Tag Archives: adversity

Always On My Mind

IMG_0127Jon’s been to the sedation dentist five times in the past eight months. We still have two to three more appointments to finish all the repair needed and then there’s the question of whether there’ll be more in the future.

There’s always this thing about Jon’s future (and not just his teeth). It wants to hang over me like a dark cloud, more than I care to admit.

I don’t worry about our son, David. I think about him everyday, but never worry about him. But Jon? Oh yes! I worry about him plenty and have for many years. The older he and I get, the more it weighs on me. Maybe this is normal for parents of kids who need care and supervision their entire lives. Is it? Or am I alone here?

I can be having a conversation with you and in the far recesses of my mind I’m thinking about Jon. I can be at the grocery store, in a church service, on a cruise, visiting my grandson; I can be anywhere doing anything and Jon is present in my thoughts. He’s always on my mind.

Other’s tell me, “Well you shouldn’t worry so much. It’s in God’s hands.”
I smile and reply, “Thank you, that’s true. You’re right. Pray for me.”
But honestly, what I sometimes want to shout is, “That’s easy for you to say!”

So how do we trust God in situations that continue day after day, year after year? It’s real. It’s in our face every morning when we rise and every night when we lay down. How do we find peace and contentment in this place? Can I ever reach a place of total surrender here? Can I ever mature enough in God to never feel this anxiety again, even when nothing has changed? Can I get through a day without having to lay it down at  Jesus’ feet again and again? Today. Tomorrow. And the next day. Or the one after that.

I don’t know. I want to. Worry wears me out. It’s exhausting.

Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34) but in context, He was talking about material goods needed for life: food, drink and clothes. He wasn’t talking about my son. Apostle Paul also wrote in Philippians 4:12 that he had “learned the secret of being content in every situation” but also related this to material needs; hunger, abundance and lack. He wasn’t talking about Jon either.

So I look at these:

“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you..” Psalm 55:22.

“Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything.” (Apostle Paul) Philippians 4:6.

“..Cast all your anxiety on Him (Jesus) because He cares for you” 1 Peter 5:6-8.

“Come to Me (Jesus) all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (Jesus) John 14:27.

I read these promises and realize this worry free existence we hope for, may NOT be a ‘I’ve finally arrived’ deal. I wonder if we ever reach the pinnacle of ability to sail through a trouble filled earth life without angst. As believers in an all powerful and involved-in-life God, maybe we do ourselves and others a disservice when we expect to reach a super spiritual level of never worrying about anything, ever again, this side of Heaven.

We read our Bibles and cliché these scriptures into meaninglessness, beating ourselves up for failing and feeling sub-standard for not measuring up.

Could it be these promises aren’t about removing worry from life permanently, but instructions for surrendering it daily? If “faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen,” (Hebrews 11:1) then everyday I need to lay what I hope for at His feet. Everyday while I wait ‘for what I have not yet seen’ I need His strength to battle the enemies of worry, doubt and fear.

Everyday I pray.
Everyday I cast my anxiety on Him.
Everyday I come to Him for peace and rest.
Everyday I run to Him with my problems.
Everyday I choose to trust Him.
Everyday I believe He loves me.
Everyday I lay my questions, concerns, fears and worries before Him.
Everyday I surrender Jon, his future and mine, back to Him.

Today. Tomorrow. And the next day. And the one after that.

The better question to ask is this: “Can trouble or problems or persecution separate us from His love?” Romans 8:35

When I remember I’m loved, it’s easier to let go.
When I remember I’m loved, I worry less.
When I remember I’m loved, I breathe deeper.
When I remember I’m loved, I surrender completely.

“But in all these troubles we have complete victory through God, who has shown His love for us. Yes, I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love..” Romans 8:38.

In my daily surrender, God’s love overtakes my worry. When His love is always on my mind, His love always wins.

“..nothing in the whole created world—will ever be able to separate us from the love God has shown us in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:39.

Nothing. Will ever!

Not Today. Tomorrow. And the next day. Or the one after that. Hallelujah!

A Mother’s Legacy

My mother passed on to her eternal home in 1994. She’s been gone twenty three years now and in many ways I’m happy for her. A strange thing to say? Maybe? But most of what I remember about my mother was the difficulties she endured.Mom

Shortly after I was born, she had a complete and devastating nervous breakdown and was committed to Willard State Psychiatric Hospital in upstate New York for several years. Over my lifetime, I’ve heard bits and pieces of family speculation and attempted to piece ambiguous information together, but I still don’t really know why. These things were not discussed openly by previous generations as they are now.

My older brother went into foster care and I was shuffled around between grandparents and a few aunts and uncles before finally landing with a family down the street who had five kids of their own. They took me in and it was because of them and out of desperation to see his family reunited, that my Dad had his come to Jesus experience. Though our family life was imperfect, and at times dysfunctional, I was raised with a foundation of Bible, church and a solid belief in God that later became an anchor for my own life storms.

When Mom finally came home from Willard, she wasn’t the same, at least that’s what I was told. I don’t remember her to be anything other. She was just Mom. She was somewhat timid, emotionally fragile and often fearful, yet I knew she loved me, though I have no memory of her ever saying so.

She was a cigarette addict (wasn’t everyone in the 50’s?), married to a hard-working, sometimes overbearing and exacting man, she never learned to drive and developed rheumatoid arthritis sometime in her thirties. I would come home from school to find her sobbing on the sofa, a knee or wrist so painfully red and swollen she couldn’t function. Mom never went to a doctor and never took anything for the pain but aspirin, which does nothing to alleviate any of RA’s symptoms, as I would later discover for myself.

I remember her walking me to kindergarten and later, on days I walked home from elementary school for lunch, there was usually a grilled cheese sandwich and hot Campbells soup waiting on the small table in the corner of the kitchen. On days she felt better, she’d be in the kitchen cooking meals or doing endless loads of wash and hanging heavy, wet clothes on the rope stretched between the shed and the sour cherry tree in our backyard.

Because she didn’t drive, I’d sometimes ride my pink, banana-seat bike two miles to the corner store, with a note giving me permission to purchase a pack of cigarettes. An extra nickel or dime would buy me some penny candy, then I’d happily pedal back home. On hot summer days, she’d occasionally hand me a dime, and I’d dash to the curb for a cherry snow cone from Mr. Frosty’s truck.

Somewhere toward the close of her fiftieth decade, RA got the best of her. She couldn’t walk anymore. With the cushioning cartilage and synovial fluid in her knees gone, the joints fused and locked in place. She finally had wheels of her own – a wheelchair – and Dad became her caregiver. Several years passed before he couldn’t lift her anymore. At age sixty she went to live in a nursing home and at sixty-two she died of cancer. Unfortunate for us, but fortunately for Mom, only in that her wheelchair, pain and emotional suffering stayed behind when she left this earth.

What I remember most about my mom? She was always there for her family and rarely complained. She didn’t whine, claim entitlement or victim-hood. With no social media on which to unveil every detail of her life and in the oblivion of my youth, I gave little thought to the difficulties she faced. It wasn’t until I developed rheumatoid arthritis in my mid-twenties and had a family of my own that I came to appreciate my mother’s perseverance.

I wonder what dreams she had as a young girl and if she ever felt slighted because her life didn’t go as planned. Like so many mothers, she did the best she could under difficult circumstances and well into my adult years, I realized a simple truth; parents are human too and perfected people are non-existent. A sure mark of maturity is realizing this and forgiving ours for being flawed and possibly less than we hoped for.

Maybe ingrained deep within my DNA, is a measure of my mother’s endurance; an assistant in carrying me through life, as it did her. Someday I will tell her how grateful I am for the legacy she left me.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

 

The God Who Sees

tile-floorsI was on my hands and knees scrubbing the tile floor around the toilet for the fourth time in a week. Those of you who live with boys know they sometimes miss. Jon is not a boy. He’s a man. And he still misses, way too often for my liking.

As I applied bleach to the grout again, I sighed and breathed out loud, “I hope I can still get down here and do this when I’m 80,” and felt a sudden hopelessness roll over me.

Then I heard a still small voice in the depths of my soul.

“I see you.”

My Bible reading that morning had brought me to the story of Hagar. Hagar was the slave of Sarai, Abram’s wife, obtained in one of their detour trips to Egypt. Hagar came from a culture that worshiped multiple gods. The Egyptians had a god for everything, so Abraham’s god, on her list of imaginative deities, was probably added only to appease the old folks.

Hagar had no rights. She was a nobody. Her duty in life was to fulfill the wishes of another, and when barren Sarai grew tired of waiting for the son God had promised Abram, she did what was a common practice of their culture. Sarai sent Abram to sleep with her slave to claim a son through Hagar. Hagar was forced to become a surrogate mom.

Genesis 16:1-3 “Sarai, Abram’s wife, had no children, but she had a slave girl from Egypt named Hagar. Sarai said to Abram, “Look, the Lord has not allowed me to have children, so have sexual relations with my slave girl. If she has a child, maybe I can have my own family through her.” Abram did what Sarai said.”

When Hagar became pregnant she realized she now had an advantage over Sarai. Hagar got herself an attitude and who could blame her, really? What’s Sarai going to do to her now that she’s carrying Abram’s child? Someone who’s had no control over her own destiny finally had an edge. Eventually the relationship between the two women became so intolerable, Hagar ran away.

Genesis 6:7-12 finds Hagar beside a spring of water in the desert having a conversation with an angel of God. She was told to go back home and continue to serve Sarai. But God promised Hagar her son, would become a great nation also. He gave her hope.

Not one of Egypt’s gods had ever spoken to her. Not one of them cared enough to show up and reassure a despairing slave girl. But Abram’s God did. And she was amazed.

This God knew who she was. Where she was. And what she needed. This God had eyes to see her and ears to hear her. This God cared!

Then, “the slave girl gave a name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are ‘God who sees me,’” because she said to herself, “Have I really seen God who sees me?” Genesis 6:13

I realized that day on the floor that God sees me. He said as much.  And every time I get on the floor to scrub again, I am reassured He is pleased. What we determine to be small, insignificant, unseen and even annoying, matters greatly to God.

God sees you driving to work again, that counter you wiped, the laundry washed and folded, the dishwasher you load, the toilet scrubbed, another diaper changed, the gas tank you just filled and each time you help lift that person in and out of his wheelchair.

He sees the smile you brought to someone, the hug you gave, the ride you offered, the meal you cooked.

He sees how tired, desperate and broken you are.

It matters to Him. The unseen is important to Him. That thing done when no one watches. The mundane. The exhausting. The unappreciated. The irritating.

He sees it all and He knows.

Because my God is the God Who Sees!

And He’s your God too.

 

 

It’s Not All About You!

reality checkOur story inspires people. At least, that’s what I hear. That’s what some tell me. I find that fascinating because it usually doesn’t feel the least bit inspiring while living it. It often feels frustrating, lonely, difficult, challenging, frightening and exhausting.

But there’s one thing I’ve figured out about my wise, loving and mysterious God. He enjoys showing up in the middle of our mess! He loves to partner with us to make Himself known.

If releasing the Hebrews from bondage was God’s only objective, He could have swooped into Egypt all by Himself and in any number of ways, set the Israelite nation free.

So what was the long, drawn out process all about? The negotiating, petitioning, plagues and frustration. Moses was only doing what God had instructed. Why wasn’t it easier? Scholars estimate the duration of all the plagues, until Israel’s release, was at least two months and possibly up to a year.

The ancient Egyptians worshiped over 2000 deities. They had a god associated with every aspect of life; agriculture, fertility, water, rain, animals, death, insects, earth, sky, sun and moon. Even Pharaoh was thought to be a god.

While delivering Israel, Jehovah was also trying to reveal Himself to the nation of Egypt as the One True God. The only way to do so was to prove His power greater over all the gods they imagined. Each plague addressed, at least one and maybe more, of their gods.

In His mercy, God orchestrated this series of events to access the heart of Pharaoh and give him opportunity to change. But Pharaoh continually hardened his heart. The ‘ahh-hah’ moment never came. Pharaoh never accepted the revelation of a real God who cared enough about him to speak loudly and clearly, “I AM THE LORD!” not all these other things you worship.

God will go out of His way to make Himself known. If only one Egyptian came to know the One True God in the middle of Israel’s mess, it was worth the struggle. Apparently some believed, because Exodus 12:37&38 tells us, “That night the people of Israel left Rameses and started for Succoth..a rabble of non-Israelites went with them..”

not about meThis thing you’re going through right now might not be only for or about you. It might be so others see God’s power at work in you while He is simultaneously orchestrating your solution.

Don’t be discouraged because your rescue, problem or promise is taking so long. Be patient. Trust the process. Remember others are watching.

Someone else could be changed because of your faith and trust in a time of trouble. Someone else could see God’s power at work in your struggle and have that ‘ahh-hah’ moment.

“When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord” Exodus 7:5.

Someone else could come to know He Is Lord, because of what He is doing for YOU!

