The Cross On Good Friday Was and Is Enough!

(Writing has been hard for me lately. There’s been so much going on in my heart and my head that words just don’t seem enough to express it all. It seems like God has me in a season of reflection on where I have been in my Faith, where I am now, and where I am going. It’s all good, just hard to sort through at times. Part of these reflections are what I am writing today. )

Filipino in Pampanga Province allowing self to be crucified for penance

There’s an image from years ago that’s been on my mind. I usually remember it during Holy Week. This year it has some particular meaning, because when I look at the pictures I see how I have often done myself. The province of Pampanga in the Philippines has an annual reenactment of Jesus’s crucifixion every Good Friday. It’s not the kind of reenactment of symbolism alone. It is literal reenactment where devotees are nailed to wooden crosses with 4 inch nails in their wrists and feet. They also beat themselves with whips and crawl on the ground for great lengths to pay homage at the local church. They believe in paying penance to God this way, their prayers for healing and blessing will be answered.

How often I have found myself more or less doing the same thing. If I do “x, y, z”, then God will … Performance based Chrisitianity… once installed inside of you it is hard to shake. Whether through a legalistic church or an outright cult, it is easy to fall into it’s clutches and the damage done can affect your view of God for years. The events on Good Friday that happened 2000 years ago were not meant to be repeated. Jesus said it Himself when He hung on the cross, “It is finished”. The sacrifice that gives the right for us to stand in right standing with God was completed and done on that day. Often we are the ones convinced it isn’t enough, a lie conveniently placed by our enemy, the devil. If he can keep us busy trying to measure up and do all the right stuff, something we cannot do on our own, he has us distracted from doing the one thing that Jesus, Himself, said was the work that God has for us, “to believe”. (John 6:29) and in all of our wallowing in our unworthiness, the devil paralyzes us with the “I have to fix myself” cycle. God’s full intention was for us to enjoy being His childrren, holy and dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12) Living a life given by Him that is abundant. (John 10:10)

Every time I feel that I need to do something more for God to approve of me, I am no different than the poor Filapino devote who goes to the extreme of being nailed to a cross. Every time I wallow in unforgiveness to myself for past mistakes, I too have taken a handmade whip and beat myself as those in Pampanga do. Every time I think if I muster up a little more kindness, give a little more time, sacrifice a little more of myself…, I too am crawling in to the presence of God looking for a crumb to fall from His table of grace. Grace that is freely given and freely received in abundance if I only open my heart to it.

That is what makes the Holy week so special and Good Friday so Good. Jesus did what I could not do so I could be with Him, a place I do not deserve to be. We are not meant for a “to do” list of Christianity. We are meant for a transforming relationship, where God takes what was broken and stained by sin, us, and washes it clean in the blood of Jesus poured out for us years ago and healed by the very stripes that broke Him on that day. I can stop trying to do it all… and let Him do it all in me, the very things He had planned from the beginning. (Ephesians 2:10)

Filipinos self flagellating with whips on Good Friday

I can drop my four inch nails and my whip for self-flagellation. The Sacrificial Cross on Good Friday was and is Enough.

Wilderness Wandering

Several years ago me and God had this thing. That may sound a little strange at first, but hear me out. My house has an upstairs deck. It’s not very big, but it’s not easily accessible by my Great Pyrenees, and it faces East. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunrise without getting slobbered on on a beautiful Spring morning. Several years ago it was my spot that I went out on with a cup of coffee and my Bible, sometimes a blanket. I would pray and contemplate God and His goodness over my life. But I got busy… Busy homeschooling teens/ four kids, prepping for my volunteer work at church and in our homeschool community, keeping my house somewhat clean, the troups feed, etc… So even though I still maintained my quiet time or prayer and Bible reading in the morning, my moments of sunrise with Jesus went to the wayside.

As I’ve alluded to before in my blog, I’m in a new season in my life. All the indicators of this new season have been popping up all over: three of my four kids have graduated our homeschool, my oldest is married, my next one is engaged, my third is in college, my fourth is a junior and has a drivers license- never around , I’ve got a grandbaby, and I turned 50. I’ve felt a little lost here recently, a little bit like I’ve been wandering in a wilderness.

Today as I was reading my Bible. I came a cross a few verses that stuck out to me. Jeremiah 31:2-3 “This is what the Lord says: “The people who survive the sword will find favor in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.” The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”” The Message version puts it this way, “They found grace out in the desert(wilderness)…Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them!” Finding grace in the wilderness sounds pretty good to a person that feels like they’ve been wandering around in one here lately, and for a person who has been looking around trying to figure out how to rest, the assurance that God is out looking for me and gives rest freely is awesome.

I think from time to time in my 36 years of walking with the Lord I get myself off track. I forget what I am really seeking and find myself chasing after other stuff. The “other stuff” may not be all that bad, like the busyness of life: Raising a family, feeding the aforementioned family, cleaning house, church committments, community committments… not all bad. Sometimes it takes me waking up in a wilderness to show me I may have gotten a little off track.

The book of Hosea in the Bible is the story of a prophet who marries a prostitute. He loves the prostitute and tries to get her to quit running after her other lovers. It was a living illustration of what Israel was like to God. God loved Israel, and they continually ran after their other lovers, idols. I can see myself in that story too. I find myself too busy chasing other lovers and lose my way to the upper deck for “A Sunrise with Jesus”. Hosea records these words, “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14. There are times it takes God leading us out into a spiritual “wilderness” to show us that our other “lovers” are not what will fulfill. The truth of the matter is God is not after all the things I can do… He is after me. He wants my heart, my love, my worship, my time…He wants me.

It hit me today after reading these verses, how much I’ve missed my “Sunrises with Jesus”. I may let my neck of the woods warm up a bit more before I head out the upper deck door, but I need that time to resume. It is in that place I can experience the rest of Jeremiah 31:2-3 I quoted above. “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” God’s love and HIs kindness are revealed to us when we take the time to slow down and “rest” in His presence, when we’re quiet and calm enough to be able to receive what He’s been offering us all along, Himself.

“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.