Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Choosing to Walk by Faith

Inevitably, something comes into my life that wants to draw every spare moment of my attention -- a concern that grows, a problem that consumes, a situation that overwhelms. “Oh God, I’m in WAY over my head,” I say.

The temptation is to want to fix it -- and fix it quickly -- to have peace and order again. So I roll it around and around in my brain, thinking of how I can resolve this issue and restore my life to its former comfort level. In reality, I’m reinforcing the negative as I stress over figuring it out.

I recognize this is an opportunity for the enemy to say, “You need to focus on this. This could go wrong or that could be coming down the road and you need to stay ahead of it. Be ready. It could get worse.”

All the while God is saying, “You’re not alone. I am with you always. I would never leave you or forget you. I have everything under control. Just look to me. This is not YOUR project, but an opportunity to let ME work through you. I am orchestrating everything together for good. Watch and see. I will provide what you need at the very time you need it. Keep your eyes on me.”

So, despite the emotions that sometimes get in my way, I choose to walk by faith, even in the shades of gray, in the waiting time when I don’t know how things will turn out. That’s what faith is after all -- trusting God implicitly, knowing that He knows best and His timing is best.

My job is to keep my attention focused on Him, listening for His direction on what my role is, and then being courageous and obedient in following the last thing I heard Him impress upon me. This is abiding in Jesus. It is where I need to be and where I need to stay. It is where I will bear fruit.

“I will walk by faith, even when I cannot see…”

Thank you, dear Lord, for your ever-present goodness, for your wisdom and sovereignty. There is nothing too difficult for you. Greater is He who is in me than He who is in the world. I have everything I need when I abide in you.

For more encouragement, listen to “Walk by Faith” by Jeremy Camp and “He is Greater” by Mercy Me.

Monday, October 13, 2014

An Exceptional Sky

My heart leaped for joy when I saw the sky yesterday. My first look in the morning was on the way to church. With a round moon still visible, great billows repeatedly criss-crossed the sky. Not only then, but all throughout the day as I whittled away at the yard work I admired this beautiful sky, painted with expressions of love.

To most, they look like the vapor trails left behind by soaring planes when the conditions are right in the atmosphere. But I have come to know them as quiet reassurances, or hugs and kisses from Ted.

Over these last seventeen months, I have found encouragement believing that if there were a way for Ted to communicate from Heaven to Earth, this would be fitting knowing how much he loved watching planes fly over. Does he now have special powers to paint the sky? This I don't know. But God knows the desire of my heart is to hear from Ted and I know God can arrange anything!

So many days I have rejoiced in seeing a crisp stripe cutting the sky in half, just when I needed to see one. Most days the vapor fades away instantly, so I feel blessed to see them at the most well-timed moments. But yesterday, the abundant, billowy trails lingered for a long time. It was the most exceptional and longest lasting display I have seen.

And why not? Yesterday was the 12-year anniversary of our first date. And Ted would NEVER miss any sort of anniversary! Love you, too, honey!!!

Thank you, God, for being so personal. We are still a cord of three and I am thrilled with your still small voice. Thank you for the quiet reassurances of your love and his.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Abiding in Abundance

I haven't blogged here since March, but I haven't given it up! I've (very happily) begun blogging for my church, sometimes revisiting things I've already posted here.

Mostly, my reason for silence on this site has been that I am immersed in a new endeavor... I have always and forever wanted to write a book, and I'm believing the time is now to get it written!

My theme (possibly title) is "Abiding in Abundance." It is about learning to abide in Jesus, trust in Him at the deepest levels through everything life throws at me. It is about the never-changing, never-failing love He lavishes on us through all circumstances, and how He provides just what we need at exactly the time we need it. (I have many personal examples that I would love to share.)

I will share how God gave me the most wonderful gift I could ever ask for when he laced Ted's life together with mine. Now, a year after losing my sweet husband to cancer, I'm writing about the tremendous blessing and divine provision he has been in my life. I have the richest memories to last a lifetime.

We had wonderful companionship, adventure, mystery and romance. Our marriage was founded on our faith, enriched by attentiveness, grace, sacrifice and obedience. We embraced each others' children, blending our families quite successfully and enjoying the uniqueness of every one. By keeping a margin in our lives to listen and respond to God's guidance, we grew together and persevered through struggles, especially navigating Ted's illness. (He had cancer for 12 years.)

