Choosing My Focus

I had my day all planned today, my to-do list made, and the order of that list firmly in my head.  Take Aaron to Paradigm, then the post office, return an item to Gordman’s, stop at the Vintage store to ask about milk paint, run quickly into Dillon’s, probably get gas, home for a quick lunch and indoor straightening, and then outside into this upcoming warm afternoon where I was looking forward to some leaf raking out of our drainage ditches and picking up branches and maybe pine cones and cleaning off the front porch and vacuuming out the van……whew!…..and pick up Aaron and home to make supper and then Wheel of Fortune and ironing and then bedtime before I know it. 

There.

What I wanted to get done today is based on what I need to get done tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.  We all know how that is.  None of these errands is life changing, by any means, so if they don’t get done today it’s really not a huge deal. 

And they won’t get done today, at least most of them won’t.  Poor Aaron had a night of hard seizures, so he’s having a day today of sleep along with a terrible headache……and the possibility of more seizures, so I won’t stray too far from him today.  My to-do list pales in comparison to what he endures, and to how I hurt for him. 

I’m extremely blessed in many ways and I recognize that.  Gary’s job allows me to stay at home with Aaron.  Gary is a faithful, hard worker.  Aaron’s seizure clusters don’t happen daily, so he has many days where he feels good and is able to participate in life.   And my greatest blessing?  That I know God and I know that He is in control of our lives, including Aaron’s life. 

Aaron came downstairs this morning, took his morning pills and some Ibuprofen for his terrible headache, and then lay back down on the couch with his soft pillow and his favorite fuzzy blanket and a trash can close by in case he needs to throw up.  And as I listened to him breathing in sleep, I thought that this…..

wp_20170130_09_33_58_pro

This hard thing…..is what has continually over time drawn me ever closer to God.

If all I see, though, is Aaron and this sadness, then my faith will falter.  But I have learned to look beyond the seizures…..the sadness for my son…..the pain…..and to look at God. 

God….Who has a plan.  I read in Psalm 25 this morning, and was so filled with joy.  “O Lord, I give my life to You.  I trust in You, my God!  The Lord is good and does what is right.”  And other verses this morning that confirmed to me that the very thing that causes me the most heartache is the thing that also deepens my walk with God.  God does what is right, even when to me it seems far less than right.

It’s all in where I choose to put my focus.

Then my friend, Jill, posted an article on Desiring God…..an article on intimacy with God, written by Jon Bloom.  It was excellent!  And this statement in the last paragraph says it perfectly:  “Intimacy with God often occurs in the places where we must trust Him most.”

Yes!!  Lying on my couch is my son whom I dearly love, and whom I dearly wish could live a normal life, but God has not willed that to be the case.  But in that pain of my mother heart has grown a deep trust in God, learned over time and in the hard, broken places.

I’m reading “Faith of Our Father” by Dale Ralph Davis, and is it ever good!  Today I read about Abraham and his faith, but how faith isn’t always a piece of cake in the long term.  Our faith can waver, so that’s why we need to keep our eyes on the One in Whom our faith rests.  Davis says, “….if the object of faith is what matters, then don’t be overly worried about faith itself, wondering how much you have, anxious about the ‘amount’ of faith.” 

I’ve heard people say, “Well, God didn’t answer my prayers.  Was my faith not strong enough?”  No, no!  The strength of our faith has nothing to do with us but everything to do with the God that we trust.  He is the strong one!  And He DOES always answer prayer.  It’s just that sometimes the answer isn’t what we wanted, so we tend to think that He hasn’t answered.  In reality, what we’re thinking is that we just didn’t get our way.

I love Davis’ prayer at the end of this chapter I read today:  “We give thanks, O Lord, for the trouble you take to help us go on believing.  Teach us not to fret over the intensity of our faith, but convince us that even a weak faith may lay hold of a strong Christ.  Amen.”

Amen, indeed!

My faith can on some days be weak.  If I just look at Aaron…..his seizures……his autism and behaviors……his here and now…..and his future – then I can most definitely falter.  But like Davis said, may my weak faith lay hold of a strong Christ!! 

I’m not a super parent, but I do have a super God!

And the more I trust Him, the more my faith grows. 

