Saturday, November 16, 2013

Persevering Through the Valley

The valleys were deep again this week as I do the painful yet necessary work of grief. Having Ted in my life was such a huge and wonderful blessing, so it is going to be a mountain of work to reshape a life without him.

You only get perseverance from what you persevere through.

I know that the testing of our faith produces perseverance and we need to let it finish its work so that we are not lacking anything. So, I remember that even now, though I can't always see or feel it, God is in the middle of a good work. That's His nature. He drenches us in His unfailing love and He works all things together for good for those who love Him. It encourages me to persevere with Him.

With so much to do and much more on the horizon, I started believing that the harder and faster I work, the sooner I can simplify my life. But, I realized that this strategy has put many things in motion that have complicated my life rather than bringing the simplicity I so desire.

This week, in the middle of a big valley, my grief counselor suggested I take a six-week "vacation" from thinking about the rentals and just let things unfold. That way I can focus on the holidays and be more free to enjoy the moments with family and friends, and to take care of myself. I love that idea and the "permission" she gave me to do that.

After all, God is in control anyway, so it really is surrendering to Him and not trying to do it all myself. Wait a minute... when did I revert to thinking it was up to me? God has been so very faithful in showing me that when I abide, He provides. I have many, many examples of Him providing daily manna in my life. My part is to focus on today and to just walk with Him.

Even when things seem long, dark or bleak, His great grace finds me. We always have HOPE in the Lord Our God! According to C.S. Lewis, "If we can praise and worship Him in the midst of trouble, pain or loss, that is what pleases Him the most."

So, Lord, I'm breathing in your grace, and breathing out your praise... I'm breathing in your grace, and breathing out your praise.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, still I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior (Hab. 3:17-18). All praise to our great God!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Quiet Reassurance

Driving home one day, I was feeling quite frustrated. I remembered how Ted had such a sweet way of calming me. He'd always give me a hug and a kiss and a new perspective. How I longed for Ted's reassurance now, I prayed.

I noticed a big white streak in the sky and remembered how Ted always loved to watch the jets go over. When we traveled, he'd purposely include these vapor trails in the photos he took, commenting on how crisp and clear they were.

A few minutes later, I looked out the window to see one jet trail crossing another. My frustration quickly dissolved as I immediately thought it was God's way of allowing Ted to send me a big kiss!

Since then, I have often been comforted, encouraged and thrilled to see big X's, crisp X's and even multiple X's. And the timing couldn't be better!

It's been a fun way to remind the grandkids that Grandpa is still near and expressing his love for us. We so often used to sit on our bench out front with the kids and watch the jets come in. I told them a long streak that cuts the entire sky in half is a big hug from Grandpa, and if they see two streaks that cross each other, it's a kiss.

Over the past few months, I've really grown to love these quiet reassurances. It reminds me of how God delights in us -- and loves to delight us!


X X X O O O right back... 'til we meet again!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Drenched in His Love

In my head and in my heart I know I can trust God, but why do I sometimes still feel fear and anxiety?

I've had a few weeks of deep stress. I felt so out of my comfort zone with responsibilities that now are mine. My heart cried out to God day and night.

That sounds a lot like the Psalms, doesn't it? And, each day as I open the Psalms, I'm reminded that King David also experienced a lot of stress and anxiety, but that through every trial, he kept his focus on God's lovingkindness, His unfailing love. I too pray daily, "O Eternal, drench us with your endless love, even now as we wait for you." (Ps. 33:22 The Voice)

Of course, Jesus knew stress, too, and He knew waiting. The Bible says Jesus was troubled in spirit when He knew one of His disciples would betray Him. When He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, His soul was "overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." Clearly Jesus knew every emotion we could ever feel.

So, we may feel fear and anxiety, but we are not to dwell there. We are to abide in our great God, focusing on His unfailing love. Psalm 33 also says, "We live with hope in the Eternal. We wait for Him, for He is our divine help, our impenetrable shield. Our hearts erupt with joy in Him because we trust in His holy name." (Ps. 20-21)

I truly have moments where my heart erupts with joy as I see how God is answering my prayers. While I no longer have Ted and all the wonderful things we had together, God has sent amazingly thoughtful people to walk with me through this sometimes dark and foggy valley. Each beautiful person reaches out and meets a different need (listening, companionship, prayer, encouragement, physical help and expertise, confidence, comfort and love). Each one is an unmistakable representation of God's lovingkindness in my life.

