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!

 

 

 

God, Are You Listening?

Gary and I are far beyond the baby years, and we have no grandchildren yet, but we still sleep with a baby monitor beside us every night.  It sits on my nightstand as we listen for Aaron’s nocturnal seizures.  It sure is a handy tool to have!  Most of Aaron’s seizures are at night, in his sleep, so the monitor enables us to hear him and to go help him. 

Aaron never remembers his seizures, which is a blessing.  But he has seen others have seizures at his day group, so he has seen what they can be like.  And he is well aware of how he feels afterward, with a terrible headache or nausea or waking up in a wet bed.  Sometimes he loses his sense of taste for a day or two.    It’s a reality of his life that he accepts remarkably well……probably much better than I do.

In the last couple years, though, Aaron has shown a degree of fear concerning his seizures.  He’s not one to sit down with me or Gary and verbally express his fears.  But every single night as we go through his bedtime routine, he asks me two questions.

First:  “Mom, is it going to rain tonight?”  He just must know if it’s going to rain.

Second:  “Mom, are you turning the monitor on?” 

Sometimes I beat him to it and after our goodnight hug I answer those two questions before he can ask them. 

“Good night, Aaron.  Sleep good.  I’ll see you in the morning.  Love you!  And it’s not going to rain, and I will turn the monitor on.”

But if I’m going downstairs to fix the coffee pot or whatever, Aaron always says, “Do you want me to bring the monitor down to you?”

And on many nights, just for extra measure, we will hear Aaron walking up the hall and barging into our bedroom if the door isn’t locked.

“Mom, is the monitor on?  Is it on right now?” he asks.

Sometimes when I’m extra tired I get impatient with this routine, and then I feel guilty about it.  That’s because I know why Aaron is so concerned about that monitor.  I asked him about it once, knowing that my questions can put thoughts into his head, but still wanting to hear what he had to say.  So I asked him if he was scared of having a seizure, and he told me that he was.  We didn’t talk deeply about it, but his answer was enough to pull at my heart and make me think as I often do about how I would feel if I was in his shoes.  Seizures are definitely scary, and Aaron most definitely wants me or Gary there with him if he has one.  Of course he does.  I would feel the same way.

So every single night, and also for every single nap on days that he is home, I make sure he knows that the monitor is on and that I am listening.

The monitor did its job last night…..three times, actually.  Aaron’s first seizure was a little after 11:30, and then two more followed during the early morning hours.  He’s sleeping on the couch now – has been for a few hours since he woke up before 6:30 to discover his condition, change pajamas, and make his way downstairs.  He took his morning meds and went right back to sleep, waking up awhile ago to ask for his cups of coffee, and then back to sleep again.  Seizures take such a toll on his body.  They take a toll on my heart.

But this morning…….as God always, always does…….my heart was comforted by reading from the book of Psalms. 

“He who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

I can hear me now. 

“God, do You have your monitor on?  Are you listening in case I need you?”

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And God, Who is always patient with me, tells me once again that He doesn’t slumber or sleep.  Did you know that “slumber” means “nodding off?”  Like I do sometimes while Aaron and I are watching Wheel of Fortune…….and then Aaron yells, “MOM!!!  You’re not watching!!!” 

But I don’t have to do that with God…..and neither does Aaron.  God won’t sleep deeply and He also won’t even nod off.  He’s standing by Aaron’s bed with me during every seizure.  Then He stands by my bed when I lay back down and try to go back to sleep, which is often hard to do.  He knows my fears for Aaron and He understands my hurt for him, but He also reminds me that His plan is sovereign……His plan is best……even if His plan isn’t understandable to me. 

It’s just really comforting to me to know that God never sleeps, even at night, and that He is beside me as I stand beside Aaron.  And when I feel uncertain and ask Him once again if He’s really there……if He’s really listening…….He just gently reminds me that He is always there and He is always listening.  

God’s just a very good Father to me and to Aaron, and to each of us who know Him.  Even if our view of Him is through our tears and our fears, we know that God is right there with us through it all.   

