Transitions – Lots of Them

Transitions happen. Lots of them. Though I didn’t have a choice concerning the last chapter of losing Wyndham, I have certainly felt the Spirit’s urging and presence in moving forward to new chapters. Since that time, among other transitions, I sold my house of thirty-plus years, bought a new home in CT near my youngest daughter, retired from forty-seven years of full-time ministry, and began my doctorate program. While “ministering” is my lifelong lifestyle as an apprentice of Jesus that won’t change, life is different.

 

I have felt hugs from God throughout the transitions, though it has not always been easy. I find I must look for those hugs. For instance: When I put my house on the market, I felt sad. I would miss the park across the street from my house and my nearby “reservoir walk” a little over a mile away, among other things. However, the park by my old house is busier than I like, and I recently encountered a snake on the reservoir walk. Not a fan of snakes, I had postponed my walks there. God gave me a hug…with a house perfect for me in Connecticut, complete with a quiet park across the street where the gorgeous Riverwalk along the Connecticut River begins.  I pinch myself as I walk each day along the river and through town, amazed that God gave me such a beautiful, serene setting near water. I have met many new friends as I walk, many who have recently moved here, lost their husbands, and retired. This is no accident, I am sure. If this is not enough, there is a studio apartment on the property, perfect for Jacob.

The “new” park is quiet, except on one night a week when it becomes a music venue. Perfect!  And if that is not enough of a hug, as I go by the dock and dock house on the river each day, a lone goose greets me. This is particularly meaningful to me, as I wrote in one of my books about a lone goose that “adopted” my parents after losing its mate. Geese have a mate for life, and when they lose their mate they stay alone, sometimes attaching to a person for their new “mate.” Passing this lone goose each day just feels like a hug to me from God, and from Wyndham.

This past week I had the opportunity to teach on “the role of women in the church” at the European School of Missions in Switzerland. I was encouraged and inspired the current graduating class (after beginning 3 years ago) of the School of Missions and their new contributions to the churches in Europe. A few of these students I knew as preteens, so that was special.  It was wonderful to interact with the incoming class as well. It was so meaningful to be with old friends living in Europe…the Kings, LeNoans, Micha, and of course the McGuirks. It was also a treat to spend time with the Ayasses, who were there helping with their grandchildren during much of the time. It was especially inspiring to see the fruits of the love and labor of the young and “older” McGuirks in Paris, and also John and Rachel, who serve the church in Milan.

Teaching energizes me, as I feel it is a calling from God. It was meaningful and fun to teach with Joey Harris. It felt seamless, as we soon realized we had such  congruent interpretations and understandings of the topic. We taught on the subject for about ten hours, including sessions about ways to read and interpret scripture, the author’s style, presuppositions we bring to interpretation, the lenses through which we read (western culture vs. eastern culture, patriarchal culture, and our CoC and ICOC cultures), blinders to our lenses, cultures of Ephesus and Corinth, God’s parameters, transcending principles, specific verses on women in the scriptures, and essential attitudes of humility and unity. We included various group exercises and discussions throughout.

Joey taught for the next couple of days on Old Testament Survey and OT interpretation, which was all outstanding. Kudos to all the students who put their hearts and minds into days of learning in a language that is not their first one.  

My next stop for next week includes my first residency session for my doctoral program, where I meet my professors and cohort and also participate in a guided spiritual retreat. I am super excited to start and am eager to keep learning.

I have much to write about transitions; in fact, much of my research will stem from this topic. While it is good to be home, I am also grateful for so many memories from years past with Wyndham throughout Europe. It seemed fitting to leave some ashes in a river in the Alps. I include a few thoughts describing this time for me.

On the Bridge

We walked this stream before

Flowing waters toward tributaries form 

Crossing the bridge to the other side

Hands entwined, warm to warm

 

These hands hold memories

Carrying ashes, remnants of living

Now stilled by the cool hand of death

As waters below tease of life still giving

 

I stand on this bridge called hope

Connector of life and death that I know

While your ashes find life in the wind

Toward life-giving water, still sparkling below

 

Ashes give birth to life

As the river moves toward the sea

And the bridge, through the Spirit

It still connects you and me.