My life with Ted was abundantly full of joy, gratitude and adventure. But my life didn't end when his did, so I know God has a purpose for me here. As I lean on Him in the healing process and explore "where do I go from here," I'm writing of God's wonderful provisions I still see on a daily basis, through the valley and out the other side.

Through it all, I see how God has been teaching me I can be joyful while I wait in faith for long-offered prayers to be answered. I can be joyful in the wait to be reunited with Ted someday in Heaven.

Because Jesus came that we may have life, and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Lord, every precious and perfect gift comes from you. (James 1: 17) Allow me to share our story in a way that inspires and nurtures others in their faith and relationships. Would you bless my writing and enable me to devote the time to attention it needs? Guide me to its completion -- whenever that will be -- but in your perfect timing, in Jesus' name. Amen

Saturday, March 29, 2014

In the Storm

My heart was pounding in my chest, my stomach was in knots, my breath was short and shallow. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep. My energy was zapped. I just wanted peace, but it wasn't coming. I was beside myself with the business ahead of me. I don't like conflict. Why do I need to do all these hard things, Lord?

I had listed the circumstances of great concern to me on a couple of whiteboards so I would be praying about them. But, really that was a silly strategy, because that's all I was doing all day long is crying out to God about these things!

Too consumed to focus on my job, and too emotional to keep it together at work, I took some PTO and headed home. I listened to our Sunday church service since I had been with my kids at their church on the weekend. Pastor Troy had just returned from the Holy Land and was sharing his own photos of the sea of Galilee as he told the story of Jesus walking on water in Matthew 14. Not knowing what was coming toward them, the disciples were terrified, crying out in fear. (That pretty well described me, too.) "Take courage," Jesus said, "It is I. Don't be afraid."

Then, Peter was actually able to walk on the water to Jesus... until he started noticing the wind and the waves, instead of keeping His eyes on Jesus. He lost his focus and that's when he started to sink. (Yes, I realized, that's exactly what had happened to me!)

How many times have I learned that when I abide, He provides?? Though I was saying the prayers and the words, my heart was still anguishing at the potential unknowns ahead of me. I was focusing on all the wrong things!

I pondered this timely message over the last few days, letting it sink in deeper. It was no accident I heard that story at that particular time!

This morning, I erased all the circumstances I had written on my whiteboards. I certainly don't need to be reminded of them -- and Jesus doesn't either! Instead I wrote all the things that encourage me -- His truths, His words, song lyrics that remind me where my focus should be.

Even now, I am still "in the storm" (the circumstances are still there, along with several unknowns), but I finally have more peace.

I can praise Him even in the storm, because I know that through the storm, He is Lord, Lord of all.

Gracious Lord, thank you for the peace we can have when we are under your wing, abiding in you. I know, somehow, you have a deeper meaning and purpose in these hard things. If you bring us to them, you will bring us through them. Most of all, I know you are with me and would never leave me. I will keep my eyes on you, where they belong.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Who Will Be Blessed for My Obedience?

Digging in for a Bible study, I am again drawn to a deeper appreciation of the very familiar story of Abraham heading to the mountain to sacrifice Isaac.

Ted and I had explored this story, in depth, on several occasions. We've had the pleasure of dissecting it with a dozen friends gathered in our living room for a Genesis study. Most of us have heard this story many, many times since childhood. Yet new observances keep opening the way for me to grasp more and more of God's grace each time.

God tests (but does not tempt), and He gave Abraham the supreme test. Was he willing to sacrifice his only son, whom he dearly loved? (Gen. 22) His prior experiences had brought him to a level of faith where he did not waiver, but did exactly as he was told -- until the angel of the Lord urgently called out to stop him! He then caught a ram in the thicket and offered it in place of his son -- a burnt offering -- a symbol of surrender.

Because Abraham did not withhold anything from God, even his long-awaited, beloved son, God knew he was "all in." Because of Abraham's obedience, not only was he blessed, but all nations on earth would be blessed!

This story foreshadows the Greatest Sacrifice, and we know that God did not withhold His only beloved Son either. The ram in the thicket foreshadows the Lamb of God taking our place on the cross, offering full and complete forgiveness and the awesome gift of eternal life with our Creator.