All I Need to Know

He threw the glass across the kitchen this morning.  At least it was a plastic glass……and at least it was empty.  So began our morning.  Aaron got up just in time to go out to Gary’s truck in the driveway and hug him goodbye.  He was happy and I was hopeful.  Yesterday was up and down with Aaron.  He didn’t like me for awhile but then settled down and we had a nice evening.  We watched Wheel of Fortune, and played Skip-Bo later while eating strawberries.

Simple pleasures, but not always such a simple life with Aaron. 

This morning as we walked back into the house after his goodbye hug for dad, he decided that Mom was the bad guy again.  He told me he wasn’t going to go to Paradigm today, and on and on. 

Oh, the complexities of his mind!  The challenges of autism!  Physical issues I can handle so much easier because the flesh and blood of those special needs is right there to see and somehow grasp.  But the workings of the autistic mind are sometimes anyone’s guess, and this morning I was in no guessing mood.

So I launched back after his verbal barrage got to a certain point.  I pointed my finger at Aaron and I very firmly put him in his place.  But Aaron rarely stays in the place I put him.  I may feel better for a few seconds, but then he opens his mouth and his resolve is more set than ever……his resolve to win the war, even if he loses a few battles in the process.  I know this about Aaron, but I sometimes act despite what I know.  I act on my feelings, and I often regret it. 

The rest of the morning was filled with Aaron telling me he wasn’t going to talk to me anymore, all the while talking to me to tell me that he wasn’t going to talk to me.  Over and over and over.  He also didn’t want me to talk, so I mostly remained silent, which actually drives him crazy.  There was no winning for either of us at that point.

Aaron went to Paradigm, wanting me to come in with him so I could tell Barb to be sure he was nice……and Barb told him the same thing I had said earlier, that he was the only one who could be sure he was nice.  I don’t know for sure how his day has been.  I don’t know for sure that I want to know.

We’ve had lots of storms in Kansas lately.  On our way back from Topeka recently, Gary and I drove through the beautiful Flint Hills.  There on the horizon were storm clouds, and we were headed straight into them.  There was no avoiding the storm.  No matter what road we took, the drive home led into the storm. 

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And again yesterday, driving Aaron to his day group, we were facing storm clouds.  There they were, dark and threatening. 

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Driving into a storm reminds me of living with Aaron.  It also reminds me of Moses.  I’m reading the book of Exodus, and in chapter 3 God spoke to Moses in the burning bush.  He told Moses of the job He wanted him to do…..to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.  And Moses said, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 

The first part of God’s answer was simply this: “But I will be with you…..”

God didn’t say, “Oh come on Moses, you’re the man!  You’re so great!  I know you can do it!”

Moses’ sufficiency rested only in those six words that God first spoke: “But I will be with you…..”

Moses’ sufficiency rested only in God.  Not in himself…..not in his family…..not in his royal connections from years past.  No.  The strength and wisdom and courage that Moses needed rested only in God.

I’m not proud of the times I blow it with Aaron.  I’m not proud of Aaron’s behaviors on the bad days.  I often feel like Moses.

“Who am I, that I can parent Aaron?  Who am I, that I can have patience enough on the bad days to tolerate the behaviors?”

And God’s answer for me is just the answer He gave to Moses: “But I will be with you…..”

It’s no mistake that I am Aaron’s mother.  God put me on this road because of His sovereign plan for me and also for Aaron.  I may feel on some days that I can’t do this correctly, or do it at all, but this is where God has put me.  God doesn’t make mistakes.

So here I am, driving on this life road and headed into yet another storm.  I know I’m not alone in this.  I know of others who are feeling the pressure of the dark clouds on their horizons, and are soon overcome with rain and lightning and thunder.  But if you’re God’s child, He is with you.  He promises you strength, wisdom for the asking, peace in your inner being, and joy deep down.  Whatever your situation…..your worry……your pain…..your secret turmoil……your fear…..your failures, God’s word to Moses is God’s word for you…..for me…. “But I will be with you….”

I don’t always feel this fact.  But I know this fact to be true, this fact of God being with me, and so I can rest in that knowledge even when I don’t feel it.

After I dropped Aaron off and drove home yesterday, this was my view.  All the time I was driving into the storm, just behind me was the lifting of the clouds. 

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It’s true of my life, too.  God will relieve the burden, even if the situation remains.  He relieves my burden by reminding me of Who He is, like He did to Moses.  And reminding me that He is with me, always. 

Even when I say, “Are you sure, God?  Did I take a wrong turn somewhere?  And look how I’ve messed up!!”  And He answers once again, “But I will be with you…..”

Dark clouds, or bright sky.  Angry Aaron, or happy Aaron.  God is with me.

On some days, that’s all I know.  But on every day, that’s all I need to know. 

 

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!!

 

 

Set Sail!

 

It’s a good thing that I looked in the cabinet this morning, checking on a key ingredient that I needed for my chicken dish that we’ll eat for tonight’s supper.  I thought I had plenty but I didn’t, so I quickly added it to my short grocery list and was able to stop at the store later to pick it up.  Being prepared is important!

 

This small episode fit perfectly with what I read this morning during my quiet time.  I actually learned a new word…..a Greek word.  Well, most Greek words are new to me, but this particular word made a huge impression on me.  I hope it will do the same for you.  The word?

 

Pleroma.

 

Impressed yet?  Hang on.

 

Pleroma was part of the ancient world’s shipping vocabulary.  It has to do with being complete or being full.  Here is what Raymond Brown says about pleroma in his book The Message of Nehemiah:

 

            Pleroma….described the ship’s complement.  Before leaving port the vessel was carefully checked to ensure that there was an adequate crew and that the cargo included sufficient food, drink, medical supplies, spare cloth to replace torn sails, ropes, in fact everything necessary for its journey.  That was the ship’s complement or completeness. 

 

A departing ship today, and especially in ancient times, definitely had to be careful to have all necessary supplies before sailing.  No ship would leave for a journey until it was filled with supplies….filled with all it needed for the time on the open sea.
OK, so why was this word such a blessing to me today?  And why do I pray that it’s a huge blessing to each of you reading this as well?

 

Because pleroma is the word that John uses in John 1:16.  “For of His fullness (pleroma) we have all received, and grace upon grace.”  Again, Raymond Brown says:

 

            John’s Gospel began by assuring its Christian readers that, however great the pressures of life, all their needs would be met out of the abundant completeness and inexhaustible sufficiency of Christ.

 

You see, God doesn’t push His children out on life’s voyage without preparation.  Just like a ship being loaded up in the dock before setting sail, so God loads us up with all that we need for the ride that is ahead of us.  We don’t even know that He’s doing all that work on us most of the time.  All the equipping and the completing comes as we live day by day, getting to know Him better through His Word and through the growth that comes with each new trusting time in our lives.

 

Then the waves come crashing in and the journey is long.  The ocean is big and scary.  Don’t think that when you’re slammed in the face with an unexpected trial, God didn’t know beforehand that it would come.  He knew.  He in His sovereignty ordained and allowed it.  But not before He prepared you for it.  God completed you, and is still completing you, with all that you need for the rough waters all around you.

 

Pleroma!!

 

Grace upon grace.  Unmerited favor from God, over and over again.

 

Blessing upon blessing as we sail through the waters and as we experience God’s complete provision for all we need, before we even knew we needed it.

 

God prepared you, and me, for every single event in our lives before we needed it.  And He then stacks grace upon grace as we live through the tough times…..blessing upon blessing…..growth upon growth.

 

God loves His children.  He’s a good God.  He would never leave us incomplete, lacking what we need.

 

He alone is really all we need.

 

So even when we don’t understand our situations….or don’t like them….or are hurting….afraid….turned upside down….

 

Pleroma!

 

You are complete.  You are filled.  You are ready to sail!

 

Trust your Captain.  He’s got your course all charted, and He’s got you more equipped than you realize.

 

Of His fullness we have all received.

 

Holding My Hand

 

She called two nights ago, our beautiful daughter who lives too far away.  She and I had our usual silly “answering the phone” routine, with our familiar teasing and laughter.  Then she said, “Wellll…..” and I knew something was coming.  Moms know these things.  “I saw the cardiologist today and so I thought I’d call and tell you…..”