When Father’s Day Sneaks Up and Kicks You in the Gut

Anticipating Father’s Day is hard for me, and likely for many of you. I enjoy most holidays, but this one always gets me. I miss my husband, who was the safe, wise, and strong place for our kids (and me). I miss my dad, whose huge smile, kidney-chopper hugs, and overflowing Bible verses always made things feel okay. As I watch my grandkids on the ball fields, soccer fields, and tennis courts I picture Wyndham’s countless days of coaching and his constant encouragement for the underdog. He was a dad extraordinaire, sensing when his kids needed his words or hugs. He would so love watching their kids play (and graduate!). They were his pride and joy.

But I’m a lucky one. A blessed one. I had a father who loved me and showed me Jesus, and a husband who loved God wholeheartedly, loved me, and loved his family with a fierce and tender compassion. I guess that’s why it is hard to pass by the cards for Fathers in the stores without purchasing one, or why it’s sad to not think about what I will cook on Sunday.

Some of you never knew an earthly father, had an absent father, an abusive father, or could never measure up to a father’s dysfunctional demands. Wow. That is some kind of hard. I’m so sorry. Some of you lost dads early in your life, and some are watching your father’s health deteriorate before your eyes. It stinks. It really does.

I sometimes feel a little lost approaching this celebratory day. To be honest, I was happy last year to have virtual church on Father’s Day. It made it a little easier. When I feel a little lost in loss, for some reason I find it helpful to plan a special commemoration. I’m not sure why, but it helps me in my losses to commemorate and celebrate. Perhaps it will you, too. So, I plan to “share” a special meal (by myself, by choice) with the dads in my life. I’ll pick up a steak to eat, medium rare, in their honor…because that is what they would enjoy. I’ll probably talk to them a bit, telling them why I love and appreciate them. But then I will turn to another father, to the Father who is always there and who stays with me, even with these weird conversations. He never leaves and he always cares. This is my Father who never dies and is always the same, yesterday, today, and forever. I may detect a tear in his eye, too, because I know he hurts with me. I will thank him for my husband, for my dad, and for my son and sons-in-law who are fabulous dads.

I will then tell him what a good, good Father he is, even though I don’t always understand his goodness. I will thank him for staying with me in the storms, as my solid rock. I will thank him for holding me tightly with his mighty hand and lifting me up from the ashes. I will thank him for holding me close to his heart. I will tell him he is kind, trustworthy, generous, full of love, holy, self-sacrificing, and crazy creative with the world he fashioned. He is a good, good Father. He somehow walks with the living (me) while also walking in another dimension with my physically deceased but spiritually alive husband and dad, who I can no longer see. I believe they are as alive or perhaps more alive than I am, just in a different sphere. He is with them, and he is with me. Of course I can never fully wrap my head around this concept; it is too beautiful for me and beyond human comprehension.

Abba Father, I wish you a wonderful Father’s Day…it is your day, every day. And Wyndham and Dad, know how deeply you are loved…and always remembered. Every day.

A Big Transition…A New Chapter

A thriller, a comedy, a tragedy, poetry, a fairy tale, and a historical narrative all rolled into one. This is the book I am writing as I continue walking “jeaniesjourneys.” Thankfully, God is the author and perfecter of my life story (Heb 12:2), and we are writing this thing together. I’m starting a new chapter. A scary chapter. An exciting chapter. A sad chapter. A happy chapter. A chapter requiring faith. Lots of it.

For a while, I have known I would sell my house. It is time to downsize. Amazingly among ministers, I have been one of the few to stay in a house for a long time, over thirty years. My kids went through their elementary, middle school, and high school years based from this house. My grandchildren have visited my house as newborns and most recently the oldest as a high school graduate. They have slept over, played in the park across the street, and built their own memories. My youngest son, who spent his first twelve years in Romania, walked through the front door of this house as a member of our family in August of ‘98. It is more than a house. It is a home. At our wedding, Sam Laing, who now has his own health challenges, read this poem which now hangs on my wall. heap of living It’s authored by one of my favorite poets, Edgar Guest. I will include several stanzas:

It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home,
A heap o’ sun an’ shadder, an’ ye sometimes have t’ roam
Afore ye really ‘preciate the things ye lef’ behind,
An’ hunger fer ’em somehow, with ’em allus on yer mind.
It don’t make any differunce how rich ye get t’ be,
How much yer chairs an’ tables cost, how great yer luxury;
It ain’t home t’ ye, though it be the palace of a king,
Until somehow yer soul is sort o’ wrapped round everything.