The impossibly hard times are times rich with learning, if we but let go of our pain and place our focus on God, Who loves us more than we can know.  When I open my hand and place it in God’s hand, then I have also let go of the pain that I sometimes hold too close. 

“Bible faith looks away from itself to the One Who promises and finds rest there.”  (Davis)

I can be thankful that God took my to-do list and added the most important thing to be done, at the very top of the list. 

Trust Him and rest in Him. 

And to be here for my Aaron…..this son that has taught me so much, even when he doesn’t know it. 

wp_20170130_10_48_55_pro

The Scary Place

Gary and I looked at lots of homes when we were house hunting here in the Wichita area over 17 years ago.  Has it been that long?!  The house we are in now was the second house we looked at during those rushed few days.  We at first dismissed it because the inside of the house needed lots of work.  No other houses were right, though, and so we were pulled back to this house for a second look.  I remember standing in the upstairs window in what became Aaron’s bedroom, looking out over the back yard.  At that time there was a large, beautiful pool in the back as well as the big yard.  I was so surprised when I was told that the whole area out back was part of the house’s yard.  And for me, that was largely what sold me on this house.  That yard……

That yard has offered us room for running young children; for walking and playing with our dogs; for endless hours of swimming with family and friends before we covered up the pool; for our vegetable garden; for parties and fireworks; for ball throwing and bean bags and even boomerangs (we ended that idea pretty quickly!); for enjoying wildlife; and for a measure of privacy that we have enjoyed.

The look of the yard has changed with time, just as we have.  The pool is gone; dozens of dead pines and other trees have had to be cut; fences are not there now; and once young trees are now tall and strong.  But our back yard, despite the changes, is still a place that is home to us.  That yard beckons us, whether it is to work or to play; to sit or to walk……our yard is home and is a place of comfort to us.

wp_20160824_16_32_51_pro_li

There are two big evergreens at the back of our yard, visible from our house but not too near.  I sometimes think of our yard as ending there because you can’t really see around those big trees.  You must walk around them to see what lies out there in the very back part of our back yard.

wp_20170114_11_48_25_pro

There is simply a small area out there that is our property, where Gary mows and where more trees grow to both sides.  And it is there where a finger of the neighborhood lake weaves in a curve.  This part of the lake is dry for a good part of the year, but is full of water when the rains come.

wp_20160903_16_40_20_pro_li

It is this section of our yard that is, to me, fairly creepy.  There are some trees there, one especially, that is wild and untamed.  Its branches are tangled in a mass of knotted wood and long thorns that threaten if you get too close.  It’s a dark place, especially in the summer when leaves and underbrush are growing.  I feel cold in this area, even though this is still our yard.  It isn’t warm and welcoming like the rest of our yard, but is a little ominous and foreboding.  I like to walk back around those large evergreens where I can see our house and the rest of our yard, safe and welcoming.

wp_20161104_13_46_11_pro

I was standing in this area of our yard a few days ago while Aaron and I took our Great Dane, Jackson, for a walk.  Aaron was having fun exploring the dry creek bed, and Jackson was sniffing everywhere and everything.  I still didn’t want to linger long here, but as I did stand there I was reminded of one of our favorite Psalms and of the very wonderful lesson we learn from it.

wp_20170114_11_49_24_pro

We often think of Psalm 23 as the one we read at funerals.  But David wrote this Psalm from his life as a shepherd, before he became a king.  He compared our God to a shepherd, a life that David knew well.  Our Shepherd makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters.  But…..He also is with us during those times that we must walk through dark valleys.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.  Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” 

Often shepherds in Bible times found themselves in desert areas, where there were deep valleys.  Those valleys were full of danger.  Danger could come from bandits, from sudden raging floods, or from wild animals.  The valleys were frightful…..a place of threat to the sheep.  But the good shepherd kept a close watch, using his rod to beat off wild animals and his staff to gently guide the sheep away from danger.  Sometimes there was no other way to go but through the desert valley, but the sheep knew that they could trust their shepherd to guide them through the dangers.

So it is with you and I as we live this life.  Honestly, if left up to me, I would have chosen some different paths than those that God has chosen for me.  But God knew best for me, and He continues to know where I need to be and what circumstances need to be around me.  He has proven Himself undeniably faithful and loving to me, even…..and especially…..in the very hard times.  He has a reason, a purpose, for every dark valley and every unwelcome event in my life.  He may choose to let me know the reason now, and He may not.  That’s where trust comes in…..the trust of me, a sheep, for my loving Shepherd.