Exodus 9:29 “All right,” Moses replied. “As soon as I leave the city, I will lift my hands and pray to the Lord. Then the thunder and hail will stop, and you will know that the earth belongs to the Lord.”

Exodus 14:4 “I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord!”

Exodus 14:17&18 “My great glory will be displayed through Pharaoh and his troops, his chariots, and his charioteers. When my glory is displayed through them, all Egypt will see my glory and know that I am the Lord!”

Do Unto Others

“Do unto others as they have done to you?”

There are many times in life, relationships and circumstances we secretly wish Jesus had actually said it that way and more often than we like to admit, we react as if He did (Matthew 7:12).

Here’s what I know:

People can disappointruler-684005_640
People can hurt
People can reject
People can ignore
People can ridicule
People can neglect
People can be selfish
People can be disloyal
People can be harsh
People can be intolerant
People can be heartless
People can be cruel
People can be…just fallen, broken, messed-up people.

So how do we respond when others become these ‘People Can’ folks?

What is our reaction when people don’t rise to the level of our expectations?

The human tendency is to recoil, withdraw, take out a mental permanent marker and cross them off our internal, ‘people-I-just-might-continue-to-like’ list.

I’ve said it and many times heard others say it, “They did/said ________. That’s it! I’m done with them!”

We wash our angry, offended hands of them and walk away; maybe not literally, but emotionally. We build walls, barriers and keep them distant; at the extreme fringe of our consciousness.

They are cast to the outside of our tiny circle and are greeted, if it all, with a stiff jaw, hard heart and an icy attitude.

Obviously, I’m not referring to abusive, immoral or illegal relationships. There may be people we need out of our life to vastly improve its’ outcome. Go ahead and pray for these as you walk away. But in the everyday interactions between co-workers, friends, family, spouse, fellow believers and the cashier in the checkout line, we can be so easily offended, so quick to write others off.

The truth is God did not write us off. He should have. We certainly deserve it.

He did this instead:

“For God so loved the world He gave…” John 3:16
“While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“Father forgive them they don’t know what they’re doing.” Luke 23:34

And if God, my Creator, did this for us, we can do no less for others.

Jesus, our pattern and example of God walking and living on the earth said:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you…” Matthew 5:44

In other words, “Do what I do. Treat others, not as they deserve, but in the same way I have treated you.”

He’s never turned his back on us, but gave it to the lash of scorners.

He’s never walked away from us, but stumbled up a dusty hill, carrying the same tree that took His life.

He’s never washed his hands of us, but allowed them to be pierced with nails of redemption.

He’s never crossed us off his list, but hung on a cross to prove He will never stop reaching for us.

This isn’t a fuzzy, mushy, lollipops and sunshine sorta’ love. It’s a, “This is hard and I don’t feel like it, but it’s the right thing to do,” kind of love (Luke 22:42).

It’s a love that puts relationship over being right. And a love, not for romantic, starry-eyed whimps, but for spirit led soldiers who will take up their cross and follow Him.

“So in EVERYTHING, do to others what you WOULD HAVE them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” Matthew 7:12.

The addition of a few extra words changes everything.

My prayer today, is they will also change me and you.

The Unapplauded Hero

super-hero-cape-flying-SupermomI met a Hero the other day.

She is twenty five years old.

She’s put aside her own hopes and dreams to care for a chronically ill family member.

She’s had to quit her job because the care needs are so time consuming.

At an age when she should be having fun, dating, building a future, career or a family of her own, she cares full time for someone in need.

She cries when no one is watching.

She wonders what the future holds.

She worries what will happen to her loved one.

She worries what will happen to herself if something happens to her loved one.

She feels guilt for wanting more.

She doubts God at times.

Her faith wavers even as she continues believing.

She is a full time caregiver. Someone desperately needs her. She is there.

She is learning at a young age the hardship and beauty of a laid down life.

If you are a single young man you might want to consider a woman like her.

She won’t have much time to date, but she certainly knows about loyalty, selflessness and love; all the qualities that make a great spouse.

She’s the unapplauded in the background. One who performs the mundane today, tomorrow and the next day.

But mundane is greatness when executed so selflessly.

Those who are faithful in little things will be rewarded with much (Matthew 25:23, Luke 16:10).

She will be honored for her faithfulness.

Man may overlook.

But God sees.

He sees it all.

He sees her.

She is brave.

She is strong.

She is incredible.

And He calls her Beautiful.

