Faith and This Thing Called Life

What a week it has been for so many people in my life. Highs and lows–joys and sorrows seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity. I received a call Monday evening from our pastor informing me that a dear family friend had unexpectedly passed into the arms of Jesus. His wife, also a dear friend, is in the midst of radiation treatments for cancer. Adding to their burdens her daughter is navigating her own widowhood with single parenting as well. The natural tendency is to ask all the “why” questions. For them to move to the “why me” questions–where there are really no clear cut answers. I don’t know why her husband and our friend is with Jesus seemingly out of our time, I just know it is a done deal and we are left with the “what now” questions.

When life throws us such a curve ball we can either look up to heaven and curse God, or we can move toward Him with our questions and even our complaints. We can choose to trust that in the midst of our pain, our sorrow and our grief God’s goodness, grace and peace will guide us. Because I have walked in her shoes as a widow, she did not have to explain how she felt. God’s peace is with her. Her confidence is in her God. I am blessed to spend time with her the past few days. I know there are harder days ahead for them all, but I am living proof that they can survive and thrive. When we, personally, go through issues in life–many times it is not about us–but it is about what God wants to do in and through us for others. Widowhood is not for the fainthearted by any means–but neither is raising autistic children, fighting cancer diagnosis or mental illnesses. To clarify–life this side of heaven is hard.

But life is not all grief, suffering and sorrow! We Mentor Moms from our local Mothers of Pre-schoolers group- put on a special English Tea Wednesday for our wonderful MOPS steer team. We wanted to provide a platform to encourage them, strengthen them and simply love these young moms and treat them to real silverware and English bone china cups! But the most amazing part of touching these women’s lives was the opportunity to pray for each one specifically and intentionally. Yes there were tears, laughter and freedom as the Holy Spirit began to move in our midst. The joy of reaching out and loving on these women ministered to all of us Mentor Moms (it truly is better to give than receive!)

Two different emotions–joy and sorrow. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep are good instructions on how to navigate these emotional events. I want to remind us when faced with others difficulties to employ the power of prayer. What a privilege to be able to pray for our grieving friends. Asking the Lord for His wisdom, direction and comfort is so valuable during these times. I woke up Tuesday morning praying for this new widow for her financial situation–especially since they recently had bought their home. The Lord said to me, “Don’t worry, I have it covered”. As I shared His Word with her it brought peace. Later that day she received some good news from Social Security which is going to be a big help towards her financial stability. Only our God. He showed me a picture of her leaning on the Cross–standing with her arms around it, just leaning–at peace. When I saw it in the spirit I felt like it was called “the Leaning Tree”! God loves it when we lean on Him. It brings Him such joy.

We can lean on Him when we don’t know how to help others. We can lean on Him when we don’t know how to celebrate with others!! Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 40:28-31 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted, but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. When we ask the “why” and “why me” questions it usually means we are trying to figure it out in our own minds. Trying to get “the it” to make some sort of sense. It is one thing we are not promised.

As I am writing this, a young expectant mom is enduring a painful gall bladder attack. She has endured a lot during this pregnancy, but the end is in sight. To bring life into this world there is usually some form of pain and difficulty, and the same is true of living in this life. One of my friends in the military, is on a ship serving our country while his wife is fighting sepsis. Saturday I will be attending the memorial service of a young 41 year old woman who loved Jesus with her whole heart, but is now in heaven worshiping our Savior. Questions–yes we have them. Do not let your questions separate you from Him, but run to Him. He never grows tired or weary of our oft calling, but welcomes us with loving arms and a listening ear. Run to the leaning tree, my friend–the Cross of Jesus Christ is able to sustain you and bring the peace we need, not answers.

Faith and Becoming More Fear LESS

Yesterday I had the privilege of sharing with our local MOPS group (Mothers of Pre-schoolers) on the subject of living with less fear–or FEAR Less! The Holy Spirit gave me some more insights I would like to share here.

Living and walking with less fear is a growing process. Fear is the unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous–and is likely to cause us some type of pain or threat. It is also defined as a feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something or the safety and well-being of someone. Every time we face a fearful situation, we consciously or unconsciously deal with the balance of risk, safety and security. If we feel the risk is too high we usually stay in our safety zone. When we trust our Heavenly Father we live out of a foundation of faith and not fear, fear becomes less intimidating. We see it for what it is–something to bring torment and stop us from accomplishing His plan and purpose for our lives.

Matthew 7:23 “whoever hears these sayings of Mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock.” Security comes from building our life on His Word and His ways. Psalm 56:3 says “what time I am afraid, I will trust in you.” What a blessing to know that as we are led by His Spirit we are covered by His protection and grace. Understanding that even though fear will present itself, if we follow His instruction those fears (storms) do not have to hinder our lives. We will declare that our trust is in Him (which includes His power, might and love.)

First thing to do when you recognize you are struggling with fear is to analyze the “what” am I afraid of? What is the bottom line that I am afraid of? Once we can name our fear, it suddenly becomes smaller and more manageable. We can pray specifically and find God’s Truth to combat the lie that may be entangled in that fear.

Then we can begin to pray specifically, Lord, show me what to do. How do you want me to handle this situation? Taking time to silence those fearful messages by capturing any intimidating thoughts is paramount. Renewing your mind by learning and speaking God’s truth brings peace and clarity.

Matthew 6: 25 instructs us to take no thought about your life, what you will eat, what you will drink, or about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look the birds of the air, for they do not sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns. Yet your Heavenly Father feed them. Are you not much better than they? These are part of the instructions we find Him talking about in Matthew 7: 23. As we begin to listen and follow them, we will be building and enlarging the foundation of our life. Stability will begin to be normal in our every day situation, so when we encounter storms though we may shake, we will not fall.

There are times we need to examine the “where” of our fears? Where are they coming from. Have we been listening to many voices of doubt and negativity? Watching movies or shows dealing with infidelity or miserable spouses can open our souls to irrational fears concerning our spouse. Spend that same time securing your marriage instead. Praying for and building up your partner is a much better use of your time. I have watched women grow dissatisfied with their own marriage as they read romance novels comparing their husband to some mythical prince charming. They begin to believe a lie and become fearful that their life is not as happy as it could be, so they pick fights–causing a rift and ultimately a broken marriage has occurred. Dwelling on feelings of inadequacy can be another source of fear entry. God’s truth says we are His children, loved and accepted, created in His image for a purpose and a plan.

Friends, the Word warns us that there are perilous times ahead. Even that word “perilous” can stir up fear! Perilous means full of danger and risks. I believe as we follow Him and listen to His instructions we will not only navigate this season of our lives with minimal fear, but we will actually grow stronger in our faith.

Father, I thank you for helping us grow in our faith. I thank you that fear does not have control of our lives, but you do. We submit to you and yours ways. Teach us to walk in those ways with victory and faith! What time we are afraid, we will trust in you.

Faith and Pressure

Lately it seems like many people I know are struggling with many different pressures of life. Financial challenges, relationship issues, physical struggles seem to be attacking so many of God’s people. Life seems to be harder for so many people right now. The winds of adversity have been blowing hard. The temptation is to want to find a way of escape from their relentless blowing–at least that is my initial response!

What is your reaction when adverse things begin to take place? Why is this happening to ME or my family? Does fear raise its ugly head and try to take root in your heart? Life here on this earth, comes with adversity. It just does. If we keep being surprised by them, then maybe we need to grow in our understanding of life on this earth versus life that will be in heaven. Scripture tells us that in this world we will have tribulation, but be of good cheer because He has overcome them.

But how do we handle the pressures of adversity? First we must understand we do not face them alone. Our God is with us, working all things together for our good. When natural winds occur, they clean the air, help distribute seeds for new plantings, and they help birds complete their migration. Strong winds test the roots of trees, causing weak rooted trees to be blown over so younger trees can take their place.

Winds of adversity in our lives often reveal our stamina or lack thereof. When things get hard and we want to quit, we have to “dig deep” as they say, and choose to stay the course. Choosing to continue on God’s path when these winds are blowing contrary takes perseverance, trust and tenacity. There are some things in life that there is no choice but to push through. I remember in the middle of laboring my son, I just wanted to quit. Since my body reacts differently than most women, I did not have the “urge to push”, so I just quit. I was tired and I didn’t want to “do it anymore”. In the midst of the pain, I lost sight of the goal. The wonderful nurse whispered in my ear, “in just a few more pushes you will be able to hold your baby, and we will all go away!” I don’t remember which was more motivating, the idea of seeing my child or the fact I could get rid of the annoying people telling me what to do, but soon our dear son was born. In reality, I had no choice but to finish that race. Other times, we must choose to renew our commitment and walk on.