It will take me a lifetime to pay forward all the beautiful kindnesses that people have blessed me with these last months. But what a good goal that is to have!

Walking through grief or other struggles of life can be heart-wrenching, to be sure. But God's amazing grace and unfailing love abound every single day, if we keep our senses tuned to recognizing it.

Lord, you are all powerful, all knowing and your love is truly endless. Thank you for drenching me in your love! May God richly bless every dear person who is blessing me and loving me so well.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Nature's Perfect Worship Service

Last memories at a favorite camping spot.
Last Labor Day weekend was glorious weather for camping. Ted and I usually invited others along, but somehow this outing was a gift just for us. God blessed us with so many simple pleasures that weekend and I'm so happy I captured them in my journal...

We heard the hoot-hoot-hoot of an owl as we stretched out on our sleeping bag late that first night. A full moon greeted us through the canopy of our tent.

In the wee early morning, we heard the mystical croon of the loon -- for hours and hours. One of the absolute best perks of camping was hearing this beautiful sound of the north as we drifted in and out of dreamland.

As the morning sun ushered in the day, we made coffee on our camp stove and brought it out in the canoe.

On the placid river, we watched a great blue heron fish for her breakfast and then shake her head to help swallow down her big catch. A small bird perched in the bushes thrust its head back and let out a long melodious warble. A mud hen floated in the bog, then went under cover as we glided near. A loon and her baby swam together, separately disappearing under the water and popping up in new spots, the baby peeping for his mother.

We talked of how it was nature's perfect "worship service." Tranquility. Peace. Harmony. The heron was a sterling example of patience and perseverance. The songbird exuded joy. The loon added its melodic voice to the worship. Ted and I thanked God that we were able to be there at all. What a great picture it was of how well God provides for all His creation.

We cooked a savory brunch of bacon, potatoes and veggies in foil as Ted poked and tended the fire. Later, he grinned like a kid as he played with a pine bough in the fire, watching it crackle. Our little dog Nikki chased the chipmunks that teased her.

As we nestled around a dancing bonfire that evening, our conversation turned to the birth of Jesus and what we learned from each of the gospels about it. We observed how Herod was evil, like Hitler was evil (Germany 1938), like Assad was evil (Syria 2012)... and there is always evil. But God is good. He is in control. He is our hope, our refuge, our strength and our guide through anything we meet in this world.

Why does evil exist? Who are "the least of these" around us? How do we know if we're in the center of God's will? These are some of the great topics we dove into. Ted said as long as we are seeking, listening and obeying, we are on the right track. It's up to God to reveal, and it's up to us to listen and act.

As we often did, we alternated in a free-flowing, conversational prayer as we gazed upon the captivating fire. We lifted family members, friends and situations around the world, placing them in God's capable hands, one by one. We expressed our gratefulness for the simplicity of our surroundings, the beauty of all creation giving Him glory. How we loved our lives together, with God in His place of priority.

Oh dear God, little did I know that would be our last camping trip. But what a beautiful weekend it was in so many ways. You gave us the best! You gave me the best when you gave him to me. My heart is forever grateful for Your goodness.

(Click the colored links in the story to see related stories.)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

God's Lovingkindness

Beautiful deck to enjoy.
I am amazed at God's lovingkindness in sending beautiful people to walk with me through my grief.

I was all set to seal my deck a couple weeks ago and a friend phoned to invite me on a bike ride. This turned into two friends voluntarily giving up their bike ride to instead help me with this large project. "More hands make fast work," they said, and they were so right. With God's great attention to detail, He not only sent two angels, but two who were experienced at sealing decks already this year!

(Just another example of God's great provision -- I could go on -- but I'd rather "2 John 12" with you!)

Those who have lost loved ones know the way of grief is a wild roller coaster. I'm slogging through some extreme emotional lows at times, processing all that I am missing. My husband was the sweetest person ever to me. He blessed me with his selfless love. He knew my thoughts and emotions so well, he could finish my sentences. I trusted him with all my heart and was completely safe with him. He was my favorite person in the whole wide world and I was his. It's so hard not to have this kind of intimacy any more...

After a particularly low string of days, I was soaking in the Psalms for comfort. I was reminded how King David certainly knew every raw emotion I was feeling. Words like anguish, agony, sorrow, aching and groaning peppered the Psalms he penned. Yet throughout the pain, his faith was steadfast as he trusted in the Lord's lovingkindness.

