Reset 2- New Beginnings

This Sunday morning, just like every Sunday morning, my husband and I got up and ventured off to our local Church congregation for the weekly service. It’s something I appreciate all the more since the Covid 19 outbreak. I sorely missed being “in the house” for a time of worship with the worship band and time in the word. The message today has been percolating in my heart. Probably since it reinforced my ponderings on “The Reset” I’ve been pursuing as of late. The ending of the service was a time of reflection on the times God has stepped in. You know when life appeared to be going one directions with a certain expectation of a bad outcome, and then God changed things. It may have been a time of financial uncertainty, emotional unrest, relationship turmoil, etc. Most certainly it has been a time of great darkness, sadness, pain, etc. The kind of time when there really was no way out. That’s the time the “reset button” of “New Beginnings” is pushed. God has a promise that has brought much comfort to me through the years. His promise is that He “makes all things new”. Revelation 21:5. That is a promise that I have had to dig my fingernails into and hold on with all my might at times. Because as one who has struggled with the monsters of the past lurking in the closet of my mind, that promise assures me the closet they have occupied has it’s light turned on, monsters evicted, and the New Beginning begun.

A few years ago I went in for my first session with a Christian Counselor to aid in my fight against anxiety and depression. The first thing she was quick to point out was how the battle in the mind has it’s rubber hit the road in the thoughts we think. It’s hard, but totally possible to change our focus from all the fear, pain, sadness, etc. to the things that are “True…Noble… Right… Pure… Lovely…Admirable…Excellent… or Praiseworthy.” and for us to “Think on these things.” Philippians 4:8 Then with a reassuring smile, she handed me a sheet of confessions of who I am in Christ, and assigned me with the task of speaking these truths out loud every morning. It has been a daily reminder of the “Reset Button of New Beginnings” I pushed so many years ago as a teenager at a Christian youth camp. When I asked God to take what little I had to offer, my life, and do whatever He wanted with it. The New Beginnings began. Looking back I can see that the hard times were the times that pushed me closer to Him, and the reminder of all that I wasn’t, brought the truth of all that He is and wants to be for me.

The “Reset Button of New Beginnings” starts with the first push “Salvation”. It’s the time when we see just how much what we are doing isn’t working, and just how much What He can do in us we need. It starts with an honest talk with God, an offer to give Him all of you, and watching Him do what only He can do, “Reset” your life.

Psalm 40 has been one of my favorite Psalms in the Bible. Verses 1-5 stand out the most to me. “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him. Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.” The New Beginning I have found has been when God saw where I was, heard my cries, and pulled me out. But He didn’t stop there. He set me in a good secure place and gave me a new song to sing about Him and His Goodness! I Am Not There Anymore!! That is the Philippians 4:8 stuff I am to think about. The Truth is I am His! The Noble thing Is I am the Kings Daughter! The Right thing is I have been made right with Him- righteous! The Pure thing is Me after He cleansed me from my wrong doings and sin and made Pure. The Lovely thing is Me, His master piece! The Admirable thing is the Miracle of New Beginnings He gives! The Excellent thing is His work in me! And the Praiseworthy thing is that He has done all this because He loves me, period.

That is the “Reset Button” He has given to me. That is the “Reset Button” He has given to you! Hit activate! He longs to bless you with “New Beginnings”!

Manasseh and Ephriam- The Goodness of God

My husband and I have taken up a new reading plan on the Bible App as of late called “Reading the Bible in Historical Sequence Part 1”. It’s one of those read the Bible in a year deals, but this time it’s arranged everything according to the Chronological order of events. We’ve hit the story of Joseph. One of my favorite characters in the Bible. He’s one of those people that I can look at and say “Look at all he went through. He had it a lot worse than I ever have and yet he remained true to God.” His story of abuse, false accusations against him, unjust judgements and unwarranted punishments, yet God’s continued favor towards him in the midst of his suffering speaks volumes to anyone, which I would imagine it would be everyone, who has ever walked through some hardships.

As I was reading this morning these verses jumped off the page/screen at me. I’m sure I’ve breezed by them time after time when I’ve read this story, but today it struck home.

https://www.bible.com/app

(Check it out! It’s a life changer!!)

