Trusting Through the Stink

Every so often you receive an email that resonates in a particularly meaningful way. The following is from one of our friends who wages a daily battle with her oldest daughter’s health challenges. Her daughter suffers from a brain tumor that was diagnosed in her second year of life and which can’t be removed. She suffers daily and intense seizures. Now twelve years old, she has been through numerous surgeries, chemo, and myriad treatments. Daily life is a challenge.

Angela sent the following note to my husband. Her perspective is valuable, and I asked her permission to share these words of encouragement—as I believe this message needs to be shared:  

“I can’t know what life is like for you right now. I am sure it is disappointing and ever so distressing to have your life end up like this. It is not fair. It flat out stinks. So many have depended on you for so much. You are an amazing minister and elder. Our family has benefited from your kindness and spiritual gifts many times. I hope that this email will in a small way return the favor.

When Alexa first got sick I thought sooner or later our lives would go back to “normal.” I would return to being a lawyer, Alexa would return to being a healthy kid, our finances would be restored, and my marriage would no longer be stressed. It is now 10 years later—none of those things are true.

However, what I once saw as the complete ruining of my life, I now realize has led me to a true and deep relationship with God. As a result, there is a closeness in my family that can only be born from the struggles between life and death. From experiencing high hopes to spirit crushing defeats, God has held my family and our faith together. He will do the same for you.

I will not sugar coat words or say that everything will be fine if you just pray or think happy thoughts. In these type of situations there will be disappointments and heartbreaks. There are times you may feel you can’t go on, times when you think, “Where is God?” But he is there.

Proverbs 3:5-6 helped me immensely “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit your ways to him, and he will make your ways straight.”

This Scripture helped me come to the realization that I could never understand why all this disappointment and heartache was present in our lives. God’s understanding surpasses mine by miles. Once I truly surrendered to the desire to know and understand why all of this was happening I was freed. It was no longer up to me to return our lives to the way they once were.

You have an incredible spirit Wyndham—one that has helped so many through so much. Your spirit will help you through this. It is so easy to think down about yourself during these times. Once I was no longer able to practice law due to our daughter’s needs, I felt useless for years.  I thought there was no way for me to help the Kingdom and that my God given talents would be wasted. I was so wrong. When you are dealing with a chronic and debilitating illness you have the opportunity to truly show the depth of Christ’s love for us. Psalm 34:18 was my mantra for ages. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

I have felt closer to God in the past few years, honestly more so then when I first became a disciple—because I am brokenhearted. You may be too. There will be so many opportunities for you to show doctors and other patients the completely healing love of Christ through your faith and belief.”

Thank you for sharing your heart, Angela. I believe it will minister not just to us, but to many others.  I close with an excerpt from a song by Lauren Daigle entitled, “Trust in You.”

“…Mighty warrior, king of the fight
No matter what I face you’re by my side

When you don’t move the mountains
I’m needing you to move
When you don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When you don’t give the answers
As I cry out to you
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you

Truth is you know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead you have not seen
So let all things be my life and breath
I want what you want Lord and nothing less

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation
The rock on which I stand
Your ways are always higher
You plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go
You’ve not already stood

When you don’t move the mountains
I’m needing you to move
When you don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When you don’t give the answers
As I cry out to you
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you.”

I Know Exactly Who I Am!

Recent conversation between my daughter and granddaughter:

Gracie:  Mommy, can you take my trash? (Gracie holds out a chewed on apple core.)

Mommy:  Gracie, I’m driving. You can just put it in the paper bag you are holding.

Gracie: I need you to take it.

Mommy: No Gracie. You can put it in your bag.

(Gracie continues to argue her point. As mommy reaches back for a “friendly knee squeeze” Gracie quickly thrusts her apple core into Mommy’s hand.)

Mommy: (In a stern voice, maybe some steam coming from ears) Gracie, just who do you think you are?

Gracie: I KNOW EXACTLY WHO I AM . img_0740

And there you have it. An interaction between a mom and a perfectly precious yet sometimes precocious 5-year-old. Yes, she was disciplined and was penitent. She tests her borders for sure, but truly is a sweetheart…who knows exactly who she is…Just sometimes has to add a dose of humility.