With his world falling down around him and even fearing for his life, David said:
But I have trusted in your lovingkindness,
My heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord
For he has dealt bountifully with me. (Ps. 13:5-6, NASB)
I savored those verses. Yes, God has been amazingly loving and kind... He loves each one of us as if we were His favorite in the whole wide world. (He was the one who taught Ted to love that way.) No matter how rough this road is, this is not our home and these troubles are only temporary. We have a beautiful eternity to look forward to with our Lord -- what a gracious gift that is! That is something to rejoice in and sing about. I thought about how good God has been to me all my life. We have a history, it's solid and His love never changes.

Oh, Loving Lord, you have so graciously loved me and so abundantly blessed me. I will dwell in your lovingkindness every day through whatever comes my way. Whom shall I fear when you are the one in control? In this world we will have trouble, but you have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NIV)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Still Hearing from My Honey

Ted's memorial magnolia bush decided to bloom again!
One of the greatest treasures I have found is rereading the emails Ted and I wrote each other when we were dating. We'd decided on doing a particular Bible reading each day, then emailing each other our thoughts. If we'd get together that evening, we might talk more about what impressed us within that particular passage. Now it is such a blessing to not only have the details of watching our relationship bloom, but also our faith journey together!

Here are a few excerpts of our correspondence in 2003:

Ted 2/11: "I feel so much satisfaction, knowing you cherish our time in all the same ways. I love the beat of your heart with mine. Now I'm looking forward to the study tomorrow night, both for the content and because I'm in love with the leader and I love to watch her in action. I could go on but I'd rather '2 John 12' with you!"

Ted 2/14: "My heart is singing from your email and I have to just respond. I can't be silent. It gives just an inkling of how God's creation responds to Him: Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let the sea resound..."

Marilyn 2/17: "Did you enjoy God's artwork this a.m.? The trees have at least an inch of frost on them. Every intricate little twig is glazed and dipped in sugar that sparkles in the sun... "

Ted 2/18: "Earth is not our final home; we were created for something much better. I do love life and if there's a much better -- oh what will it be like? We may not have our 'house,' but He has sure provided a spectacular tent for the interim."

Marilyn 2/28: "You are such a good example of putting relationships first. You are so attentive to me, always available, and it feels wonderful! What a great expression of love. It speakers louder than words, but I also love the many ways you put it in words. Thank you for loving me all the ways you do. I hope you know how much I appreciate and love you."

Ted 3/21: "I admire the commitment of your heart. You are a good example to me of a person who is devoted to God. We both have settled the Lord-issue. That makes everything else easier. Yes, I agree that our relationship doesn't feel like work...I love you for all that you are and everything about you."

Oh, how I long for those conversations to continue! And, in a way, they do. I have these beautiful emails until we got married (and did our Bible readings in person). Then, I have a host of loving cards with thoughtful handwritten notes inside.

God, you truly blessed me with this man! You are the giver of the most magnificent gifts. I trust you for all that I need every day. Step by step, abiding in Christ, I am connected to the life-giving Vine.

Take time to write a love note today!

Friday, August 2, 2013

In My Potter's Hands

Today is Ted's three-month anniversary in Heaven. I still can't fully grasp that he is gone. He was the best friend I ever had and I miss him terribly.

I am frequently engulfed in grief and overwhelmed every single day. O-v-e-r-w-h-e-l-m-e-d. Every. Single. Day. It's not like anything I've ever felt before. In my stunned and racing mind, even the normal tasks and decisions are tedious. From day-to-day and moment-to-moment, in a year of firsts, it's difficult to keep the delicate balance between exhilarating and exhausting. I have a vast new appreciation for all those who have been grieving lost loved ones. How in the world do they do it and make it seem somewhat manageable?

I continue to deliberately put one foot in front of the other...walking by faith, carefully and prayerfully abiding in Christ. I am in the presence of my Savior, walking this rough road in His omnipotent company...the One who makes all things new. He is where my help comes from (Psalm 121). Every single overwhelming day, my eyes are fully seeking Him. There is no other way. It is the overwhelming that keeps me looking to Him, desperately needing more of Him. 

And then, there is an undeniable sweetness in the walk. A privilege to be so saturated and captivated by Him in moments of great need. He comforts me. He fills me. He blesses me with what I need to get through another challenge. I'm slowly healing as I talk about Ted (thanks for listening) and lean on Jesus. I soak in the precious memories of my soulmate and I am delighted when someone brings up his name.

