“Falling Into Grace”

It’s a cold, snowy day in my neck of the woods. Too cold for a walk outside and I’m too lazy to go to the Y so the treadmill it has to be. Walking on the treadmill requires something to keep my mind occupied otherwise it is the most mundane of task especially since mine faces a blank wall in my bedroom. Usually I spend my time watching “Garden Answers” YouTube videos so I can dream up new outdoor projects. Or I occasionally crank music as loud as I can through my headphones. Nothing like a good beat and blazing guitars to motivate the 30 minute walk on the “sidewalk that goes nowhere”.

I think it would work…

Today was a perfect day for loud music and the album of choice was “No Name Face” by Lifehouse. The past few days I’ve had one of their songs running through my mind. “Unknown”. The phrase that goes over and over in my head is “I am falling into grace, to the unknown, to where you are, and faith makes everybody scared it’s the unknown they don’t know that keeps me hanging on and on, and on to you.”

Performance based religion, legalism, when you’ve had that wired into your brain it’s hard to see anything else. There have been times that I have been involved in churches that lived and breathed performance… Fear of not being enough has ravaged my mind and heart. I believe the intentions of the people in those churches were very sincere. We wanted to live what the Bible said, and we would do it doggonit… , but sadly it was mainly in our own strength. That is a recipe for disaster. The truth of the matter is there is no system or set of rules, regulations, standards, etc. that will change the heart. Simply said we can’t do it on our own. Somewhere along the line we have to see ourselves rightly, more importantly see God rightly, and “fall into grace”.

Freedom for me hasn’t been in strapping myself to a list of things that I needed to do to be the Christian God wants. It has been in seeing that me, the one God wanted, was wanted when I was at my worst. As the Bible says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. And my value is not in how excellent I can be, it is in being the one God valued enough to pay the ultimate price for, His Son’s life and death on the cross. Nothing has hit me harder than that reality. You don’t pay high prices for things you don’t value. For example: I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t waste my time paying $1000 for a chewed piece of gum on a sidewalk. It has no value to me. I wouldn’t pay a penny either. But I would happily invest $1000 in a hot tub. Actually more than $1000 if I could find one that cheap lol. Anything to warm these chilled Midwestern girl’s bones… (winter blah…) I value the hot tub. It’s worth something to me. In the same way, God saw something worth something in me and paid a price, His Son, to bridge the gap between us so I could be His. That’s Good News.

Yes Please!! This would be so nice right now!!

The issue for me is “falling into grace” is a bit like tandem skydiving with God as my skydiving instructor. Ultimately, when I take the jump out of that plane, I have to trust. I have to trust that God knows what He’s doing. I have to trust that He will do exactly what He said He will do. Here’s the big one… I have to trust that the parachute will open at the right time. As one who is afraid of heights, this whole example would never happen in the real world unless for some reason you got me on a small plane and something went horribly wrong. Then there would be no other option, but to jump and to trust that the Master Jumper was able to rescue me. Here’s the deal, my life, in fact anyone’s life is like the passenger on that “doomed plane’. There’s no turning around the mess I’ve been in in my own strength. It’s only in taking the jump of faith, and holding on to the One who has ahold of me. Nothing I can do or will do at that point changes things because God is the one who gets me safely to where I am going by whatever means He deems necessary to get me there. He does not let go. Thank God.

“Falling into Grace” is really the only viable choice for my heart.. Sitting there when your plane’s going down doesn’t make any sense no matter how scary the options of life may be. Life is a long series of “unknown” circumstances. I just don’t know how it all will turn out. But if I am jumping tandem with God, I know I will arrive,and His Grace will, as the old hymn “Amazing Grace” says, “lead me home”.

Do Not Fret/ Trust

This blog has been my outlet for the past few years. As a habitual “stuffer” I’ve found the best way to get stuff out and let a little pressure off has been to write. I often think of the old pressure cooker my mom used to can vegetables with when I was a kid. The gauge on top would shake and make noises the longer the heat increased and the pressure grew inside until she opened it a little and let the steam out and turned down the heat. Writing is just one of those tools that releases a little of my internal steam and pressure as I live my life day in and day out, amongst many other tools I’ve been developing to deal with anxiety and depression. (exercise, eating right, prayer, meditation, etc.).