Ye’ve got t’ weep t’ make it home, ye’ve got t’ sit an’ sigh
An’ watch beside a loved one’s bed, an’ know that Death is nigh;
An’ in the stillness o’ the night t’ see Death’s angel come,
An’ close the eyes o’ her that smiled, an’ leave her sweet voice dumb.
Fer these are scenes that grip the heart, an’ when yer tears are dried,
Ye find the home is dearer than it was, an’ sanctified;
An’ tuggin’ at ye always are the pleasant memories
O’ her that was an’ is no more—ye can’t escape from these.

Ye’ve got t’ sing an’ dance fer years, ye’ve got t’ romp an’ play,
An’ learn t’ love the things ye have by usin’ ’em each day;
Even the roses ’round the porch must blossom year by year
Afore they ‘come a part o’ ye, suggestin’ someone dear
Who used t’ love ’em long ago, an’ trained ’em jes’ t’ run
The way they do, so’s they would get the early mornin’ sun;
Ye’ve got t’ love each brick an’ stone from cellar up t’ dome:
It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home.

Let’s just say there has been a heap of living in this home…by us, and likely by some of you who have sat at our table and in our living room. Joy and laughter have rung within these walls, as has precious time around a loved one’s bed, knowing death is nigh.

It is time for a new chapter, so I put my house on the market for showings last Tuesday. On Thursday, I sold it. my for sale sign

I have learned that home is not really a physical place, rather it is a place of rest in the deepest part of my soul; a place that only God fills. I carry home with me wherever I go. The memories of loved ones and conversations, good food and fun, arguments and conflict resolutions, soul-searching conversations and discovery, the mundane and the thrilling, sickness and health, laughter and tears….the memories are in my heart and will go with me wherever I go all the way to heaven, my ultimate home.

That said, I soon realized the stark reality that selling my home would bring. I would have to land somewhere. I prayed fervently for the best place to land… to cut expenses in preparation for my pending retirement, and to provide meaningful ways to serve and love God and people, helping as many as possible make it to heaven. To be honest, something within me questioned whether I should go to a remote place where I could tell people who did not yet know about the amazing news of Jesus. However, given the fact that I don’t know other languages and that my first priorities next to Jesus are my children and grandchildren, I knew I would stay local and contribute to remote places in other ways.

Local turned out to be about an hour and forty-three minutes from my current home. I plan to move to Connecticut, near my daughter Kristen and her family. She said it was “her turn.” While it is so hard to leave so many I love here and there are so many precious (as well as difficult) memories, I feel the Spirit’s guidance and commendation on this new chapter. Through my wonderful realtor (Kristen), I found the perfect place, ten minutes from her family, that fulfills more wishes for a home than I could imagine. Small enough to be cozy but large enough to host friends and family, full of character and charm, near water and town, and full of so many other “hugs” from God. And, to top it off, there is a studio apartment next to the house—the perfect place for Jacob. We are both excited about our new adventure.

roses in my yard

roses in my new yard, overlooking the park across the street which begins the Riverwalk.

Who knows what all will be written in this new chapter, but with God editing it I am in safe hands. I suppose the upcoming chapters will contain the various genres mentioned above, but thankfully I know how the story ends. Meanwhile, I pray that the heap of living that takes place in my new home will bring joy to many, especially to God. My friend, Susan, who is currently in Connecticut helping her son’s family as he recovers from extensive cancer surgery, rode by my new house while her son was in surgery. Just as she pulled up to my new house, she got the call that the surgery was a success. So, she named my house the “good news house.” I like that name. I think I will stick with that. Please pray for me in this transition as I move to the “good news house.”

