts.

When I started to get feeling "behind" on everything I wanted to get done, I heard a little voice say, "You'll never catch up." When I lost a few pounds and they found their way back to me, I felt discouraged. When I couldn't resolve a tricky technical issue, I started to think, "I've lost it."

But in my morning devotion time (I've been reading the Bible chronologically), I began to read Proverbs, written by the legendarily wise Solomon. The first few chapters share valuable reasons to embrace wisdom, reminding us to cry out for insight, to look for it as for silver and treasure it as the finest of rubies. Let me paraphrase: we are to search for it actively, pursue it passionately and practice it purposefully!

I thought how silly it is that I pray for wisdom and then run around trusting in other things, like popular opinion or cultural pressures... "You'll never get it. You're not good enough." How I have been missing the boat to listen to the lies of the world instead of the wisdom that God has carefully been pouring into me. I resolved to treasure the words of the Lord like the finest of rubies. I determined to let His words build me up, instead of letting other things tear me down.

I began, once again, to practice being confident in the Lord. Whenever a negative thought would enter, I would push it out by telling myself the Truth (something my counselor husband has often reminded me). As a result, what a strong, productive and wonderfully positive day I had! (I even resolved my technical issue!) As I drove home from work, the Truth poured out from my radio to me as I heard Jason Gray sing, "Remind Me Who I Am."

Sometimes when the world starts to mold us, we need a little reminder of Whose voice our souls long to hear from.

Lord, if I'm your Beloved, help me believe it and live it! I belong to you, I'm the one you love. That will be enough for anything I need to get through today. I will search for your wisdom and tell myself the Truth. I am a new creation, being transformed every day.

Have you been telling yourself the Truth?