The Plans I Have For You

I think most of the nation has had a milder than usual winter.  Here in Kansas, we really haven’t had a winter to speak of.  Trees were budding, bushes were bearing leaves, and perennials were poking out of the ground in February!

I shouldn’t have been surprised…..but I was surprised……to walk past my front flower bed one day in February and look down to see that my Salvia had made an appearance.  There were fresh little green leaves sticking up through the ground, unaware that the month was only February.  Salvia don’t look at calendars.  They only respond to the warmth of the sun and the mildness of the nights.

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Something occurs deep underground, in their roots, that awakens them and urges them to respond.  It’s God’s miracle of growth, not tied to the month of the year but to the environment around them.  And even though that environment can at times be harsh still at this time of year……at any time of year, really……their roots stir under the right conditions and so they grow.

I was tempted on that February day to lean over and clear off all the dead leaves that looked like a hindrance to the Salvia’s growth.  But I left the leaves for insulation against the cold nights, and the snow that I knew could still come.

I’ve watched the progress of my Salvia over the past few weeks.  The picture from this morning shows how much growth has occurred.  The dead leaves, old mulch, and other clutter hasn’t prohibited my Salvia’s growth at all.  The perennial nature of this flower is alive and well as those new leaves push through all the mess around them.  It just faithfully grows and grows, quietly but strongly flourishing.

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This morning in my quiet time with the Lord I read some verses that are very familiar to many of us.  They are words spoken by God to the nation of Israel, recorded by the prophet Jeremiah.

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”   Jeremiah 29:11-13

These are verses of such encouragement and hope for all believers, not just for the nation of Israel during the time of Jeremiah.  But do you know where Israel was when God spoke these words to them?  They were being held captive in Babylon.  They were not in their home country, living freely, but were held as captive slaves in a harsh land far from all they knew and loved.

In the ten verses preceding these verses above, God had given some instructions to His chosen people through a letter written by Jeremiah and delivered to the exiles in Babylon.  God told the people to settle in to their new life in Babylon.  He told them to build houses and live in them; to plant gardens and eat their produce; to take wives and bear children; to increase and not decrease; and even to seek the welfare of their new city, praying to the Lord on its behalf.

You know how long God told them to be faithful in their captivity?  Seventy years.  SEVENTY years.

So when God then said that He knew the plans that He had for them……plans to give them a future and a hope……He also knew that this promise wasn’t coming to pass tomorrow.  He laid it out there for them.   He told them to live as He commanded and to be obedient to Him, even in their dire situation, for seventy long years.

God’s promise was given to them in the middle of less than ideal circumstances.   It wasn’t to be fulfilled immediately.  But while they waited, God wanted them to live their lives fully and faithfully to Him.

In fact, many of those Israelites would never see the promise come to pass.  They would die in Babylon.  Yet God still commanded them to be obedient and live the way He wanted.

How about us?  How does God want us to live every day?

He wants us to follow the example that He continually sets out there in His Word for us to see.  He wants us to be faithful to Him, to obey Him, and to grow no matter what is going on in our lives.

We may be going through awful times so full of grief and stress that we wonder how we can get out of bed every day.  God knows.  He understands.  He loves us.  He provides what we need.  He promises us a future and a hope.

But relief may not come today.  It may not come tomorrow.  Or the next day, or the next.  But like He told His people in Babylon, He says to you and to me today.  “Call upon Me.  Pray to Me, and I will listen.  For you will seek Me and you will find Me when you search for me with all your heart.”

It’s simple, really, but so difficult to do sometimes when our surroundings are bitter and hard and scary.  Call upon Him.  Pray.  Seek Him with all your heart.

Read His Word with an open heart to hear what He has to say to you.  Ask Him to lead your steps.  Obey what you know He tells you to do in His Word.

God will speak to you.  He will lead you to Himself.

And in the middle of your pain and your stress, you will grow.  Just like my Salvia in the middle of deadness all around it and the coldness of some nights…..still pushing through and growing, as God intended.