 

Then I heard words like echocardiogram….stress test…..enzyme levels……blood work….   Possible this and possible that.  I was calm, because I just am that way, usually.  And because she wants me to be that way.  We’ve faced the unknown before with her, and here it is again, lurking like an unwanted intruder in the background.  Actually, red flags were raised after her double pneumonia last July when symptoms and tests weren’t adding up just right.  Doctor visits, multiple tests, many vials of blood…..then a rheumotologist…..now a cardiologist.  An answer would be nice.  I think.

 

But all she has right now are positive results….negative results….symptoms….and no sure diagnosis.  So that leaves us with still more questions than answers.  Leaves her juggling a demanding genetics job with multiple doctor and testing appointments.

 

Leaves me with a choice to make as I feel those icy fingers of fear around my heart.

 

It’s no mistake that a couple weeks ago, as I looked through a notebook stuck on a shelf, I found an old note from a friend written three years ago.  She wrote it after I had surgery on my right shoulder.  She ended the note by saying, “It seems that God’s message is often personal.”  And then she wrote down this verse for me:

 

“For I am the Lord your God, Who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”  Isaiah 41:13

 

I remember being a little girl at Knob Elementary School.  Every Friday, one of us King kids would get to spend the night with Grandmother and Granddaddy.  It was a super wonderful Friday when it was my turn to spend the night with them.  I thought the day would never end!  Finally, it was time to leave the school!  I would run outside and look up the hill.  Sure enough, there would stand Granddaddy, waiting for me patiently.  Up the hill I would run to his big smile and warm hug.  Then he would take my hand and we would walk to their house a few blocks away.  I felt totally safe and secure as we walked along with my little hand held securely in Granddaddy’s big, worn hand.  I had no fear…..just total trust.

 

How I need to be that way now with God!  God, Who takes hold of my right hand and speaks to me as a child.

 

“Do not fear,” He says.  “I will help you.”

 

He promises that to my girl, too, in a way that even I as her mother cannot do.  My words of comfort sometimes ring hollow compared to those of our God.

 

“Do not fear.  I will help you,” he says.

 

All around me are friends and family who are going through deep valleys.  Doctors, tests, dismal scenarios, dark diagnoses, uncertainty.  Exhaustion, worry, fear, guilt…..

 

Steve, our age, recovering from a sudden major stroke.  Atha, in the hospital and now rehab for nearly a month.  Scott, her husband, going through testing.  Nicholas, with ongoing life threatening infection and other issues.  A father and son, both with serious cancer.  So many others with cancer.  Parents with the daily heartbreak of children who have strayed from God’s way and are making bad, life changing decisions.  I could go on and on.

 

But like my friend said, God’s message is often personal.  Just for me, and for my Andrea, and for all of you who are struggling right now.

 

“Do not fear,” again God says.

 

No matter what happens, God tells me not to fear.  I don’t need to fear, because He is holding my right hand.  He is leading me.  He is leading you.  He loves us and He desires our best, even if we must walk through the painful times.

 

“I will help you,” He continues.

 

I won’t be left alone to figure it out and to handle it.  Never did God say, “Just handle it!”

 

No.  He said He would be there to hold my hand and to help me.  I don’t know in what form that help will come, but I do know that He has promised it.  He is right beside me.  He can’t be far away and be holding my hand.  He is near.

 

The battle is the Lord’s, and the battle is won through prayer.  I talked and talked to Granddaddy as we walked along after school, telling him about my day.  God wants me to do the same as we walk along, my hand in His.  He wants me to talk to him with familiarity and with the certainty that He loves me…..He desires my best…..He desires my daughter’s best…..He will be with both of us.

 

He will be with you, too.  Take His hand.  Trust Him to be right there, helping you every step of your uncertain way.

 

When you know Him, He is the Lord your God Who waits for you and Who takes your right hand, and Who says, “Do not fear, I will help you.”

 

What better words can I impart to my daughter than these?

 

What better words can I take to heart myself?

 

I’m letting God take my hand today.  I hope you are, too.