I would have to admit this week I’ve been thinking about exactly what I would say to help ease a lot of the tensions I’ve been feeling in my world and let off a little of the internal pressure I’ve been feeling. There are just so many angles and avenues of thought and discussion going on inside of me. Everything from interpersonal interactions, spiritual direction, the political environment as of late, and me knocking on the door of turning 50 years old in a matter of days. It all kind of shakes my internal pressure gauge and feels like something needs to be let out. Thus this blog entry…

I stand in pretty good company when it comes to blogging as a “feelings outlet”. My favorite “feelings blogger”of Biblical times, would be David. The book of Psalms in the Bible are mainly entries written by him as he too wrestled with inner pressures and outer circumstances. Reading his entries gives comfort to me on the regular. David was my kind of guy. He would lay out his feelings in poems, songs, and verses that would always end up concluding that God was the answer for all uncertain times, feelings, and circumstances.

This week, in particular, I’ve been reading and rereading Psalm 37. A Psalm written by an older more experienced David, who had seen a lot.

As a young man, David had worked in the Palace of a spiritually and mentally unstable King, who threw a spear at him. David had been a warrior in battles that had impossible odds (Fully armored giant vrs. slingshot toting Shepherd boy, David). He then found himself chosen and anointed by God to be the king of Israel. Then there’s David’s struggles with sin. David watching his own son turn against him, taking over the Kingdom. David hiding in caves, pretending to be insane to save his own life, the return to his Kingdom, etc. David reflects on all the ins and outs of life. The ups the downs. The good times and the bad. He says this:

“Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Psalms‬ ‭37:1-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:23-25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

A few days ago my 20 year old daughter and I went to the YMCA for our morning walk. She said something that kind of hit me. “Mom, a lot of my friends and the people I follow on Social Media talk about how they wish they had been born in a less complicated time, like the 80’s…” I told her I understood that sentiment. When I was her age, living in the 80’s I wished for a life as simple as the 50’s when my mom was a teen. It’s funny how there really isn’t anything new under the sun. Bad rulers have come and gone. Good ones have too. Times of peace and prosperity and freedom have been around, times more restricted and harsh have been too. But in the end when we stand with God we will be alright. Just like David said, “Evil people and their agendas will come and go. But God takes care of those of us who trust in Him.” It is only a matter of me keeping my eyes on God and staying close to Him in my relationship with Him.

David’s words “Do not fret” are what’s been churning around inside of me. I’m pretty good at fretting. I come by it honestly I guess. But God’s goodness to me proves I can “trust”. Somewhere along the line He is going to work all these things out. He has a plan and He is in control. I just need to keep showing up. Show up in my time with Him, reading His word (the Bible) and praying. Show up in my time with my husband and family. Enjoy them and soak up the gift they are. Show up for my friends, who are God’s gift too. Spend time with them and enjoy them encouraging me while I try to encourage them. Show up for those I don’t know that I’m around. You know… “shine your light”. We have been given God’s love to share. It is the cure for our struggles in the uncertain times. God will take care of His kids. That I can be assured.

David said “I’ve been young and now I’m old. I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken”. God will not leave us alone. Eyes on Him. It will all be alright.

My Next Fifty Years

Oh the joys of social media… Probably one of the main reasons I haven’t dumped Facebook and went back to a flip phone is the Birthday reminders. I am notorious for forgetting birthdays. Ask my husband. His is just two days after mine and I forgot it the first year we were married. Notorious… Anyway, the daily reminders of Birthdays of friends and family has been one of the little gems for my life that Facebook has given me. It also provides opportunity for me to mark my birthday each year. I’m not sure if that’s a little gem or not lol. Each year for as long as I can remember having Facebook, my status on my birthday has been “half way to…”. At 45 I was “Half way to 90”. At 47 I was “Half way to 94”. Well this year I have arrived. I will be “Half Way to 100”. This is probably the best year to stop that practice. My grandpa made it to just a few days shy of 101 and I’m pretty sure 100 years is about as far as I want to go.

Me almost 50 years ago. Lol
Just gotta be me.

All this reflecting on being “Halfway to 100” in a few weeks, has had me thinking about an old Tim McGraw song, “My Next 30 Years”. Here’s a little sample of the lyrics to refresh your memory:

“Oh, my next 30 years I’m gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers, huh
Maybe, I’ll remember my next 30 years”

I’m not a beer drinker, but this song has been rolling around in my head for about a month. It’s a summary of all the things he would do different his next 30 years to get more out of his life. It’s got me thinking… “What would I want to do in my next 50 years?”

