Stories that Shine on an Awesome God

Bought and Paid For

Five-year-old Caleb came into the bedroom first thing one morning clutching his money box. He wanted to show me that he could buy the toy of his dreams.

“You know, Momma, the one where the car goes ’round and ’round.”

Yes, I knew. The one we had told him he would have to wait for Christmas to get. The one that was already hidden away in the closet, bought and paid for.

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He emptied his box on the carpet beside the bed and sat there surrounded with various coins and dollar bills. They represented his work. He was certain he had enough. He had no idea how much he had, but he had “counted” it and declared, “See, I have enough money. I do. I know I do. Now I can get it for Christmas.”

“But, Caleb, it’s for your Christmas present. You won’t have to pay for it.

“But I have enough.”

“Perhaps, but when you get a gift, a present, like at Christmas, you don’t have to pay. Mommy and Daddy have to pay. Sometimes it costs a lot of money, but you don’t have to use yours. We use our money. It’s free to you.

Christmas Present Wrapped in Gold and Silver

All this time I thought he had understood. All this time he thought he would have to pay. In fact the gift was already his and he, unaware, still counted his money.

I looked down at my pajama-clad son sitting among his scattered coins and saw all humanity.

Like Caleb, we long for the toy. We long to be right with God. We’re certain we’ve worked enough to earn it. Unaware that it is already bought and paid for, we’re certain we must buy it. Yes, it was paid for—at tremendous price, but not with our money. To us it is free. All we must do is be like Caleb on Christmas morning. We must reach out and accept our gift.

I felt like God that morning trying to explain the beautiful truth to His children.

“Little boy, you sit surrounded by money that you consider yours. You forget that you depend on your dad and me to give you that money, and now, what’s worse, with it you would buy a gift that is already yours. Please realize that your money and your gift flows from the same source. Everything is bought and paid for.”

“We’ve got you covered, Son. We’ve got you covered.”

Father-Child-Holding-Hands

Whether you do Christmas or not, please know that there is a God out there who has got you covered.

Covered in love. Covered in mercy.

Right Now!

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! . . . Dear Friends, NOW we are children of God . . . ” — I John 3:1&2

Cranberry Knowing

Edna stepped inside the door and offered her ruby-red, Thanksgiving treasure in a Tupperware container. This wasn’t the first time Edna had shown up at the front door of my daughter’s home, her warm smile erasing what were most likely wrinkles of weariness. Back when the twins had finally reached four pounds and their big sister was not yet two years old, she came often, just to lend a hand.

image of cranberries

When she handed me the crimson gem, it’s tangy, crunchy sweetness was already saying hello to my taste buds’ memories — chopped celery and chopped pecans and freshly ground cranberries. All that chopping and grinding and dicing had taken hours of her time, but for me, another Thanksgiving would include Edna’s Cranberry Salad. I couldn’t be happier. Gratitude and appreciation surged as I gave her a hug and found space in an already packed refrigerator.

This year, Thanksgiving is at my house miles away from my daughter’s home. All the kids are coming. Today, as I chopped and diced my way through Edna’s hand-written recipe, my gratitude for her yearly gift escalated. Today at my kitchen counter, I experienced her labor of love. I developed more than a passing appreciation. With each slice of my knife, I now know her experience. I received a hands-on glimpse into Edna’s world.

Image of preparation of Cranberry Salad

Now, thanks to Edna, my own Thanksgiving treasure is tucked away in a Tupperware container. (Okay, so I love alliterations.)

Thanks to Edna, a God-truth is now tucked deep inside:

We know God through experiencing what he experiences. Creativity, innocent pleasures, grief, rejection, intense love, or even something as common as being misunderstood can give us a clearer understanding of God’s heart. They can teach us of him. They can if we’ll let them.

image of cranberries in heart shape

So here’s to getting to know God better through hands-on experience. Here’s to gratitude and appreciation and here’s to experiencing some of

Edna’s Cranberry Salad:

Grind      1 lb cranberries – save juice
Drain      1, #2 can crushed pineapple – save juice
Dice        2 cups celery
Chop       1 cup pecans
Mix together and keep refrigerated

Dissolve               2 large pkgs. Cherry Jello in
3 cups hot water
Then dissolve     2 cups sugar in this.

When cool, NOT set

Add        Juice from crushed pineapples
½ cup lemon juice
Juice from ground cranberries
Enough orange juice to make 3 cups total

Let this mixture just begin to gel, then stir in refrigerated mixture. Pour into molds or other containers.

Chill until firm.

Down the Drain

“Why didn’t you, God?” Esther snapped. She slammed the lady’s room stall door and jerked the lock into its latch. “We trusted you. We prayed.” She dropped with a thud onto the commode. “This was suppose to be the perfect vacation. Why did you let this happen?” She glared at the shut door.

Image of Women's bathroom entrance

Down the corridor, at their airport gate, her husband, Bob, hunched over a phone with the receiver pressed tight against his ear. Their oldest daughter, in the seat beside his, leaned toward her dad, intent on every word. Esther had heard just enough to know that the call was from their youngest daughter and her boyfriend, traveling from Nebraska to join them in Colorado, and that the two college kids had had a serious accident.

Image of Air Traffic Control Tower at dusk

“Drug how many feet by an eighteen wheeler?” Bob’s eyes had stared into hers, damp and overly bright. The first call to board their flight had been announced. Esther had fled to the ladies room.

“So now, God.” She jutted her chin. “Everyone else is in route to the slopes from three different states. The three of us here, my brother, his kids, and now this. It’s too late to call this ski trip off. We knew it was a lot of travel. A lot could go wrong. We prayed for special safety.”

She clinched her fist and hit her thigh. Hard. If she could have, she would have beat God in the chest, but she didn’t want to get that close. She wanted to hurl things at him from a distance. Things like sticks and stones. Things like words.

image of the totaled car

Through clinched teeth, she spat words that she had never uttered to any authority, much less God. Punishment would have been swift. Repressed anger had served her well. When she was a child, even her mother, when highly vexed, had denied that she was angry. “No, I’m not angry.” Her mother’s eyes would bulge. “I’m determined.” So who was she to be angry with God? God was God. One didn’t question the Omnipotent.

Esther snatched at the toilet paper. “There was no reason to allow this to happen, God. You had no right. None. You should have protected them.”

“Esther, I did protect them.” The voice resonated, audible and clear. “Who is Bob talking to? Your daughter. I did protect them.”

image of man holding Phone in Airport

Esther’s hands stopped midair and flew together to cover her face. When she could breathe, she exhaled in a gush, inhaled slowly, deeply, and then tremblingly exhaled. Someone unseen had stepped inside the stall. Someone had ordained it sacred. Her ears strained for one more word. Instead, her own voice repeated, “I did protect them.”

“You did protect them?”

She hurried out and back to the gate. “Are they hurt, Bob? How badly? What happened?” She joined her husband in line to board.

“The car is probably totaled, but neither one has a scratch. Didn’t even go to the hospital.”

The two were renting a car. They would meet the others in Colorado, only one day late.

For once, words failed.

Image of clouds from above

Later, high above the clouds, she had plenty of time to talk. A humble child and a merciful, Father God held a quiet conversation in the most subdued tones:

“I was angry with you, God. I was really angry. I let you have it.”

“You sure did.”

“But you let me do it. You gave me the freedom to be honest with my emotions.

“Yes, I did.”

“So your chest, which I wanted to pound, is big enough for all of my venom.”

“It sure is.”

“So with you, I can be honest with my emotions.”

“Yes, you can.”

“About anything?”

“Anything. Especially when it comes to you and me.”

“And you talked to me. Out loud.”

“Out loud.”

“In a commode stall of all places.” Esther’s smile turned into a giggle. This God of hers had a sense of humor.

“Yes, in a commode stall, but then I like to flush anger down the drain.”

image of Sun shining on clouds from above

“Behold, you desire truth in the inward being and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” Psalms 51:6

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalms 145:17 & 18

“Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace. Zechariah 8:16

Pristine Presence

“Are the rooms clean?” I asked when I called for reservations. Well, I didn’t know. It was a center, a Family Reconciliation Center they called it, made available for the family and friends of those incarcerated while they came for prison visitation. I had never done this before, so how was I to know? It seemed like a logical question. “Yes, they’re clean and my husband can pick you up from the airport.” If Donna thought my question rude, she never let on. “He’s bald. Got a beard. I think he’s kinda cute. His name is Lee.” “I’m sure we’ll recognize him, and thank you, Donna. This is a huge help. ” image of Barbed wire fence The horseshoe bend of the river formed a natural moat for the sprawling state facilities below our wings. I counted three. A deep rock quarry in clear outline locked the remaining land mass from the rest of the world. Serious security. We circled, landed, and lost our omniscient view. Suitcase in tow, my husband and I left the terminal. A bald man with a beard approached us. I agreed. Through the eyes of love, he was kinda cute. Lee led us to a van that sported a large dent on its side and welcomed us on board. The precursory small talk lasted until he pulled out onto the street. His quiet and unassuming manner belied the misery of his story. He stopped the van at a clapboard house surrounded by a low metal fence and a lawn that was as tidy as a napkin covering a plate of communion wafers. image of Front Walk and Yard “There’s a support group going on in the front room, but just go on in.” Lee invited. “You won’t interrupt.”

Donna’s smile when she met us half-way to the kitchen illuminated the soft contours of her motherly face. She stretched out her arms and drew me into a hug that said, “I’m a woman whose been there and survived.” The light in her eyes kindled her abundant auburn hair.

image of Donna “Soup’s warm on the stove, but first let me show you your room,” she said. It was a guest house, actually—through the kitchen, out the side door, and next to a swing set for kids. The simplicity of the bedroom indicated that thriftiness was an art. The spotless bathroom indicated that someone understood the adage of cleanliness being next to Godliness. “The sheets are clean. But here are fresh ones for tomorrow.” Donna handed us neatly folded linens. “Just put them on in the morning and the bed will be ready for tomorrow night’s guests.” Back at the kitchen table, we devoured her luscious vegetable soup and macaroni salad. Lee, now silent, lingered beside his wife while she poured out her carbon copy story. A mother and a father filled our stomachs while their hearts still bled. image of the Kitchen A grown son. A motorcycle accident. A lost leg and adjoining pelvis. A life-long catheter. Despair. Spousal abandonment. Rage. Imprisonment. Special needs facility. Neglect. Abuse. Solitary confinement. Chains. Filth. Lack of food. Denied communication. A mother’s stubborn intervention. Prayers. Continued court hearings . . . . Lee and Donna talked on. Their misery mounted but their joy could not be suppressed. Only a survivor could understand such a paradox. They had been slammed with the plight of prisoners. They had ached with the pain of the parents. Then they had been given this Kingdom ministry, this Family Reconciliation Center, and their mourning had been turned into dancing. Image of Donna and Lee “God worked it out for us to be here.” Donna said. “We couldn’t imagine doing anything else. He’s given us a passion for others, right here near the prisons. To help others like ourselves. God is so awesome.” Praise fell from the lips of this red-headed mother from Ohio who had suffered a childhood of abuse. “I have never been so happy, so fulfilled in all my life.” Beamed Lee, the kinda cute man from West Virginia’s farm country who had survived his own struggles. image collage of DONNA AND LEE How does one thank such a host and hostess? How does one say an adequate goodbye? We could do little except join them in praising the God who works all things together for good. Then we finally said goodbye to a cottage pristine with the presence of Divinity.

“You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” Psalms 30:11-12

Perhaps you have a story where God turned your mourning into dancing. Please share it by clicking here.

Provider of Poems

Guest Blog, Poetry, and Photography by JerryAnn Berry

Finding my way to identity while filled with the shame of sin and abuse was like a maze of mirrors. I never knew if what I was seeing was my reflection at all. In the end I realized God found me and He knew where I was the whole time. The past 20 years of recovery are coming to a close. It has been a long journey out of shame and pain, walking into the healing light of God.

Poetry was one of the only ways I could express the situations in which I found myself. When reality had been processed and distilled down to its simplest, most authentic form, poetry was my heart’s elixir. This came through my connection with my Creator as He led me step by step. His view blended with my view, simplified the intense complexities and in the succinct words of a poem I could see clearly, often for the first time.

These three poems are examples of the progressive work of His Spirit mingling with my spirit. They are in sequence of experience and discovery. The last one I wrote this past weekend. Each one has come with new revelation of a God who knows how to touch me and heal my heart. In His presence each experience turns into silent words fitly spoken.

 Jeri's LifeLight Postcard - poem on image of stone hall

Shame, the darkness of not “BEING” right. Satan first introduced it as a subtle thought to the perfect pair that God has just joyfully completed. Not “being” right in the not knowing. “Such a horrible state of being–Not knowing. Such an easy thing to fix.” Satan told the Eden Pair!

And shame was accepted when the satanic reflection was accepted. And change was sought. And God’s perfect work was thrown away for a change of “being” – a new knowledge.

And it seems God went into hiding after that. Not because He wanted to but the shame of not “being “ right made God an unwelcome visitor. Humankind had accepted the reflection instead of what was real. But it wasn’t God that held the mirror.

Jeri's Maze of Mirrors Postcard - Poem on Image of glasses & vases

And now life is full of mirrors.  Lost in a maze of mirrors we turn from side to side banging into the solidity of the deception in our attempts to find escape from shame. Many give up long before they find freedom. Many knock themselves out banging against what isn’t real.

Only as God begins to restore what is real can it be distinguished from the shameful reflections. Only His light shows the way through the mirrors that result in more shame.

We all experience in some way the maze of mirrors that magnifies our shame. We all need to find our way out of the maze and into freedom.

God did not leave us without a way to know freedom. He says it simple and plain. It is in Truth that we find freedom. Not reflected “truth” from any other human, only the Truth that He gives. Truth that is discerned deep within the individual heart and seen through eyes touched by the light heaven shines into the soul.

Positioning is the main tool we have to access this healing. And the starting position is pretty low. Much lower than we find comfortable. Much lower than our protective minds are willing to take. Heaven knew we needed a friend in low places. And so one came and went there in the agony of shame. So we could go there too. And know the joy of resurrection. Today the Conqueror of Shame gives us hope. Only HE knows the way out of this mirror maze.

“He Endured the Shame for the Joy that was set before Him.”

Jeri's Image of the Desert will blossom Postcard

Yom Kippur Atonement
by JerryAnn Berry

With a long list of sins
I come to you
Not because you demand me to eat crow.
But because I know
You hold the fuller’s soap
The refiner’s fire
The Life giving blood.
I can exchange this dead stuff for
Your light
Your goodness
Your joy
Your restoration.
The closer I get to you
The more I see Your goodness.
My stack of “important” sins
Trickles through my fingers
Like sand.
You have forgiven them already.

I just needed to see
You had the way
to put them in the
Bottom of the sea.
Where all sand should be.
No condemnation here.
Only life and the beautiful curl of a wave
Glistening in the Son’s light.

Jeri's image of Hatteras Sunrise

A Love that Hides

His heart burned with love and there was no cure. Night and day the glory of it consumed his being. Tortuous burning. White hot and pure. He longed to communicate, to reach out, to touch, and to finally know that he had been heard and perhaps, just perhaps, been understood. The burning never ended and the glory only blinded. Could he love without destroying? At times, with the passing of years, loneliness engulfed him, pulled at his heart, and strung it out into strands of aching flesh. He knew her by name.

“Oh, my darling, my darling! How often I would have gathered you . . . .”

toes under dress

He wondered, watched, and waited. On sunlit days he left armfuls of flowers on her doorstep.

cerastium-arvense

sainfoin

On rainy ones, he sent playful ducklings to splash in her pond. Often, he wrote kind, encouraging words and placed them for delivery in the hands of a friend. And the fire continued to burn.

“If for a moment I would go up among you, I would consume you.”

Lyn's Ocean 6

One day in a nearby shop, he purchased a painting of a sunset glowing over the ocean. He wrapped his gift and as he gave directions to her cottage, he glanced toward it and caught a glimpse of a pensive face peeping through the curtain. She had grown aware of his presence. On another day he saw a smile like an angel brightening her window. From then on, he tuned his ear to hear her voice. It came like a siren’s call, like a prayer in the night.

“Please, show me your glory.”

Would she live through the burning? He thought not. His love was too intense. If she looked at the fire in his eyes, if she so much as saw his face, she would shrink from the truth shining there. Better that he and not she be tortured. Perhaps she would feel secure with friends nearby, but it was she who had called, not them. A boundary might help to keep others safely away from their sacred rendezvous. He would build a fence in the valley. The two of them would meet on top of a mountain.

“Set limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.”

Shining rock with flowers

He knew just the place. It was a shining rock of granite kind of place. Fir trees grew from crags with plenty of places to hide. He could protect her there, for he knew of a cleft just her size. Inside lay a rock, smooth for her feet. She could stand on that rock. But what could he show her and how? How much of his heart could he reveal? Love, after all, must protect.

“I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name.”

The day came. The fog lifted in wisps and uncovered the cerulean sky.

coniferous-trees

Granite shone in the sunlight. Breaths of the firs’ clean fragrance drifted down. Slowly, cautiously his beloved picked her way up the mountain trail. Her gossamer gown swished over slender toes while bird’s song lilted a welcome. She loosened her shawl. When at last she stood beside the rock, his voice was strong yet tender.

Quartz outcrop

Look beside you, my darling. There is a place near me where you can stand. There on that smooth rock. Now, while my glory passes by, I will lift you into that cleft and cover you with my hand. Don’t be afraid. Once I pass, I will take away my hand. You cannot yet see my face and the truth that is in my eyes. It is too bright and it burns too deep.”

His beloved complied. He began to pass in front of her with his warm hand, like a shield of protection, over her eyes. At last he spoke the words that had burned for an eternity inside his mind:

“I am your true Love. Your Love, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. I keep this steadfast love for thousands, for you and for all of your friends in the valley below. I forgive their iniquity, transgression, and sin, yet I am honest about such things. Such things have consequences that sometimes linger for several generations.”

His hand left her face and, overcome with awe, she fell upon the rock. When she could finally speak, it was in hushed tones. Tears streamed down her radiant cheeks. “Your love is beyond measure. Please, forgive my reluctance. Forgive my blindness. Forgive me and my friends.”

“Ah, my love. Listen here!” His voice held her transfixed. “I am making a vow to you, a covenant. Just you wait and see. Before long all the people you are among will see the results of my love in you, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. An awesome thing indeed. Go now. Go back knowing my presence will be with you and I will give you rest.”

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Saturated in love, she skipped down the mountain. She neared the fence in the valley. When she came into view, her friends gasped. Their hands flew to their mouths and they stepped back in horror. Her face was ablaze. She stopped, covered her face with her shawl, and wondered at their fear.

Today my insides burn
I must do something
  I must create
I cannot burn up
I must give the fire some escape
I must create

From my perspective, God’s true character of love fits into math’s Transitive Property of Equations, a =  b = c:
God = A consuming fire. (Heb 12:29)
God = love  (John 4:8)
Therefore God’s Consuming Fire = God’s Love

And it’s nothing to be afraid of!

 

See Luke 13:33, Ex. 19, 33, & 34

A Thousand Ways

(This story, shared after last Thursday’s blog, “Partial to Kids,” is a present day — as in last week — God-timed event. Thank you, Breta, for sharing. It’s been a crazy full week for me. I’ve been praying for a story or not, as the Father provides. I have not rewritten this. The story is worthy as is. So is the One who opens his hands and provides every good thing!)

image of Sunflower with Ps 145:15,16 caption

Breta writes:

What a timely message! What an awesome God and what a godly heritage. If you don’t mind I would like to share a current events story from my life that has the same theme–long-range answers, godly heritage.

Two weeks ago, I was really stressed over our finances. When one has cut all the corners they can see and carefully worked out a budget and there is no way that income matches need, then what? Like Bruce’s parents, I’ve been trying to make the difference in children’s lives. One in particular has added multiple financial challenges lately. So I wrote it all out and “mailed” it to God. I spent about a week struggling to trust that my “mail” was received. I added a page to my prayer notebook simply titled “God’s Thousand Ways” where I can record all the financial ways that God provides for my needs. Almost immediately, I had several simple answers and then…

On Thursday, the 11th, I had a call from a lawyer in Tyler, Texas. “We are looking for the heirs of [he gave the name].”

“Yes, that was my grandfather.”

“Did you know that your grandfather held mineral rights to a 26 acre farm in Marion County, Texas?”

“Yes, I know that.”

image of Car Oil splashing

A half hour of intense questions followed: What other heirs might exist? Where is your mother’s probated will? Where is your sister’s death certificate recorded? By Friday noon, all the legal papers had been signed and notarized. I should have a lease check before this week is out from a company planning to drill for oil on a piece of property near Jefferson, Texas.. Additional monies to be accrued if and when they find oil.

That may or may not be a long-range answer to the letter I mailed. I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch, but at least I will get through another month and my strength has been renewed to believe the rest will be covered in God’s own way, and in His own time.

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12&13

“Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.” Isaiah 12:3

Promise Power image of road through Woods & Jn. 15:7

You, most likely, have your own story of God’s perfect timing, answered prayer, or how he showed you a new glimpse of himself.  Please share! Make KNOWN his deeds!  Click here and share your God story.

Partial to Kids

“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God.” Mark 10:14

The year was 1954.

Clara raised her three children in the apartment above the garage while Hartman, her husband, ground out hours of labor establishing a business below. Most weeks the help was paid more than the boss.

Image of Roses

Late at night with their three little ones tucked into bed, the two of them sat at the kitchen table and calculated income by lamplight. Barely enough. Just like her depression-era childhood when her family of nine gathered around a table to eat popcorn and milk. The only food in the house. Giving up was not in Clara’s genes.

Hartman shouldered another day’s work. Clara prayed and sang while she cooked, cleaned, and loved her babes. At dusk, she heard her children’s prayers.

“Dear Jesus.” Six year old Bruce’s innocent voice diffused a warmth that radiated her heart, setting it aglow. “Dear Jesus, we need more money.” The word had gotten out. “Please give Daddy one hundred thousand dollars.”

Image of Prayer-Boy kneeling at bed

Bruce finished his prayer and crawled between the sheets. “That’s lots of money, huh, Momma?”

“Really, sweetie, it’s not a lot of money, not with what your Daddy is trying to do.”

Another day passed. Clara spent it deep in thought. God, I know you can answer my little boy’s prayer, but how?

Another night. Another bedtime.

“Dear Jesus, Daddy needs lots and lots of money. Please give him a million, zillion dollars.” Bruce had been thinking his own thoughts.

His eyes, full of trust, opened. His earnest face turned to hers. “I know Jesus can answer my prayer, Momma. I know he can.”

“When Jesus gives us this money where do you want him to put it?” Perhaps logic would prepare him for disappointment. Prepare her.

“Oh, he can put it back by the rose-bush. Back in the property behind the garage.” He waved his hand. “Back there.” Catching his hand, she kissed right over his grubby fingernails and hugged her only son goodnight.

The year was 2009.

Bruce hunkered over a sheaf of estate documents, wills and such, with the names of Clara and Hartman written all over them. Both parents gone within one year. Gone, yet the impact of their full lives on their loved ones, the prayers they had answered for students struggling to get an education, and the endless donations and personal time they had spent for the good of others would never be forgotten.

Bruce sighed as he leafed through the papers and shouldered this new responsibility. It was huge, but giving up was not in his genes.

A lease contract caught his eye. One with a substantial, steady flow of income on a piece of what was now his and his sisters’ property. His parents had bought it when he was six or seven. He couldn’t remember.

image of Roses

“Want to buy this piece of land behind your garage?” Their neighbor had asked his dad. “Just make the payments and in a few years, you’ll have credit and can get a loan to finish the purchase.”

Bruce took off his glasses and brushed the moisture from his eyes. Like a child at his mother’s knee, he reached out in humble trust.

“That was your answer, wasn’t it, God? That piece of property, back behind the rosebush, that land was your answer. Never thought of it before, but right now, when I need it most, you remind me. You open my eyes. Now I see just how you answered a little boy’s prayer.”

 

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Mark 10:15

Image of Jesus and children

A God with a Purpose

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

It had been a long seven years for Bobbi, but she never looked back. Schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, Age Related Dementia, Dysphagia, C.O.P.D, and Congestive Heart Failure were just a few of the challenges she had faced while caring, in her home, for her father-in-law. Feelings of inadequacy and imperfection had surfaced as the years stretched on. Every time they raised their ugly head, she cried out to God for his strength and comfort. Every time he assured her that he was near and that taking care of family was her highest calling.

Rodger 2

Rodger

Now, the man who had consumed every ounce of her energy was gone. Flowers faded on his grave. Her house breathed stillness. Blessed quiet. Time to write, grieve, and recover. And her book was born.

Several states away, Bobbi’s sister had experienced her own care-giving challenges: A mother in law with Alzheimer’s, two teenagers, two pre-teens, plus a daughter who moved in with her baby girl. Bobbi and she had often chuckled about her “girls in diapers.” Her sister belonged, as full-fledged member, to the Sandwich Generation. Like Bobbi, she took care of family.

Bobbi dreamed of writing a series on care-giving. She called her sister.

“Hey, Sis. I’ve been thinking about a book, one we could write together. Your story needs to be told. I’m done with my book. What do you say?”

Silence.

Had Bobbi offended her? Did her sister want to write the book alone?

“Sis?”

A sniffle from across the miles traveled straight into Bobbi’s heart.

“Oh, Bobbi.” Her sister gained composure. “You have no idea what this means. I’ve been offered a promotion at work and I’ve been praying, praying, praying. I’ve been impressed that my purpose in life is not a fancy job. It’s service to others. And now, right now, when I need it most, my sister phones and answers my prayer. You have just reaffirmed my calling.”

Today, two women are engrossed in a collective, creative work because they love God and are called according to his purpose.

Bobbi

Bobbi

Are you called according to his purpose? How do you know?

What IS his purpose?

He answers that question in Romans 8:26-39. There we can begin to understand what kind of purpose motivates our God and Lord. It’s the same kind of purpose to which he calls you.

His purpose is to:

Help us in our weakness (vs 26)
Intercede for us (vs 27)
Work things together for good (vs. 28)
Conform us to the image of his Son (vs 29)
Call, justify, and glorify us (vs 30)
Be FOR us (vs 31)
Graciously give us all things (vs 32)
Make us more than conquerors through all trials (vs 35-37)
Allow nothing to separate us from his love (vs 35 -27)

Whenever you are uncertain of your calling, review those verses.

Then ask yourself. Does my passion include helping others in their weakness?

Does it include

Interceding?
Working things out for others good?
Conforming to Christ’s image?
Accepting God’s call, justification, and glorification?
Being FOR other humans?
Giving?
Conquering trials?
Clinging by faith to his love?

If your answer is YES, then indeed your calling, no matter how insignificant it appears, is according to his purpose. Follow that calling with full assurance and never look back.

Bobbi’s book, Confessions of the Imperfect Caregiver, can be purchased on Amazon. Click here.  Visit her blog by clicking here.

 

The Giver of Cherries

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:16 & 17

image of Bowl of Cherries

A mound of cherries still warm from the orchard waited in a bowl on Grandma’s table. Glossy and dark they tempted my teeth to pop their taut skins so that their sweet juice could fill my mouth.

“You’ll have to wait until everyone comes to the table.” Grandma said. That meant I had to share them. I could have eaten the whole bowl. It would have been the perfect gift.

Today, some fifty-five plus years later, I could still eat the whole bowl. In fact, I often do. Now, instead of fresh from the orchard, I buy my cherries at Costco. Or Giant. Or Farmer Johns. I’m not picky as long as I can get my cherry fix. Often they never make it home. No joke. This has gotten serious.

My husband is not much better. Together our cherry consumption has reached, well . . . . . I haven’t added all the receipts. I have plenty of grocery money. It’s my personal first world problem, and if I calculated the cost I would be coming out of denial. That’s never fun. Besides, after all, cherries are a good gift from God.

It’s not just cherries. Today, in town for one short errand, I got ambushed. Flat out ambushed at the sales rack in Kohls. A sale! Yep, another good gift.

Young children are climbing over fences so they can be fed while the cost of my perfect cherry gift from God adds up. Fellow human beings in a far off country  fight a plague while I indulge. Hungry neighbors in a housing development wait for their Social Security check while I rifle through a dress rack.

image of cherry stems in heart

In case this is beginning to sound like some well-healed, old woman’s guilt trip, l want to quickly add that my monthly budget includes charity. It does. I just write the check and send it off. Another personal first world problem. But if I did without a cherry’s succulent flavor for a few months, now that would be a sacrifice — close up and personal — an addiction not easy to break.

I wonder, just maybe, if I went cold turkey and stopped eating cherries, who I might benefit. What would happen if one by one, like a society slowly learning to recycle, we would all choose just one thing, especially one addictive thing, to do without and give its equivalent value to someone in need?

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” But what is “poor in spirit”? I’ve been unsure for many years. This week in his podcast, (Here’s the link.) Herb Montgomery answered my question:

“The poor in Jesus’ day were one of the groups who were considered to be living contrary to the Torah and who were therefore being punished by God. The poor were oppressed and marginalized by the rich. Rather than feeling compassion for the poor, those who were better off simply felt morally superior. Why else would God be blessing them economically while withholding blessing from others? To be poor in spirit simply meant to stand in solidarity, in spirit, with the poor, those who were economically oppressed.”

Do I stand in solidarity, in spirit, with the poor?

Even though God’s gifts are good and perfect it doesn’t mean I get to hoard them. It means I get to share them.

I’m going to try to get on the wagon. I think I’ll start with cherries.

image of sharing a bowl of cherries

All It Takes Is One

Chaos in a Midwestern town. Desperation in the mountains of Iraq. Fear in an Amish community. A politician in Kenya who calls himself Christian wants a law that stones humans of differing sexuality. It may seem odd, but what comes to mind as I read the posts and watch the news is myself as a ten-year old girl on a bright, Tennessee day going to church with my friends.

black patent shoes

It doesn’t take much to make a crowd. All you need is two. We had three.

“Make sure to save seats.” Beverly reminded.

“Be sure to get behind Alicia.” Joyce added with a sly grin.

Spotting the back of Alicia’s curly blond head, I picked up the chorus book from the seat behind hers and plopped down. Stretching out my legs I made certain that my black patina shoes joggled her chair.

She turned to look back. For an instant, blue eyes smiled. To avoid those eyes and my twinge of guilt, I focused on pale, plump arms set off by silky sleeves puffed to perfection. In her lap, dimpled hands clutched a silken purse. She noticed my two cohorts taking their seats beside me and turned around in a hurry.

“How’s our proper little Southern belle?” Beverly whispered loud enough for Alicia’s ears.

“Let me hear that Alabama accent.” Joyce reached out a finger and poked the back of the new girl in town.

We giggled, smug in the strength of numbers. Then we opened our hymn books and sang about heaven.

Image of blonde girl left out

Alicia went back to Alabama, but all through fifth grade our crowd of three grew denser. So tight in fact, that cheating was a breeze. Conniving against school rules was challenging fun. After all, we had each other, a shared identity, The Three Musketeers. Together life was tight. Life was secure.

Immersed in our ten-year old mob behaviors we considered ourselves  holy, just, and good. We had no idea that “The mob takes on a spirit of its own and the satanic is generated,” Or that “The mob becomes capable of evil that would be unthinkable for most people as an individual” as Brian Zahnd writes. We had no idea that Alicia had been our scapegoat, a sacrifice made so that we could belong.

Fortunately for my crowd of three we had a summer break. We also had a Jesus who “never leads anything other than a gentle and peaceable minority.” I have lost track of  my two friends, but I’m quite certain that they have become honest and kind adult women. I don’t know what might have been their moment of truth when the Prince of Peace shone on their hearts, but I know mine. It came in the form of a story.

During that summer break I read through a bedtime story collection. When I finished reading about a girl my age who determined to break away from her crowd even if it meant being called Teacher’s Pet, I determined to do the same. Alone, with only a book and his Light shining inside, I decided to act as an individual.

Image of cross by JeriAnne

I soon learned that “To follow Christ is to differ from the crowd. To differ from the crowd is to be controversial. To be controversial by differing from the crowd is to run the risk of becoming [like Jesus] a scapegoat yourself.” I was misunderstood. I was even called Teacher’s Pet. It wasn’t easy, but I suspect it never is.

It doesn’t take much to make a crowd. All it takes are powerful people bent on crusade. All it takes is a different group fighting their own holy war. All it takes are a few straight folks with an agenda against gays. All it takes is one man and one woman to close down a quiet community’s roadside stands. All it takes is a nation full of self-righteous pride to kill, maim, and destroy. All it takes are three little girls singing Jesus songs to intimidate a chubby blond.

On the other hand, all it takes is One individual willing to surrender to that crowd. All it takes is that One being vindicated through His resurrection. All it takes is that One calling us to forsake the crowd’s evil practice of turning fellow humans into scapegoats. All it takes is that One establishing mercy instead of sacrifice.

All it takes is One.

Image of easter lilies near headstone by JeriAnne

The quotes above are taken from Brian Zahnd’s book A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace.  It’s radical. It’s truth and light. I highly recommend it. For your convenience here’s the link:   A Farewell to Mars

Simply Stories

(Written years ago, because God knew in this week of travel I would need a story to share today.)

God showed himself this morning, when I least expected it—in the middle of Caleb’s routine worship time. It has happened before, yet glimpsing God anew is like a surprise gift wrapped in warm love tones.

image of child's hands on a Bible

Some mornings, our worships are heady with rhythm sticks beating out Caleb’s energetic praise on a hassock drum. Sometimes they are creative drama: “Let’s pretend I’m Jesus on the cross. And put me in the grave too.” Most often they are an uncreative repetition of songs, story, and prayer. How easily toddler level worships can become routine and stale, offering little to feed a busy parent’s hungry soul.

However, this morning, God appeared right in the middle of the Balaam story. It is an unusual story, one I had never told him, about the man whose donkey talked. I thought he would be intrigued.

We moved along through the money-laden requests for this prophet to curse God’s people, then that same prophet’s two inquires to God as to whether he should go, the two “no” answers, and his deliberate disobedience to go anyway (based, I assume, on his greed). I told this all to Caleb and marveled that God even took the time to give Balaam the obvious answer.

Next, I recited how Balaam’s donkey gave him trouble, went off the road, crushed his foot, and finally refused to go another step. Three times the donkey saw an angel with a flaming sword. Three times God used the donkey to save him from that sword. And then, mercy of mercies, God actually allowed Balaam to see the angel, talk with him, and receive an explanation.

It was there, in mid-sentence, that God revealed His love and forbearance. He handed me the gift of Himself.

Image of Mother reading to her children

I ended the story. We had prayer. We got busy. Yet, all day, from bread baking to bath taking, God’s warmth wrapped me in faith and assurance as I meditated on how He treats the deliberately disobedient.

What a God I saw. What beauty! What joy! What longing to serve Him swelled inside.

This was not a mere story about a man and his donkey. This was a story about God.

Just like “Jonah and the Whale” is not about Jonah or the whale. It is about a God who used an obedient whale because he wanted to save and soften another prophet’s disobedient heart. In fact, it is true of all Bible stories. They are not stories about people. They are stories about God.

Remembering it that way, I can repeat simple Bible stories forever.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your strength. These commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” — Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (NIV)

image of my Dad with my girls

“Rosey can barely walk, Mom.” My sixteen year old son gently picked up his cat and carried her down the hall to her litter box.

Rosey2

“Yesterday she seemed slower, but you’re right. She’s definitely struggling. She’s old, Son. Older than you.”

We’ve known this day was coming. Sometime. In the future.

“Let’s move her food and box to your room so everything will be close and she won’t have to come down the hall. Tomorrow we’ll take her to the vet.”

The arm load of blankets that my man-boy gathered for Rosey’s new habitat included the baby blanket I had crocheted before he was born. The calico kitten had curled on one end while I worked on the other. She had been there to welcome her new master. As he grew, his bed was where she slept. His desk was where she lounged as a companion to his studies, an aid for his tactile learning.

His face grew grim as he hovered over his aged pet and grasped his new reality. I ached in a grief more for him than for her. Tears were catching up with us both.

“God, I sense you’re timing here. I want to see it clearer. Please show me. Is he ready for this?”

Memory took me back, a good twelve years back, when I had written the following words:

Most every parent longs to protect their children from the dangers of life. I am no exception. Isolation tempts me with its safety. I consider a deserted island or perhaps some kind of bubble suit where only good can get in and all the bad stays out. Of course I know that good outside boundaries are only part of the answer.

To be truly safe, my child needs to be bounded internally. He needs to equipped with internal strength to survive a crazy world. I have decided that there are two essential pieces of this equipment. One piece is Security, the other, Hope. My consistent, always available love helps equip my son with security. And when I tell him of Christ’s promise to return, of life after death, and elaborate on heaven, I equip him with hope.

However, he hasn’t lost so much as a pet to death, and being taken away from the world he knows to go to heaven might be a pretty scary thought. He has sorted through the possibilities, and, one day on a quiet ride home from town, he shared his solution:

“I know, Mommy. When Jesus comes we hold hands. Okay?”

“You want to hold hands when we go to heaven?”

“Mommy, Daddy, and me hold hands. Then we go togedder! Okay?”

I promised him we will all hold hands real tight when Jesus comes.

On another day a dog lay dead on the road. “Mommy, will Jesus make the dead doggie alive and take him to heaven?”

“Jesus promises to make a brand new earth where there will be lots and lots of doggies and kitties.”

I’ll take a leash for my kitty. Yeah, and one for Lassie too.”

“So now, God, my son is sixteen and his kitty, seventeen. He has lost much more than a pet in death, but is he ready for this? Is he equipped with that internal strength? Does he possess that essential equipment, Security and Hope? Is this for a deepening maturity? Another necessary step out of childhood?”

I watch my son carefully squirt the vet’s pain medication into his pet’s mouth and receive a fresh glimpse of a God who promises to carry us even to our old age. I know I can trust God’s timing. Next, a vision presses my thoughts. It’s resurrection morning. Christ has returned to leashed animals and eager humans holding hands, meeting him in the air.

Caleb&Rosey

 When you face pain or grief, try to consider how it has come to you at that point in your life. Are there others who are ready to gain a glimpse of God through your experience? Does your experience mark a spiritual turning point for you? Can you feel God sustaining you even through your darkest hours? He is there. Sometimes it is only through faith that we perceive him. Sometimes it is through simple things like old cats and the teenage boys who care for them.

“Listen to me, all who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”  Isaiah 46:3&4

If you have had an experience when you saw God through the simple things of life, please share that point of light with me. On the “Share Your God Story” page you can send me a brief telling that will be rewritten and approved by you. I look forward to sharing God through your eyes.

 

Wooer of My Heart

Early Teens:

My church school teacher cleared his throat and adjusted his tie. The class hushed. “Everyone turn in your sermon notes.” I passed mine to the front.

image of gavel-law-books

​“So, this week’s sermon was about God’s unconditional love that caused Jesus to die for our sins, but what do you think? Does God’s love mean we don’t have to obey the law?” His full lips stretched into a smile. “Are the commandments still important?” I was used to his probing questions that often expanded into hours of discussion and for this one I had no answer. I kept my mouth shut.

​“Yes, of course they’re important.” A more courageous friend spoke up.

​“So how important?” My teacher prodded deeper. No one said a word.

“What happens if Jesus comes back and we still have sins in our life? Will we go to heaven?” He opened a  book bound in red leather. “This book says that all of our sins must be confessed and that God holds us accountable for every thought and every word. Even how we spend our time.”

He smacked the book shut. “The angels keep a record of everything you do or say. Just make sure, before you go to sleep at night, make sure to confess all your sins. You don’t want Jesus to come and you not be ready.”

image of sundown and tree

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters . . . .Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live . . . .”  The One Who Longs for Me (Isaiah 55:1-3)

Mid-Twenties:

​“Father God.” I pleaded. “I’m not whole. I’m leaving pieces of myself on things. I’m trying, God, but my thoughts have not been established. Straighten me out.​

Soon after this prayer, I began a spiritual journal:

​”Today I gained victory and assurance that the dark thoughts about my own works are not from the Giver of Light. Wonderful relief! I have God and the church confused. I have been trying to live up to others expectations, so I generally feel rejected. Lord, help me to gain my strength from you, not others.”

On another day I wrote:

​”God accepts my humanness!!! Not sinfulness, but humanness. Christ was human. Why do we try not to be human, to live apart and above ourselves and others, thinking this will make us more heavenly? This is the basis of coldness and neglect. We must be human, share our grief and joy, laugh, cry, and sing with our fellow-men.”

Light leaped. God was answering my prayer to straighten me out, but old mindsets die hard. Subconsciously, I was never good enough.

image of woodsy creek

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” — Jesus Christ, The Living Water (Matthew 11:28)

Late Twenties:

​Alone on my dark front porch with only the rush of a creek and a void in my heart, my agony with God began:

​“The doing, the doing, it’s always been the doing! So where is the joy, the wellspring of life? Where is the fountain of water you promised, the water surging into life everlasting? It has evaporated and I’ve been left desert dry.

“Where are you, God? How can I find you? I want to obey you, to serve you in completeness, but I can’t go on. Where do I go from here? I must know. There has to be a better way.”

My tears tried to wash away the wall of spiritual uncertainty. The wall did not move. Instead, a clear Voice penetrated:

​”Go to the Word.”

​“What does that mean? I have gone to the Word! That’s why I’m in this mess!

​”Go to the Word.”

​I did not understand, but I knew that I had best not silence the Voice.

​“You’ll have to show me, God, because I’m going to stop this insidious wandering in the world of externals. I’ll go to the Word. I’ll let you show me in your time. Meanwhile, I am going to stop trying.

Image of Fontana Lake in NC

“Yea, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn you.” The Wooer of My Heart (Jeremiah 31:3)

Early Thirties:

The continuing love of family and friends, raising innocent children, living in a beautiful mountain setting, experiencing daily provision, dropping my preconceived notions when reading the Word, all that and more, over the years, was how God showed me. It is how he wooed me.

One quiet night I knelt alone.

“Father, God.” My voice broke. “If you require anything it’s only to make me whole. You’ve convinced me. You want my best good. You really do love me.

It was as though a warm hand gently wrapped my heart with a radiating glow. My tears fell unchecked.

​“Now, about your salvation. Can you trust me with that? What about your weak areas, those things you think I expect you to give up? Will you let me work them out, or do you want to keep taking them out your way? Will you accept my unconditional love?

​“I don’t know how you’ll do it, but it’s yours. I can trust you because I know you love me. Yes, Lord, my salvation is yours.”

There was no organ music or sermon appeals, but it was my true surrender made possible only because I had finally fallen in love.

Image of Merita By Creek

 For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing.” — The Love of My Life (Isaiah 55:12)

 

For a short, poignant glimpse of a God from whom we don’t have to hide, click here:

thumbnail of "The Law of Love" with heart

Singer of Songs

My baby daughter is getting married. I want to sing her that song. I want to bless her with those words, but I’ll cry. I know I’ll cry.

Image of sunrise over ocean by Lyn Janssen

Lyn’s thoughts swirled in and out like the ocean’s tide that welcomed her every morning on her drive to work. This morning, the ocean’s beauty once again arrested her progress. She stopped the car and got out. Air, fresh with the new day’s coolness, was tinged with the smell of salt and damp sand. Clouds, brightened to glory by the rising sun, allowed for a glimpse of blue sky to come.

Music from thirteen years before lilted inside until her heart could no longer hide the joy or the wish that she wanted to share with her daughter, Sarah, on her wedding day. Her voice rose to the words, “I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean . . . .”

Lee Ann Womack may have made it popular, but it was Sarah’s, song.

“Mom, will you sing, I Hope You Dance, for my graduation?” Lyn had met the depth in the eyes of her high school senior and never even noticed her smooth, naked scalp. Her baby was gorgeous. The fact that cancer’s cure had taken her hair, only proved how strong she was.Image of Sarah's Cancer Pic - resplendent and glowing in Prom dress

“You know, Mom, the part about never taking one single breath for granted? Wish you would sing it.”

Lyn, drove away from the ocean, its splendor saved on her iPhone.

I knew I couldn’t sing it then. I would have been an emotional basket case, and I’m afraid I can’t sing it now. But I want to surprise her at the reception. Lord, how can I sing for Sarah?

That night she conferred with Sarah’s brother. “Why don’t you make a recording, Mom, and then if you don’t think you can sing it, you can play the CD?”

Good idea, but who would do the recording? How much would it cost?

Lord, I want to rejoice over her with singing. It’s a miracle that I can sing at all, but that’s another story. Right now, how can I sing for Sarah? Will you give me this desire?

Days passed. Each one, with its ocean views, brought beauty but no answers.

Image of Sarah and Lyn

It was her day off, one that she had set aside for study and prayer. Instead, she found herself at the office helping to finish monthly reports. A co-worker came in. The two chatted about health classes and nutrition and joining a gym and how hard it was to find time to exercise, what with family and church activities.

“I’m busy enough already,” Lyn said, “but there’s talk at my church of starting a choir. I would join if they did.”

“Oh, I wish I could sing. My husband would love it if I could. He writes songs and he needs a female voice.”

“He writes songs?”

“Yes, indeed. We have a recording studio right in our home.”

Lyn felt sure her heart stopped, but after discussing the details of how her friend’s husband could help her record her song for Sarah, she left the office dancing and delighting herself in the Lord. The ocean, resplendent as ever, reflected the glory in her heart.

Image of Orange Ocean Sunset by Lyn Janssen

God, your timing is so absolutely perfect! You, and you alone, know how to give us the desires of our hearts.

On July 3, 2014, Lyn was able to fulfill her dream of singing for Sarah. When she shared her story she wrote:

“I wondered for quite a while how and when to fit this into the events surrounding the wedding. I enlisted the help of my sons. We decided that during the reception, when the floor opened up for toasts, mine would be the last one…and we would play the song. I managed to introduce it without telling the whole story (and without crying). And I got to spend a moment with the bride and groom, my beautiful daughter and new son, wishing them the very best and letting them know that I wanted everything good for them.

Click play below to listen to the recording that Lyn made for Sarah’s wedding.

 

  
  

Image of Lyn & Sarah at Mirror on Wedding day

The points of light that Lyn’s story shine on our awesome God are numerous:

His timing is perfect.

He loves to give us the desires of our hearts.

He identifies closely with parents who joy over their children and who, like himself, love to sing over them.

 When you think of the Father, know that he takes great delight in you. Let him quiet you with his love. Let him rejoice over you with singing.”

“The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you (rejoice over you with joy) He will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 2:17

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalms 37:4

If you have a story that has helped you see God in closer light, please share it on our Share Your God Story by clicking here.

Story contributed by Lyn Janssen and Written by Merita Atherly Engen.  Ocean pictures taken by Lyn Janssen.

“I want to praise you without restraint, but my joy has not yet been released. Why, God, Why?” Tears, the only evidence of release, flowed free and full like the words of her longing. “I sense my joy, deep down. What is keeping it there?”

PromisePower churchjpg

Beside her, two godly women prayed. “Try coming to joy like a child by singing a simple song of Jesus.” They suggested. Is it even possible to think about coming to joy and at the same instant experience joy? She wasn’t sure. All she knew, as she left the meeting early, was that the women’s prayers were doing God’s work. They had tapped into a deep place.

Out of that place echoed a quiet voice from years before: “God never turns shame into anger. God always turns shame into joy.”

God, after all these years of healing, is there still some leftover shame? You know my heart, Lord. You know what I need.

She fell into bed emotionally exhausted only to wake throughout the night. Each time she woke she was aware of God’s healing presence working within her, as though gentle hands were massaging and pressing far beneath the surface. She felt them. Drifting in and out of sleep, she dreamed:

Dirty water squished out between the rollers on an old wringer washer. Rollers pressed clothing into a tub for rinse. It was as though she were back in childhood, and with a sense of danger, her small hands guided the clothes, helping Momma. She was excited by the challenge. Clothing must be wrung smoothly. They couldn’t be bunched. Not too much could be fed through the turning rollers; only enough so she could gingerly catch and tug the laundry steadily through. All the while dirty water squished from the squashed clothes.

wringer washer with suds

She woke remembering a release bar for safety, just in case her small fingers or arm rolled with the laundry into its pressing, wringing mouth. She remembered Momma’s help with no harm done. She woke, aware of a divine Presence, aware of hands pressing, gently pressing within.

She slept. The clothes in the wringer washer rolled on, leaving the dirty water behind. She woke to the inner press of healing. Lying in the darkness, she sensed that this pressing was squeezing out the last traces of the shame of her life’s dirty water; even the remnants of the sewer water from choices not her own.

She slept and dreamed of lines hung with clothes and sheets billowing, filling with air fresh with the scent of sunshine.

She woke to memories of earlier bedtimes when she buried her joyful face into those sun scented sheets and drew in deep breaths of nature’s fragrance. She remembered drying with towels stiffened by the wind. Their roughness, so unlike soft, dryer-dried towels, had stimulated her skin. For years she had chosen not to own a dryer.

Laundry on line

She slept and when she woke again, anticipation coursed her being. It was an anticipation for the joy that she knew was set before her. Throughout the night, at a subconscious level, her shame had been despised and wrung out like so much dirty water. Shame was gone. Joy and unrestrained praise would come.

With sunlight brightening her bed, she reached for her Bible and listened to her Father speak:

“Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion. Instead of dishonor you shall rejoice in your lot. Therefore in your land you shall possess a double portion. You shall have everlasting joy. For I the Lord love justice.” Is 61:7

We all long for joy. Shame kills it. Jesus endured the cross. He despised its shame knowing there was joy set before him. (Heb. 12:2) When we sense our joy is lacking, we need more of him! We need to claim the truth that he did not come to condemn but to heal. (John 3:17) When we choose to believe that Jesus gives us the right to become children of God (John 1:12) and let him press that truth deep within us, our shame disappears. Whenever we gain a deeper sense of the stain and effect of our sin or as shame raises its ugly head in the words or actions of those who do not love us or our God, we need the truth that Jesus declares.

old washer with womanWe each need him to wash us clean and to wring away all the dirty water of shame. We need to allow the wind to fill our billows with the fragrance of his sunshine! As life slings its mud our way, we need to be released and refilled again and again. If we do not wrangle with the wringer, we will be pressed down only to fly against the sky on his wind, filled with his love, his fragrance, and his joy.

“Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” Romans 10:11

“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11

Release your own shame to the Savior as you listen to Julie True sing “Beautiful Tapestry and I Release.”

Story contributed by JerryAnn Berry. Written by Merita Atherly Engen

“Fear not, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” – Jesus Christ (Luke 12:32)

Image of Dad & Daugher Dance

Once upon a time, living somewhere between the Kingdom of Competition and the Kingdom of Compassion, there was a five-year old, brown-eyed girl who had an eight year old brown-eyed sister. Both little girls were pretty little girls, as little girls go, but the five-year old girl had it stuck in her brain that she might be just a teensy, weensy bit prettier than her older sister. Perhaps a careless adult, dropping a casual comment had influenced her thinking. Regardless of how or by whom this idea came to her, people called older sister a skinny tomboy. People called little sister pleasingly plump. A complement indeed, little sister decided, what with the word “pleasingly” and all.

Older sister rode with Daddy on his tractor all over their forty-acre farm. Little sister much preferred to stay indoors telling stories to her dollies. Older sister never worried much about clothes. Little sister, on the other hand, absolutely adored frilly dresses with lots of lace. Not that she had any, mind you. Most of her dresses were hand-me-downs from older sister or practical dresses that Momma sewed.

image of pink lacy dressThere came a day, however, when both sisters needed new dresses. Summer had come and last year’s dresses just wouldn’t do. Older sister was sick in bed. Momma was too busy to shop, but Daddy had time, at the end of his work, to take little sister to town. Thrilled to the core of her pleasingly plump, prissy soul, she rode off with Daddy.

As they entered the store, Daddy took her hand. “Now, honey, pick any dress you want.” His voice sounded happy and eager to please. She could scarcely believe her good fortune.

A pink dress hung in the window. It had puffed sleeves and a satin sash. It was covered in lace.

“Oh, that one, Daddy. That one!”

Delighted, Daddy asked. “And which one do you think your sister would like?”

Image of Bibbed dressHurriedly skimming over the rest of the dresses, little sister pointed to a plain blue dress with an ugly white bib and not one piece of lace.

“Do you think she will like it?”

“Yes, let’s get her that one.” Her smug little smile came deep from within the Kingdom of Competition.

Needless to say, older sister, tomboy though she was, cried in dismay when she saw her choice.

“I’m sick and couldn’t go shopping. It’s no fair! You wanted to be prettier, so you got me the ugly dress.”

Little sister knew it was true. She now owned a frilly dress that gave her no joy.

Little sister did not realize that there exists an entire world of brothers and sisters who cannot believe that their Father’s kingdom has enough of his favor to go around. They can’t believe that there is abundant love for siblings of every nationality and religion. Like herself, they want all the kingdom’s goods, all the pretty dresses, for themselves. So they spurn and hate the marginalized, the older sisters sick in bed. Driven with fear, greed, and anxiety they accumulate until they will kill to protect their territory. Sibling rivalry keeps them from the Kingdom of Compassion.

Fortunately, little sister found freedom. She began to seek first her Father’s kingdom. It took years for her to understand that the Kingdom of Compassion has no scarcity. Her Father only wants to pour out love, without measure. She is still amazed that it truly is his good pleasure to give this kingdom to her and to all her brothers and sisters. Now, because of his good pleasure, she lives happily ever after.

image of Dad & Daughter on seashore

For deeper contemplation of this concept, little sister invites you to take a few minutes to listen to this podcast.

If you have a story of how you have experienced the Father’s pleasure in giving you the kingdom, please share here.

Fixin’ My Boy

Image of Dad's Shop button - Broken Toys & Feelings Fixed for Free

“And the God of grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” — I Peter 5:6-11 (NIV)

Whenever my toddler son needed something fixed, he took it to his daddy. They often went downstairs to the workshop. The workshop held promise of restoration. With glowing eyes, he watched enthralled while his daddy made repairs.

“Daddy fixed it, Momma!” He offered a mended toy for my approval.

One evening I was rubbing his back. His body, still warm from his bath, lay across my lap in a cherished moment of quiet. He lifted his head.

“Are you fixin’ your boy?”

“I sure am. I’m fixin’ my boy.”

“You needs to take me down to the workshop and fix him in the workshop.”

Oh, that it were that simple. That I could take him to his daddy’s workshop and fix any broken part of him, any of his pain. Yet I know there is a workshop—God’s workshop for the soul. I have often gone there longing to be fixed. When the battle rages, Spirit against flesh, I have gone there needing help and encouragement.

It is the workshop of God’s Word, full of promise.

When I read “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you , than he that is in the world,” (1 John 4:4),  I feel like my son who depended on his daddy to fix his toys. I feel my heavenly Father fixing me. He loosens my dependence on my strength and gives me courage to depend on His.

Image of sign:  Daddy's Tools

“Remember, my child,” He seems to say when I read Hebrews 12:1-3, “all those who have gone before you. Though they were weak like you, they did not let go of their faith. They surround you like a cloud — a cloud of witnesses to My power. So throw off everything that hinders you and the sin that so easily entangles, and run the race I have marked out for you. Run it with perseverance. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. Never forget that, for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorned its shame, and sat down at the right hand of My throne. When you consider Him who endured such opposition, you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

As I ponder the promises in the workshop of His Word, I praise Him for taking me down to His workshop and fixin’ me.

 

 

Respecter of Choice

“People aren’t stamped with an expiration date.” The oncologist’s kind eyes and graying temples coaxed me into belief.

“Prognosis for Stage Four Pancreatic Cancer: Three to four months.” My previous web search contradicted. I kept the contradiction to myself and squeezed my husband’s hand.

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The man I loved straightened his shoulders. “What do you recommend, Doctor?” His question fell clear and strong like the ring of an ax.

The doctor’s long legs swiveled his stool. He faced my husband square on. He laid out our options, answered all our questions, then shook our hands and took his leave.

“I’m going ahead with the workshop. I’ve always wanted a workshop. I’m not stopping now.” My husband declared on our drive home.

“Are you sure you won’t over do? What about our son? He’s only six.” My mind reeled.

“I’m positive. His tree house is going up along with my workshop. There will be a swing and a slide underneath and a climbing net inside. I’m not just going to lie down and die. And I’m getting a second opinion.”

Yes, yes. Stand like a tree. Don’t give in. Stay in control.

Six months later: The workshop and tree house were finished. The second opinion had confirmed the first. Our son was seven.

My husband bent over a notebook, tabulated and cross referenced. His strong, neat handwriting listed and located every tool and piece of equipment, every type of oil and service schedule for tractor, boat, and cars, and every name and number of his favorite service men.

“It’s for you, my Love. You can do this. You can get people to help, and I’ve taught you how to drive the tractor.”

Yes, yes. The ax is sharp, but I can do this. He believes in me. Stay in control.

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Six more months: All funeral plans had been made. All financial details had been finalized. All titles had been put in order. Our son and I had started home school.

At the dinner table my husband took a bite and started to gag. The chemo and the cancer were taking their toll. Our son, knowing what was coming, bolted out of his chair. Before his dad could heave out the bile, he was behind his bedroom door seeking his own control.

“Come, Sweetie. You can come back and eat now. Daddy is getting sicker isn’t he? But, come, you must eat.”

Be like a sapling, my son. Bend, bend with the wind.

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Yet another six months: Chemo trips were a weekly routine. The oncologist hadn’t aged, but his patient had. Cheek bones protruded. Eyes recessed. Our eight year old son sat silent in the back seat on the drive home from the clinic. My husband was still at the wheel.

“I’m not doing any more chemo.” He reached across the console for my hand. “And I’m not taking any more natural remedies. We have no evidence that they are helping.”

I caressed the paper thin skin on the top of his hand while his words sank in. “You have the right to this decision, you know. You have to choose your own way. It’s your life. It’s your death. It’s your choice.”

No, no. I’m not in control. I’m not in control at all! What a relief! What will be, will be. God knows the when. God knows the how. But I am NOT in control. And that is a very good place to be.

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The ax was slow at its work, but steady on. Six months later, in the middle of the night, the tree groaned heavy and long. It groaned and heaved and groaned again, forever into the night, consciously aware of the biting blade. It shuddered. It gave. It sank. Deep, deep into its bosom earth. Forever out of control.

 

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* * * * *

Is God really in control? Or is He a God that allows our choices to control things here in this world? Jesus taught us to pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This suggests that God’s will is not always done on earth.

Perhaps our God is not the controlling God that is often portrayed. He guides. He woos. He pleads. But perhaps, just perhaps, He truly respects our choice.

For more Biblical insight into this concept, please take the time and listen to

If God is So Good

* * * * *

Have you ever felt out of control and found God there? Please share your story and help us find God there as well.

Perhaps you are or have been a caregiver to the sick or dying and have felt inadequate or imperfect.  I have a friend and fellow writer whose blog, The Imperfect Caregiver, is dedicated to encourage caregivers like yourself.  Click here to link to Bobbi Carducci’s blog.

2009

August

The red glow of Judie’s digital clock beside her bed read 1:00 AM. Thoughts tumbled around in her brain like shells in a rough surf. Keith’s rhythmic breathing told her he had finally drifted off. Only a few hours had passed since her husband had come home and made his announcement. Now, it seemed an eternity.

“Honey, I lost my job today.” His voice had held a tremor that his protective hug couldn’t hide. “Guess last year’s financial crash finally caught up to us. They can’t use an old guy whose heart won’t beat without a pacemaker.”

God, how will we survive? We can’t make it on just my job, even though I put in ten-hour days. We’ll lose everything we’ve worked for since we moved to South Georgia. Everything! Just wish I lived closer to Mom and Pop, like I used to. They have always been my stability and now their health is failing. My brothers and sister aren’t near them either, but with no money how can Keith and I even think about helping them?

Crawling out of bed, she headed to her computer. The warmth of her dog, Corgy, pressed against her legs. Picking up the ball of fur, she carried him to her desk where he snuggled on her lap.

Judie & clean Corgy“Keep us in your prayers,” she typed to her Facebook friends. “Keith lost his job today.”

She slipped quietly back under the covers, but she wasn’t quiet enough. Keith was awake.

“You know, Keith.” She snuggled into his arms. “I’ve got an idea. If we can’t sell our house, why don’t we try to rent it to keep from losing it? The only reason we moved here was for your job. Now that that is gone this might be a good time to relocate. Closer to Mom and Pop.”

December

A job and an economical place to live near her parents had not come easy. Nobody wanted to rent their house and Judie’s prediction came true. They lost everything. Living on Keith’s unemployment check and her company’s promise of a transfer for part-time work, they prepared to move to North Georgia.

2010

January

Cardboard boxes cluttered the kitchen floor. Keith reached for the glasses on the highest shelf before handing them to his wife.

“Can’t believe this is our last week in southern Georgia.” The grin on her face as she took the glass from her husband said it all. She wrapped the glass in newspaper and carefully placed it in a box. Her smile disappeared. “Mom and Pop seem to be going downhill fast and I’m not dealing too well with all these changes, Keith. I know I was smiling just now, but it’s hard to smile at work. It’s getting harder and harder, not knowing what the future holds and all.”

“God’s never let us down, Judie. We know He’ll see us through.”

“You’re right.” She closed the box and opened up another one. “New life, here we come!”

She continued to pack silently, talking only to God: Thank You, Father, for the many blessings You have given us these last few months. Every need has been met. I know this move is the right thing.

September

Keith’s unemployment ended the same week that Judie was given a full time position. Thank you, God.  Thank you for giving me this chance, and Your timing is perfect!

November

Sugar smells of warm pecan pie permeated her mom’s roomy kitchen. The hum of familiar voices drifted from the living room. Pop, weak but seemingly well, told humorous stories to his adult grandchildren. Mom, instructed to rest awhile, smooched on her newest great-grandbaby. Judie’s daughter-in-law placed a heaping bowl of mashed potatoes on the serving counter.

Judie & Popjpg“No salt in these,” she said. “We’re cooking for Grandpa this year and everything’s homemade.”

Judie lifted a pan of savory dressing from the oven.

“This dressing sure brings back memories.”

Wes, her second oldest brother, glanced up from washing lettuce and smiled. “All those Thanksgivings in Arkansas. Right?”

“Yep. With grandma and grandpa. Sure miss those days. I miss Grandma’s candied sweet potatoes.”

“She could sure spread a feast.” He began cutting carrots into the salad.

“Now it’s us three making dinner.” Her daughter-in-law grinned and arched to relieve her back. “Or maybe I should say the four of us.” She rubbed her pregnant belly.

“Hey, sweetheart, in there!” Judie directed her voice in the belly’s direction. “Grow good for your grandma.”

Then she leaned over and gave Wes a snug, side hug. “I miss the food, but mainly I miss the people. Now we’re the grandparents! I love you, brother. Thanks for your help today. I love all my family. I wish today would last forever.

December

It was dark by the time Judie got home from work, kicked off her shoes, and sank into the recliner. Her dog, Corgy, lay motionless on his bed near her feet.

What a day! A promotion is nice, but it means I can’t let up. Can’t anyway, with Keith not able to work. Gotta keep going. Can’t lose my job. Gotta call Mom at the hospital and see how Pop is. See if there’s anything they need me to help do.

As she reached for her phone, Corgy opened his eyes and gave his tail a weak thump.

“Hey, