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?

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Some inspire awe, like this one.

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Sometimes I see life.

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Other times the seasons show themselves.

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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…..

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Sometimes stormy……

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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The Hanging Sunflowers

It’s a little hard to believe that after 17……..yes, that’s 17!!!…….years of living in Kansas, this is the first year that we have planted sunflowers.  I have no idea why we waited so long, but maybe that long wait is one reason that I am enjoying them so much.  And as always, I’m learning more from our sunflowers than just the mechanics of how they grow.  God speaks to me through my growing things, including through my own growing…..which is often a little painful, I’ll admit.

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Did you know that sunflowers follow the sun?  Maybe that’s a “duh” comment to most of you, but I noticed how our sunflowers………while they were beginning to bloom and before the big flowers opened…….were leaning one way in the morning and then leaning another way in the evening.  In my reading about sunflowers, I discovered that they literally do follow the sun during this “beginning to bloom” phase.  It’s called the Sunflower Dance.  They are the only flower, from what I read, that engage in this dance.  How amazing!

I was super excited when our first sunflower actually bloomed.  And boy, it was a huge one!!  We really planted these sunflowers for Aaron, but he didn’t really get nearly as animated about that first flower as I did.  Of course, Aaron rarely gets as animated about everyday things as most of us do.  Now, if it was an alien standing in our garden……

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Anyway, this huge first sunflower was just gorgeous.  So tall…..so erect……so bright!!!

But after a period of time, I noticed that the stunning head of our sunflower was drooping.  Being the sunflower novice that I am, I wasn’t quite sure what was happening.  I WAS quite sure, though, that as our sunflower head hung lower and lower, I was very disappointed.

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I thought sunflowers were supposed to be all tall and amazing for their whole blooming life.  I surmised, in all my “wisdom,” that this particular sunflower must have just been too large for its own good.  The stalk must not have been able to support that weight, and so it just could bear it no longer and it sank down in defeat.

But if you look at this recent picture I took of Aaron with the sunflowers, you’ll see that nearly ALL of them are now bending over.  And now I understand why!

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The sunflower hangs its head when it’s producing fruit!  Sunflower seeds are now ripening in each of those gorgeous blooms, and soon can be harvested.  On the actual sunflower, there are many individual flowers……and behind each flower, there is a seed.  But the seed doesn’t ripen until the head is lowered.

This was a very meaningful discovery to me, and it’s for more reason than just no longer being worried about my droopy sunflowers.  It’s meaningful to me because of ME.  I’ve been a little droopy lately……weighed down by this and by that, as all of us are sometimes prone to be in this life.  I haven’t been sleeping well, and not sleeping at night is when my concerns escalate into giants……giants that like to follow me around all day.

Have you ever been there?  Bothered by both small and large issues in life?  Questioning why things are what they are?  Sad?  Lonely?  Exhausted?  Just weighed down, like my sunflowers……bending low under the weight of stress and worry.

Yesterday morning, I did what I often do when I am feeling overwhelmed……I asked God to meet with me.  Not that He needs an invitation, but there are times that I really know I need to reach out to Him and ask Him to have a talk with me.  I opened my Bible, looked down, and found myself staring at Psalm 77.  Wow!!!  How perfect!!!  Read a few portions of this Psalm:

“In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness; my soul refused to be comforted. When I remember God, then I am disturbed; When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint.  You have held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.”

Sounds a little depressing, doesn’t it?  That’s why this Psalm is called a Psalm of Lament.  But that’s pretty much how I’ve been feeling.  Keep reading:

“I will meditate with my heart, and my spirit ponders.  Will the Lord reject forever?  And will He never be favorable again?  Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?  Has His promise come to an end forever?  Has God forgotten to be gracious, or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?”

We wonder sometimes, don’t we, if God has just quit caring….or if maybe we don’t feel Him so much anymore because the deeper we hang low, the farther away He becomes?  Which then means that I’m responsible for God pulling away, and that’s really depressing!  But listen to what comes next:

“I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.  I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old.  I will meditate on all Your work, and muse on Your deeds.  Your way, O God, is holy; what god is great like our God?  You are the God Who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples.”