Where it all started in my first 20 years .

A majority of my first 50 years have been spent being married and raising a family. Married won’t change but raising a family already has. I’m down to one kid out of 4 that isn’t an adult yet and he’s just one year away from turning into one. So for my next 50 years life is going to be a lot more different than the first 50. My first 50 years I spent a lot of time preoccupied with things that just didn’t matter. Though I tried my hardest, I let the worries and cares around me squeeze out a lot of the daily joys. It’s funny how the little things like time spent playing at the park with my kids really did become the big things. Being busy with silly stuff made me miss some of the most important things during my first 50 years. My next 50 years I want to enjoy the gifts God has given me in my life: my husband, my kids, and my grandkid (grandkids to come). Being present, here and now each day with them… I want to soak up every ounce of joy God gives me with them for my next 50 years.

Somewhere in time during my first 30- 40 years.

It’s funny how my first 50 years I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to fix me. I think my next 50 I’ll try to just let it be and leave that to God. A good place to start is just accepting that I’m not perfect, but dearly loved by God, His grace really is Amazing and His forgiveness is Free. My next 50 years I am going to believe that when God calls me “Holy and Dearly Loved by Him” Colossians 3:12. He means it. It’s not just words on a page, and He wants me to know Him, not just work at crossing off another item from a religious “to do” list to make Him happy with me. Maybe a little less religiousness and a lot more relationship with Him my next 50 years.

For my next 50 years I want my theme song to be “This Little Light of Mine”. Instead of trying to figure out how to be God’s bullhorn, I want to shine. My daily interactions with family, friends, and acquaintances would be marked by this. Not some bold in your face intimidation, but a taste of God’s goodness just seeping off of my life. Get close enough and you’ll smell it, see it, taste it and want more of Him. I want to be a reflection of Him in everything I do for my next 50 years.

The more I think about it, the more I believe my next 50 years will be the best 50 of my life. Thanks to all the things I’ve learned the last 50. I guess they call that perspective, another Gift God has given to me. May I really take hold of it these Next 50 years.

The family. My “Opus Magnum” and The joyful gift God’s granted me my first 50 years

Pandemic, Politics, Personal Life… I Trust in God

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7 NIV

Busy day yesterday… I got up and got around then I went and did the one thing I’ve been putting off, a grocery trip to Walmart. The cupboards in the house were bare and I knew the rest of my week would not afford me time to make the dreaded trip so I ignored my aversion to the 20 degree temps outside, the usual Walmart crowd, and grocery shopping in general, and I headed out the door. As I channel surfed my radio on the way to town, I hit a DJ on the local classic rock station as she just hit her monologue. “2020 just plain sucked as a year.” I paused for a second. “There is something to that.” was my first thought. “I don’t think 2020 has been easy for anyone this year. Pandemic, politics, personal life… yep! It’s been hard.”

Shortly after the trip to town my husband and I headed out for a full day in St. Louis to see a heart specialist. Friday is the big day to have a procedure done to fix the AFib he struggles with and it was time to go and talk the whole deal over with the doctor. Just another thing to add to several others on my anxiety/peace balance scale that is currently tipping towards the anxious side. There are several things that I will have to do that I don’t relish on Friday and Saturday. Among them is navigating city traffic and staying at a hotel overnight by myself, COVID restrictions won’t let me stay in the hospital with him… I’ve been putting on my best “stiff upper lip” and talking about how I will be just fine, and I will be. A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do…taking care of my sweetheart is the priority right now.

Psalm 20:7 has been rolling around inside of my heart this morning as I have sat here in the quiet of my house. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. It’s easy to trust in all the things we surround ourselves with for our own comfort. Whether it be a good job, nice house, nice car, education, savings account, etc. I think we all are guilty of trusting in our own “chariots and horses” to take care of all we need. I like how the Passion Translation puts this verse, “Some find their strength in their weapons and wisdom, but my miracle deliverance can never be won by men. Our boast is in the Lord our God, who makes us strong and gives us victory!” I think it’s been easy to forget where my strength comes from and my trust should be. That’s probably why this whole crazy year of 2020 comes in to play. It’s funny how I can be so independent until the giants that surround me are so much bigger than I am. Then I become acutely aware that I need God to fight for me. I say just as Paul did in 2 Corinthians 12:9. “God’s grace is sufficient for me. His power is made perfect in my weakness. I will boast in those weaknesses because Christ’s power works through me.”