“Joseph had two sons born to him before the years of famine came. Asenath, daughter of Potiphera the priest of On, was their mother. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh (Forget), saying, “God made me forget all my hardships and my parental home.” He named his second son Ephraim (Double Prosperity), saying, “God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow.”” Genesis 41:50-52 The Message

Joseph had endured all the things I listed above, but when God had finally brought him to the place that unbeknownst to him, would be his defining moment as a hero of Bible history- the man second in command to Pharaoh and the rescuer of God’s people (his family) from a famine, he was blessed with a couple of sons. Joseph named his sons “Forget” and “Double Prosperity”. Kind of odd names if you think about it, but names that made a statement. “God has made me forget all my hardships and my parental home.” and “God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow.” Joseph looked at his newborn baby sons with the awe and love that any new father would have and reflected on where he had been and where he was now.

I wonder how often Joseph thought of how unfair his situations were and how much had been taken from him as he worked as a slave in Potipher’s house. I wonder how many restless nights he may have spent remembering being thrown into a pit, sold to strangers, accused by his master’s wife, thrown into prison, on and on. Could he have had moments waking from nightmares of the ordeal he suffered? Or flashbacks of the horror? Yet in all that God had brought him out into a place of great blessing. He could “forget”/ leave behind the hurt and enjoy the “double prosperity” of his new life.

High school years were not among my favorite. I can remember a night that I broke down into tears over a broken car horn on my car. I told my dad how much I hated school, honors society tree planting (another story), etc. He told me, “I hated my teen years too, I don’t know why people always say these are the best years of your life. Mine have been since I married your mother and had you kids.” That stuck with me. I’ve even quoted that to my own kids as they have walked through that awkward time. There are some time periods of life that are just hard, maybe even traumatic, but I’ve found as Joseph and my dad did that better days truly were ahead.

Last night my son, his wife, and our grandbaby came over for dinner. We have 22 acres for roaming on, so my daughter in love asked if I would mind watching my grandson for a little while as she and my son went out to explore it. “Are you kidding? I’d love too!! When are you all heading out?” I sat in my rocker/recliner holding the sleepy 3 month old as he squeezed my finger, staring in his face. Then it occurred to me once again, just like Joseph did looking at his sons, “I have been blessed far beyond anything I could have imagined. Here I sit holding my son’s son. He’s beautiful. I can forget the long struggle it took to get here, because I am blessed with double prosperity where I am.”

Every once in awhile I feel like I almost need to pinch myself. I have a nice home, nice car, my needs met, sweet kids, a beautiful grandbaby, and a smoking hot husband (no exaggeration there). It’s not exactly where I’ve pictured myself being when I walked through the hard times of life and lived in the struggle. But I have been blessed. God has been good to me.

Understanding this and remembering it when the winds of adversity blow is a key to remaining in joy. I guess that’s why remembering the good and being thankful is so important. A practice that I would do good to diligently attend to.

Pain into Pulpit

 

Four years ago my Mother in Love became sick.  We discovered after a hospital stay with complete renal failure that she had Multiple Cell Myeloma.  Months later she went to the city to have a stem cell transplant at one of the nation’s leading hospitals. Her time there was as she has described it her time of “being the closest I’ve ever been to death.”  In the four years since it’s not been an easy road for her.  Monthly and sometimes weekly or more appointments at the Cancer Center, changes in treatments, side effects in medicine, sleepless nights, and sometimes just feeling plain old crappy.

Yesterday, she calls me after returning home from another appointment with some good blood report readings and some not so good.  She relays all that, but then begins to share about a woman that sat by her in the waiting room, probably in her 30’s, recently diagnosed, and scared.  You’d have to know my Mother in Love.  She’s never ever really met a stranger. So she strikes up a conversation with the girl, and then begins to take the pain that she has walked in for these past four years and turns it into a pulpit.  She shared about how God saw her through treatments, transplants, radiation, sickness, it all.  She talks about how faithful and close He is, how much He loves, and how much He loves that girl and that she doesn’t have to be afraid.  Then my spunky 73 year old Mother in Love goes through the rest of her appointment and drives home, a challenge for her but as I tell her jokingly, frequently, “She’s a tough old bird.”