When the pressures of life begin to assail, we need people around us to remind us of our purpose and plans. I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit and God’s Word that brings us hope and encouraging stability, but sometimes I need people who have been there and done that, to come along side and remind me that I, too, will make it! Storms do not last forever. As I walked the difficult journey after Darryl’s stroke, trying to come to grips with my new normal, I would have to stop and remind myself not to worry about the tomorrows. Matthew 6:34 so don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. For you young parents, remember the current season your infant, baby, toddler, pre-schooler, elementary child, high schooler–is in will pass. The night feedings, the toddler tantrums and the angst of growing up, though difficult, are best done in the present–with an eye on the future. His grace is sufficient for our today issues. If you are facing storms in your marriage remember your vows and the reason you married in the first place. Take a deep breath and remind yourself of God’s love and that He is with you in every day circumstances. Seek His wisdom and His ways. Do not let your thoughts run rampant. Capture them quickly.

If things seem overwhelming and you need help, ask for it. Somethings are too heavy to bear alone. Humble yourself, if need be. Many times just talking about how you feel will bring perspective and understanding. This is why God has placed pastors, teachers and leaders in His body–if they can’t help, they can lead you to someone who can. Too many suffer in silence in their own island because they are embarrassed to reach out. Do not be one of those people, listening to the lies of the enemy telling you no one cares. It is not true. I am available! Reach out to me, if you need a listening ear. Many times I have shouted out my prayers to the Lord, or taken time to write my thoughts and prayers in a journal.. Simply taking the time to name your feelings (cares) and then cast them back to Him brings the relief and hope needed.

In the midst of so many facing adverse circumstances I have also been amazed at how many prayers God is answering as well. He is not far off, but a very present help in time of trouble. Do not be jealous, or disappointed if you see others getting their prayers answered, but be encouraged He is not a respecter of persons! Your time is coming.

Faith and Nutrition

I have the privilege of teaching three of my grandchildren science each week. We all look forward to spending this special time together learning and exploring God’s creation. This year we are looking at our bodies and how all the different parts interact and it has been amazing. This weeks lesson focuses on the importance of nutrition. As I was prepping for this lesson I heard the Holy Spirit whisper–this is one of the lessons that will stay with them for the rest of their life. It is ok to slow down and really help them understand what they eat or don’t eat impacts their bodies and ultimately their health life.

Then He began to tie it into our spiritual health. This is not a new thought by any means, but just a reminder we are what we spiritually eat. Most of us are aware the need to spend time in God’s Word every day–and it’s equated to eating every day etc. All the Word, we know is God inspired and fruitful. But what about making sure we are eating balanced portions of His Word?

We have the two major sections–the Old Testament and the New Testament–but each of those sections are subdivided as well. I want to encourage us to develop a taste for every section. I confess the prophecy sections are the most difficult for me to digest. I love history so re-reading the exploits of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the book of Genesis is inspiring to me! Watching God take Joseph through some very impossible and unfair situations strengthens my faith and encourages me to trust Him in my rough times.

Did you know there are five main books of Wisdom in the Bible? Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon all fall into this category. Have you ever read them looking for the wisdom they can impart? There are some very practical insights to be found in these books–I admit they can be challenging to implement!

Some can seem tedious, I get it. Numbers and Leviticus and its laws and instructions can seem very unrelatable at times–but one of the aspects of God’s character I have gleaned from this book is how incredibly detailed our God is! How He cared for His people in some very specific ways. It also makes me very thankful and grateful for the one and only sacrifice that Jesus paid for our salvation! Reading about all the individuals mentioned in the book of Numbers reminds me that He knows me also by name.

Don’t we all have comfort food? Food we go to during times of stress or difficulties–for most of us I believe we have found God’s Comfort food in the Psalms. I also find it in the gospels as I read about how Jesus touched the men and women while He walked this earth. Looking for His instructions and how he related to so many different people encourages me to live and act with His compassion as well. But that is not all there is to the book of Psalms–it inspires us to worship and look at God’s creation. It encourages us to see God as Creator, while bringing comfort during our struggling times.

The prophetic books like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel influences us to understand God in our past, present and future. He has a plan for the universe and our part in it! Although some of the descriptive narratives may be hard to understand–just knowing someone has a plan brings me peace. The mysteries–the things I can’t figure out also show me He is bigger than myself, and that is what I not only want, but need in my God.

I love the gospels were God became flesh and dwelt among us. Reading each one reveals different aspects of the writers and their relationship to him. It helps me find my own walk with Him as well. I love the book of Acts where His power is unveiled in some unexpected ways through the very men who were touched by Him. Paul’s letters are full of stability, advice and encouragement as well. I love the personal letters he wrote to Timothy, Titus and others. The letters to the churches bring insight, instruction and hope as well. The early church was not perfect, but they were able to change their world in such a way that we are changed today.