The pandemic, politics, and my personal life may loom big. God is Bigger!! He won’t leave me in all this. I can trust Him!

The Covid Virus and Other Forms of Family Bonding…

Year’s ago I saw a fascinating title for a book, “The Stomach Virus and Other Forms of Family Bonding”. Although I never have had the opportunity to read that book, the title has stuck in my mind many times through the ins and outs of raising four kids and experiencing everything from the stomach virus, head lice, chicken pox, to strep throat, and on and on. There’s something about a little family time brought on by a common ailment. Probably the first time I realized this was my husband and I’s first year of marriage. We both contracted some kind of stomach virus and had to call into our jobs for a sick day. We still laugh about that day of us in a one bedroom/ one bath apartment fighting over that one toilet. It’s one of our fond memories of the “newlywed” period of our life. The rest of that time was spent laying around in our full size bed watching “The Price is Right”, “Oprah”, and whatever else we could catch on our antenna. “Bonding” accurately described that experience… nowhere to go and no one else we would rather spend our time with. Even if our “bonding” was born from our common misery, a bad case of the diarrhea.

Sunday afternoon marked the beginning of another round of “family bonding” when my husband started running a fever and developing COVID symptoms. He’s not the only one who is experiencing “the joy”. Four out of four of us who live under our roof are now experiencing symptoms: Two Positive COVID cases, and two waiting on results. With the exception of me sleeping in another room and instituting a “NO KISS” moratorium, to avoid his germs we probably haven’t been real good about trying to not share our germs. I still sit about six feet from him in my recliner next to his recliner watching TV, checking our temperatures occasionally, sniffing a jar of Vicks to see if we still have our smell, and trying to figure out when our next dose of Tylenol will be. Thankfully our shared sickness has been very mild for all. Occasionally my 20 year old daughter and my 16 year old son will join us and we watch a movie together, Officially completing our “Twilight” movie binge watching last night- something my husband and I never took the time to watch in earlier years. Yep…family Bonding at it’s best.

Laying around feeling kind of sick but not too sick makes me contemplative, thus the blog… Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” There’s a part of this verse that I like to quote to my husband especially on a cold winter night right when I get in bed and put my ice cold feet on his back. “…if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone.” That’s kind of a “well duh…” statement because it is oh so true. But for me this week it is really ringing true. We weren’t meant to be alone. So if you have to do something unpleasant, then do it with someone you love, including being sick. (Not that I would want any one of us to be sick)

I’m sure 20 years from now this time of our life will bring about the stories similar to our newlywed stomach virus day, even though it was unpleasant to go through we laugh about it now. Covid has been a lot of things since it arrived on my horizon at the beginning of the year, scary and intimidating to name a few. But I am reminded that God works “all things” for my good. Together time with some of my favorite people, that’s the silver lining in my Covid 19 cloud.

FaceTiming our Grandson.

Covid Has Come

“What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.” Job 3:25 NIV

Yesterday we got the news that my husband has tested positive for Covid 19. He’s been sick for 4 days already so it really wasn’t a surprise. Plus my two kids that are still at home have been snotting around here for awhile as well. C’est la Vie! The way things are spreading around the world I figured it was only a matter of time. Everyone’s symptoms are relatively mild and so far all this means is more time with my husband laying around in his recliner and more time with my teenage son staying home. Which I’m sure is driving him crazy. He’s got friends to see and activities to do. Here’s the tea… I have a few mild symptoms, scratchy throat, headache on occasion, but over all I’m feeling pretty good. I’m very thankful for that, but it does play into my anxious tendencies of wondering when the other shoe will fall and I will be sick. Like so many of you out there, I am not a fan of feeling sick… and I’m not a fan of how sick Covid has made some of the people I know from this area. I’m into having all kinds of energy and working on all kinds of projects. So the waiting and wondering can get to me if I let it. So this morning in the quiet glow of all my Christmas lights I’ve been contemplating all this.