I have dear family and friends who have been in, or are still in, one of those dark valleys.  To each of you I say that God, your great Shepherd, is with you.  He will protect you and He will comfort you as only He can.

To Paul and Goldie whose daughter, Jennifer, went to heaven only a month ago after such suffering.  To Janet, my dear friend who is fighting cancer.  To Nancy, whose sweet father was just put on hospice.  To Steve and Dona, whose lives have been radically changed when Steve suffered a massive stroke over a year ago.  To Dan and Wendy, who face untold stress and grief as they watch their precious Elijah suffer from severe seizures.  To Sarah, Anna, and Kyle, who have had more loss this year than I can fathom.  To Linda and Laura, who will always grieve the tragic death of their son and brother.  To Kurt and Jill, whose son Nicholas just endured yet another infection and brain surgery.  To my sister, Mary Beth, who somehow goes through each day with a smile as she struggles with a muscle disease.  To Karen and Bill, who have heartache that just can’t be told.

And to so many more of you, each with your own battles……your own valleys…..your own dangers and fears.  Let God be your Shepherd.  Know Him and trust Him.  Know that He has a reason for every path that you take, and His reason is one that is born out of deep love for you.  Someday we will understand.  And in the meantime, we need to trust our Shepherd to have our good nearest to His heart.  For he truly does.

“Surely goodness and mercy (lovingkindness) will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” 

672b0-20130801_080228

 

My Priceless New Year’s Gift

I was sitting by our Christmas tree this morning, knowing this is the last time I’ll be enjoying its soft beauty this year.  And it hit me.  Everything I do today will be the last time I do “that” this year, because tomorrow is a whole new year!  My brain, fuzzy from another long seizure night with Aaron and waiting for my first cup of coffee to kick in, tried to wrap itself around that fact.  2017 is almost here!

I’m not really as excited as that exclamation point may indicate.  I mean, a new year is always pretty cool to think about.  But life has a way of pulling us back to reality, especially as we get older, and for me my vision is narrowed to what I have on my plate right now.  I know I need goals, but on days like today, today is about all I can handle.

Up four times with Aaron and once with the dog last night made my reality at that moment very narrow.  It was the tree and the lights…..my coffee…..and the baby monitor beside me as I listened to Aaron after he returned to bed, my ears jumping into alert mode at each change in his breathing.

And one more thing……a word.  The word “grace.”  Sometimes that word may be overused, if that’s possible, and for me may lose its full meaning.  But this morning that word kept going through my tired mind.

Two meanings of this word popped up on my handy phone dictionary app.  They are:

1)      The freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.

2)      The influence or Spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

Perhaps my favorite grace passage in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  I was drawn to that this morning, and though I know it pretty well by heart, I made myself actually walk upstairs to get my Bible.  Really, walking up the stairs took some effort this morning.  I felt like I should copy Aaron, who earlier went up the stairs monkey fashion on all fours, as he often does.

Anyway, Bible in hand, I sat down and opened to these familiar verses.  Paul had been given his “thorn in the flesh,” whatever that was…..and three times he implored God to take it away.  Implored…..past tense.  It seems that Paul was done with asking God to remove it, and was now able to say in the next verse that God “has said,” meaning that there was an ongoing result of God continuing to say these truths to Paul:

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

One thing I had written beside these verses in my Bible, my memorial stone, was simply:  “Feb. ’92, Aaron.”  That was the terrifying day in Germany, 25 years ago, when Aaron had his first big seizure.  I’ll never forget that Sunday afternoon in our kitchen in military housing…..the terror of him falling backward into my arms…..blood coming from his mouth as he seized and I screamed for Gary……the frantic phone call……the ambulance……the German children’s hospital…..language barriers with doctors…..so much to absorb and to understand and to fear.

But God was there with us bringing His unmistakable peace and calm, due only to His grace.  It had nothing to do with Gary and me being strong, or having a certain personality, or any of that “me” stuff.  I was a momma wreck!  It was totally God pouring out His strength…..His grace…..onto and into me.

So here I was this morning, 25 years later……TWENTY FIVE!!!!…….and God pulled me back to these memorial verses.  Nothing has changed.  Aaron had four hard seizures last night.  God has not taken away this thorn, this reality, this sadness in Aaron’s life and in ours.  But he has, over and over and over again, shown us His grace….His love……His favor…..His strength…..in the middle of our pain and our struggles.

So am I, like Paul, “well content” with this weakness that God has given our Aaron and us?   That phrase means “to take pleasure in.”  Well, no.  I can’t honestly say that I take pleasure in Aaron’s seizures or in his autism.  But I must look beyond all that list of things Paul mentions “taking pleasure in,” and look at those words, “for Christ’s sake.”

For my whole life, really, is to point to Christ.  That’s what following Him is all about, after all.  And if I could handle it all myself, I wouldn’t need Him.  But I DO need Him!!  And therefore, what Paul said is so true.  “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

Strong because God makes me that way, and He makes me that way only because of His grace.  Back to that word again…..grace……the outpouring of His favor and strength upon me.

So I just found my resolve for this new year.  It’s to come back to the realization that I can’t change a thing, but I don’t need to change a thing.  Recognizing my sorrow and my pain isn’t meant to point to me and to make me the focus.  It’s to point to Christ and to talk about His grace through it all.

“So that the power of Christ may dwell in me,” Paul said.  That word “dwell” means “to pitch a tent.”  Christ’s power is here for the long term, for me, as I rely on Him and trust Him in the hard times and thank Him through all of it.

His grace is here for all of us who follow Him.  What a priceless gift!  So I close with the words of this old song written by Don Moen, perfect for this new year ahead.

 

                     He Giveth More Grace

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,

He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;

To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,

To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

 

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources

Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

 

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,

His power no boundary known unto men;

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

 

His grace is such a gift!  And so is our Aaron.

wp_20161108_12_07_34_pro

wp_20161108_18_27_21_pro

 

 

 

 

A Light In the Dark

It had been a dark day here.  Clouds were thick with not one peek of sunshine all day.  The outline of the bare trees was stark against the grey sky.  The big oak tree out back looked dull, even though its leaves were still clinging to its branches.  It was just a heavy day in the way that often happens at this time of year.

wp_20161209_17_04_07_pro-2

And then suddenly everything changed.  I’m glad that I looked out the window when I did.  The change, though stunning, was very brief.

wp_20161209_17_00_34_pro-2

Somehow the sun did shine through that thick layer of clouds.  And what a difference its appearance made.  Color returned to the world outside my window!  Greens, golds, rusts, and even blacks were so beautiful in those few moments.  And those moments showed me that the sun was there behind the clouds, still shining even when the clouds hid its brightness again.

I don’t know why sometimes God allows His children to endure prolonged periods of heavy, dark days.  I do know that suffering makes us more like Christ.  Suffering is the tool that God uses to form us into His likeness……to show us Who He is……to bring Him glory.  Sometimes it just doesn’t make much sense, though.  And it hurts, deeply hurts.

There is hope.  God hasn’t gone anywhere, even when we can’t see His light.  These few words that I read recently say it very well:

“Light arises in the darkness for the upright….”  (Psalm 112:4a)

This is so much more than our human wisdom.  This promise isn’t, “Just look at the bright side!”  Sometimes there is totally no bright side to see anyway.  Please don’t tell me to try to find one.

The light that arises in our darkness is the Light of the World.  The baby that we celebrate this time of year is that Light.  John called Him the true Light.  But baby Jesus was born into a dark world in a dark manger.  His life was hardship and ended in horrific pain….all because He was the Light.

His light shines into all my dark places today, not only to expose sin, but also to show me the way and to show me that He is there in the darkness.  He is there to comfort……He is there to provide…….He is there to love.

I don’t have to “find” Him.  He shows Himself to me in sudden ways, sometimes even brief ways, like my burst of sunshine on that heavy day.  He brings sweet answers to prayer.  He fills my heart with peace.  He brings a friend to cheer me.  He reminds me of my many blessings.

The dark days grow my trust.

The light that arises in that darkness reminds me of the One in whom I trust…..that He is there and He is faithful.

The light shines best in the dark.  May I remember that truth on every dark day.

How Quickly Things Can Change!

This past Saturday, I took advantage of the beautiful weather and spent some time in the garden.  I ended up with a large bucket full of tomatoes.  Our tomato plants have produced beautifully this year!  It’s certainly the best tomato year we’ve ever had.  I’ve canned quite a few quarts, and as I looked at my overflowing bucket I knew that there would be more canning soon to come. 

Aaron was in a very happy mood over the weekend.  One of his favorite staff from his day group came over for pizza on Friday evening.  When he left, Aaron got to spend some time petting our neighbor’s cat, Dallas.

wp_20161007_18_12_57_pro_li

There was a favorite television show to watch that night, too.  And the next day there was time outside, time playing Skip-Bo, and tacos for supper that night.  It doesn’t get much better than that!  Simple joys are sometimes the best joys.

Aaron was in such a helpful mood on Saturday, too.  He helped me cook the tacos and set the table.  And then he offered to help me wash the tomatoes from the garden after supper.  We got them all cleaned up, with Aaron stacking them higher and higher on the counter.  We laughed when four of them fell on floor and we had to reposition the tomato tower. 

wp_20161008_21_14_51_pro_li

On Sunday afternoon, Gary and I had hoped to take Aaron to a corn maze.  However, Aaron started complaining of a sore throat.  We could also tell that he was getting a cold.  We’ve learned not to tell him in advance that we might go somewhere, just in case it doesn’t work out, so he was none the wiser when Gary and I cancelled the corn maze idea.

On Sunday night…..actually, early in dark morning hours on Monday……Aaron had a seizure at 1:20.  Then another and another, until finally he ended up having five very hard seizures in five hours.  He was already struggling with all the head congestion, so the seizures were a little scarier than usual.  He bit his tongue and wet his bed – all the bad stuff that points to hard seizures. 

He slept all day yesterday, Monday, on the couch while I washed all of his bedding.  When he did awaken, he sounded terrible because of his congestion and his swollen throat.  He was running a fever.  He was terribly weak, the seizures having taken quite a toll and then his illness making matters worse. 

He very slowly made it up the stairs in the late afternoon, on all fours like a monkey because when he’s weak he feels safer that way.  He climbed in bed and immediately fell back to sleep.  He got out of bed for an hour, later in the evening, and then slept all night last night. 

I took him to the doctor this morning.  Aaron had pneumonia last year and was in the hospital for a week.  That was my fear now, but thankfully he doesn’t have pneumonia.  In fact, we’re treating this as a virus and waiting to see what happens.  Too many antibiotics last year was really hard on his body for months afterward, so we want to avoid those drugs if at all possible. 

Aaron ate a little lunch when we got home.  Now he is sleeping, again.  Poor guy. 

And I’ve been thinking how quickly things can change.  Sickness with Aaron is more serious than it usually is with most of us.  Sickness on top of five hard seizures has just done a number on him.  He is very slow and wobbly, and extremely tired.

It’s amazing how we could go from this:

wp_20161008_21_15_14_pro_li

To this:

wp_20161010_14_18_33_pro_li

To this.

wp_20161011_10_55_55_pro_li

Hopefully, what Aaron has right now is nothing terribly serious.  But the stark change that he has gone through, literally overnight, is a reminder to me that we just never know what a day……what an hour……might hold for us. 

wp_20161011_18_43_14_pro_li

In James 1:2, James told us to consider it joy when we encounter various trials.  That word “consider” means to make a judgment.  It’s up to me to decide how I’m going to view my hard times.  It’s my call.  And various trials really mean “multi-colored trials.”  I think we all would agree that trials come in all different colors.  God uses a wide variety of situations in my life to grow me and to teach me. 

But again, it’s what I do with my trials that can make all the difference.  It’s like Aaron’s pile of tomatoes, stacked up on the kitchen counter.  I could have left them there, where eventually they would rot and be no good for us or anyone.

Or I could do what I did Monday while Aaron slept nearby on the couch.  I could use the tomatoes for something good……for something that will benefit us during the cold winter that’s coming.

wp_20160918_18_41_05_pro_li

It was my decision what I did with those tomatoes.

And it’s my decision what I do with the trials in my life, so often unexpected and unwelcome.  God is waiting to grow me through the troubles I have.  I don’t have to understand them, but I do have to make the choice to let God use them in my life for something good…..and in the lives of others as well, I hope. 

Not to become bitter, but better.  And then in future cold days that may come, I will benefit from the lessons learned…..learned in the hard times. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilted

I have some container plants on our front porch.  They need routine watering, of course, but definitely need plenty of water during our very hot Kansas summer.  A few weeks ago, I was guilty of neglecting those plants for longer than I should have.  You know how it is.  I just got busy with many other things.  I would remember the plants and tell myself I needed to check on them, but then once again I would forget to do so in the midst of running here and there.

I had noticed my pretty Impatiens in the corner drooping a little one day, so I gave myself a mental note to water the plants that evening.  But I yet again got distracted and didn’t water them like I promised myself I would do.

When I finally went to check on the plants some time later, I was sad to see that my Impatiens was completely wilted.  “Beyond wilted,” I thought.  “This poor plant is dead……gone.”

wp_20160919_11_46_27_pro_li

I very nearly just tossed the pitiful thing in the trash can, but something made me stop.  I decided to go ahead and water it.  What could it possibly hurt?  So I filled my watering can, gave all my plants a much needed drink, and waited to see the result.

The first time I looked at the dead Impatiens after being watered, it didn’t look any different.  This just confirmed to me that it was beyond hope.  But still I waited.

And wouldn’t you know, by the next day I was amazed at what I saw!!

wp_20160926_10_18_01_pro_li

My once dried up plant was now thriving once again!  It had sprung to new life because of simply being watered.  It soaked up what it needed once that life giving need was provided.

I have gone through times in my life where the bad news and the burdens are overwhelming.  Sometimes it’s been hard to handle the stress, and so I have bowed low under the pressure.

It’s during these heated times in my life that I must not let myself neglect the one important element of what sustains me…..God.  He knows my situation and has even planned my path for a purpose.  But it sure is easy to become distracted from Him as I feel the weight of my fears and burdens.  Someone else felt this way, too, and wrote about it beautifully in Psalm 42:

“Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.”

When we know God, it doesn’t mean we won’t suffer.  It doesn’t mean we won’t feel despair.  But knowing God does mean that we have hope.  Hope in God is hope well placed.  It’s a hope that brings us to praise…….praise for His help and His presence.

“The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life.”

God loves us throughout each day and even gives us a song during the awful dark hours of the long nights.  That song is our prayer as we lay in the stillness of night, when everything seems darker and bigger and more awful than in the light of day.  Our prayer to God…..our deep groanings……our praise…..turn into a song, even when we don’t really hear a beautiful tune at that moment.  But God hears and He is pleased, and He is the One Who turns our prayers into a song.

Just in the past few days I have a dear friend who found out that she has breast cancer.  She will soon begin chemo and then face surgery.  My brother-in-law went in for a heart cath and was told that he will need bypass surgery.  A friend said goodbye to her wayward son as he moves very far away, and she feels she may not ever see him again.  Another friend is watching her son’s seizures dangerously increase as she awaits a visit with their specialist in Memphis.   I could keep going.  It just seems like there is so much suffering and personal attack right now.

This past Monday I sat in a friend’s back yard, at her picnic table, and we along with another friend were sharing some of the ongoing situations that one friend especially is dealing with.  This wonderful mother and wife, my sweet friend, suggested that we pray.  She bowed her head and started speaking very comfortably with God.  We all prayed, just as if God was sitting right there with us and we were including Him in our conversation……which is really the case.  It was so sweet, and each of us was so encouraged in just the way that we needed.

Just like my wilted plant.  We all felt like this at first –

wp_20160919_11_46_27_pro_li

But after praying, we were encouraged and refreshed…..just like my plant that finally received water.

“Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”

The more I wilt, the more I can count on God to give me just what I need as I hope in Him, praise Him, and rest in His arms.  He will refresh me and He will revive me, even in the heat of the trials that I may be encountering.

He’s a good God and an amazing caregiver for us.

And He never forgets us when we need watering!

wp_20160926_10_18_01_pro_li

 

 

            

The Skies From My Window

Many of you know that I love taking pictures of our pretty Kansas sky.  My favorite place to take those pictures is from the window in one of our upstairs bedrooms.  This bedroom will always be, to us, Andrea’s room – even though she moved from home several years ago.  When I see a particularly pretty sky I will run upstairs, open the window and lift the screen, and fire away with my phone camera.   