My New “I Don’t Get It” Box

box copyI now own a virtual “I Don’t Get It” Box. It was delivered to me over the weekend after a conversation I had with a good friend. She’s had a tough year and great loss.  We talked about  faith, and how it processes us through life circumstances that are more than difficult.

Sometimes stuff happens that doesn’t fit into our neat and tidy theological boxes. We can’t check them off our doctrinal lists. Things happen that we can’t explain and we have no idea which  (thought-I-had-this-all-figured-out-already!) category to file them under.

After this conversation with my friend, I woke up the next morning with a picture in my head. Some people call them visions or awake dreams. Call it whatever you want, but I saw me with a long line of people stretched out endlessly behind me, standing in front of a huge box inscribed with a large glowing font that said,

“I Don’t Get It.”

Everyone in line, including me, had a piece of paper in hand. I had written on the paper, parts of my life I question, things I don’t understand and circumstances I have faced or still face that are confusing and seem to have no answers.

I stepped up to the box and threw my paper in. When it hit the bottom the font on the front of the box changed and began to flash in bright neon over and over again,

“Just TRUST Me. Just TRUST Me. Just TRUST Me. Just TRUST ME….”

I may not ‘get’ many things but I get this message loud and clear. I don’t need to analyze, understand, explain and figure everything out.

I can’t know everything because knowing ALL would make me God. Wasn’t that we could be like God by eating the only off limits fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the original lie of the serpent?

Man fell for the deception. He believed it. Do we still?

God wants our trust. He wants us to believe Him. It’s all He’s ever wanted. So I lay aside my need to know and simply trust..

Because God,

I believe You are good.

I believe You are love.

I believe You are faithful.

I believe You are merciful.

I believe You desire only the best for me,

Today, no matter what happens, how I feel, whether I understand or not, I throw it all into my “I Don’t Get It” box and…

Just Trust You!

 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5

 “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10

 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. John 14:1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Hands His Hands

We celebrated another wedding anniversary recently and as I dusted off our wedding album to reminisce, I smiled, flipping through the photos.

Until I came to this one on the last page, this close up of our hands showing off our new wedding rings.hands

‘Oh My Gosh!’ I thought, ‘My hands were so pretty and so straight once.’

Six years after that photo was taken I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. A crippling auto immune disease  triggered at the birth of our first son and ten years later, ravaging through me like an eighteen wheeler squashing a bug, following the birth of our second.

As much as I wanted to, I didn’t have time to stay in bed and it really didn’t matter, staying in bed hurt just as much as being up. Painful nights without sleep and miserable exhausting days were measured on a pain scale of bad and horrible, making the bad days seem good.

My family needed me and with two active growing boys to care for, prayer and pills became my constant companion. Pain pills, steroids, low dose cancer drugs and weekly injections all kept me in function mode. My continuous prayers went from begging God for healing to demanding my body stop its destructive storm, and everything in between.

As the disease progressed the cartilage and fluid cushion between joints eroded. Fingers and toes began to drift, tendons shifted and bones fused. Slowly I was forced to give up activities I enjoyed; skating, tennis, playing guitar, clarinet and keyboards, hiking, wearing sexy shoes, doing my nails and many more.

The day I went to have my wedding ring cut in half to remove it from my swollen, misshapen finger was the culmination of how much rheumatoid arthritis had stolen. I cried tears of bitter resignation.

Since then, I have made drastic changes which positively affected my health: our family moved to a warm climate, I renovated my eating habits, began light daily exercise and the practice of stress release through prayer, meditative scripture reading and writing, laughing often, letting go of offense, forgiving, listening to my body, pacing myself instead of pushing, saying ‘No’ when necessary, asking for help when needed and giving myself permission to have fun.

Over the span of several years, I gradually reduced the amount of medications and have been off all drugs for a decade. But until God heals me completely, the joint damage remains.

As I looked at that picture of my normal hands, a stark reminder of what once was, I realized I rarely think of it now. I’ve adjusted, adapted and moved on.

My hands aren’t pretty. I know that. They are crooked and disfigured. But they still function, awkwardly managing to do what needs to be done.

They can still plant a seed or cut a flower in the garden, sew a stray button back on, slice an onion in the kitchen, butter toast, throw a load of laundry in the machine, reach for another person needing prayer, comfort or hugs, type this blog (two fingers at a time) and perform so many necessary tasks.

I’m far from the young girl in that picture now. I can’t go back there nor do I want to. Those days are gone and as the years roll by I am learning to be thankful for what is. Today. Right now.