150 Naubuc Ave

Mark it Down

This past Saturday marked one year since my amazing husband died. I wondered how the day would feel. Would I celebrate his one-year heavenly birthday, mourn his loss, look at pictures, relive the horrible day, all of the above, or something else altogether? While we commemorate certain holidays, many life transitions (both the encouraging and the oh-so-hard ones) often pass by us unmarked. Un-commemorated. Unconfronted. I believe this often makes transitions more difficult to pass through, leaving us emotionally stuck.

I note in the Bible how often transitions, big and small, were commemorated. Stones of remembrance were stacked. Feasts were held. Garments were torn. Bread was broken. Altars were built. I find it helpful to mark transitions rather than just letting them slide by. It helps me, although I realize that people have different ways of processing transitions. This is not a “one size fits all” thought process.

I knew I did not want to simply dread this one-year anniversary so in preparation, I talked with God about what might be most helpful. Perhaps the Spirit put some thoughts in my head, but by whatever means they arrived, they were helpful. Saturday was deeply meaningful and special.

I considered that as a family it might help us to “mark” the day. So, on Saturday we each took several hours for a spiritual retreat. We went out in nature, Wyndham’s favorite place to be on this side of heaven. God blessed the day with unseasonably warm, gorgeous weather. One of us went to a riverside, another to the cleft in a rock at the reservoir, and several others to the ocean. I went to our special beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea, a place where we had spent many Mondays walking, praying, talking, dreaming, and planning. It felt more inspiring than sad to be there. As I felt the sun warming my face and the waves gently sliding over the sand I sang, listened to spiritual music, read, journaled, prayed, and listened to learn. We all began our times with an intent to still our hearts–to breathe in as we invited the Spirit to fill our hearts and breathe out the distractions and anxieties. It is truly hard to be so still of heart that we can hear God well. At least it is for me. As we each “retreated,” we reflected and journaled some of the following questions:

  • What do you most remember Papa saying to you that you carry with you? What do you think he would most want to say to you today?
  • What do you think God would want to say to you today?
  • What is at least one way this very hard year has most helped you grow spiritually?
  • What is a scripture or song that has helped sustain you this past year?
  • What are your best memories from this year?
  • What are you most grateful to God for as you think through His work in your life this year?
  • What are a few of your favorite thoughts/hopes about heaven?

This was a helpful, meaningful exercise for me, and for each of us. We also commemorated November 21 as our first annual “Pay it Forward for Papa Day.” In honor of him, we would each decide to do some special good deeds in honor of him. This was fun, meaningful, and fitting.

We ended the night with a several-hour Zoom call where we each shared the meaningful highlights from the day. It was honest, vulnerable, full of laughter, and full of tears. I treasure that time.

I also took a few pictures of my time at the beach. I captured a father and child frolicking hand in hand, sharing pure joy. I felt grateful to have a Father who takes my hand. I accompanied this view with the song “Precious Lord, take my hand…lead me on, let me stand….Through the storms, through the night, lead me on to the light…precious Lord, take my hand, lead me home.” Not sure if the lyrics are correct, but they work for me.

I then saw kayakers set out through the sparkling water to a destination I couldn’t see. This scene reminded me of my new journey…one in which I must trust God because I don’t know exactly where it will take me.

I then noted a young couple who walked toward the water and ever so calmly and gently glided their swimsuit-clad bodies into the ocean without even a second’s hesitation. They walked in as if the ocean was bathwater and floated neck-deep in the frigid 51-degree water. (Yes, I Googled the temperature.) After about ten minutes of their stillness in the water, I lost track of my prayers and tried to remember my college life-saving class techniques just in case I would need to retrieve hypothermic floaters. Fortunately, they calmly and slowly walked back to shore and dabbed themselves with towels. As I had watched them walk into the frigid water without hesitation I thought of the song “Oceans,” and the lyrics spoke to me. Can I walk out that calmly or would I be wailing and screaming with the discomfort?

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.

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.

Though it has been an inexpressibly hard year, perhaps it has been a year where I have grown most. One step at a time. God has greatly blessed me beyond what words can convey. I am deeply grateful. I pray you will have a meaningful Thanksgiving as you count your blessings. 