The verse in Job that I quoted above came to my mind. Probably because I’ve had this belief in the past that if I am afraid of something it’s going to happen to me, because I am believing for that negative event. It sure looks like that is what happened to Job. He feared losing his kids, his health, his wealth, and “BOOM!” He wakes up smack dab in the middle of doing just that. The problem with this theory is Job is talking about what he feels is his experience, but He’s not aware of all the behind the scenes occurrences that happened in Job chapter 1. The interactions between God and Satan and God allowing the testing that would come upon Job. The afflictions Job had, had nothing to do with his lack of faith, his disobedience, or his fears. They simply came. I’m not sure I totally get the entire book of Job. It seems to go against the rational that God only pours out blessings on His people. But the book of Job gives me hope during the year 2020 and all the weird stuff we’ve seen. At times it seems that God and Satan may have had another discussion about planet earth and God has let Satan do what he wants. Here’s the deal, God has never fell off His throne. After 37 chapters in the book of Job of speculating, contemplating, and saying all sorts of reasons for Job’s suffering, God speaks. “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” Job 38:3-4 God then proceeds to talk about all the minute and incredibly large details of life that He is fully aware of everything from the “storehouses of hail” to the moment the “mountain goats give birth”. The whole chapter of Job 39 reminds me of something Jesus said in Matthew 6:26 “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?”

God has all this: He has the end game for the election results. He has the wild fires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. He has the riots, the persecution of believers, the discord. He has the details of my life, from the birth of my first grandson to the death of my mother in love. His eyes have never left me, and as I maneuver around my house that suddenly feels like a fishbowl of germs that I can’t hide from, He has me.

True Covid has come to my house hold, but God has never left. He’s still in control and He loves me. So I’ll be ok.

The Next Chapter Has Begun

My mother in love was an avid reader of Amish love stories. Every year for Christmas, Mothers Day, Birthday, etc. She would text me a list of two or three books from a new series she had started by obtaining book one. If she loved the book, she wanted the whole set so she could finish up the whole story line. My father in love built her a beautiful book shelf that was probably around six feet tall. She filled that shelf full of her collection of treasured books. Often when I would visit her she would mention her books and ask me if I wanted to borrow some of them.

I, on the other hand, am not much of a fiction reader. I love books on theology, Bible studies, and “self help” books. Currently I have four books I am reading or working on (Bible Studies). I tried to get into her Amish books and just couldn’t. But I have found an author that catches my attention for my occasional venture into the Fiction realm, Francine Rivers. I have read several of her books and honestly I wouldn’t mind rereading them. The last one I read , The Masterpiece, has become another favorite book of mine. When it was finished, I was left wishing for more. I had fell in love with the characters and I just wanted to know what the next volume of their life would hold. It is on rare occasion that I put down a finished book and think to myself, “Seriously!?!? is this how this book is going to end?” and wishing the next chapter would start. But it happened the moment I read the last words of that book.

Yesterday was the day my brother in law and my husband had to go and sign papers to complete the sell of my mother in love’s house. Since her death in August our family has been hard at work tying up all the lose ends. A house that has been a part of my memories and life for 28 years is no longer owned by family any more. Earlier this week my husband and I went out to her house to pick up the last few items we needed to get from my mother in love’s possessions. I walked through the house room by room partly reminiscing, partly checking to make sure everything was out. There is the kitchen I learned how to make the Nelson family Tacos dish. There is where her piano sat and I played songs the last time we all gathered there to sing and pray together. There is the bathroom vanity where all her makeup, hair brushes, and perfumes sat. As we walked around outside, I looked out remembering being “very” pregnant with my first born walking around in the back yard during my Father in Love’s birthday party. Then there’s the bedroom window I climbed through, because my toddler had locked me out of their house accidently the few months we had to live with them. I could go on and on. There is a part of me that thinks, “Seriously!?!? is this how this is all going to end a few signatures on some papers, keys turned over, and walking away from the office the transaction all went down?”

This morning bright and early marks the first day of Deer Rifle Season in our neck of the woods. This will be my 27th opening day since I officially became a “Nelson”. My memories of my first rifle season center around my Mother In Love’s house all those years ago. My side of the family never was much for hunting deer. We’re a little more of the boating and fishing type. I did not realize the level of excitement my husband of 11 months would have upon arriving home at his parents house for the weekend of hunting. He was smiling ear to ear, laughing with his three older brothers, telling hunting stories of earlier years. In fact, it kind of disturbed my image of what I wanted my husband to be. “Redneck” wasn’t exactly what I thought I was looking for ha ha. Through the years I have learned to accept the love for deer hunting. I have had my cold hard heart warmed and softened to the whole season that comes each November, laughing right along with the rest of them and admiring the deer they bring up from the woods.