As I look back on these pictures, I find that no two are the same.  Absolutely every shot of our sky, on every day that I took those shots, is entirely different……if there are clouds involved, that is.  I don’t usually take pictures of a totally blue sky, though blue skies are nice.  But after a while, completely blue skies would be a little boring. 

Sometimes the pictures are simply beautiful, like the one I snapped last night.  Isn’t this just breathtaking?

wp_20160925_19_26_47_pro_li

Some inspire awe, like this one.

wp_20160712_20_30_08_pro_li

Sometimes I see life.

imag01518

Other times the seasons show themselves.

imag00279

 

 

This one view, from the same windows…..the same vantage point……is anything from being the same, day by day. 

It’s a lot like my circumstances in life……like yours, too, I’m sure.  Our circumstances change, sometimes often and other times less frequently.  At times the changes are dramatic.  Other times the changes come subtly, but they come regardless.

Our circumstances may be pleasant, and some of the changes we go through can be happy and pleasant as well.

But other circumstances are painful or shocking, involving deep hurt……fear……dread. 

Last week I found out about two friends who were just diagnosed with cancer.  And I took another friend for some testing after an X-Ray showed something suspicious.  We are still awaiting her results.  Some have already received disturbing news…..others are still waiting, with dread, on what may be.

My circumstances……my surroundings……can on one day fill me with peace and on the next day fill me with worry.  It’s like my view of our sky from the upstairs windows.  Sometimes peaceful…..

imag01573

Sometimes stormy……

wp_20160728_20_07_54_pro_li

I’ve been reading through the book of Exodus.  Moses certainly experienced a variety of circumstances in his life……plenty of high’s and low’s.  From a basket in the bulrushes to the palace.  From the palace to the desert.  From shepherding sheep to leading a nation.  From the parting of the Red Sea to the grumbling of that unhappy nation.  From speaking to God on the mountain to confronting idol worship at the foot of the mountain.  From obedience to anger. 

After the Israelites had given up on Moses and turned to worshipping the golden calf, Moses and God both were pretty angry.  Moses went back to God after things settled down a bit and he prayed.  He said, “God, let me know your ways that I may know you….” 

God’s answer? “And He said, My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” 

God’s presence is all that His people needed……and it’s all that you and I need.  He’s promised to be with us, and He’s promised to give His children rest. 

Two things I’ve learned in the years that I have lived.  First, don’t look to my surroundings for rest…..even in the good times.  When life is going well, with sunny skies and soothing views ahead, those things should not be the source of my rest and peace.  I’m thankful when life is pleasant, but pleasantness is not the source of rest.  Only God is to be my strength and my peace.  Knowing Him and depending on Him, following Him and trusting Him, is still the number one thing I need to do when the skies are sunny and beautiful.

imag01551-1

Second, I’ve learned to also not let my surroundings…..my circumstances……pull me down and rob me of rest.  This happens so easily when skies are stormy and life is stressful.  Bad news…..stressful relationships……more bills than we have money……wayward children……    We all know what it’s like.  Life is full of the hard times, unfortunately, and they often happen suddenly.  At other times we live under the stresses day after day as they gradually take their toll.  But still, the rough times are to be a time of rest……..and they can be if we know the same God that Moses knew. 

wp_20160819_19_25_22_pro_li

For God’s promise to Moses is our promise as well:  “My presence shall go with you and I will give you rest.”  (Exodus 33:14)

Remember I said that pictures of blue skies would get boring?  I love blue skies, but honestly the best pictures occur when clouds are present. 

imag00608

So it is with us.  I believe the best lessons are learned when we have some clouds in our lives.  Deeper trust and greater joy have been my experience during the stormier times of life. 

Those clouds also bring a more intimate walk with God, full of so much beauty.  Hopefully I can reflect Him more as I walk closer beside Him. 

wp_20160824_07_00_19_pro_li

And I can rest.  I don’t know today how God will give me rest, but He has said He will and I believe Him. 

Rest, and enjoy the view, because with God life is stunning.

wp_20160723_20_53_19_pro_li