 

 

Shaken to the Core

It was the summer of 1973, 3:00 am according to the clock on my bookshelf headboard. I awoke to the smell of a cigarette, a man’s voice, and the feel of pressure on my back.

The man spoke, “Don’t scream. I have a knife.” For the next hour, I was shaken to the core, not knowing whether I would be alive by the time the sun rose. I prayed silently. Fervently. I clearly remember thinking that this was the moment every belief I had was tested. I begged God to protect me in this dire situation, but also remembered the words of Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego. I knew God was able to save me, I just did not know if He would. I remember thinking, “Can God really hear me?” I was home for the summer, and my parents were on the other side of the house. My mom was deaf. Besides, if I spoke I had already been threatened with a knife. I completely and deeply felt the presence of God’s Spirit as I prayed and boldly told the man that he would account to God for his actions and he needed to leave. Much conversation ensued. I never saw his face, thankfully. After nearly an hour, he told me he was leaving and did not know why. I knew why. He left, leaving me unharmed. He had planned to do “everything I had ever read about,” according to him. (If you want to hear more of the story, read My Morning Cup. https://ipibooks.ecwid.com#!/My-Morning-Cup/p/64183403)

This was the first time I was shaken to the core. The second time was last fall, watching my husband die after suffering from a cruel neurological disease. I had prayed faithfully and fervently, believing God could heal him. He could. But he didn’t. Here on earth, that is. He suffers no more and is with the Father. It is times like these that cause me to look inside my heart and ask, “What do I really believe?

The days we are presently living are nothing like we have seen in our lifetime. I have experienced some fearful times as I practiced “Cold War” drills by hiding under my school desk in case an atomic bomb hit (like that would help). I experienced turmoil during the Vietnam War era and 9/11, but I never sent my husband or children off to war. My life has been fairly comfortable, especially compared to many. COVIC-19 has stalled our world, and isolation offers a time to evaluate and determine our deepest core convictions.

This week I am preparing to turn in my final project as I finish my Master’s program. In a small portion of that project, I state my core convictions in eight areas of life including faith, emotions, relationships, finances, health, etc. Each conviction is accompanied by scripture, a goal, and a person to whom I will be accountable. It has been a wonderful exercise which I recommend.

This pandemic has shaken the world’s value system to the core. Thankfully, some values are emerging that have previously felt lost.  Prayerfully, this situation has revealed your solid, faith-filled convictions. How is your faith? What do you really believe? Do you truly believe this world is not your home? Do you really believe Jesus rose from the dead and is returning? Do you really believe the only treasures of importance are those we store in heaven? Do you really believe Jesus hears your prayers and will be with you? Do you believe that the Scriptures can show you God, teach you how to please Him and how to love each other? If we believe these things, our contentment will be real. Our hope will make us resilient despite circumstances. Inner peace and steadfast joy cannot be taken from us.

I feel like my last few years, in many ways, have been a training ground for today’s pandemic. I have seen suffering and death “up close and personal” and have been tethered to home for several years. God has stayed close with me in the suffering and He promises to be close to all who are His. Because God lives with me, inside of me, I am never alone and I have something of great value to share with those around me.

My minister and friend, Michael Lamb, shared a quote from Charles Spurgeon that resonates with me. Spurgeon said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” Can you kiss the waves? The Rock of Ages brings comfort, peace, and joy amidst the waves. I am grateful. I will find that sweet spot in the curl of the wave, riding it all the way to shore.

 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Ps 16:7-8)

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah (Ps 62:5-8)

For reflection: What are your core convictions? Try writing them down and accompany them with scriptures. It’s best to know them well before they are tested. If we lack them, we can find and grow them. If our convictions are not solid, we will crumble. If they are solid, we cannot be shaken.