This is the most beautiful story on so many levels. It takes years and years, and multiple readings of this story for it to sift into my brain to a more full comprehension.

In the ancient times, people would sit around with their families and extended families and tell these miraculous stories and relive the blessings, time after time. Today, we have that same privilege -- if we choose to do it -- to sit around with family and friends -- in living rooms, church gatherings or around campfires -- and chew on these stories, sift these words, ponder these truths together to reap the blessings for obedience in our own lives.

If Abraham would not withhold his only son from God... and if God would not withhold his only Son from us... can I surrender in trust the lives and the futures of my own beloved children and grandchildren into God's very capable hands?

In full confidence, Abraham told his servants (v. 5) "we will come back to you." The same way, I can know with complete confidence that the Lord is guiding and providing for each of them through the complicated and sometimes treacherous paths of our lives.

If, because of Abraham's obedience, his whole family and all nations on earth were blessed, who will be blessed because of MY obedience? Or, said another way, who will not be blessed if I don't fully obey?

Lord, I want the kind of faith that pleases you. I want to fully obey so that you can fully bless. I want to live the life of full surrender and obedience that gives you all the glory.

Who will likely share in the blessings for YOUR obedience?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Gone From Here, But Still Near

Valentine's Day would have been our 10-year wedding anniversary. The day I married the love of my life was a sunny Saturday with lots of snow on the ground, much like today (okay, not this much snow!). It will always be my favorite Valentine's Day for obvious reasons. But I had a very good one this year, too.

As a grieving person will tell you, it's important to prepare for these big days. Each day for the past several weeks, I have been thinking a lot about Valentine's Day and how I could prepare to celebrate in a way that didn't "surprise me" too much.

Though I received other sweet offers and many calls of encouragement, I made some low-key plans with a dear friend who lost her soulmate the year before. We spent the day doing some of the adventurous outdoor things Ted and Jeff would have done. We visited the frozen beach in Algoma, enjoyed the full moon guiding us home, and tried to imagine all that our men would be doing in the great world beyond this life.

We truly felt God's unfailing love envelop us in the way the day unfolded. 

How much more I have been learning to abide and marvel at the way God provides the sweetest details in the most remarkable ways. His love is so wonderful and there is joy in life again. 

Ted and I have a long distance relationship now, but he is present and I can live in his love, much like I've experienced living in God's love. I tried to imagine Ted's words encouraging me:

My Love,
You know I am near you on this day of all days, my bride, my forever love.

You're doing a great job and I am so proud of you. I knew you were smart and capable. I knew you could do it.

It wouldn't have been my choice to leave you. Why, I wanted to bring you along with me -- like on all our greatest adventures! Oh, I wish you could see and experience what I am seeing and experiencing now.

Enchanting...Glorious...Magnificent...Ethereal...Transcendent... No, all that and more! There are no words adequate to describe the infinite design, wisdom and beauty of the galaxies and the heavens!

You would not believe what God has in store for those who love Him. Imagine all the most beautiful places we've seen together and roll them into one...and, Babe, you ain't seen nothing yet.

You were such a blessing to me and I am so pleased to see all that you are now taking on. You are growing so much. I know there are still some "advanced" climbs necessary -- some rocky terrain -- but don't be discouraged. Our Lord is with you and I'm with you, and it's well worth the trip!

I love you so much and I'll be waiting for you so we can spend eternity together in the PRESENCE OF OUR GREAT GOD. Oh, what a glorious day that will be!

Til then...
My deepest love,

Heavenly Father, thank you for your unfailing love and your generous gifts lavished on me. Thank you for the wonderful man you gave me. You make it possible for me to feel "complete," even with such a huge part of my life gone from here. Thank you for the promise of eternity.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Always by My Side

I touched the beautifully adorned Christmas tree and needles began to fall. Sadly, I knew it was time to remove it...

This year, I'd gone with a teddy-bear decorating theme, in honor of our "Ted-bear" we were all missing so much. But removing the warmth, beauty and symbolism from my home wouldn't be easy, especially this first Christmas without my loving husband. The kids had all been home from far-away places, and we had shared sweet "God-with-us" time together, cementing new memories in this journey that was uncertain for all of us.