I love this confident quality which exudes from Gracie. She is secure in her own skin and is not afraid to step out with surety. My mother-in-law had a description for this quality in children that surely fits her—“a real ringed-tailed-peeler.”  I have no idea what that is, but it sounds about right.

Or, as Shakespeare penned, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

The truth is, when we know who we are (as Christians) our confidence can be rock solid. We can know exactly who we are. Perhaps we shouldn’t shove our trash in people’s fists…but we can be secure and confident from deep inside our souls.

When we aren’t exactly sure who we are, insecurity reigns. This insecurity can present itself in myriad ways, most which are not helpful in building loving relationships. We might withdraw, or attempt to “prove ourselves,” or perhaps look for confidence in a drink. When insecure, we may be easily angered when someone points out a weakness, thinking our “felt worthlessness” is accentuated. Often, insecurity breeds people-pleasing.

Certainly the ways we were raised and treated contribute to our confidence, or lack thereof. Our background, ethnicity, education, appearance, and finances can add to or subtract from the value we place on ourselves.

I have been struck by the millions of women around the world who marched this past weekend. As a woman, I am deeply inspired and humbled by the many heroic women who have gone before me, and even sacrificed their lives so that I can work, vote, have a voice, and much more. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. But there is more.These, alone, are not enough to give me the identity which brings confidence and inner peace.

One thing is abundantly clear.  We all long to feel valued, considered, and respected. We want to matter.

I firmly believe no one lifted the society imposed barriers like the radical man, Jesus. No one serves as a better example or inspires me more to learn “exactly who I am.”

Jesus knew who he came from and where he was going (John 8:14). Because of his sure identity and confidence he:

Was not a people pleaser (Mark 12:13-14).

Had inner certitude, which made him impervious to criticism.

Did not feel servile even when serving others. He simply focused on serving God.
  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
  so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.
  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
(John 13:3-5)

Did not retaliate, but entrusted himself to God who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).

The truth is, only through holding to the convictions that I was created by God, belong to him, and am living for something greater than and beyond this world can I begin to live like this…with this same kind of assurance and confidence.

Nothing else can provide me this inner confidence and peace—No man, no family, no job, no political scene, no money, no circumstance.

Though I am deeply grateful for my husband and family, my job, and so many blessings…only with God can I say the words of my granddaughter, “I know exactly who I am.” Who am I?

I am planned (Psalm 139:13-14, 71:6)

I am God’s child, with his love lavished on me (1 John 4:16, 3:1)

I am his treasured possession (Jeremiah 32:40; Exodus 19:5)

I am thought about (Psalm 139:17-18)

I am a song in his heart (Zephaniah 3:17)

I am carried (Isaiah 40:11)

I am engraved on his palm (Isaiah 49:16)

I am not separated from his love (Romans 8:38-39)

When I know who I am, then, and only then, can I strive to imitate those qualities of Jesus. Only when I am sure of myself, can I be free from myself to serve, to not retaliate, and to not care what others think. I have a purpose. I can go to sleep each night with peace, awaking with hope and God’s mercies…new every morning.img_0494

Do you know exactly who you are?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Mean You Don’t See That Mountain?

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I edited this recent post. Would love your feedback:

 

Do you see a colorful, spiraled mountain in this ocean view? 20150323_133750

I don’t either.

 

 

 

But he does.

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“Uke” (the unicorn) pastures by the ocean. Day after day he sees this multi-colored, spiraling mountain as he looks out toward the sea.

 

20170112_131546

Hmmm. I wonder why. Could it be that he can’t see past his own forehead?

Actually, he is not so unusual. I certainly have my view of the scenery around me, and I suspect that you have your view as well. I think it is fair to say that our views are often altered by our unique “unicorn horns.”

What do you see? It may or may not look the same as what I see.

Our perspective changes everything. We view life through the eyes of our beliefs and experiences (our personal unicorn horns). It’s quite hard, at times, to see another’s view, because it doesn’t match our reality. We see that colorful, spiraled mountain in the middle of the sea and wonder why others are so blind! Can’t they see it?!!

Often, even after we have become Christians, we can be tempted to view life, circumstances, and even others through our “default” perspectives—a human and worldly perspective compiled from our past experiences and viewpoints. We can miss the fact that reality might actually be somewhat different.