Today’s hunt is the first in three or four years that my oldest son was able to come and hunt on our land with his younger brother and his dad. So I set my alarm for 5 am. I wanted to make sure my men had their stomachs full before they hit the woods. The laughter and joking had a small remembrance of those 27 years ago in my Father and Mother in loves home. Before they walked out the door I took a picture, because that is what you do in times like these. Make a memory. Right before they headed out to the woods I peaked out our window at them standing on the porch. There they stood heads bowed praying for God’s blessing on their hunt and their day, a tradition started many years ago by my Father in love, Gene. He would stand with his sons and pray right before they embarked to their woods thankful for the time, the deer, and the family that was right there that moment. It occurred to me as I watched my sons and their dad standing on our porch that the sequel has begun. The book of our lives may have had the last chapter close of our Mom and Dad Nelson yesterday, but the next book has already begun to be written. My question I asked “Really, is this how this all ends?” can be answered, “Actually this is how the next chapter has begun.”

In the Bible, the apostle Paul wrote to a young man Timothy about that same kind of sequel a couple of thousand years ago. “as I think of your strong faith that was passed down through your family line. It began with your grandmother Lois, who passed it on to your dear mother, Eunice. And it’s clear that you too are following in the footsteps of their godly example.” 2 Timothy 1:5. The chapters of our lives and the prequels and sequels that surround us are written not about the things we had or have, possessions. They are written and continued in the moments of faith passed down through the family line. Just like the one I witnessed in the dark of 5:30 am on my front porch. The strong faith of my son’s grandfather was passed down through our family line. It began even before their grandpa and was was passed on to him, to their dad. And I am thankful that it is clear that my sons too are following in the footsteps of their godly example. Their sequels of faith have only began to be written, the story will never end because God’s faithfulness to us will go on and on and on. Each day it only begins.

Youngest son with this mornings deer. The legacy goes on!

Thorns in My Flesh: Foot Pain and Anxiety

“Foot pain Sucks!” There I said it. As a person who has suffered with foot issues and pain all my life, it kind of feels relieving just letting that out. My earliest memories of heading to the big city from my very small rural hometown was for the very purpose of visiting a foot specialist. My parents saw my need and did their best to provide the best they could for their flat footed child. Which meant orthopedic shoes. They were kind of special when you are 7 or 8, but by the time I hit my teen years I was fairly certain I would rather hurt than wear anything so ugly, bring on the Nikes and Adidas! But as time went on and the pain increased, my willingness to see pediatrist or orthopedic surgeons that specialize in feet increased. It gets old trying to decide if you would rather stay seated or stand on up and work on through the pain. So began my love for Birkenstock anything, Feet Fleet Shoe stores, orthopedic shoe inserts, ankle stretches, an overnight foot splint to help with plantar fasciitis (takes a little getting used to), etc. It’s amazing the lengths I go to so I don’t have to slow down, sit down, and live with a ton of pain… All this being said, The battle against foot pain still goes on and due to pain in both of my feet, I’ve got an appointment with a specialist this week to see if there are any other tricks up his sleeve that can help…

Being a person of faith, and one who believes that God does answer prayers, and that He still heals today, I’ve brought this issue up to God more than once. I’ve asked for the elders of the church to lay hands on me, anoint me with oil, and pray for me more than once as the Bible talks about in James 5:14. I know God can heal my feet, but for now I tend to view them as Paul did his affliction he mentions as his “Thorn in His Flesh”. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. Paul asked for God to take it away from him three times and God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” and there is no record of Paul’s thorn ever being removed.

This all came to mind this morning as I have contemplated another couple of “Thorns in my flesh” That seem to stick around, Anxiety and depression. Once again I have found myself going to great lengths to try to keep up with my “self care” regimen of exercise, eating right, prayer, meditation, medication, rest, fresh air, daily confessions of who I am in Christ, etc. Plus the appointments with a counselor… It’s uncanny the parallel between my foot pain and my struggle with anxiety and depression. Probably the thing that sticks out the most is to what lengths I would go to get some relief for both of them. Because whether it’s pain in every step you take or pain in a majority of the thoughts you think, both are uncomfortable and therefore worth being treated the best way you can, self care, spiritually, and with help from the professionals. And just as I have taken my physical foot pain to God and asked for healing, I have done the same with my mind, but I believe part of the reason my struggle has not been totally relieved isn’t because I am doing something wrong. It’s more a matter of God helping me to get a perspective I never had before.