I was out running errands for her today, and thinking about all this and some of the personal challenges I have faced and am currently facing in my life.  Then this verse from Philippians 1 crossed my mind. “…Everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit!” Philippians 1:20 The Message.  It occurred to me that a stranger sitting next to my Mother in Love in a Cancer Center is probably feeling things pretty close to what a Centurion Soldier in Paul’s time must have felt chained up next to Paul. You either love it or hate it, but you for sure are going to hear about Jesus and everything He’s done. Paul reports to the Philippians that during his time in prison he has told everyone around him that he could about Jesus.  Many in his captive audience wanted to know more about this Jesus that turned Paul’s life upside down and changed a persecutor of Christians to a preacher of Christ.  Although beatings, chains, dirty prisons, poor food, and fellowship with rough cut prison guards were Paul’s daily life, he had taken all this and turned his pain into a pulpit at which he proclaimed the Goodness and the Love of God.

For four years my husband and I had been involved in a ministry called Encounter Ministry.  Every month they have had a weekend get away at a small rural church campground.  People from many different denominations of the Church come.  There are several sessions about different topics that typically start with a testimony of what God has done in the life of someone who has struggled.  I’ve heard women at the Ashes to Beauty Encounters speak about losing husbands, children, drug addiction, porn addiction within their home, marital unfaithfulness, PTSD, suicidal intentions, abortions,depression, anxiety, abuse- verbal, physical, mental, and sexual, etc. They talk about how they had suffered such great loss and pain yet they have found peace, joy, love, forgiveness, etc. in Jesus and how much He has changed their lives.  Once again they have taken their pain and turned it into a pulpit to declare a God who understands our weaknesses and wants to reach in and raise us above them.

I’m certain that life in Jesus  is a series of victories over struggles. I know I won’t totally arrive until I arrive i.e. see Jesus face to face.  I have been very aware, as of late, of some of the hard things I have had to walk through in my life.  I know several people who become aware of that and then freeze only to be stuck in the Pain.  I was praying about this as I drove from point A to point B on my outing today.  Suddenly it occurred to me, “What if the hell we experience here on earth, the teeth gritting hard stuff, are the very things that enable us to help some one experience the eternity of heaven?”  My mother in love has not enjoyed the pain of sickness, but what if all that was to reach that young woman at the cancer center with heaven’s hope in eternity for her? Paul didn’t enjoy the things he suffered, but what if the hellish torment he endured was the very thing that spread the gospel to a descendent of the Europeans that went down the line to finally give hope to a small town American girl, me, in the 80’s? There are countless accounts of martyrs, missionaries, and ministers that have endured much to be able to proclaim loudly from the pulpit built upon their pain.  My resolve must be that “what the enemy meant for evil, God will turn for Good.”  Hoist myself on top of it and proclaim from the very tip of the pain the God who Heals.

I’ve been kind of stuck on a song by Elevation Worship as of late.  It’s called “Graves Into Gardens”.  The chorus says, “You turn graves into gardens. You turn bones into armies. You turn seas into highways. You’re the only one who can… You turn mourning to dancing.  You give beauty for ashes.  You turn shame into glory.  You’re the only one who can.”  This same God who does all these things as we let Him into our lives, is the same God who turns the pain we have walked through into a pulpit. That we can proclaim all that Jesus has done for us.  He’s the only one who can!

“ProcessME” vrs “InstaME”

 

A life with no struggles, wouldn’t that be awesome?  Somehow a segment of the Christian world in America has adopted this view.  If you do struggle, you lack the faith you should have to overcome the obstacle that presents itself to you.  That’s hard news for people who struggle with addictions, anxiety, depression, and other mental issues or even physical issues that have not yet been healed.

I’m not saying that God doesn’t ever set you completely free from the challenges you face, but I am saying if He hasn’t it’s time to let go of the guilt of not being good enough to overcome and trust in a God who may slowly refine us, mold us, and change us into the image He has created us to be.