I am learning to trust God in all things – understood or not, healed or not – big or small.

I’m grateful I still have hands. Crooked as they are, they belong to God.  I will use them to bring help, blessing and hope to others as long as I can. And I will raise them in worship and surrender to Him as long as He gives me breath.

Whether I’m healed on this side of eternity and in spite of the affliction and problems of this life, I choose to proclaim with Job of old:

“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that as the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God, whom I will see for myself, and whom my own eyes will behold, and not another.” Job 19:25-27

Lessons From A Hurricane Summer

The year 2004 was what I call Florida’s Hurricane Summer. Four hurricanes plagued us in a span of about six weeks.Hurricane Charlie damage 8-04 042

Exactly ten years ago today, Hurricane Charley, the storm that initiated the chaos, ripped through Central Florida. We were living in Kissimmee at the time in an older neighborhood with large lot lines. Our unique property, tucked away in a corner, consisted of two acres, a ranch style three bedroom, two bath main house with a pool and a detached, cozy one bedroom, one bath guest/in-law house out back, several sheds and a separate screen room where our hot tub lived.Hurricane Charlie damage 8-04 014

The property backed up to a conservation area and was surrounded by lush jungle on all sides; thick Florida flora of wild palm trees, palmetto, gigantic oaks and hanging moss. Some people thought it scary and worried about what lived in those woods. Not me. I thought it was beautiful, until Charley. We moved to Florida in 2001 and had never been through a hurricane before, but as I looked out at all those trees, I began to wonder what they could crush if they started falling.

The weather predictors vacillated for days over the path Charley might take, but when we finally knew the storm was coming for us, our family gathered in a tight circle and prayed for protection. Jon disappeared into his room and taped a paint stick perpendicular onto a yard stick forming a cross. He came back out and leaned it against the patio doors, his way of demonstrating God’s watchful eye over us. He then went back in his room and refused to come out. I found him lying stiff as a board on his bed wearing a bicycle helmet, a jacket, and a pair of boots, clutching a flashlight.

We’d had a new roof put on the main house a few months prior and fortunately never lost one shingle, unlike many of our neighbors, but the contractor forgot to nail down the three brand new skylights he installed and they blew off as Charley came barreling through. Rain was pouring into both bathrooms and the breakfast nook and it seemed as if the wind would lift the roof right off the walls.

I ran to the storage closet and found some old plastic shower curtains and a large piece of clear vinyl, while Mike went out in the garage to retrieve his staple gun and an eight foot ladder. Wind was battering the garage door so hard he thought it would blow in. He quickly climbed over potted plants and outdoor furniture we had brought in from outside, to get to his tool chest. As hurricane rookies, we never thought about keeping the tool chest where it could easily be reached.

Our son David, who was fourteen at the time, climbed up into those wide open ceiling holes in the middle of the storm to staple the plastic down. The pool solar panels had come loose and were flopping back and forth on the roof above his head. I held the ladder and prayed like a crazy woman for the panels to not slam through the roof opening and hit my son in the head, while the wind and rain roared around us.Hurricane Charlie damage 8-04 017

By the time the storm passed it was dark outside and the power was down. We decided to wait until morning to go outside and access the damage. Neighbors went door to door with flashlights making sure everyone was alright.  We didn’t sleep much that night or the nights that followed

It was a crazy, difficult time for many here in Central Florida. Our electricity was out for two weeks in the middle of Florida’s hottest summer month.Guest house access blocked & smashed shed

But I learned to be grateful for things we Americans take for granted everyday:

Water that comes from our faucets for bathing, cooking, cleaning, drinking. Without electric, our well pump was off and we had no running water in either house. I discovered how basic water is to human existence and realized I could live without many of the things we consider essential. I never want to be without water again. Every morning when I get in the shower and warm water runs over my sleepy body, I thank God for running water.

Air conditioning in a summer climate that reaches into the mid to high nineties with humidity levels to match. The sheets felt wet when we lay down on them at night. The spices in the cupboard clumped into one large blob in their containers. We never sweat so much in all our born days. We all smelled bad, looked bad and were hot and miserable. I thank God every summer for AC.

Garbage collectors became the most important people in the world. When all the food in the fridge spoils and there’s no trash collector to come haul it away, it’s not pleasant or pretty. Every week when I hear the trash truck stop at the end of our driveway I am grateful for those who do this vital work.