I have a sense that I am being retooled for a new purpose. We so loved our lives together. My purpose was to love God, to love Ted -- and to love God and others with Ted. Now I am clay in the hands of my Potter, being reshaped for a new beginning of His choosing.

When Ted's cancer was diagnosed 12 years ago, someone gave him this clay mug. Ted loved telling the story of how it reminded him that the Potter has the right to rework the clay at any time and make what He wants with it.

You, Lord, are my sustenance and my life-giving cup. In that cup, you hold my future and my eternal riches. (Psalm 16:5, The Voice)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Walking by Faith

My heart is broken and so much of the fun, the flavor and the fizzle in my life is gone. Even with great people around me, this lost and empty feeling is here with me every day. Sometimes it takes a lot of energy to draw in breath. I wonder how I can ever feel okay again...

But I know it's early and the pain is still so raw. And I know the One who heals. I know where my hope and my help comes from (Ps. 121). With all the courage I can find, I put one foot in front of the other and walk by faith. Faith is not a feeling, it is an act of obedience. God is good and I'm sticking as close to Him as I can.

These words fit so well from The Hurt and the Healer, by Mercy Me:

So, here I am
what's left of me
Where glory meets my suffering...

I'm alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take this heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When the hurt and the Healer collide


Breathe
sometimes I feel its all that I can do
Pain so deep that I can hardly move
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You
Lord take hold and pull me through...



Dear Lord, I realize you have equipped me for this time. You have taught me so many ways to see what it's like to abide in you, to look to you for my every need -- physical, emotional, spiritual. You have given me sweet training in surrender. I will practice what you've been teaching me. I will walk by faith.




Sunday, July 7, 2013

How Much More

Mount Tremblant National Park, Quebec Sept. 2007
From so many "lookouts" in life, Ted and I have seen God's glory in His creation. From the great bluffs of Nova Scotia to the crest of Mount Tremblant to the high rugged trails on Mount Washington. I remember the wind whipping wildly as we shivered and watched the Lake Michigan waves roll in at Two Rivers one winter day. I remember his arms around me as we drank in the crisp, clear starry night at Big White on our honeymoon years ago.

Oh, to have any of that back again! Through great gulps of grief I savor the sweetness of all we had. There are times he feels so near I can almost see the love in his eyes, breathe his familiar scent or hold his ever-warm hands...

But I can not.

Oh, the pain of that!! I can not reach him as he is just beyond the veil, in another realm beyond my comprehension.

It makes the longing for Heaven that much stronger. It makes the yearning for that final journey that much greater. It makes my deep need for God -- His strength, His love, His direction -- that much more urgent.

"How much more" was a phrase Ted and I loved to study as we saw it occurred in the Bible quite frequently. It took things to a higher level; stepped them up a notch.
  • If God clothes the grasses of the field -- those that will be tomorrow thrown into the fire -- how much more would He clothe you and me and provide for our deepest needs. (Luke 12:28)
  • If a father, imperfect as he might be, knows how to give good things to his children, how much more would our Father in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him. (Matt. 7:11)
  • If many died through the sin of one man (Adam), how much more would those receive God's abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness through one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:16-18)
God gives perfect gifts. He is not just a good giver, but a giver of "how much more." If God has already provided great things for us together in this life, how much more will He continue to provide good things. How much more will He saturate my life with His presence to get me through these painful times. How much more can I trust Him for what is to come, though I know not and see not what the future holds.

Dear God, I have always known you as a God of abundance. How much more you offer every new day. How much more is possible because we hope in you. How much more will I learn to love you and serve you in this life as you prepare me for eternity, too. How much more excited and fulfilled Ted and I will be when we meet again some day!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Finding Rest

I got a bit nervous with my long to-do list.

Of course, I had many offers of help (and accepted help from several), but many of the details in the wake of Ted's passing needed my personal attention. I plunged ahead into new territory, taking the responsibility, wanting to do a good job.

Running at a breakneck speed, I thought if I got things done faster I would feel better sooner. Details paraded through my head day and night. My mind would not shut off and I was getting very little rest. No matter what I got done, there was still plenty more to do as I tried diligently to whittle down that overwhelming list. Of course, the list wasn't getting any shorter because as I crossed things off, I added what was coming next on the horizon...