 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,…(Heb 12:27-28)

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 105

Wisdom and Vulnerability

Memories fill my head and heart as I look across my room and smile, as we enjoy the pleasure of the company of a dear friend. It’s a friendship built over many years of fighting battles together, talking about everything, praying much, sharing joys and laughter, and sharing sorrows and tears. This friend knows pretty much everything about each of us, as do we know him. I reminisce about other dear friends who visited today. Friends who are deeply embedded in our lives. Our kids grew up together and remain steadfast friends, as do we. What a privilege to be deeply involved in one anothers’ lives.

As I attempt to gather my thoughts for a blog, I am struck by the wisdom which comes from vulnerability in relationships. Jesus called his disciples his friends because he held nothing back from them (John 15:15).  God has always intended us to grow through relationships. We cannot practice our relationship with God without true relationships with others. The very nature of God is relational, as revealed by the unity of the three-in-one Father, Son, and Spirit.

Gordon helped both Wyndham and me learn vulnerability about 30 years ago when he and Theresa became our dear friends. Wyndham learned quickly, while I didn’t even understand what vulnerability looked like. You see, I had tried so hard to “do the right thing” throughout my life that I didn’t even know what I felt. What did feelings have to do with anything, anyway? I thought to focus on or express my feelings would be selfish. Also, I didn’t want to mess up, as I didn’t feel that was okay. This way of thinking made me unrelatable, always trying to measure up to earn my worth from God or others. While doing the right thing is a good thing, it’s incomplete and can become the wrong thing when vulnerability is absent. God wants our hearts, no matter how messy. He desires mercy over sacrifice. We can only learn this in the context of relationships.

As I prayed to understand what it meant to be vulnerable, I realized there were specific times in my life when I actually had shared my thoughts and feelings…and it did not go well. I vividly remember as a preteen telling my dad, when I was asked to clean my plate, that the inside gooey part of the tomatoes (that part was left on my plate) made me feel sick to eat. I was very strongly punished for “talking back.” I decided from that day on I would never “talk back,” and that it would be better to gag over the gooey inside of tomatoes or anything else and “stuff” whatever I felt rather than be honest and face consequences. (Everyone has bad days, even wonderful, godly parents.) As an adult, a few significant times when I was honest also did not turn out well, coming back down on my head with a bang. Though these may be small things, they were enough to cause me to zip my heart and my lips. While some people would “fight,” I would shut down. This was not good.

Gordon (and Theresa) were deeply vulnerable in our friendship with them. He showed me how to be vulnerable by doing so. Wyndham made it safe for me to be vulnerable, and God kept putting me in situations where I could either speak up and “swim” or “be silent” and drown. The progress did not come easily. Vulnerability, to me, was like learning a foreign language. I often felt I would rather go throw up than say what I felt, especially if I perceived a person as an authority figure. Often, I had stuffed feelings so deeply I would only come to know what I felt when I prayed, pouring out my heart to God. If I felt something with Wyndham I would often not know how to express what it was, but as soon as we would pray together it would come gushing out, accompanied with tears. I believe this came easiest in prayer because of finally trusting that God wants to know me—in all my ugliness, fears, and uncertainty. I would also tell everyone I talked to that I was trying to learn to be vulnerable, and after conversations asked them how I was doing. I begged God to make this weakness a strength–to be honest and courageous and not leave “elephants in the living room,” but speak the truth in love.

So, as I reflect on these friendships, important relationships in my community, I am ever so grateful for the depth and freedom that comes from vulnerability. I am grateful  Gordon demonstrated this Christ-like quality, and that God helped me learn this foreign language. I am deeply thankful for Wyndham’s wisdom, encouragement, example, and providing me a safe place to be completely vulnerable. I am grateful he has always encouraged me to practice honesty and vulnerability all my relationships. It has made a huge difference in my spiritual growth. I am inspired by his vulnerability, as truly everything in his life now requires intense vulnerability. He has trained for this for years, through the security he knows in God.

It is never to late to learn the language of vulnerability or even to take refresher courses. However, we must be truly engaged in a spiritual community to grow in this area. Wisdom learns vulnerability.

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.

(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 59

Wisdom Doesn’t Know What to Do

Wisdom means we always know what to do, right?

I don’t think so. In fact, wisdom knows that we often face circumstances and situations when we have no idea what to do.

That’s why wisdom prays.