(You mean a unicorn horn is not really on the horizon?!!)

Perhaps you come from a background of broken trust and/or abuse that affects your sight lines. Other views might be observed through the “horns” of poor health, suffering, or financial difficulties. Certainly, our ethnic backgrounds can affect the ways we see and process the views on our horizons.

I have learned so much from my youngest son who grew up (until his teen years) in poverty and without parents. His ethnicity has exposed prejudices and profiling–the likes of which I have never had to experience. I have never been stopped by eight patrol cars with rifles raised because I fit the description of a crime someone in a town nearby had committed. (Yes, years ago he experienced a “My Cousin Vinny” situation on the way back from teen camp.) I’ve never been “watched” while shopping. He has.

While his responses to numerous situations can frustrate me and cause me to (smh…shake my head), they make sense to him. The most loving thing I can do is to try to understand him, and learn to respect him. I know I still have much to learn.

We have grown closer and closer as I have tried to understand his views. I learn so much when I ask him what he sees and understands–and when I try my best to wrap my head around his perspectives. Our pasts, training, and experiences are far apart from each other. I have needed to learn to respect him, and he has had to learn to respect me. And thanks to God, we do love and respect each other.

How do you view family members when they don’t think the same ways you think? Your extended families? Your work associates, your neighbors, friends, or even the sharers of highways you travel? What’s your perspective as you face challenges they bring to you, or as they share their own challenges? Are you annoyed and resentful when they don’t think just like you…or do you push prejudices aside and strive to love as Jesus loves. Do you pray and work to see through Jesus’ eyes? I certainly have been (and continue to be) challenged by these questions.

Try asking someone unlike you (and who you don’t really understand) to share with you about their life…and really listen. Instead of trying to point them to your way of thinking…look to Jesus and his words. He is the only one that can bring real unity through shared convictions based on his truth, forgiveness, and will-directed, sacrificial love.

I am convicted and called higher by Jesus’ example…and the Scriptures’ call:

14  For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
15  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16  So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  (2 Corinthians 5:14-17, emphasis added)

What an encouraging, challenging, and hopeful scripture! I am a new creation through Christ…with a new way of thinking.

I must also ask another question…along with the question of how I view others.

How do I view Jesus?

Really.

From the ways I have “pictured” him, or by who HE says he really is?  When our perspective of Jesus stems from what he says about himself, rather than who we think he is or should be..our life and perspective changes.

When we view life through “truth” as the Scriptures teach, rather than through our own backgrounds and thoughts, we can become more and more like Jesus. Only then can we see life, our circumstances, and others through the eyes of Jesus.

We all have our “unicorn horns,” but Jesus can show us his true and beautiful view.

The view from that vantage point is heavenly…in the truest sense.

 

 

Today’s the Day!

This morning I thanked God that I got to have another day with him.  As my husband and I groggily (at least I’m groggy) roll out of bed each morning we like to tell each other, “I’m thankful to have another day with you.”  Since he was out of town, after I awoke I said these words to God.   I hoped these words would not only be pleasing to him, but would also help me to live “today”—which is not always an easy thing for me to do.  While saying those words, I let out a sigh of contentment…knowing these are words I can say to him every day—eternally.

It’s been a long while since I’ve visited this blog.  Meanwhile, a lot of life has been lived and miles have been traveled.  I even entered into a new decade since my last visit—I turned sixty. I now consider the mid-nineties officially “old”.  Since the last blog post I have a new book hot off the press—Prime RibExploring a Woman’s Value and Purpose and another is due to be released by IP in early June.  It’s called Spiritual Leadership for Women.  I’ve been so inspired by numerous godly women who I had the privilege to profile amidst the chapters.  I also have about a dozen blogs cluttering my files –yet they are incomplete.  Thoreau once said, “…my life had been the poem I would have writ, but I could not both live and utter it…” Boy, do I understand that.

I am tempted to go back and complete these blogs before moving on to current happenings (maybe I’ll include them in another book next year,) yet there is so much to be discovered today.   I might miss today—if I keep thinking about what I did or didn’t do in the past or am too concerned or worried about the future.  IMG_5051Today I want to be present in the present– in God’s presence.  (Chew on that a moment.)