In the midst of a struggle that I have fought against most of my life, I’m slowly getting an understanding of this.  A friend recently pointed me back to Paul’s quote on his “Thorn in his flesh.” I was talking about my struggle with anxiety and memories of bad times.  She encouraged me to look at these times as an opportunity to praise God for the struggle because it is the very thing that has driven me to my awareness of how much I need Him throughout the years.  As 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 puts it in the Message, it is the very thing that has “pushed me to my knees.”  Had I felt no pain, I would not know the need for God’s healing.  Had I not struggled, I would not know the need for God’s help.  Had I not seen all that I lack, I wouldn’t understand how I am only complete in Jesus.  It is in my understanding of how broken I am that I find my need for Jesus to make me new, and I am able to allow Him to do just that so I can live the life of freedom, peace, and joy He has promised.

Sometimes the process of being chiseled into the Masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10 NLT) that God makes me  uncomfortable, and I cannot in my own strength produce the change that needs to be.  But God Is here with me He doesn’t leave me alone or unfinished.  He completes the good work He begins. (Philippians 1:6)

There’s a skit by The Skit Guys called “God’s Chisel”  I have thought of it often through the years since I saw it first.  I’m kind of fond of “InstaME”  instantly I am everything I wished I could be, perfect teeth, hair, mood, etc.  But that simply isn’t reality.  I am “ProcessME”.  One lesson at a time learned, one battle at a time fought and with Christ won, One area of struggle resolved at a time as I learn to walk in victory.  “ProcessMe” is began when I begin my life in Christ and He begins to slowly change me and strengthen me to make what I was meant to be all along.  It may take time and involve struggle, but as I learn to turn these things over to Him one struggle at a time, I find myself free.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 MSG “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

 

Enough Already…

I’m about done with this whole Quarantine deal. We’ve been at it for about 4 weeks I believe and are only about half done. Although I’m not really sure half done is accurate. It may be more…

I’ve been doing all the “right stuff”. Exercising, projects around the house, gardening, going outside, spending time in prayer and meditation. Honestly, the pressure from the changes of my life are starting to get to me. It occurred to me last Saturday after a day of straightening my pantry, cleaning out cabinets, and probably the most shocking thing to me- alphabetizing my spices (Not a natural organizer, never done before). It hit me… “Enough Already”. I’m tired of this change. I’m tired of the nightly news. I’m tired of the conspiracy theories. I’m tired of trying to get up, show up, and continue doing the same thing over and over again like I’m living the movie “Groundhog’s Day”. And honestly, unlike the majority of this world I really don’t even have it that bad. I’ve got room to roam out in my little corner of the world. Death rates are low, and so far the financial impact of this has been minimal to my family, with exception of a bigger grocery bill. So throw a little guilt on top of all the other emotions I’ve been feeling…”Enough Already”.

Usually at this point in my blog entries I make the turn towards the light at the end of the tunnel, or the deep spiritual point I’m trying to convey begins to become more clear. But if I’m honest, I’m not quite sure how to make the turn this time or turn on the light switch that makes the light at the end of the tunnel appear. Right now the light doesn’t seem to be there, and the point seems to be hidden from me. Not exactly the best place to be, or is it?

It’s times like these in my life that I appreciate David’s Psalms he wrote. I can go to the Bible and see that on its pages are feelings similar to mine. Psalm 13:1-5 The Message expresses these sentiments.

“Long enough, GOD — you’ve ignored me long enough. I’ve looked at the back of your head long enough. Long enough I’ve carried this ton of trouble, lived with a stomach full of pain. Long enough my arrogant enemies have looked down their noses at me.Take a good look at me, GOD, my God; I want to look life in the eye, So no enemy can get the best of me or laugh when I fall on my face.”

David is saying the equivalent of “Enough Already”. That gives me hope. David saw situations that surpass my temporary inconveniences that aggravate me. He lived through situations some placed upon him without his ability to control, others from bad choices he made. He found God someone He was able to run to and pour out the feelings of his heart without fear. God loved his honesty calling David “a man after His own heart.”

Honesty, laying it out to God is the best policy. He knows it all anyway because He sees what’s in our hearts. If I am afraid, if I am discouraged, if I am angry, if I am… God knows. I am assured of that. Not only does He know, He listens, and He cares. I can take my “Enough Already” to Him, and soon I will find as David did that God hears and He answers. The last two verses of Psalm 13 MSG declares just that. “I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms— I’m celebrating your rescue. I’m singing at the top of my lungs, I’m so full of answered prayers.” I can look back on some of the darkest times in my life and see now how God was at work. It may have taken time, but He turned it all around, as God promised in His word: “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.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There I’ve found it again. “The light at the end of the tunnel”, the “deep spiritual point” I can make.