The book of Revelation is another one I haven’t gotten figured out. But I read it in faith! I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and delve into an area of the Bible you may not have tasted for awhile–or ever. Pray before you begin. If you have questions there is probably an “app” for that! WE need His Word more than ever to show us the truth of ourselves and our world situation, at least I do! Father, help us develop a hunger for your Word. Teach us how to eat a balanced meal of your Word!

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (2 Ti 3:16–17). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Faith and God’s Faithful Timing

I am writing with an especially grateful heart. Last Wednesday my son was experiencing some intense abdominal pain which eased after awhile. His wife, Becca, tried to get him a medical appointment–but the nurse did not call him as they requested. So as it subsided mostly, they went about their lives. We knew it couldn’t have been his appendix because he had an emergency appendectomy a few years ago. This time we were suspicious it was his gall bladder. They have three sweet children–almost 6, 3 and a sweet baby girl who turns 11 months tomorrow. So when the pain began again Saturday evening, his wife Becca texted his sister and myself asking if either of us were awake! They needed help so they did not have to wake the children and deal with them! I quickly got ready and headed over to their home in the pouring rain–which took me about 15 minutes or so.

Andrew was in extreme pain. The children were asleep and I prayed as Becca and Andrew drove the 40 minute drive to the hospital for wisdom, safety and grace. I was concerned for that drive because it was so dark and rainy during my trip–but as they were heading north, things subsided weather wise. My daughter Elizabeth and I got on the phone and prayed that he would be seen quickly and get some relief. Both those things happened. His labs came back “normal” but with a tentative diagnosis of gall bladder issues like we thought. However no scans were done. He was sent home with anti-nausea and pain meds and instructions to see his primary care doctor on Monday. We assumed at that time that this “gall bladder attack” had passed, and he would be good to go until they could get him a doctor’s appointment.

By God’s grace the storm was not headed the hospital way–so they made it fine. We discovered once again that having “issues” on the week end bring delays. They had to wait for the tech to come in and do the needed scan. At first his lab work was fine–no fever etc. But within twenty minutes his temp was 102+! His gall bladder was infected. It needed to come out right away. Finally the on call surgeon arrived and he agreed surgery was needed. Becca was encouraged to learn his reputation was well thought of–which brought some added peace and trust. This amazing woman had very little sleep on Saturday night and here she was at the hospital again. A mayday call to family (my niece and nephew brought her food!) And another dear friend also came with coffee and sandwich. I am at their house watching the snow fall, wondering if she was going to be able to make it back home.

I had to tell the children why their folks weren’t home. It was amazing as I shared as easily and carefully as I could about their dad needing the sick part of his body removed, the three year old said “Can we pray?” I said of course! It was precious for the three children and I to pray sitting on the floor in his bedroom entrusting their father into our God’s care. A precious memory for sure! I am so grateful they have taught their children to turn to the Lord when troubles hit. The surgery was successful. The needed antibiotics cleared his blood stream and later on that day they released him and they were able to drive home between storms.

So grateful for God’s faithfulness, peace and strength. Few hours of sleep on Saturday and Sunday nights left both Becca and I very tired. As I was helping with the children I told the Lord, I am so tired, I am not sure how I can do this. Then, I said, I only have to do the next thing–I don’t have to live and do the whole day–just one thing at a time. I can do that. You will give me the strength I need. Peace came along with a deep breath and it was about 20 minutes later that we saw a light next door in her parents home! They drove six hours from Portland and arrived at 6:00 a.m. on Monday. We tagged teamed with the kids while Becca went back to the hospital. (Her mom is working in Portland, OR currently–we were blessed her boss gave her the time off.) We were so snowed in nobody else could come! School was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday–so we had about 5 inches of snow for the kids to play in. Cousins had given them outgrown snowsuits–so they were warm and dry. Small things like snow pants and gloves just make life easier in the middle of other concerns.

Other amazing things I am so grateful for–We were all there to see Adiana take her first steps. I found out my kindergartener Carabella could read! I also discovered our little Tobi boy has quite a sense of humor and vocabulary. Father God, I thank you for your faithfulness in getting this problem solved for Andrew–that the roads were clear when they traveled. I thank you for all the people praying for us and sending words of encouragement. I am grateful for your love. I don’t know why his gall bladder became inflamed and infected. I wish he did not have to go through that much pain–but I am grateful for the doctors and their care. I am grateful for a loving wife that is taking great care of him. I am thankful for our family who knows how to pray and ask for others to pray and for a God who answers in His Way and His Time.

I pray for each of us as we go “through the fire and storms of life” that we will have the grace and faith to look for Him in the midst. It is not easy. Not once did anyone say “why do we have to go through this?” We just walked it by faith. I know others have storms come with bigger waves and longer lasting affects (like autism, cancer or financial crisis) but I am grateful for His faithfulness to get us through this storm victoriously. We raise a hallelujah to you Jesus once again. We trust you.