Yesterday, God spoke to me through another woman's blog. She described how the turbulent details of her life had her "sprinting," yet their life was going to be more like a marathon. Like Kathryn, I realized I have to pace myself. I can't keep this up forever. I can't be two people, accomplishing all we did together as a couple, when I am just one now.

I thought of something Ted told me several months ago when I was heavily burdened. He encouraged me to think of a visual that would help me transfer my burden to the Lord (as we are instructed in Matt. 11:28-30). We came up with the idea of a backpack, in which I would stuff all my work and worry. I would then lay it down at Jesus' feet, watch Him pick it up, sling it on His back and carry it. Then I would walk alongside Him as He carried my burden.

Now I am replaying this new picture of abiding (and sweet memory of Ted's wise advice) as often as necessary -- whenever I feel the stress of "doing" taking over. In the middle of my to-do list, I took a break and sat on the deck and closed my eyes. Allowing more space in my life helps me to more easily hear God shaping my perspective to get the right things done, instead of trying to do it all.

A rested soul makes a great deal of difference. My perspective has changed; my burden is lighter.


Lord, I give you my "backpack" to carry and I want your rest for my soul. As you've impressed upon me many times before, I will once again... Be still. Do less. Be more. (See post from March 2011.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

10 Ways He Said "I Love You"

At Split Rock Lighthouse, 2008.
Ten years ago today, my sweetheart proposed to me on the top of Casa Loma in Toronto. Our time together was short, but we loved each other well. Now he has gone on to be with the Lord, and I want to share just 10 of the many ways he showed his love for me in the "daily stuff":
  1. He always had a bright smile to greet me when he opened his eyes in the morning. He made engaging eye contact that told me he loved me.
  2. He'd make me coffee and breakfast each weekday morning, since his day started later than mine. He liked making homemade "egg mc muffins" or making that small plate colorful with fruit slices.
  3. When I got dressed for my work day, he always made some positive comment about how I looked or what I was wearing. He loved variety.
  4. As he’d walk me out to the car, he'd talk about whatever plans we had for the evening, referring to them as dates (baseball dates, hockey dates, bible study dates…).
  5. He always opened the door for me – car doors and the doors to buildings. Our friends would tease him, “Ted, you’re making me look bad.” Once in the grocery store parking lot, a man commented from his truck, “Hey dude. It’s great to see that chivalry is not dead!”
  6. He'd often phone once during the day, and count the hours till we would be together again. He would linger on the goodbyes, telling me sweet things when he hung up the phone. Sometimes it would embarrass me because my peers at work were listening. How silly of me was that?
  7. He'd fill up my car with gas, whenever it got low. I never had to think about it.
  8. When thanking God for the evening meal, he’d also thank Him for bringing us back together safely.
  9. As he watched the nightly news (or a favorite hockey team), he’d tell me to come and sit close by him. He really enjoyed the side-by-side time... and so did I.
  10. If he wanted to stay up late to watch sports, he’d come and pray with me as I went to bed, and tuck me in -- and always kiss me goodnight.

Was this fairy tale real? Oh yes! He was a sweet man who actually did all these things – on a regular basis – and a whole lot more. What a gem I had. I will love him forever.

Thank you, God, for the wonderful man you gave me and the time we had together. He reflected your love and grace and helped me know you more.

  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Spirit Lead Me...


After a great period of living on the mountaintops, I now find myself walking through a deep valley. I have wonderful memories, precious family and terrific friends, but missing Ted has left such a huge hole in my life there are times I can't imagine ever being whole again.

As I wade through tedious to-do's, I am exasperated that seemingly simple transactions can become so difficult as I am sent through endless strings of automated attendants and people who can't help me. Then the details of my days burst into my consciousness at night and steal my sleep. 

But as I lay awake, I call on my Lord. A beautiful song (Oceans: Where Feet May Fail) I heard in church a few weeks ago drifts through my mind to soothe me:
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
I realize this is a period of making my faith stronger, making me more effective for my Lord. I am called to trust Him without borders -- wherever He leads me. Just as I have been learning all along, I must keep my eyes on Him, not on the waves.

Gracious Lord, you have given me many reminders that you are near. Your grace abounds in these deep waters. You will be my husband now and I look to you to fill that great hole in my heart. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

One Set of Footprints

My dear husband left this earth three weeks ago. Where once all our adventures were together, today I walk the beach alone and there are only one set of footprints.