It’s what I think about that can make a huge difference in my emotional well being.  Using my mind to remember God’s past goodness, His sovereignty, His Word, His hand in my life……all these things are what I need to ponder in the darkness of the night and in the light of my busy days.  God has, and He does, make His strength known to me when I need it most.  And sometimes His plan does include the burdens that pile on to me and bend me low.

BUT……and this a huge “but”……..when I am burdened and bending low is when God is producing fruit in my life.  Just like my hanging sunflowers out in the garden producing their fruit, God uses the low times in my life……if I LET Him……to produce some needed fruit.

And so my thoughts turn to Romans 5 and I am once again reminded that:

“……we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Delicious seeds are growing out in my garden among my once dancing and then erect blooming sunflowers.  Birds…..and maybe Gary, Aaron, and me……will one day enjoy those mature seeds.  But right now, the sunflowers look a little weary as they sag and droop.  Yet if I kept the tall, bright sunflowers all the time, there would be no fruit.

And so it is with me.  If things were always fun and wonderful, I would miss so much that God wants to teach me.  I wouldn’t be a partaker in the fellowship of His sufferings that He tells us is the only way to grow and learn and be more like Him.  I would have no substantial fruit…….only outward beauty that matters nothing.

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My little issues are really just that……small and not such a big deal.  But they are a big deal to me in many ways, and it’s what God seems to want to use at this point in my life to draw me to Him.  And that pull toward God is best accomplished when I am bowed down, hanging low, and thus producing the fruit that He best grows in the drooping times.

So may I patiently let God do His growing work in my life, praying that I produce the fruit He desires.  And maybe…..just maybe, if I obey……that fruit will also be used to honor God, and bless and encourage others.

It can be your story, too, this time of hanging low and producing fruit.  May we all remember the hanging sunflowers!

 

 

 

Who Is Aaron Supposed to Be?

I love this picture I found on FB this morning. 

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Aaron certainly has opened our eyes to a whole unique and special way of viewing his world…..which becomes our world as Aaron pulls us in, willing or not.  It doesn’t matter to Aaron if I am busy or tired or embarrassed or if I’ve heard or seen the same thing a zillion times.  To him, each experience seems refreshingly new and fun and definitely shared.

Like yesterday at the grocery store.  I decided to run back to the produce section after I saw the pretty cantaloupes in a fellow shopper’s cart.  Aaron loves everything about the grocery store, except maybe for the aisle with toothpaste and body wash.  If you lived with him awhile, you would see that those items are not a priority or an interest of his.  Unfortunately.

Anyway, I was examining big round cantaloupes while Aaron was pointing out the cool, spritzing water that was spraying over the vegetables nearby.  You would think that this was the first time he had ever seen this gentle spray, but it isn’t.  It’s probably the 753rd time I’ve told him what it is, but he was as excited as if he was seeing it for the first time. 

I turned and headed for the registers after deciding against any cantaloupes.  I knew that Aaron was lagging behind.  I was already in the florist section when I turned to look for Aaron.  There he stood, large and loud Aaron, holding up an artichoke.  His face was just a huge smile as he held his prize up for me to see.  I had to smile, too, standing there among the sunflowers and daisies.  What is it about artichokes that always, always grabs Aaron’s attention?  We have examined them, cooked them, and researched them…..but still Aaron will find those artichokes and hold one up for me to see as if it’s the very first artichoke that we have EVER encountered. 

I smiled and then shook my head no as several surrounding people were turning their heads to see who Aaron was showing his artichoke to.  I could see them making the connection……wondering, I’m sure, about Aaron. 

Maybe if we all saw our world through Aaron eyes, we would smile more and laugh louder and keep our curiosity sharper, even as we age. 

So let me share with you a few snapshots of Aaron in his world.

Making a funny face while we played Skip-Bo, trying hard not to laugh:

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Putting a clothes pin on his earlobe, which is totally nothing new…..but you wouldn’t know that if you looked at how intense and serious he was on this night.

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Playing Skip-Bo, knowing that Mom is looking out with eagle eyes for his cheating attempts.

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Waiting for me to go through the Wal-Mart line, and smiling like this when I looked up and saw WHERE he decided to wait……the chair at the bank desk. 

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Noticing after he got his teeth cleaned that the digital clock on the counter was flashing.  “Your clock is destroyed!” he exclaimed as he pushed by his hygienist and tried to fix the clock.  Incorrect time is intolerable!

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Recovering from three strong night seizures.  We had to cancel his therapy appointment, which to Aaron meant cancelling our lunch plans.  I was nervous about taking him into a restaurant, fearing another seizure, so instead we went through the drive-through window at Little Caesar’s and got him pizza AND breadsticks.  He was happy.  I was happy.

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And finally, sunflowers.  Aaron has wanted sunflowers for such a long time, so this summer while I was in Houston to see Andrea, he and Gary planted sunflowers around our garden.  He has watched them grow and grow and grow, until now they are much taller than he is.  Now he can’t wait for them to bloom.  He was looking at the sunflowers one day when they were much smaller.  “When are they supposed to be the size they’re supposed to be?” he asked.

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I smile at the way he phrases things.  His unique way of expressing himself is a big reason I started this blog.  I can remember wondering, when Aaron was much younger, how he would turn out.  In a sense, I wondered when Aaron was supposed to be the Aaron he’s supposed to be – to borrow Aaron’s wording. 

Well, Gary and I pretty well know that Aaron is now the Aaron he is supposed to be.  Some days that can be discouraging, I’ll admit……on the seizure days or on the hard behavior days or on the days when we are tired and really don’t want to see another artichoke.  Yet Aaron is who he is supposed to be because he is who God created him to be. 

But God gives grace when we need it the most.  He really does.  I don’t think I even realize sometimes in just what forms His grace comes to me.  Yet I do know, often in retrospect, that making it through the frustrations……the fears……the failures…..is the hand and the grace of God upon us. 

And I am so thankful that God gives me pause more times that I can count……moments to pause and enjoy Aaron’s world through Aaron’s eyes.

So you see that the sunflower in the above picture is just too perfect.  Aaron is waiting for his sunflowers to be the size they’re supposed to be and to bloom.  Gary and I see that Aaron is who he is supposed to be, and that every day he blooms in our lives, teaching us to see the world through different eyes. 

I pretty well know, too, what Aaron would say if he looked at this sunflower picture.  “What?!” he would probably say.  “That sunflower is wearing shades!!”

Better to see you with, Aaron.  Better to see you with. 

 

 

 

 

A Gift on Atha’s Birthday

Today is my friend Atha’s birthday.  It should be a very happy day of celebrating for Atha, her family, and for me.  Atha and I should be going out to lunch one day this week to celebrate our birthdays that are close together, paying for each other’s lunch while we laugh and while we share some heart-to-heart time.  But none of this will be happening today, or this week, or ever again.  At least not happening with Atha present.  Atha is in heaven now, and has been for nearly three months.

Is that even possible?

I wrote about my dear friend Atha after her memorial service.  Here’s the link in case you missed it and would like to know her better.  This Is My Friend  She was……she is……so worth knowing.  I can’t believe she’s not here now.

I still hear her voice clearly in my head, and her wonderful laughter.  I had lunch today with Atha’s daughter, Sarah, and I saw Atha in Sarah’s movements……the way Sarah held up her index finger as she talked……the way she opened her eyes so wide and moved her head…….her laughter.

I have so much I’d like to tell Atha.  I deeply miss our conversations, whether in person or more often, on the phone.  She was my best porch buddy, where I would sit as we chatted on the phone……my iced tea by my side……until the mosquitoes would drive me inside.

I still hear her words of advice, mixed with southern charm and sometimes a dash of sarcasm, depending on the subject.  I hear her words of comfort during the hard times, and her words mixed with the fire of resolve over injustices or wrong that either of us were enduring.

And I will always hear, and never forget, one of the most impacting things she…..or anyone……ever said to me.

“You are established in your purpose, Patty,” she said to me one day.  I wrote about that, too.   My Purpose

I will carry that with me always.

I’ve been missing her more the past few days, probably because of her birthday.  The special days are always hardest.  This past Saturday evening, for some reason, I just wanted so much to go sit out on my porch and talk to Atha.  I was so sad, and the tears came.  So I went up to my table that holds my Bible and I sat down, opening the pages, and reading here and reading there as I asked the Lord to give me a word that I needed.

I ended up in Isaiah 46.  God was speaking to Israel but principles are there for us as well.  Listen to verses 9-10:

Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other.  I am God and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’

I looked at that after reading it, and I said to myself, “Wait.  What did that just say?”

So I read it again.  Yes, there it was!  Atha’s words to me were spoken by God to me as well!!

Atha said, “You are established in your purpose.”

God said, “My purpose will be established.”

Isn’t that just awesome and amazing?!!

God has a purpose, and His purpose WILL be established.  He WILL accomplish all of His good pleasure.  He will accomplish His plan, according to His purpose that He has established……and in which He IS established.

And I wanted to say, “Well, Atha……looky there!!”…….to borrow an old childhood word.  Looky at that, would you?

Wasn’t God SO extra good and loving to show me those verses when I was so sad?

So I thanked God for reminding me of Who He is, and that He has a purpose even for the pain.  I don’t understand it……I may not even at this point really like it…..but His purpose will be established.   It will be accomplished, whether I see it or understand it this side of heaven or not.

Verses like this become memorial stones to me, so beside that verse I wrote, “Remembering Atha, June 2016.”

Atha would absolutely love this.  I wonder if God told her how He leaned down and spoke to me on Saturday evening, using her words that are His words.

It was just all wrapped up together like a beautiful package, perfect for this birthday week.

Happy Birthday, Atha.  I miss you, I love you, and I am so happy that you are…..and always will be…..my friend, Atha.

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The Signature

It was last December 13, a Sunday afternoon, when I heard my text notification buzz.  Reaching for my phone, I saw that the message was from our friend Dona in Texas.  My first thought was that maybe she and her husband Steve were coming up our way and wanted to stop in for a visit.  But I gasped when I read her text.  Then I read it again to be sure that I had understood it correctly while hurrying downstairs to tell Gary the news. 

“Please pray,” Dona texted.  “Steve has had a major stroke and is being airlifted to a hospital in Dallas.” 

How could this possibly be happening?  Steve is our age, healthy and very active.  He had recently completed his Master’s; taught in the aviation department at LeTourneau University; and was a Colonel in the Texas Civil Air Patrol. 

All that day, Gary and I prayed as we waited for more news.  And my mind went back over the years of our friendship.  Dona and I went to college together at Piedmont Bible College, where Gary later joined our ranks as a student and Steve came as an aviation instructor at the Missionary Aviation Institute there.  Steve and Dona fell in love at the same time that Gary and I were doing the same.  And on May 26, 1979, Gary and I were married……and so were Steve and Dona.  We even married at exactly the same time in the evening, though in different towns.

Our friendship grew during the time that Gary completed college, Steve continued to instruct missionary pilots, and Dona and I worked.  Life was simple and sweet.  One day Steve told Gary that he wanted to teach missionary pilots how to fly helicopters, but one thing needed to happen first……..Steve needed to learn how to fly them.  Steve decided to try to join the army, learn to fly the choppers, and then go back to training missionary pilots when his time was up.  Gary had been in the army during Vietnam, so Steve asked Gary to go with him to the recruiter’s office in order to keep an ear out for anything that wasn’t quite kosher. 

Gary and Steve went to several appointments together.  Some people would say as luck would have it, but the four of us knew that it was as the Lord would have it that Steve did not go into the military, but Gary did.  Steve and Dona ended up living in Tennessee, where Steve was an air traffic controller.  Gary and I lived in six different places during his time as a military pilot. 

Steve and Dona remained dear friends over those years.  We visited each other when we could, with Steve and Dona coming to see us at several places where we lived, including here in Wichita.  They moved to Texas several years ago, and Steve remained active in aviation both as an ATC instructor at LeTourneau University, and as a commander and pilot in the Civil Air Patrol. 

Then came December 13.  It was a cold, rainy Sunday in Texas.  Dona had stayed home from church with a cold.  And Steve was found after church, lying beside his vehicle in the rain, mostly unresponsive.  A major stroke.  Airlifted to Dallas, where he spent weeks in the hospital and in a rehab hospital.  Home now, facing continued extensive rehab.  God has been so gracious to Steve.  Much of his function has returned, though he is still profoundly affected by the stroke. 

His life has dramatically changed, as has Dona’s, in ways that most of us never consider until we are faced with the reality of something like this……something completely life changing.  Dona writes about their life and about their Lord, and sends it out as emails.  She’s written these devotional and inspirational pieces for years.  What a treasure they are!  And especially now, as she has allowed us to walk with her as she walks with Steve on this path full of twists and turns.  She and Steve have always been examples to us of steadfast faith, but never more so than now, when their faith has been tested as never before.

In November of last year, Steve and Dona sent Aaron a birthday card.  There at the bottom was their signature.  Steve signed his name.  Dona signed her name.  That’s how they always did it.

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Then in April another card came from Steve and Dona.  My dear friend, Atha, had died and I was still reeling from her unexpected death.  Dona knew how my heart was hurting, so she pushed aside her own pain and she sat down to write some very encouraging words to me and Gary.  And then as she ended her note, there it was.  The signatures.  Steve…..and Dona.  But look at Steve’s, written with his left hand when he is right handed……and written after having to learn how to write again. 

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I burst into tears when I saw it.  Dona’s words were uplifting and so sweet, but Steve’s signature is what really got me, because it showed volumes to me of where Steve was now.  What a difference from November to April!  What life changes he is having to adjust to! 

And so is Dona, who is with him every step of the way.  How her life has changed!  Steve walked out the door that Sunday morning, and their world as they knew it collapsed.  But I know they don’t really think of it that way.  They see God’s hand in it all……they trust Him completely……and they are putting into practice the rock solid faith that they have cultivated in our loving God all these years.  But it’s still hard.  It’s not without frustrations and fears and tears.

Back on May 26, 1979, Steve and Dona promised to be faithful to each other, too….for better or worse, richer or poorer, and in sickness or health.  So did Gary and I.  Steve and Dona’s promise has been put to the test, and they are passing…..with God’s grace…..with flying colors. 

Gary and I are very, very thankful that we have another year to celebrate our joint wedding anniversaries.  We are very, very thankful for the enduring friendship that we have shared with these dear friends.  We are very, very thankful for their example to us of steadfast love in the life changing hard times. 

And I’m very, very thankful for Steve’s signature that is so telling on many levels.  It tells of sadness, of strength, of progress, and of grace. 

Which means that Steve and Dona’s life really has God’s signature all over it. 

Happy Number 37, Steve and Dona!  Here’s to many more!

 

Lessons From the New Roof

When we moved into this house, it had a shake roof. An old shake roof, weathered and beaten. At least it looked weathered and beaten, but it passed the house inspection. Gary kept a close eye on it for the following years, especially after every hail storm. He patched a place here and a spot there. The roof held, though, so we were thankful for that and went on with life under our shake roof.

One day, though, we saw an ugly spot on our bedroom ceiling. It was a water mark, without doubt, so we had no doubt that our shake roof finally had succumbed to the latest hail or wind storm and needed to be replaced. The insurance adjustor came out and looked everything over, including the water mark on our ceiling. However, he said that the roof generally looked fine so he would recommend that the insurance pay to repair some individual spots that needed new shake shingles. We were disappointed, but what could we do except leave the decision in the hands of our insurance company.

On a Saturday morning as Gary and I worked outside, the phone rang and so Gary stood in the garage talking. I could tell that it was our insurance company, and I could also tell that Gary was happy about whatever it was they were saying. He hung up and told me the good news. Our insurance company had decided to just replace our entire roof! And not only to replace it, but their policy was to give the owner the price it would cost to replace the roof with the same kind of roof. Now a shake roof is expensive. Gary and I had decided that we wanted, someday, a composite roof, for many reasons other than price. Gary told our insurance man that we weren’t getting a shake roof, but he said it didn’t matter. Policy was policy, so we were given more money than we needed for our new composite roof. Wow! The extra money went toward a much needed bathroom remodel. We were so thankful for this extra blessing! We got a new roof and a new bathroom to boot!

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I’ve been slowly reading through the book of Nehemiah. This morning as I started the last chapter of this wonderful book, a phrase just jumped out at me. The people of Israel were reading aloud to the assembly from the book of Moses. They were reminded of how the Ammonites and Moabites, many years ago when the Israelites were in the wilderness, had treated God’s people so badly. In fact, the king of Moab had paid their prophet Balaam to speak a curse against the Israelites. Perhaps the best known part of this story is about Balaam’s donkey, whom God spoke through to Balaam. It’s an interesting and funny story from Numbers 22. But what was so meaningful to me today was that little phrase in Nehemiah 13, at the end of verse 2, as the people were reminded of the story of Balaam.

