Monday, November 18, 2013

Grace

I've been thinking a lot about God's grace these days.  Most likely since I sense a great need for it in my life. People sometimes say it is God's grace that has kept them from trials or difficulties.  Yet I wonder if that is how it works?  If our lives are at a point of ease and comfort does that mean we are living under the grace of God?  By all means God has lavishly given His grace to us through the life of His Son Jesus Christ.  Yet I think His grace is displayed most clearly in our struggles.  The author Max Lucado explains it like this, "To discover grace is to discover God's utter devotion to you, His stubborn resolve to give you a cleansing, healing, purging love that lifts the wounded back to their feet."

God's Word says that He gives grace to the afflicted (Proverbs 3:24), the people of Israel that survived the sword found grace in the wilderness (Jeremiah 31:2), Stephen is described as being full of grace and power right before he was stoned to death (Acts 6 and 7).  The apostle Paul tells of this "thorn in his flesh", which he begged God to remove (thorn is translated 'stake'), yet proclaims in 2 Corinthians 12:9, " 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

I can't say that I completely understand God's grace.  But I do know that as you lean on Jesus in the midst of sorrow, pain, loss, confusion, persecution, you can be sure that God's grace is being poured out on you.  He is displaying His love to a hurting world through His sustaining work in your life.  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and your heart open to receive all He has for you...even through, especially through, the most difficult of days.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Who am I?

As best as I can remember, my care for my aunt started about 6 years ago when she had a hip replacement, followed by 3 knee surgeries in a two year time span.  My aunt never married and never had children of her own and has always been an important part of our family.  We have had the privilege of living next door these last 22 years.  It was very convenient to go over to help with a project or to spend a few moments catching up on life.  When she began having surgeries, her needs increased a bit.  Rides to the doctor, clipping the cat's nails, taking out the garbage.  Somehow this progressed to taking care of daily needs, grocery shopping, paying bills, filling prescriptions, picking up spilled blueberries, doing laundry, finding a winter outfit from the guest room closet.  This year was particularly difficult and time consuming, multiple calls to 911, several hospital stays, stitches, scans, nursing homes and moving to assisted living all happened in a 10 month period. Looking back, this year looks quite overwhelming, but I must say, I don't have any regrets for anything I did for and with my aunt.  It was a gift to me, and a joy, to be her caregiver.  My aunt suddenly passed away two weeks ago.  We had the funeral today.  And now I have "grief" to list on my resume of life.

One thing my heart is trying to grasp right now is, "who am I?"  My role as a caregiver has slowly taken over much of my life.  And now that role has been stripped away with a stopping of a heart beat.  I would think a sense of relief would flood my soul at the thought of the emotional and physical freedom I could enjoy.  Yet I feel like a lost child in a large department store at Christmas time.

At the funeral I read Revelation 21:3-6 (or I tried to...pools of tears filled my eyes, which made for great difficulty in seeing the words!).  Verse 5 says, "Behold, I am making all things new."  All things.  My role as caregiver has come to a close and now there is something new for me.  Isaiah 43:19 says, "Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?  I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert."  I share a name with my aunt and now we both get to share in something new.  Her "new thing" is eternal life with Christ Jesus where there is no death, no mourning, no crying and no pain.  My new thing is yet to be determined.  I do know the Lord has promised a roadway in this wilderness, so I will follow and find that something new.

(I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that who I am in Christ never changes, I am a child of God.  Yet how our lives twist and turn on this side of heaven can change as quickly as the tide...)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Fog

My photographically gifted friend Chelle Majeski saw this path and thought of me. I love that I have most of my friends brainwashed, I mean most of my friends understand my passion/obsession with paths.  Looking at this picture, I realized most of the paths I'm drawn to are peaceful: soft ground underfoot, shelter from the hot sun from branches budding with life, and a clearing for walking with ease.  Peaceful.  Inviting.  A refuge.  And maybe this longing in my heart is for a place like this.  