I hear the pounding surf, see the scurrying sandpipers and feel the cool sand squishing between my toes. While my heart and soul aches to have him back, I know my Love is still with me in my spirit. I smile remembering fragments of wonderful conversations we've had...

Each frothy wave brings up new trinkets of the sea and washes away the imperfections in the sand, refreshing the shoreline. As I pick up tiny treasures polished smooth and delivered ashore by the powerful waves, I know that our loving God is at work in me, slowly polishing, healing and refreshing me, too.

His are the one set of footprints, as the legend goes. The Lord carries me now, in this time of great loss. He gives me my daily bread. He fills each need as I abide in Him.

Lord, I know that you will never leave me or forget me. Your love wraps around me and endures forever. Thank you for all your glorious goodness.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Abiding, Like Never Before

With my sweet husband in the ICU for the last two weeks, I'm learning to ABIDE like never before...

A is for Abandon – a surrendering of one’s power; to give up control or influence; a thorough yielding. Lord, as much as I long to have things my way, I know Yours is ultimately better.

B is for Bask – to lie in or expose oneself to a pleasant warmth or atmosphere; to take pleasure or derive enjoyment; delight in the Lord. I soak up Your Goodness, Lord. I remember all the kindness and compassion You have shown me.

I is to be Intentional – eager attention; having the mind, attention or will concentrated on some end or purpose; focused determination. I lift my eyes up to the Lord, where my help comes from.

D is to Dwell – to remain for a time; to live as a resident; to keep the attention directed. I will remember the things You have told me. I will camp here in the shadow of Your wings.

E is to Endure – to continue in the same state; to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without giving up, drawing my strength from the Lord. Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.


Lord, Abiding in You brings strength. There is no place I'd rather be.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A More Magnificent Plan

Many of my prayers are still awaiting an answer. How about yours?

Some days my heart aches, longing to see these issues resolved. They are situations far out of my control -- there is no other way but for God to step in. So I call on Him...and wait. Sometimes the waiting is so long. It can be difficult and painful.

The "unknowns" loom out there, and we wish for resolution. My mind could wander down the path of "what ifs," but I call it back and tell it to focus on God and His goodness.

I know God is all good from the countless hours I've spent with Him, listening for His voice amid all the distractions. He has Heaven and Earth in His hands, including my prayer requests and yours. There may be days when we don't see much happening -- but things are not always as they appear.

Remember Good Friday... what appeared to be the most awful day of all turned out to be the most beautiful redemptive grace of God in action! What appeared to represent death and loss turned out to be glorious life and gain!

Another example is the life of Joseph whose brothers sold him to slavery. Later, Potipher's wife had him wrongfully imprisoned. Things appeared quite hopeless, but Joseph kept his eyes on God. And God brought great good for a whole nation out of what others intended as harm. (Genesis 50:19-21)

It can be that way with our prayers, too. What appears to be a hopeless situation, is not at all. Our heartfelt burdens can be the very reason we draw close to God, learning to more fully abide in Him and depend wholly on His grace. God loves to have His children close and to provide for all the needs of His faithful. From the throne of Heaven, He sees all and knows what's best. His plan is more magnificent than the immediate solutions we can see and hope for. What seems like forever for us to suffer in a situation is more like five seconds in God's time. He is at work changing hearts and orchestrating details into place for the more elegant tapestry yet to be revealed. 

Yes, we can have joy while we are waiting -- by keeping our eyes on Him and putting all our faith in Him -- no matter how long the wait.

Awesome God, continue to teach us what it is to walk in joyous faith, remembering the awe of who you are and what you are doing behind the scenes. I humbly bring you my requests, but I bow to your more magnificent plan.

Inspired by an earlier poston April 20 I will be speaking on "Joyful in the Wait" as a breakout session at the Women's Breakaway in Chilton.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Open Wide

Springtime in the Smokies
With everyone we love, we carry burdens because of that love. When they hurt, we do, too.

In a sleepless pocket of the night, concerned and praying for someone close to me, some words popped in my mind...
"Open wide your mouth and I will fill it."
I recognized the words had come from scripture, but exactly where I did not know. But they comforted me and I drifted into a sweet sleep.

With the first awareness of morning, the words were there again, crisp and clear. I went to my Bible, eager to look up the context. They belong to Psalm 81.
"I am the Lord your God who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it."
The psalm talked of the joy in remembering the things the Lord had done for His people Israel. Delivered them from famine. Removed the burden from their shoulders. Even made water come from a rock when they were thirsting in the desert. He had done wondrous things they could never have done on their own. He had made things possible in situations that seemed impossible.