My youngest son has some of the same issues with his feet that I have, sorry son… If he complains of his feet aching, I automatically empathize with him deeply. I’ve been there, as a matter of fact, I’m there now… I can also say that my accepting where I am in my struggles with anxiety and depression, has given me compassion for those who struggle in their mind. I can tell you what little I know that works the best for me to get relief and I can point you to the One who ultimately makes sense out of all the ins and outs of life- Jesus. I know that looking back through the years and seeing the path I’ve walked that His presence and His help is what has made the difference for me, and although I haven’t seen Him come in and zap my mind into always thinking happy thoughts, I have found Him more than enough when I was unable to see straight or find the will to keep getting up and keep going on. In fact, it is in my growing in knowing Him more that I can take the time to stop and appreciate the little things like the changing leaves, my grandson’s smile, laughter with my kids, or the embrace of my husband. All of these are gifts He has given me to show me that it is true, “God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness.” Whether the weakness be the aching of my feet or the struggles in my head, I can confidently say, “God and His grace is enough for me.” and “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13. Because the Evidence of God’s goodness is there, even in our struggles. It’s whether or not we chose to open our eyes to see it.

Orphan No More

Back in the early 90’s the world became aware of the Romanian orphan crisis. I remember, as a college student, surfing channels late at night on my parents TV and stumbling across a news report about it. In 1989 communism fell. Things hidden in the darkness came to light as the world watched news reports of hundreds of abandoned children left in orphanages that were poorly staffed. The bare minimum was done to keep these babies and children alive. I was captured by images of one year old infants in institutionalized baby beds rocking themselves back and forth. There was no one to hold them, no one to comfort them, no one to sing to them, tell them stories, or even call them by name. They had adapted to such cruel circumstances by soothing themselves the only way they knew how. Rocking back and forth with a blank stare on their face.

This morning as I spent my quiet time with Jesus, the image of these children came to my mind. So I open my YouTube app and did a quick search of the Romanian orphans of the 90’s. The first link that caught my eye was a short BBC report of a young man who survived the Romanian orphanage. He was adopted at the age of 11 by an American couple from California. What struck me about his interview was a quote that he said, “I could not adapt to a family environment. My mind was just so used to living in an institution. I was desperate to go back to Romania…” Institution, abuse, neglect… that was all he had ever known. A loving family with his needs being met was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. He talked about how easy it is to spot those who had survived the orphanages. “When you see a grown adult, sitting or standing rocking back and forth or doing something only an institutionalized person would do, you can instantly recognize that person grew up in an orphanage.” The final phrase that stuck with me, “I miss the orphanage. It was my home.” The young man in the report went back to Romania to visit his birth family and he had found that his mother wasn’t able to be the mom he was looking for and he went back to the United States.

Everyone has a past. Everyone has things they wished had never happened or that they had never done. We all are very much like the Romanian orphans of the 90’s. Due to the condition of our hearts, before Jesus, we have become used to the methods to self soothe that we developed through the years (addictions and coping mechanisms), and unfortunately we have let the conditions we came out of become our home, where we feel we belong, deep inside of our hearts. The labels we were given, engrained in us, are what we believe we are. So much so that we find ourselves searching back in where we came from trying to find the missing piece instead of embracing the “New” that Jesus died to give us.

I’ve spent the last week reflecting about my own identity, who I am. It’s not an easy task. Because just as that Romanian man looks at himself as an orphan, at times I tend to view myself as a spiritual orphan, left to my own devices. God speaks to me in His word about how I am to renew my mind, my thoughts, by thinking about the truth of the Word. I am not what I’ve felt like I was. I am who He, God, says I am. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people…God’s special possession…” or as the Passion Translation puts it “But you are God’s chosen treasure…” When God came to my Spiritual orphanage and found me in deplorable conditions, rocking back and forth trying to feel some kind of comfort for my broken and lost soul, God picked me. He took me out, He cleaned me up and put medicine on my wounds, changed my filthy, sin stained, rags out with His beautiful, righteous garments, and in that very moment Zephaniah 3:17 says the One who Delights in me, God, my Heavenly Father “sings” over me, His chosen treasure. God sings…

It is at this point, the truth of us being His treasure, that you and I have to make a choice. Will we accept the gift we have been given, new life, new identity in Christ, or will we wander about unable to take it all in because we cannot shake the image of ourselves that we have seen for so long? Only to find that what we thought was our “home”, our lives without Jesus, was nothing more than a cold and lonely place far from where God, the one who loves us, wants us to be, with Him, held closely by Him.