Maybe a more accurate picture of my life these days is the one below.  Fog.  No clear path, just the unknown.  The fog says slow down, be careful...without a compass it is a wild guess which direction you will head. Walk by faith not by sight. I look back at this year and shake my head.  This may have been my most difficult year.  Fog.  My aunt's declining health and countless hospital visits, to her passing just a week ago to Dave's continued chronic pain and deep depression.  It seems every morning is greeted with yet another unknown.    
                                         

The Truth is God is in the midst of the peace and in the midst of the pain. He is the One constant in this turbulent year.  And though I can't see in front of me, I can't see where the road leads, I do know the One that is leading.  The picture above is actually of Julia.  She is doing her morning devotions in the fog.  She sees the one thing that is necessary in the midst of the unknown, to trust the Shepherd that leads beside quiet waters and guides in the paths of righteousness. I have missed blogging, it is my way of wading through these waters of the unknown, so I will write.  Again, this is for me, but if a slice of hope can be given to another - then read on dear one.  You are not alone.

*update 11/16/13 From today's devotional, Jesus Calling, last paragraph
"The fog is a protection for you, calling you back into the present moment.  Although I inhabit all of space and time, you can communicate with Me only here and now.  Someday the fog will no longer be necessary, for you will have learned to keep your focus on Me and on the path just ahead of you."
Wow.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Fine Print

I was cleaning out some old files (actual pieces of paper in my hands, not our modern day files found with a mouse!) and came across several treasures...anyone out there remember the Women's Leadership Retreat from 2006?  Yup, I still have those notes, that was a moment in my life that will stay etched as a true deepening of  my faith.  I also found the following and wanted it saved so here it is...
 
 
The Fine Print
by John Fischer

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:8-10 ESV)

These verses are what I call the fine print of the Christian life.  When you sign up, you sign up for this, but unfortunately, not too many people read that far into the contract, and not enough leaders point it out.  So when bad things start happening to us, we think something went wrong with our faith.  Not necessarily, if fact, it's an honor to think that your faith is worthy of being tested.

It's a reverse spiritual principle that nonetheless is true: we get beaten down so the Christ might rise in us.  It's the whole idea God has of avoiding confusion.  See, He doesn't want people confusing human power and achievement with His power and what He is achieving in and through our lives.  If all Christians were super-Christians, people would be impressed with them. As it is, God wants people to be surprised at us, not so much impressed - surprised that we can keep on believing, given what has happened to us.  Surprised at us - impressed with God.  That's the way it should go.

It's important to know this so that the things that happen don't throw us into a tailspin.  Paul wrote in the passage above that troubles, confusions, knock-downs and drag-outs, are all to be expected in the life of faith, and they are not just something to suck it up and endure, they are what will actually release the power of God in our lives.  We encounter deathlike experiences so that Christ's lifelike nature may clearly be seen in us, despite what is happening.

Let me try and say this again.  This is not just endurance training through tough times.  This is God's strategy for ministry through us.  There is no other way for it to be done.  His strategy for ministry through us.  There is no other way for it to be done.  His strategy is His power and strength through our weakness - His life through our death.  This doesn't just happen to some Christians; it happens to us all if we desire to be effective in our faith.

So don't forget the fine print today, and allow the troubles you face to springboard you into finding God's purposes even in this.  He had this planned all along.  It's even in the contract!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Not Cool Poop...

Okay, so I'm a little tired and I really can't think of any other title for this post.  I posted a video of a little and quite articulate boy giving a pep talk, (kidpresident), here is the link, don't know if it will show here or not...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-gQLqv9f4o

Anyway, during the presentation he quotes Robert Frost, "Two roads diverged in the woods, and I took the one less traveled..." and then this boy yells, "and it hurt man!  Rocks! Thorns! Glass! Not cool Robert Frost!"  It absolutely cracked me up.  Notice how sometimes when things that are very true make you laugh louder?  Yes, this road I'm on can sometimes hurt and I want to yell - NOT COOL!