Is it easy for you to focus on what is not going well, or what you don’t have, or how different life would be for you if only…?  For me, it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of the day… or what was left undone yesterday or still needs to be done in the future.  So, I need to say these words again.  ”Good morning, God… I’m so thankful to have another day with you.”  I’m sure I’ll need to say those words again tomorrow.

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. Psalm 84:10

 It is enlightening to note the number of times God speaks of “this day,” or Jesus speaks of our need to depend on him each day—even as he teaches us to pray in Matthew 6:11, Give us today our daily bread.  

Today’s choices can even make an eternal difference in our lives and the lives of others.  As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
2 Corinthians 6:1-2

Today matters.

If I am not present in the present in his presence I fail to discover lessons God teaches me…whether through circumstances, his word, the urging of his spirit, other people, music, animals, nature, trials…really anything.  And I can become worried, self-reliant and ungrateful.

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
Exodus 33:14-18

Today….seek to be present in the present in his presence.

The “Toy” in My Dog’s Mouth

Sometimes you just misunderstand things.  You hear something differently than what was intended.  Or, as in my case, you wrongly identify an object— and in so doing miss its entire function and purpose..

Last weekend we traveled to San Antonio to speak at a marriage retreat.  We had a wonderful time with the church, and enjoyed some special time with our friends, Mike and Anne-Brigitte.   The church is San Antonio is warm and welcoming.  In fact, Anne-Brigitte sent us home with a “Texas basket” – full of goodies.  Inside the basket were scrumptious treats, mementos of Texas, a few books and even a wonderful toy for our dog(s).  I was amazed that these Texans even remembered our dogs—that they were lucky enough to be recipients of fine Texan hospitality.

We enjoyed the treats and our dogs loved the dog toy.  It was one of those braided toys—blue in color.  Our small dog is ten years older than our two-year-old golden retriever.  The little dog particularly loved the toy, so being the “alpha” dog he rarely let the big dog take a turn. However, we played tug-of-war and “catch” with the new pull-toy. You see, it was his favorite toy—ever.  I even snapped a photo to send to Anne-Brigitte, showing our little dog’s enjoyment of his new toy and sent her a text thanking her for the thoughtfulness toward our furry friends.  0218141750b

Imagine my surprise today, a week later, when I noticed the toy was unraveling.  I took it in my hands to see if I could fix it when I noticed that it was, in fact, not a dog toy but instead a beautiful blue scarf (creatively tied.)  Whoops!  Sorry, Anne-Brigitte.  At this point, I didn’t have the heart to take this beloved toy from my dog. And to be honest, it was well worn by then.

I thought about this scarf-dog-toy.  It’s all too easy to be given something of value—and yet fail to identify it as something as valuable as it truly is.  Then, the dog just ends up carrying it around in his mouth.  It would be a bummer to stumble upon a colorful old piece of paper in our attic and because it seems old use it to line the bottom of the dog crate—all the while not realizing a famous artist painted it.

I thought about the promises of God. How do you view his promises?   Do you see them meant for you, or for someone else.  Sometimes I can get busy and even miss the point of Bible study.

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
John 5:39-40  

While I did miss out on a beautiful new scarf because I didn’t recognize it was for me—what a tragedy if I were to read the scriptures—and yet miss out on a relationship with the author.

My, How Things Change!

We were pulling into Boston, with our car fully packed.  The year was 1987 and we were heading to what would become our new home.  We had our three children in tow, one dog, a few belongings and wondered what this new chapter of our life would bring.  I looked back at the children and noticed that our usually happy Sam, then four years old, was quite melancholy. I inquired as to the sadness of his demeanor.  His reply took me off guard.

Let me give you some background before I tell you his reply.  Sam was quite good at entertaining himself.  Though the children didn’t watch a lot of television, they did have a few favorites.  I thought Sam, as a youngster, would enjoy the usual Sesame Street type of programming.  However, he had no interest in such shows.  For Sam, even as a toddler, was mesmerized by anything having to do with sports.  I can still picture him in his high chair, joyfully watching football.  By the time he was four years old, he knew a lot about sports, even sports trivia.

Thus, I should not have been so surprised at Sam’s response as we approached our new home.  He responded to my inquiry with a sigh as he uttered, “Oh no, now I have to be a Patriots’ fan.”  This little four year old was realizing his move would come at a price. He had been mulling over in his mind the “fact” that he would now be an official fan of a team that was at the time – in a word – horrendous.