Faith and Global Concerns

This past week leadership decisions by our President and others led to escalated conflict between our nation and Iran. As I read about concerns about these interactions possibly leading to World War 3 it definitely gave me pause. I began to pray even more for our government leaders for wisdom and insight. I also admitted that it was scary and more than concerning.

Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed–or as the New Living Translation says “but don’t panic”. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. One of my friends posted on FB–let us pray that this is just a “rumor of war”. I like that addition and perspective. I live in a Navy town. Many of our MOPS moms are married to men in the military as well as many of the women in our church are active military. This hits home. One of my dear MOPS gals asked if we could get together to pray. As we gathered yesterday it became very real how these current incidents were impacting their families. It made the news even more real.

As we talked and shared it was evident that fear and uncertainty was trying to raise its ugly head. We began to pray for peace, protection and direction. During the prayer time I realized that we had to go higher than our political leaders and remember that our God is in control. I have read Matthew 24:6 many times. It is a sobering scripture. I did some research. There has been a war somewhere every year during the 20th Century! That also is sobering. Americans and Iranians do not hold a bigger share of the “fault” for all the war mongering. It is something innate to mans sinful nature. God is acutely aware of this. We are instructed to pray for peace–and then trust in the midst of it that God’s will and purpose will be accomplished.

I Timothy 2:1-4 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be save and to come to the knowledge of the truth. I urge us all to pray for our leaders. I ask you to pray for those deployed and those left at home–for their families–mothers, fathers, wives, husbands and children. Give them courage and strength as they trust their loved ones to God’s care. Pray for the chaplains and other believers to be the light in the midst of the darkness and to share the news of this great gospel of peace.

Pray for unity in our nation. Naturally it seems impossible–but we have not because we ask not. Let us follow the instructions given in Matthew 24:6–and choose not to panic, but to trust our God’s timeline and sovereignty. Release your faith, reign in your fear and let us work while it is still day to share the love of and peace of Jesus Christ as He leads. I am glad we can look forward to heaven where we can perfect peace.

Faith and Moving Cheese

Hmmmm–somebody’s been moving my cheese. Yep, I keep encountering cheese movers in my life. (If you haven’t read this little book by Spencer Johnson, ” Who Moved My Cheese?”, I recommend it!) As we end 2019 and begin not only a new year, but a new decade I have to accept that some where during this year my cheese will be moved. How I handle that, is up to me. Will I be frustrated, angry and resistant? Or will I trust the God of the Universe to help me navigate any changes up ahead?

Thanks to Facebook memories I re-read an post I wrote in the end of 2009. It was full of faith and understanding that although we did not know what was in store for us in 2010, our God did and we could trust Him. My cheese totally got moved in April 2010 when my husband suffered his heart attack/stroke. I had to lean on God’s character and faithfulness during the 2 1/2 years I was his caregiver. During that season I knew my life landscape was permanently altered and it would never be the same again. After his passing, my cheese continues to get moved. Not as drastic, but it happens.

Washington state put in new child safety laws for 2020. My granddaughter who has been out of a booster seat for two years barely squeaked by as she weighs 49 1/2 pounds–the cut off was 49. She would not have enjoyed going back to a booster seat–no matter how much safer they say she would be. Her cheese would definitely have been moved!

Years ago I accidentally mixed ammonia and bleach together thinking I was following a DIY recipe for a good floor cleaner. As I was on my hands and knees scrubbing my floor–it took me awhile to realize I was burning my lungs. At that moment I started moving my cheese myself for my health. I now struggle with asthma and its much easier for me to get pneumonia (which is why I missed the past two weeks of posting!). I am trusting God for His healing, wisdom and strategies for not being as strong as I thought I would be at this age.

As we enter 2020 I find myself hopeful, yet sober. It is hard for me to understand how we made it to such cultural shifts in my lifetime. I read where a woman was boasting how her abortion made her feel like god! My heart was sickened and I pray for her that she would begin to understand exactly what her choice did. I know the Bible tells us that men’s hearts are going to be hardened in the last days–but I admit I never thought exactly how that would look.

I believe God is ruling our universe–but in His wisdom and balance has given man much freedom to make our own choices. I can’t control others choices, but I can help influence them with His Word and His perspective (the best I can have!). Let us pray for our leaders, our friends and families that Truth shall be revealed and where the darkness has blinded eyes, the LIGHT shall prevail. Our God is reigning. Let us submit to His rule and trust any cheese moving will be for our benefit!