Thanks Becca!
Anyway, this is part of the back story to this post title.  Daniel has had bad stomach cramps the last three nights.  It has only happened in the evenings and then he sleeps through the night and even made it to school.  Last night it was awful.  He woke up at 1am and dropped himself on the bathroom floor writhing in pain in the fetal position. Ugh, a mamma's heart.  I tried every home remedy known to man (or to me...which wasn't many).  About an hour later, I did what everyone else would do.  Call Kirstin.  To shorten this post so I can get on with this crazy day and go make coffee...she said go to the ER.  So we went.  And I am so glad.

We went to Mary Bridge (wow, haven't been there in awhile, it is so nice!), they listened to his gurgling stomach, took an x-ray and found poop.  This is the very shortened version, to spare you the details...they took care of business and we were home in bed by 6am.  So now, I am also mad at poop...hence the title "Not Cool Poop".  Yes, I'm really tired and probably will delete all this when I come to my senses.  Here is our little man:
He was SO miserable, but just like that he was back to his happy self!
Yes, I am pretty tired and have too many things on my list today, but all I can do is completely REJOICE!  Why?  Because all I can picture right now is a giant garbage dump.  (sorry I am so tired, this is how my mind works)  You see, my friends just got back from Ethiopia.  Kelsey blogged yesterday about this "city" that literally is in a garbage dump.  Children running everywhere in filth and all alone - hopefully their parents were somewhere, hopefully.  What about these children, what if their stomach hurts, who takes care of them?  My heart just hurts that this is in our world.  I feel so undeserving of the LOVE of our Father in heaven, well, we are undeserving...but for CHRIST!  Anyway, I am so grateful we were able to see a doctor, to be able to have a remedy, to be able to have my son.  (I still am not to the point of being grateful for poop though!  I'll get there, don't worry)

So there you have our night.  I asked Daniel how he felt this morning when we woke up.  His answer?  "Awesome!"  Well, okay then, let's go make the rest of this day AWESOME!

Monday, January 21, 2013


Today's devotional (Jesus Calling) said:

"I want you to be all mine.  I am weaning you from other dependencies.  Your security rests in Me alone-not in other people, not in circumstances.  Depending only on Me may feel like walking on a tightrope, but there is a safety net underneath: the everlasting arms.  So don't be afraid of falling.  Instead look ahead to Me..."

How come this is not comforting? I don't like falling, it hurts!  About a year ago I went with my daughter to an ice skating party.  Now I LOVE to ice skate...or I used to when I was in grade school.  My mom would take my sister and me to the local Ice Arena and we spent hours there.  I WAS Dorothy Hamill, haircut and all!  We lived in North Dakota for awhile after that and I found even greater  joy skating outdoors on a local pond.  Flash forward to last year.  It had been awhile since I had laced up a pair of skates, so I took it slow, but I was sure I'd impress my daughter and her friends.  In reality I looked ridiculous clinging to the side wall with toddlers passing me.  And then I fell.  Ouch.  I do not remember it hurting when I fell way back in the day, but it sure hurt now!  I was more determined than ever not to fall for fear of breaking my hip.  Where is this going?  Glad you asked.  I don't like to fall.

Today's devotional said, "Depending on Me may feel like walking on a tightrope...", it may.  In reality that is the only place I find true security, in dependence on Christ alone.  Oh, I have tried to be independent, working in my own strength.  And I've tried to depend on circumstances and other people.  God is showing me how to let go of those "other dependencies".  Yes, I will fall and it may hurt, it may.  Or just maybe as I fall into those everlasting arms, I'll find true rest.

So now, I will choose to not be afraid of falling, and I will look ahead
(even if it's through tears) to Jesus as I depend on Him alone.  


As I started to blog tonight, the song "Mountain of God" by Third Day was playing.  Here are some of the lyrics:


Even though the journey's long and I know the road is hard
Well, the One who's gone before me He will help me carry on
After all that I've been through, now I realize the truth
That I must go through the valley to stand upon the mountain of God

And speaking of irony (well I guess just Becca and I were speaking of irony...), "In Christ Alone" is playing now...