In 2 Chronicles 20, the men, women, and children of Judah stood watching their King Jehoshaphat. Their land was being invaded. They looked to their leader to learn his well-thought-out plan of action. Yet, Jehoshaphat had no idea what to do to help his people. He had no answers.

In having no answers, he had THE answer.

He turned to God. He reminded God of his promises as he prayed:

Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 

                                                                                                (2 Chronicles 20:12)

Wisdom doesn’t have to know what to do. Wisdom must know where to turn. Jehoshaphat displays great wisdom while not knowing what to do.

Wyndham has consistently set an example for me, and for our family by NOT always knowing what to do—yet always knowing who to turn to. You see, prayer is not merely something we do to check off our spiritual activities for the day. Prayer is dependence on God. Prayer is desperation. Prayer is relationship. Prayer is essential. Prayer is trusting even when we have no idea what to do next. Wyndham likes to begin and end the days with prayer. He would begin vacation times with prayer, begin car rides with prayer–even fishing trips with prayer. When he would visit with someone he would ask to pray with them, and when someone visits us he wants to pray with them.

We began praying with our kids when they were newborns, and we still pray with them. We love to pray with our grandchildren, because we, like their parents, long for them to know the Presence of God.

One of Wyndham’s favorite scriptures is in Exodus 33. Moses is faced with the “I don’t know what to do or where to go” dilemma. So—he prays.

Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’
If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
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. (Exodus 33:12-15)

Wisdom knows that when God’s Presence is with us… we will be okay.

If God’s Presence is not with us, we can have all kinds of fabulous or not so fabulous ideas and plans…but we had best not move forward.

God with us, God’s presence, God’s wisdom—is everything.

Wisdom prays.

I took this picture a few nights ago because it’s a common scene. Whenever Sam comes (a couple times a week) to help with some of the routines like showers and getting Wyndham into bed this scene is familair– Sam praying with his dad last thing at night. (I have also learned that he and our daughters pray by phone together very early in the morning once a week.) No one asked them to do this. They have learned wisdom, because they don’t know what to do.

We can’t fix our situation. We don’t know what to do. But our eyes our on him.

God’s Presence is what really matters.

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 45

Wisdom Trusts

Jacob: You know Dad, I could lift you much easier if you would let go of the bar.

Wyndham: Sorry, I keep forgetting to let go.

Jacob: Dad, you can let go. I will never, ever drop you.

They laugh. I turn my head to hide the mist forming in my eyes.

The guys were kind enough to humor me with a picture.

“I will never, ever drop you.”

A tender moment. A big lesson. A profound expression of love and trust.

It takes trust, a whole lot of it, to let go of control—in transfers, and in life. The transferee (Wyndham) has absolutely no control over these moves, and is at the mercy of those transferring him.

The three of us—Wyndham, Jacob, and I meet for “transfer tasks” several times a day. I can no longer accomplish these by myself, so Jacob has arranged his schedule to be available to help us. He is exceptionally strong. We work together any time Wyndham must get from his bed or chair to anywhere else. Wyndham assists as much as he can, pulling himself forward to be lifted while holding on to a grab bar. Jacob can lift him completely, but finds it quite difficult if Wyndham forgets to let go of the grab bar.

Such is life—and trust in God.

Life these days hasn’t gone as planned—or hoped. Trust takes on new meanings—believing God loves us when our prayers aren’t answered the ways we hope.  Learning to trust through adversity stretches our faith and deepens our hope. The scripture expresses this well:

(Romans 5:3-6) 
3  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
4  perseverance, character; and character, hope.
5  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
6  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ …

I hold on to this Scripture. Hope will never disappoint us. Because God has poured out his love.

And…when we are powerless….Christ!

When we realize we are powerless, God takes over as if saying—”son, daughter…I will never drop you.”

13  For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13)

I watch with deep respect as I see Wyndham’s wisdom decide to trust…and let go. He has had to let go of all that was normal and daily for him. In all of this his trust grows. His trust inspires my trust.

When life doesn’t go as planned, and difficulties happen—will you let go of the bar?

When life is going well–will you let go of the bar?