All He asked then -- and all He asks now -- is our loyalty and trust, looking only to Him for all we need. No idols, no looking to something or someone else to resolve those difficult issues in life.

"If my people would but listen to me... how quickly would I subdue their enemies (v. 14)," He said. "You would be fed with the finest of wheat, with honey from the rock I would satisfy you (v. 16)."

As I went about my day, the anxiety I had felt was replaced with a gentle comfort. My heart was truly warmed by these sweet words that formed a rich picture of God caring for all and being in control of all. It was a powerful reminder of what a humongous difference it makes to shift my focus off my concerns and onto trusting in the Lord alone for all life's needs.


Almighty God, Our Father, I thank you for the wondrous ways you provide when we look to you for all our needs. I love to hear your comfort and direction when I am open enough to listen.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Total Dependence

Depending on the Vine for all we need...
The thought of having God "help me" with something is really quite ridiculous. Let me explain...

I often find myself in prayer using words like "help me"...do well with this or that, "help them" to feel or see or accomplish this or that. As I reflected on these types of prayers, they began to sound like I had all the grand ideas and was telling God what I needed help with. (What?!)

Ted had planted the idea with me awhile ago and we've talked a great deal about it in recent weeks: When we pray, we are not asking God to help us with our agendas, but rather, we are asking to be sensitive to His Spirit so that we can join Him with His agenda at hand. I've begun to deliberately and carefully change my approach.

I do believe that God hears all our prayers and doesn't criticize the words we use -- He knows our hearts and understands what we are asking, so we should never be afraid to come to Him and spill our guts, however it all comes out.

But, now I've been coming to God, realizing my great need for Him. I know these situations I bring are far beyond my control or ability to do anything about. But nothing is too difficult for the Lord! I thank Him that He has everything under control, that He has a plan, that His love is infinitely deep. I remember that His wisdom is tremendously greater than anything I could ever dream up and that His faithfulness is so amazing as I recall all He's already given and already done.

Who am I to limit God or suggest my meager solution when there is no end to what He could or would do?  I remember the great and wonderful "Who" I am talking to...that He is able, powerful, kind, gracious, loving, generous, merciful and just! 

Prayer is humbling ourselves before the Lord, uniting with Him, admitting our total dependence, surrendering to His will and outcome. Prayer is powerful when we're focused on His word, His character, His promises. When we are filled with Him, there is no longer any room to have our eyes on our problems.

Lord, forgive my sometimes lazy prayers that sound like laundry lists of all that's gone awry in "my" world. Thank you for your great wisdom, power, passion and patience. You inspire me with many beautiful examples of total dependence in the Bible:
HannahDavidSolomonDaniel and, of course, Jesus.

(The colored names are links to their prayers.)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Unpolished

A silver cup, unpolished.
I don't know about you, but I like things neat and tidy... I like my bed made, my socks matched, my bathroom clean and my stove top wiped off. I work as an editor, so all day long I am crossing t's, dotting i's, carefully choosing the right action verbs and tightening up phrases. I like solutions to problems, paid bills and loose ends tied up. I love order.

Right now, my life is anything but that!

My life feels disheveled, with many concerns. My heart is torn in many different directions with people I want to be there for. My time is small and my to-do list is large. My hands are raised, with many unanswered prayers.

Standing in the midst of it all, it can feel overwhelming. I certainly feel unpolished and inadequate.

As I was driving home from work one day, I was casting all my cares on the Lord. At the very moment I was telling Him I feel "not enough," my words synced up with a song on the radio..."I've told myself you're not enough..."

I began to pay attention to the words: "You're the One who conquers giants, you're the One who calls out kings, you shut the mouths of lions, you tell the dead to breathe. You're the One who walks through fire, you take the orphan's hand, you are the One Messiah, you are I AM."

What a powerful and perfectly timed reminder that while I am not enough, He is! He is ALWAYS enough. He is all powerful. He sees all, knows all and is in charge of all. He is our refuge and strength... our counselor, comforter, redeemer, friend. We were never meant to do it all alone, apart from Him. We are to abide in Him and He in us.

Hallelujah, He lives in Me!

Again, I realize that exactly because I am unpolished, inadequate or not enough, that's exactly why I need Him...

...in every messy area of my life.

Thank you, God, for walking among us, living with us and sending your Spirit to abide in us forever.