As I slowly took off each ornament with a story of its own, I thought I could be strong. But the tears began to flow. "I miss you so much, my love," I began to say to Ted. "It's been so long since I've heard your sweet voice. If only I could hear your voice... I loved our life together." I realized it had been exactly nine months since I had last heard him speak... since the night he'd been put into a drug-induced coma that he had never come out of.

I turned on my Christian music station because it was just too hard to be there in the quiet alone. In a few short minutes, I heard the Chris Tomlin song, "Whom Shall I Fear (The God of Angel Armies)," reminding me Who goes before me, Who stands behind and Who is always by my side.

Such strength I had received from that beautiful song, hearing it again and again during the very critical times while Ted was in the hospital. This was the same song I'd sung to him on that most trauma-filled night of my life, and his. I had grasped at whatever I could do to give him strength while he fought for his life. My tears were now coming in great gushes. Finding it too painful to go there again, I turned my mind back to untangling the lights.

I thought of how God makes His presence (and Ted's presence) so real. He has certainly shown me in a multitude of ways that He holds me tenderly in the palm of His hand. I have felt His enduring love in so many ways and the joy has reawakened in my heart. I told Ted not to worry, that I would be alright. "But the reality is that I just miss you tremendously." 

As I dragged the tree out the door, another precious song came on the radio. This one was 10,000 Reasons, another that had encouraged us and had become a mainstay. I had later chosen it for his memorial service. Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, I still have 10,000 reasons to keep on singing and praising His holy name...

Both of these songs had been very popular last year, but hadn't received much air time lately. How odd, I thought, that not one but these two special songs had played just now to encourage me.

No... maybe it's not odd at all. I had sung those songs to Ted to give him encouragement and now perhaps he was singing them to me?

Gracious God, you are the BEST! How personal is your love and attentiveness to me. Whom shall I fear? Nothing formed against me will stand. You hold the whole world in your hands. I'm holding on to your promises, you are faithful...!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking Back, Moving Ahead

It's been a difficult year, but God's unfailing love is sweet as I am learning to abide more fully. Here are a few highlights of what I've learned in 2013 to help me live better in 2014:

  • To abide more fully in the Lord. My most desperate times (Ted's weeks in ICU, then learning to live without him) caused me to cling to the Lord, looking fully to Him for whatever would come next, especially when I had no clue how things would turn out. Clearly, that it is the Lord's intention for our lives, each day and every day and I will focus on continuing to live that way.
  • To grasp God's grace. I'm letting go of things I worried needlessly over in the past. Grasping God's grace is realizing He has the whole world in His hands, the very best in mind for each one of us, and He's orchestrating the ultimate, beautiful plan for everything here and into eternity. There are things I can't comprehend, but when I rest in His grace, I know that whatever happens, I am still in the palm of His loving hand.
  • To be a truer friend (daughter, sister, mother, grandmother). Family and friends have never meant so much as when walking with me through the gullies of grief this past year. Relationships have been deepened and strengthened by the experience shared. I have deep gratitude for those who have shone their light into my life in so many extraordinary ways, wrapping me in compassion. I will strive to pay this compassion forward in everything I do.
  • To use my gifts and not squander them. Forsaking other distractions in life, I will pursue the activities that give God the most glory. God created each of us with unique gifts, and if they are not nurtured and shared, not only do we miss out, but others around us do, too. When I use my gifts, I feel His pleasure -- and God intended it that way! Why wait until everything else on the to-do list is accomplished? -- this is what I've been created to do!
  • I won't sweat the small stuff. And most of it is small in relation to life, death and eternity. Does every detail have to be perfect? Does everything have to "fall in place" before we act on something? Probably not. Ted and I had very little grumbling in our relationship, but if I could do it over, there is NOTHING worth grumbling about! I want to love well the people God has put in my life.
  • To live my influence. Where God placed me in life is a divine appointment. What He has poured into me is meant to be shared for the good of others around me. That may mean telling my story or listening to another's, passionately pursuing or patiently persevering, encouraging or correcting, lavishing love or sacrificing. Life on earth is short. There is meaningful work to be done. Jesus is coming back for us soon.
What will you pursue in 2014?