HOWEVER, OUR GOD TURNED THE CURSE INTO A BLESSING.”

What a precious reminder these few words were to me today! So many times we have things happen to us that seem to be a curse, in a sense. Hard things……difficult to understand on many levels. Things out of our control, like the hail and the wind that beat on our old roof. And even when we might see some reason or make some sense of it, the answers still don’t fully come. We may get a small amount of partial relief here and there, but not really be able to escape the pain and the mess that we find ourselves confronting.

Paul reminded us that “all things work together for good,” though. He didn’t say that good things happen all the time. They don’t. But whatever does happen to us as believers is under the sovereign allowance of God, and we can be sure that it WILL all work together for good. We may not even see the good this side of heaven, or feel like any of it is working out for good at all. But God has His policies, so to speak……just like our insurance company. And His policies are clearly stated: He WILL turn a curse into a blessing!! He WILL work all the things in our lives out for GOOD!!

Someday, even if it’s not until heaven, we WILL be able to look at all the stuff that has happened in our lives and then voice that big “HOWEVER!”

HOWEVER, OUR GOD TURNED THE CURSE INTO A BLESSING!

Don’t lose hope! Don’t lose focus!

God comes through on our side, for our good, every single time!!

 

 

Heading Into the Fog

I set out on Monday morning for the last day of the Bible study that I have been taking this winter. It was a very foggy morning. As I turned down 151st street, near my home, this is what I saw ahead.

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Later, as I sat with several other precious women around a table in a beautiful conference room, we shared with each other what we feel that God is laying on our hearts as our divine burden. It was a sweet time as we bared our hearts to each other, many times with tears, of what God has impressed upon us to be or to do. A common element among us was the fact that we have a burden…..perhaps a calling…..but we don’t know where it will lead.

“I don’t know what God will do with this.”

“I don’t know how God will use this.”

“I don’t know where to begin.”

Make no mistake about it, when God calls a person to a task, He will lead the way. But He doesn’t often, if at all, open every door all at once. Our job is to obey, step by step and day by day. Just obey.

To obey when the way ahead is murky and uncertain.

Like Abraham…..called from Ur of the Chaldeas, of all places. Called because he was faithful to God. Not called because He was so amazing or gifted, but called because he was a man of faithful obedience to God. “You found his heart faithful before you,” Nehemiah said of Abraham.

So there we have our first directive. Be faithful in obedience to God.

That’s a big step in the right direction.

Finding God’s will for your life isn’t some huge, mysterious undertaking. It’s not getting up every day hoping that you do something that will somehow reveal God’s will for you.

“Finding” God’s will is simply doing God’s will for you, which means faithful obedience to the directives given to us in His Word, day by day.

So that’s what Abraham did, too. He set out to follow God from Ur to…..he had no idea where. He just knew that God said, “Come.” And so he did. He went with God, not knowing where.

Humanly speaking, that’s pretty scary stuff. We want to know where we’re going…..how we’re getting there….how long it will take…..will I be taken care of……what happens after I get there.

We set out on the path of obedience and we watch God open doors….shut doors….redirect…..

And sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s pure joy and peace. Sometimes it’s fearful and full of questions. But in the end we can be just like Abraham, who by the way wasn’t perfect and had tons of failures along this journey that God led him. Nehemiah also said, speaking of God calling Abraham, “And You have fulfilled Your promise, for You are righteous.”

God didn’t fulfill His promise to Abraham because of anything worthy that Abraham had done. God fulfilled His promise because HE is faithful to do what He has promised.

Often, God’s calling in our lives is to endure very hard trials. It’s not to be something or do something that will command great respect and attention. Instead, God may want me to endure suffering that will point me and hopefully others to Christ.

Whatever God wants me to do doesn’t depend on me at all, except for my obedience. I don’t need to feel worthy enough or important enough or smart enough or capable enough. God will be all those things for me.

As I head into the fog of the unknown, in obedience, I will begin to see some things clearly. One step at a time the way will be made known. And one day my view will be the same as my view on that road near my home later that afternoon.

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“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” (Proverbs 4:18)

 

My Faith Looks Up to Thee

 

While life’s dark maze I tread,

And griefs around me spread,

Be Thou my guide.

Bid darkness turn to day,

Wipe sorrow’s tears away,

Nor let me ever stray,

From Thee aside.