During the next several years New England Patriots paraphernalia was amazingly cheap.  In fact, you would think the organization would pay you to buy it.  You only wore a T-shirt if you had a jacket on that zipped up so it couldn’t be seen.  It was not encouraging to be a Patriots’ fan.  However, over time, how things can change!  It is possible to go from worst to first.  (or second 😦 ….I’m still a little tender from last night’s loss in the Super Bowl)  Now, my grown up son and his daughter proudly display their sports team loyalty.

While I speak here of sports, there is a spiritual lesson in most every situation we encounter.  At times, there are circumstantial situations or areas of weakness that can keep reappearing in our lives, bringing about the same look of discouragement I noticed in my young son.  We can think that these things were made to bring us down, and will always be a sore spot.  When this happens, I am encouraged by two particular scriptures

The first is in 2 Cor. 1:8-9
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. [9] Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

Paul had experience severe hardships as he followed Jesus.  His trials called him back to reliance on God.  How easy it is, when things go well, to become self-reliant – and less mindful of our utter dependence on God for every breath and every step we take.

The next scripture has encouraged me again and again. While similar to the previous scripture 2 Cor. 12:7-10, encourages me by promising me that my weaknesses can actually  become my strengths.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. [8] Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. [9] But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. [10] That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
So, I figure if I hang in there, with true faith, any situation can become one that works for God’s glory, and my growth.  True joy and delight comes from this reality.

De-Dreading the Dentist…and other things

I strongly dislike going to the dentist.  Yesterday was my semi- annual teeth cleaning appointment. (I was six months late scheduling this appointment, so it actually became my annual appointment.) It’s far too easy to procrastinate doing things I don’t enjoy.  Fortunately, thus far my teeth haven’t given me problems and I still have them – wisdom and all.  I’m grateful I didn’t have to go to a “tooth cleaning”.

When I’m dreading a task, I try to add some redeeming quality to make it better.  I think about the apostle Paul in these situations.  His attitude continually convicts and inspires me.  While in prison because of his faith, he wrote about continually rejoicing, encouraging others and finding the unseen blessings of his trials such as being able to share about Jesus with those he may not not have had the opportunity to meet were it not for the circumstances.

Philip. 1:12-14
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. [13] As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. [14] Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

Philip. 1:18b-20

   Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, [19] for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. [20] I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

Wow.  Do not those words call you higher? I wonder what “my” letter might have sounded like.

So, trying to learn from my brother Paul, I looked for opportunities to share, to encourage,  and to rejoice and be thankful in a situation I didn’t like. (Of course, the dentist and prison are not at all comparable, but I do really, really dread going to the dentist.)  Applying these scriptures to my more mundane situation still made the experience so much better.  In fact, I almost enjoyed the time.  My dentist practices in a town near the ocean.  So, before listening to the lovely metal-on-plaque sound I took a few extra minutes to pick up a cup of my favorite fish chowder in Gloucester, and then drove to my favorite prayer spot…to enjoy my chowder and pray.  This was the view from my car.

Truthfully, I believe God’s beauty can be found everywhere when we are looking.  Yes, this is a magnificent view, but so is the sky…and the trees, the flowers, the animals – everything He has made. I made it through my dentist appointment, and even determined to “enjoy” the few moments to close my eyes and listen to music (with the occasional instrumental accompaniment of the dental tools).

There are numerous other “tasks” I don’t enjoy.  I don’t like to iron or put away clothes. However, years ago a sister taught me to pray with thankfulness for the family member for whom I was ironing.  This helped. I don’t mind it anymore. Well at least not as much as I did. (Fortunately I don’t have to do it so often now.)   I tire of the daily ritual of washing my hair.  Yet, during this time I think about what I’ve learned and can share – thus this blog entry. For some reason, the thoughts come best then, so I’ve learned to look forward to it. The decisions I make about my attitude really do make a difference in my feelings toward necessary but unpleasant tasks I encounter.

May we all learn from Paul in the scriptures – and look for ways to rejoice, to encourage, to see God at work and to find new opportunities to share about Jesus as we sit in our “proverbial” dentist chair.