Really, Where are You Going to Go?

1992 The Summer of Love

I’ve been married to my husband for 27 years now. We met in April of 92 and were married in January of 93 after a whirlwind romance we jokingly call our “Summer of Love”. Looking back at it now we were just a couple of kids. I was 21. He was 19. Yes, I am a cougar. lol. Our first year was a time of two independently minded people trying to figure out how to navigate, decisions and live with our oppositeness. My husband is direct. I am not. My husband lets you know exactly what he’s thinking. I do not. My husband has opinions on almost everything. I have trouble expressing mine sometimes. I kind of like to go with the flow. His characteristics aren’t bad, just different than mine. This difference brought out many late night fights/ arguments, and us dragging our tired butts into work the next day. Because we took it literally when we read in the Bible that we should not “let the sun go down on our anger”. Thankfully, we’ve both mellowed quite a bit in our middle aged state. Our fights are significantly fewer. We’ve kind of came to a place that we fit like a comfortable pair of old blue jeans. Our fight/ arguments/ or as we call them in front of our kids “discussions” are a lot more fewer and far between than they used to be back in the 90’s. But every once and awhile one does explode on the scene. Especially when we are H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) Such was the case last Friday.

We had a few choice words for each other. Then a few angry texts to each other. Then I decided I need to go for a drive. So I hopped in my car and drove the mile of gravel to the highway, sat at the stop sign, and thought to myself. “Really, where are you going to go?” The truth of the matter is our occasional blow up cannot outweigh our usual times of loving companionship. I like the sunset drives on our golf cart around our property. I enjoy the runs to town for an ice cream cone. I’m a huge fan of holding hands as we walk into SAMS for our “old people date” of Sushi and shopping. There really isn’t any place I would rather be than with him. So I took a 20 min scenic drive to cool down. Pulled back into our driveway and went back into the house to work out our spat.

This all came to mind as I contemplated my Bible study this morning. It probably pales in comparison, but there may be a slight parallel between my relationship to Rich and God’s relationship with me. ““Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭14:28-33‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Twenty Eight years ago my husband and I began to count the cost of our relationship. Would it be worth it to sacrifice our own desires, our own opinions, our own plans, to be united in marriage? As a couple of starry eyed love sick kids, we agreed it was. We stood in front of friends and family and made a commitment that we would stick together, in sickness and in health, in the good times and the bad times, and our vision for life would no longer be two but one. Jesus is alluding to that kind of cost counting for following Him. “So you want to follow me, you need to think of what this may mean past the glamour of large crowds, miracles, and all the good times. It also means that sometime along the way, you will have to lay aside your desires, take up a cross of death like I do, and follow Me.” Somewhere along the line you may find yourself sitting at the edge of your spiritual gravel road thinking to yourself as you run from where God may take you, “Really, where am I going?” The question is, “is the cost worth what you gain?”

John 6:60-68 is an account of Jesus’ disciples coming to that crossroad as they walked and talked with Jesus 2000 + years ago. Jesus told them in no uncertain terms that being with Him and following Him would mean that they would have to let His life become their own. They would no longer be calling the shots. He would. So “many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching, Who can accept?'”. They decided to turn back and no longer follow him. Jesus then asked the Twelve that were with Him, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”. This was their own time sitting at the edge of the gravel road and open highway hearing the still small voice saying, “Really where are you going to go?” Peter answered this question the way I always hope to have courage to answer Jesus with. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” Where else can I go? Things may not always be easy in the life of following Jesus, but what is the alternative? Do I want to go back to the time before I had Him actively in my life just because I do not want to work the things out in my heart that need adjusted? I love the joy and peace He brings. I love His presence always abiding with me and His power He gives to walk through this life. I appreciate the gifts and blessings He has given me. So for the sake of one or two things that are hard am I really wanting to drive away? What would my life really be like without Him?

Taking advantage of the front bench seat of our truck while listening to our song “Everything I Do” -Bryan Adams

Counting the cost is important. Just like it was for my husband and I twenty eight years ago as we prepared to get married. We promised to never use the “D” word, “divorce”. We would work it out. Jesus wants us to look at our lives of following Him. Obedience and never quitting are not an option. If our commitment is to do just that and Follow Him, He assures us He will give us all that we need to follow through. Because there really isn’t any place we can go. He is the one with the “words of eternal life.”