Uninterrupted family time. Without TV, computers, phones or modern distractions we spent time playing table games by candle light, reading, talking and working together. David found Mike’s old guitar in a closet and a hurricane catapulted our son’s love affair with music into overdrive. He now plays, writes and arranges his own songs (listen at daveconnis.com).

Safety of family and friends. Trees went down all around us, but the only structure crushed under a falling tree was one shed. It took months of cutting and clearing to rid our property of broken and fallen trees but my family, friends and neighbors were safe. No one was hurt. I am thankful everyday for the health and safety of those I love.David's tree removal service

Looking back on it ten years later, Hurricane Charley is like the opening line in Charles Dickens’ famous novel, A Tale of Two Cities.

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”

I hope to never go through a storm like that again but here’s what I know, storms of all kind come and go. No one likes them, but we learn our greatest lessons in the middle of them. If we hang on through the blustering wind and pelting rain, pray and trust God we come out on the other side..

Humbler

Wiser

More thankful

And a little more storm proof than we were before.

Nahum 1:7 (ESV) The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.

Matthew 8:23-27 (ESV) And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

2 Corinthians 4:17 (ESV) For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison

 

 

More Than You Can Bear – Part 3 – No Where Else To Go

What am I to do when the circumstances of life become more than I can bear; when rising from my bed in the morning is like climbing a mountain and putting one foot in front of the other is exhausting, painful, overwhelming; when questions assault me on every side, my mind becomes a windstorm of thoughts, tears flow like rivers and my heart is broken?43966153

I had to know.

So I asked.

I found a simple, yet most difficult answer.

Trust.

Do I believe in a God who can heal? Absolutely. I’ve seen and experienced healing and know He can and still does.

Do I believe in a God who can miraculously deliver me out of trouble? Definitely. I’ve encountered that in my own life and the lives of others.

Do I have faith for instant miracles? No question. All I need is faith the size of a mustard seed. I sweep dust from my kitchen floor bigger than that.

Do I believe God is sovereign and I won’t always understand His ways?  Yes. So my mission is simply to believe Him, to trust Him.

No matter what.

To trust I am loved. Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

To trust I am never on my own.  Matthew 28:20 I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Hebrews 13:5  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

To trust in the darkest place. Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

To trust He has a plan for me.  Jeremiah 29:11 I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Philippians 6:6… being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it.

To trust He will bring me through. Isaiah 43:1-3 Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

To trust He knows what I need. John 6:68 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

I have nowhere else to go. I’ve searched everywhere. No one, nothing, provides the answers I want or need.

It is only Christ who proves strong in my weakness, mighty in my suffering.

 “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14

Jesus walked where I walk, He felt what I feel. He experienced the wide range of emotions life on Earth brings.

He knows my frame, how I’m put together and what makes me tick.

He knows without Him I’m nothing but a pile of dust.

He lived, died and resurrected to fill the breach between Heaven and Earth. He did all that for me.

When I’m weary, broken, my faith is small and my hope is almost extinguished, Jesus sees and hears.

Compassion overtakes him.

I imagine Him, sitting to the right of the Father, his nail scared hands resting on the arms of the throne room chair.

He leans into God’s ear and pleads my case, reminding His Dad that it’s not easy being here, being human.

He rehearses what it was like to come to Earth and wear the same flesh suit I wear, walking this hard, dusty ground; totally immersed in what it is to be one of us; hungry, tired, thirsty, in pain, rejected, despairing, alone.

He understands I’m having a hard time, struggling under the weight of my affliction, breaking under the heaviness of my pain and pleads with the Father to provide extra mercy, a little more grace, to pour out some additional love from His endless supply; reassuring the hosts of Heaven that I’ll come around.

I’ll be alright.

When it’s all said and done I will come out of the furnace refined like pure gold, shining a little more like the beautiful gem that I was made to be.

This adversity will transform me, “for I know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”Romans 8:28

I’ll say like Joseph, “..you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.“ Genesis 50:20

I’ll say with Apostle Paul,” But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.” 2 Corinthians 1:9

In everything.

At all times.

And especially when life is too hard to bear.

In God I will trust.

 

“When there’s no getting over that rainbow, when my smallest of dreams won’t come true I can take all the madness the world has to give, but, I won’t last a day without you.” ~ From the song, ‘I Won’t Last A Day Without You’ by The Carpenters~

2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 17-18But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body…For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”.

  2 Corinthians 12:8-10Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”