God loves you.  He truly does have a future and a hope for you as you follow Him, but not always…..in fact, seldom……without the suffering and sadness of this life.

But what a beautiful work He is doing in you and in me as we faithfully respond to His love and to His word in our lives!

So grow!  Grow where God has put you!

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Possess Your Possessions

Last summer we enjoyed a fabulous tomato crop in our little home vegetable garden.  It was, by far, the best tomato growing season in the 17 years that we had lived and gardened in Kansas.  We picked buckets and buckets of tomatoes, much to our great delight.

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We ate fresh tomatoes with our meals.  We ate fresh tomatoes by themselves.  We ate fresh tomatoes on sandwiches.  We gave tomatoes away to neighbors and friends.  I canned delicious salsa.  I also canned 34 quarts of tomatoes.  And Aaron gave tomatoes to his friends at his day group, which made him very happy.

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Now, I could have stood at the edge of our garden every day just enjoying the sight of those tomatoes on the vines.  I could have talked about how many were growing there, told everyone about them, and taken some pictures to share.  But what good would any of that have been?

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In order to really partake of my tomatoes, I needed to take possession of them.  That meant, in this case, to go to the garden with my bucket in hand and then pick each tomato off the vine.  It meant putting the tomatoes in my bucket, bringing them in my house, washing them, and then using them in whatever way I wanted at the time.

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I read an interesting verse one day.  The verse is Obadiah 17 (only one chapter in Obadiah).  This verse is referring to a future time, even future for Israel today, but a time when Israel would finally enjoy the fullness of God’s plan and blessings.  What jumped out at me was this phrase:  “And the house of Jacob will possess their own possessions.”

So how do you possess your own possessions?  I mean, if they’re your possessions, don’t you already possess them?

Well, it’s kind of like my tomatoes in the garden.  They were my tomatoes……my possessions……but I didn’t POSSESS my tomatoes until I really TOOK possession of them.  There is a huge difference in looking at those tomatoes, and really taking possession of them in order to fully partake of and enjoy them.

God made a covenant with Israel, one in which he promised to be their God and that they would be His people.  He promised them a land and many blessings.  God’s covenant is unbreakable and will never change.  But full enjoyment of all the benefits of that covenant, and of God’s full blessings, hinged on one word…..one sometimes very difficult word.

“Now then, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall by My Own possession among all the peoples…..” (Exodus 19:5)

See the difficult word?  It’s the word “obey.”  God wasn’t referring to covenant status here.  His covenant itself depended only on Him.  But covenant enjoyment depended on obedience.

God said, “All these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you IF you obey the Lord your God.”  (Deuteronomy 28:2)

Obedience equals blessing.

God repeatedly told Israel that obedience is better than sacrifice.  He told them over and over that the land and the enemies therein were their possession.  But they couldn’t fully possess their possessions until they obeyed God.

Obedience equaled full partaking of God’s promises and His blessings.

Possessing their promised possessions.

What about me?

As a follower of Christ, God has given me many great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4).  He promises peace, power, wisdom, strength, and so much more.  These are my possessions in Christ, but not fully possessed by me until I walk in obedience.

Repentance of sin and walking in obedience are the keys to fully possessing all the wonderful possessions that I have as a believer.  It’s really very simple, but also very difficult.  Difficult because I so often want my own way.  Simple because God is full of forgiveness when I repent.

So I can stand on the edge of the garden, so to speak, looking in at all the beautiful promises of God given to me in His Word.  But only when I choose to read my Bible and learn of God’s will and His ways for me…….and then choose to obey……will I be fully in possession of all His promises for me.  I’m not talking about salvation.  I’m talking about living a full life the way God intended for me to live as His child.

I love the often unsung fourth verse of the old hymn, Trust and Obey:

But we never can prove the delights of His love,

until all on the altar we lay.

For the favor He shows;

For the joy He bestows;

Are for them who will trust and obey.