Our grasp for control makes it difficult for God to carry us. He won’t force us. We have to let go. Often this is a struggle, as we learn from the psalms:

 
2  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3  Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
4  my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5  But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6  I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me (Psalm 13:2-6,emphasis added).

When we were powerless…Christ.

God is big enough, strong enough, and loving enough to hold us, no matter what.

He tells us, “I will never, ever drop you.”

Wisdom trusts.

______________________________________________________________________

I could fill a daily blog for years with wisdom I have learned from Wyndham. However, I’ll stick with one day a week. Each Wednesday I will share wisdom gleaned, not just from me, but from our family who saw him day and night and from friends near and far whose lives he has touched.

Many of you have already told me you wish to share wisdom you learned from Wyndham. If you wish to contribute to this collection please email me at shaw.jeanie@gmail.com with the subject line—Wednesday Wisdom. If you wish to receive these blogs in your inbox, feel free to sign up to follow the blog.

I’ll look forward to meeting you here on Wednesdays. And if you would, please remember us in your prayers. It’s a privilege to have you in our lives.

 

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 have to layover WHERE?

I won’t mention the company’s name, but suffice it to say it was not named “Competent”.

My request was simple. At least I thought so. Due to recent health challenges (I thank God I’m getting well), my husband and I needed to revise our travel plans. We had been scheduled to go on to Madrid after spending several days in Munich, Germany. This travel was needed for business, but we felt that both legs of the trip (Munich and Madrid) were more than “our legs” could handle. So, the night before we were to leave I called the travel company to cancel the “Munich to Madrid and then back to Munich” portion of the trip. We simply desired to move the date of our Munich to Boston return trip so that we would arrive home a few days earlier than previously planned.

That’s not so hard to understand is it?  Apparently it was. I was on the phone for an hour and a half trying to make this change. Several times, as I was put on hold the call was dropped. And…when I was finally able to request the change, the agent “helping” me was absolutely determined that this change of date required a necessary layover. And…this layover was to be in HONG KONG! Untitled design

I explained to this agent again and again that the route she was demanding made no sense, given the way the world was put together. I even told her (looking at the company’s web site) that there was nothing on this route remotely resembling her stated necessity. The route did not exist.

She was not moved. She repeatedly stated that an earlier flight back to Boston from Munich was not possible without a layover in Hong Kong…and an additional $11,000.

I wondered if she was also going to suggest that I reserve an oceanfront hotel in Iowa. I would not have been surprised. I told you the company’s name was not “Competent”.

Sigh.

Realizing that this conversation with the agent was going to go nowhere (except Hong Kong) I decided it would be better to initiate this change once we got to Germany. Honestly, I was afraid that if I kept speaking with her our entire flight would be in jeopardy.

Fortunately, upon arrival in Munich the change process was seamless. Our flight was moved up three days and was direct—without a stop in China!

As I recounted this little exchange with the travel agent I had to laugh as I realized this situation was all too analogous to my life. (To be honest, I’ve cried more than laughed so it was nice to laugh.) Lately, I have felt that numerous situations in life have been rerouted against my wishes—and I’ve often felt that the rerouting has not made sense. In my mind there is a simple and direct route to my life’s “destinations”…and then someone says I must layover in China? Really?

The layover is not efficient, sensible or even fathomable to my imagination.

While I did have the choice to decline the proposed airline route with the layover in Hong Kong, I can’t always refuse to go places life takes me. Sometimes the routes of our lives travel in directions we don’t want to go and which don’t make sense to us. They may involve layovers we neither want nor expect and cost more than we desire to pay. With each “change in reservations” life hands me, I must trust that God knows what he is doing and that I am safe in his care. I really am.  And he really does care.

And, I must remember that I always have a choice in how I respond to the rerouting. God is a really good travel agent. In fact, he is a perfect travel agent. He sees things I can’t see, and often “allows” me to go places I don’t wish to go. He also keeps me from places I intended to go when they aren’t best for me.

I am sure of these two things, though I must at times remind myself:

God is better at directing my life than I am.

God always acts in love, because that is who he is.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD‘s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21  

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9 

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:16-18 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:28-31