I may currently have the feelings of “Enough Already” rolling around inside of my heart and mind, but God… God is exactly that. He is “Enough Already” for me. He will not leave me here. I may not see the changes that put my world back to where it was before Covid 19. But I will see God’s Goodness in my life as I continue to run with my “Enough Already” to Him.


Lessons Learned: the Birds, the Flowers, and a Stare Down With a Deer

What a evening for a sunset walk! It felt so good to listen to the birds singing as I walked by our pond. It reminded me of when I was a kid and went fishing at my Grandma’s Pond. Such a happy place of peace. As I strolled by our garden plot and looked over the fence to the Federal Forest land. I saw a deer watching me from a distance. So I decided to watch it. I’ve never really been in a staring contest with a deer before until tonight, and I have to admit. The deer won. It hit me as I watched the birds flying overhead and listened to the animal sounds. These animals don’t have a care. They do what they need to do for today and they don’t worry about tomorrow. Jesus talked about this very thing. He talked about how the birds don’t plant fields or store food in barns. Yet God takes care of them, and the beautiful flowers of spring and summer don’t work hard to clothe themselves. God does and He dresses them magnificently. He talked about how we aren’t to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has enough worries of its own. If God has the birds and the flowers, and my stare off challenging deer, He has me.

My staring contest opponent

It’s Tuesday and it’s already been a week. I am fully aware of how blessed I am to be where I am during our national crises. But it is still hard not to let fear, anxiety, and worry creep in. I had to make a journey to town today. (Not that far away. Just 8 miles.) My daughter who is staying with us has a bad tooth ache. I was blessed to get ahold of our dentist, who called her out an antibiotic for the infection. It’s kind of unnerving not feeling like you can just take her to the local walk in clinic and have it looked at whenever you need to. Now it feels like a life and death endeavor. As I drove through town, our town had a large sign informing the residents of the Covid-19 threat. Displayed for all to see at the only roundabout in town. We’ve had an outbreak here. Not a whole lot of cases, but for a small town, too many. I’ve never been germ conscious in my life. But today I was not pleased to touch the gas pump handle, and pick up some necessary items at a local store. Not to mention go through a drive thru pharmacy window to pick up my daughter’s RX. Even though my social isolation with my husband and three of our kids hasn’t been that bad, (actually at times it feels like a vacation) I’m starting to feel the fear and paranoia of touching things in public and running the necessary errands. I have contemplated the hardships in New York as they struggle with their outbreak, Italy, and others. Then the weight of the heart break a family we are friends with as they struggle with the possibility of losing their husband, son, and dad as he fights to stay alive in the hospital 30 miles from my home. (Not covid related). So much weight…

Thus the walk… blue skies with light fluffy clouds and my prayer floats up too. “God everything seems to be just going on as normal. These are the same things I saw, the same sounds I heard a year ago this time on the walk I did back then. Nature has no idea the hardship and pain in our world right now. It just goes on.” Birds are preoccupied with singing and finding a worm here and there, and my deer friend: he’s concerned about whether a middle aged woman could be fast enough to bolt across a field and catch him so he’s going to keep an eye on me. All living in the moment. All taken care of by something much bigger than themselves, God.

What about me? The weight of the events that surround my heart could easily smother me if I let them. But I know I need to leave them in bigger hands than I have. My running ahead trying to figure out how this will all end up is futile. My looking back at how I could have, should have, would have done better at sanitizing everything around me is probably futile as well. Although I am a proponent of doing what you can.

Somewhere along the way I have got to just trust. I have to know that the same God that orchestrates the seasons, watches the animals scurry, and keeps the planets in their orbit so we don’t end up in an interplanetary marble game, with us riding on the blue and white ball. He’s the same God who numbers the hairs on my head (which happens to be a lot, thick hair) and watches me when I wake and when I lay down to rest. He will take care of me. He loves me. He has the current events. I must keep my eyes on Him and trust Him.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:26-31, 33-34‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Is Jesus Enough?

What a week!  News nationally, state wide, and locally has gone from bad to worse.  Our small town that seemed to be so isolated from it all has developed five local cases of Covid-19.  I took comfort thinking, “At least I don’t live in the big city…” Now not so much any more…

Last night we decided to video chat with some friends we used to have a home fellowship with on Messenger. It was like water to a thirsty soul.  For about 15 min or more we laughed at each other as we, a group of 40’s/ 50’s year old’s, tried the different effects out and lamented how we wished there was an app for playing “Village Idiot” card game so we could play once again together.  It felt good to look at the faces of friends we have been doing life with for years, some of them for almost 20 years. After a while we started asking each other how they were holding up.  In our group, we have a pharmacist, a nursing director for a nursing home, a nuclear professional, a building contractor, and a couple of stay at home moms.  My heart ached as we talked about the fear people have and the measures we have had to go to in order to try to slow the spread of this dreadful disease.  My friend who worked in the nursing home talked about how they have had to limit the old people to their rooms in hopes of isolating them better, families bringing dry erase markers and playing tic tac toe outside of their windows and exchanging smiles.  My friend who works at the pharmacy talked about the extra orders of medicine and the lack of Tylenol for people who actually have something else, like the flu because of the panic buying.  We rounded off our evening with praying for each other and specific situations we are aware of, such as a mutual friend in the ICU currently hanging on to his life while his wife is praying not only for him to live, but that sh0e won’t have to leave his side because of Covid-19 protocol that has to be enacted.  Hard times…

As I laid my head on my pillow last night, I kept hearing the words, “Is Jesus Enough?” rolling around in my head.  It seems quite unfair for all these bad events to culminate at once, and these are just the few I know of in my little corner of the woods.  The more I thought about those words, “Is Jesus Enough?” The more I concluded, “Oh yes Lord, I know you are more than enough.”
Although these are crazy/ hard times, I have seen crazy/ hard times before.  At age 21, I lost a precious friend in a tractor accident while working at a church camp.  The very camp I came to know Jesus in.  I’ve watched loved ones suffer as cancer slowly, but really not so slow, took it’s toll on their bodies.  I’ve experienced the pain of miscarriage, loved ones deaths, limiting illnesses of those close to me, friends struggling with infertility, unfair abuse being heaped upon the innocent, etc.  And in each of those situation, I have seen Jesus be enough. 

My first and only experience with watching someone die has been my father in law.  For a little over a year,  he suffered as an aggressive form of prostate cancer ravaged his body, but with each visit, even up to his very last he never failed to grab ahold of us and pray for God to bless us. On his last day, I sat by him on his bed. As I watched him gasping for breath and then breathing so shallow, I saw him utter words after a complete day of saying nothing and showing no response. Moments before he took his last breaths. He suddenly began to speak, “Jesus… Jesus… Jesus…” and then he was gone.  It was in that moment that I felt something that I’ve never felt so strong.  It was God’s presence in the room.  The most heartbreaking, gut wrenching moment of our lives was made peaceful by a moment and a truth that is engraved in my heart. “Jesus is enough.”

I am a creature of comfort.  I would rather laugh, than cry.  I don’t enjoy pain. I have no desire to walk through difficulty, but I know that no matter what may come in the days, weeks, months ahead, “Jesus is enough.”

Psalm 16 has been rolling around in my heart today.  “Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.  I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing… Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.”” This Psalm was written by David.  David was a man that God describes as a man “after God’s own heart.”  David pursued a relationship with God.  He wrote many songs and poems expressing His love for God, at times rejoicing, at times lamenting, at times happy, at times sad.  David expressed it all.  He had times of great victory and times of great defeat, times of overwhelming joy and times of overwhelming grief.  But in it all He said, “God you are my portion.”  “You are my everything.”  David didn’t allow fear to rule over him because he had confidence that he would see God’s goodness.  I can be confident of the same.

Things may go well,this virus quickly passes by, and my life returns to normal.  Or, things may never be the same, pain, sickness, and death may come to me or those around me, but I have this confidence, “My Jesus is Enough!”

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I am practicing social isolation with four others, my husband and kids ages 16-21, here in a home that a few months ago seemed too big for us because it was often empty as we all ran our different directions living our lives. Now it seems too small as we all hunker down in one place together and it continues to rain outside… To lighten the mood we have posted some crazy videos of us singing “La Bamba” and rapping a rap I wrote 30 years ago in college about accidently hitting a cat with a car: Purely a joking/ crazy song intended for laughter, not violence against kitties.  (I have one I dearly love living in my house right now.)

I’ve posted these videos on Facebook and had friends from decades ago, laughing and sharing crazy stories of fun times passed by.  It was one comment that my cousin I haven’t seen in years stuck out to me as I laughed at the different replies.  “Had to share your post with pride– this is history and you are handling it with some awesome sauce instead of panic that is out there.  Making the best out of our situation.”  I thought about what she said, and contemplated what has made the difference.  Once again I come back to the answer of why I can have peace and joy in the midst of times of fear and sadness.  Jesus is enough!

(I’ve not really went here before on my blog, because I usually write as a therapeutic aid to my soul.  But I want you to know you too can experience this hope, peace, and joy. I would be happy to point the way and pray for you in the things you are facing.)

 

The Unchanging God in Uncertain Times

I’m not a fan of change big or small. I’m the kind of person that would happily leave my furniture in the same arrangement for 12 years. I’m a big fan of stability and consistency, and for the past couple of years, especially the recent week, my life has been anything but that. My plans, my schedule, my daily routine: all up in smoke… I’ve been left sitting here this morning talking to God about it all.

I would probably say the biggest upheaval in my life, until the past 2 weeks, had been 9/11. It all occurred at a time when I had three kids ages 1, 3, and 6. The uncertainty of war, terrorist attacks, the presence of evil in my world, etc. Left a young mother of three afraid, but trying to hold it together and not let it show. I knew I had a job at hand, raising my kids, and I would need to carry on no matter what was my adversity that had arisen.

The upheaval since the corona virus has rivaled, if not surpassed that. Except now I am a mother of three young adults and a sixteen year old. We are all old enough to hear the news, talk to our peers, and observe our world. It’s easy to see and feel the uncertainty of this hour. Three of those kids are at home riding out the initial storm for the next 3 weeks or more. It’s an adjustment. We’ve probably not seen this kind of together time since the head lice outbreak when they were young. Ha ha. So this leads me back to my current situation of uncertainty, instability, and change. Pressure…

Last night as I scrolled through Facebook, I noticed a post of a young mother about the age I was when 9/11 happened. She said, “I was surprisingly doing a really great job of holding it together. Now, however, I am panicking. What are we to do?” It brought me back to that Tuesday night almost 19 years ago. How I felt the weight of taking care of my family, protecting my kids, and trying to survive. If I am truthful, I feel the same weight again today. I spent a lot of time crying and praying back then, it would probably do me some good to spend time doing the same now.

When everything is good, and I am enjoying the wealth and prosperity of the country I love, It’s easy to get up and show up. When everything is uncertain, not so much. That’s where God comes in. It is good to remember that He is the God who sees me. He sees me where I am, and no storm whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual can cloud His ability to see me, His child. He has not “left the building” so to speak. He is very present. He is very near.

My social life may be limited, my schedule turned upside down, my future uncertain, and my current living situation totally rearranged: God, however, has never changed. He has never left me. He has not abandoned His plans for me. These plans include a “future and a hope”. So I can trust all this to Him, and get to the business at hand: Finding His joy in my new set of circumstances, and shining His light in the clouds of uncertainty.

Which is why I wrote this Blog today. It’s probably very natural to feel fear in the face of the turbulence we are in. But our God is supernatural. He is above the storm. I want to let you know I’ve found peace in our current troubles. It is in knowing an Unchanging God, who sent Jesus to give us life beyond the temporary life here. The Holy Spirit in us provides the friendship that no quarantine can challenge. It is this God that gives the certainty of His love in uncertain times, and I am sure that 19 years from now, just as it is almost 19 years ago when 9/11 happened. We will look back at these times and be able to speak of His faithfulness to the younger generations that did not walk through the Covid-19 pandemic just as I can speak of God’s faithfulness during the uncertainty of the days after 9/11. Because God’s friendship is truly closer than a brother, and He will see us through it all. Trust in Him.

Nothing But Blue Sky Above the Storm

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2 NIV

Wow! What a week! At the beginning of the week, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a meme that said, “Time change, a full moon, Friday the 13th…What could possibly go wrong?” I laughed at the pile of superstitions heaped onto one week, and scrolled on. I don’t believe that any of that had any weight to bear on where we are after this week of frightening announcements and unprecedented actions of our leaders. Gazing at the “natural realm” after the past week could make it quite possible for a person to be left shaking in their boots. But I can assure you that when I laid my head on my pillow last night I slept with perfect peace. Because I am assured that my God is in absolute control, and I know He cares for me.

I’ve openly shared in this blog that I struggle with the thoughts in my mind.  I think that’s pretty common for the human condition. It’s a struggle that I have, at times, felt very defeated in. I have tried so many different techniques to try to conquer the fears, anxiety, and at times torments that have existed in my mind. Some successful, some not so much… Recently, I have been approaching the fight with an all weapons out approach. Everything from uplifting music, self-care, and exercise, to Bible meditation, Bible study, prayer, counseling, etc. It really seems to help. One of the videos I watched recently on focusing our thoughts has had a profound impact on me.  Especially after taking the little gem of information it held and combining it with what the Word of God says.  

The video pointed out how our minds are like the blue sky. Occasionally we see a peaceful little cloud float by and that doesn’t bother us so bad because we can still see the blue.  However, there are times that storms rage and it seems the blue sky has disappeared, but just like an airplane can rise above the storms and see the blue again we know the blue is always there.  

I like this illustration better when I put God into the equation.  My mind focused on Christ is like the blue sky.  It’s the mind “set on Christ, Things above.” Occasionally cute little white clouds float by and get my attention.  They may be daily interactions with loved ones that are seemingly unspiritual, enjoying a cookie, laughing at a funny meme on Facebook etc.  I notice them, but over all the blue sky (Jesus) is the main focus of my mind.  Occasionally a storm starts to blow.  As it comes in, I find myself unable to see the blue sky (Jesus) and focus on it.  I know deep in my heart He is there somewhere.  But the Holy Spirit has given me the power to rise above the storm of my mind. He is the airplane that can help me to fly above the clouds and once again see the blue sky, Jesus, having confidence that the storm will pass in time.  But HE, Jesus, the blue sky will never leave me. 

I went grocery shopping Thursday morning, as the fears of COVID 19 were starting to ramp up in my area of the Nation. I was amazed at the similarities in the over all moods of my co-shoppers that were with me and the moods of the co-shoppers I felt the evening of 9/11/2001 when I went to Walmart, the somberness, anxiousness, etc. It seems that the over all feelings of uncertainty, panic, and being out of control had hit everyone. As I was checking out, I heard an older gentleman talking to his checker and discussing the current situation. After a few words, he said, “We don’t have to fear. God is in control.” He had his mind set on the “Blue sky- Jesus” that reigns above the storm. That impressed upon me the importance of this moment we live in. While talking to my kids that remain at home, trying to give them a sense of stability in a tumultuous week, where their social lives and school lives have been wrought with changes, not to mention, dad coming home to work for several weeks (something they have never seen), I quoted a Bible verse. “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NKJV

This is our time to shine! It is the time I can point out how I have found peace in a mind that struggles. It is a time that I can speak peace to my neighbors, friends, and family that surround me. Jesus is the blue sky above the storm, whether it be anxious thoughts in my mind, or a global pandemic. I can rest in Him. Could I or someone I love suffer in the upcoming weeks? Yes, that is a possibility, but I know that Jesus is the healer. Whether HE steps in a physically heals our afflictions, or I stand face to face with Him in the time of my death. (Not that I’m afraid I’ll get sick and die). I am with Him. I can be at peace. I can let my mind rise above the clouds that try to keep it constrained, and fly high in the blue sky of God’s love knowing that He cares for me. I can be free from fear.

God is Faithful!

The view off my front porch this morning. God’s faithfulness is never ending. As long as I can remember and before, the sun rises and as long as I can remember until I am no more,it will continue. The sun seems pretty faithful. But even it will some day fail. God is bigger than the sun. He made it, and He has set His affections on me and you. So if He is orchestrating the faithfulness of sunrise and sunset, the God who loves us will so much more work in our lives to demonstrate His faithfulness. Trust in Him!