I don’t want to just look at God’s favor and God’s joy.  I want to possess God’s favor and possess God’s joy……to partake of those promises, fully.

Possess my possessions!   

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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.”

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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!!

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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 –

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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!

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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!

 

 

 

Lessons From the Garden Shoes

We had finally received some much needed rain here in this very dry and hot Kansas summer.  It was more than just a few disappointing drops, too.  We actually had enough rain to drip off the leaves on the trees and in our flower and vegetable gardens.  Enough rain that I had a reprieve from my watering duties and could let nature do her work for a few days.  Enough to more than just settle the dust – we actually had some mud amongst the vegetables.  The cooler temperature, the damp smell of the earth, and the grass greening up a little were all very welcome to every two and four legged creature around as well as to every struggling plant. 

I allowed a couple days to go by after the rains before I walked out to the vegetable garden to check on things there.  Sure enough, the rain had done her good work.  I stood there looking at the cucumbers, squash, and okra that needed to be picked.  Then I looked at the soil, still dark and wet from the recent moisture.  I slipped on my garden shoes and decided to give it a try.  Stepping over the wire fence, I gingerly put my weight down on the soil as I stood inside the garden.  Not too bad, I thought, and so I walked carefully over to the cucumbers to pick the ones that were plump and ripe.  Next, the squash – not many there but a few.  Time for the okra, in the very back of the garden.  As I walked I noticed that the garden was muddier than I thought.  “Well, I’m already in here,” I reasoned, and so I continued on.  It can’t be that bad.  But with each step I noticed that my shoes were feeling heavier and heavier with the buildup of mud, and I could see my footprints that I was leaving behind in the soft soil.  I told myself that I would get out soon, after I picked the okra, and so I trudged on through the mud.  When I finally stepped back out onto the grass, the bottoms of my shoes were covered in mud that needed to be cleaned off.  There was no mistaking where I had been, and the mark that my decision left on my shoes was messy and ugly indeed. 

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Our lives are full of decisions in so many areas.  Many times the way that we should go is very clear and other times we’re just not sure.  Whether it’s an actual place or event, or if it’s an attitude of the heart, our prayer should be as David’s was in Psalm 143:8 when he said, “……teach me the way in which I should walk.” 

Before we realize the danger, we can easily step over that fence and venture out into the messy areas of life or thoughts that will only mire us down.  What may have even appeared to be right or to be justified soon turns into a trap that weighs us down.  Wrong friendships or relationships; ungodly entertainments and activities; carnal or impure thoughts – all will leave a residue in our lives that builds up until finally we are having to bear the consequences of our decisions. Our friends and family can without doubt be able to tell where we have been because the effects are so evident in our lives and in our attitudes.

Thankfully, God will clean us up as we ask for His forgiveness but often we will still bear the messy marks of our decisions.  So the next time we stand at that fence in our lives and have some decisions to make, may we say with the prophet in Hosea 14:9:  “…….for the ways of the Lord are right and the righteous will walk in them.”  Show us Your ways as we seek Your face, Lord, and keep us from venturing out into the muddy messes that are all around us.

 

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.

 

 

 

The Scar

 

It’s been an interesting week.  I guess that’s one word to describe it.  Other words would apply as well.  Stressful…..demanding…..concerning…..worrying.  In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about, you can read about it in the blog I wrote.  Here’s the link:

 

 

It hasn’t just involved Aaron, though.  Yet he certainly does take center stage in our lives.  All the above descriptive words certainly can, and do, apply to him.  I’m reminded of our bad beginning to our week now every time I walk into his room and see this.

 

 

“This” being the place on his wall where a picture similar to the one hanging USED to hang.  Used to hang before he yanked it off the wall in a fit of anger on Tuesday….after fits of anger on Monday.  Anyway, read my last blog, like I said.  It explains more about what happened.

 

Now we’re left with the ugly reminder there on his wall.  A reminder of a bad day….of hurt….of anger….of events that led up to this ugly scene and this ugly spot on his wall.

 

A scar.

 

It would be easy to see this scar and to focus on the bad things that happened that day.  It would be easy to see this scar and to remember the awful feelings….the frustration….the anger…..the failures.  Both mine and Aaron’s, for sure.

 

However, there are other parts to this whole story, too.  There are other pictures that I can choose to focus upon if I just will.

 

And there it is.  It’s a matter of my will, of my choosing, as always.  I can choose to only conjure up the depressing thoughts of those two days, and of this past week generally, or I can instead choose to ponder also on the bright spots.

 

On Monday evening, after Aaron’s really bad day, he suddenly asked if he could write our friend Atha a note.  He knows Atha, and he has heard us talking about her stroke.  Aaron rarely offers on his own to write anything to anyone, unless it’s what he wanted to write on a sticky note about me on Monday.  It wasn’t nice, either.

 

So this idea of his to send Atha a get-well note in his own words was just a very special, unexpected warm moment in the midst of a terrible time for him and for us.  That made it a double blessing.  A very needed blessing, double at that!!

 

 

I can look at the scar on Aaron’s wall and I can remember this precious note.

 

Also to be remembered are the prayers of friends and family….the kindness shown when aware of our need….the time spent with friends and the encouragement of warm hugs.  There was Julie, an employee at our Dillon’s, who asked me out of the blue if I needed any more one dollar bills for Aaron.  It’s not easy to get the ones when I need them, and I had forgotten in my stress that I was running low, but Julie saw me and asked me….said she thought I might be running low….said she was looking out for me.  She has no idea, though I told her a little, of how much that meant to me this week.

 

The scar on Aaron’s wall can remind me of all those blessings.

 

And there is the recliner at Dillon’s – two recliners, actually – that Aaron sat in the first time he saw them.  They were something new.  Something fun!  But probably not something that Dillon’s wants everyone to sit in and enjoy like Aaron does.  J  So the next time we saw them, in front of the registers, each chair held a huge stuffed animal.  I laughed and told Aaron that now he couldn’t sit in them since they were already occupied.  I figured that Dillon’s had a motive for putting those animals there.

 

On Friday, Aaron and I were there after I picked him up from Paradigm.  We were ordering him his favorite Cheddar Pasta Salad when suddenly he took off walking briskly toward something.  I thought he was headed to the Chinese side of the deli.  He LOVES looking at the Chinese food, and having the workers ask him what he wants while he laughs and says he’s just looking.  Every time.  But on Friday, when I looked up to see him walking away, I soon saw where he was headed.

 

 

Yep.  He spied the recliner, moved to a new spot in the store.  The empty recliner….but not for long.  Look at his smile.  How could I not smile?

 

I see the scar on Aaron’s wall and I see the choice I have to make.  Aaron knows he did wrong and he knows he must wait for the wall to be repaired.  I don’t need to keep hammering that home to him.  But there are some issues that sometimes need hammering into my brain as I look at his scar.

 

What will I allow that scar to teach me?  What will I allow that scar to do to my heart and to my spirit?  Will I use that scar to remind me of the bad, or will I use that scar to let me remember the blessings in the midst of pain and the lessons learned in the hard times?

 

We all have them, those ugly scars of life.  We can wallow in anger and unforgiveness….regret and guilt…..pain and sadness.

 

Or we can choose to do what God said and forget those things that are behind, and press forward.  I know we can’t really forget, but we can forget in the sense of clinging on to them and letting the defeating thoughts control us.  What’s done is done.  Let God handle it as you pray and trust.

 

And as you forgive those that have hurt you, whether they know it or not.  Like Gary said on Monday night, our relationship with Aaron is much like God’s relationship with us.  It’s one of constant sin on my part and constant forgiveness on God’s part.  How can I do less?
I want my scars to be touch points for memories of God’s grace in my life, and then for me to extend that grace to others…..including….especially!….Aaron.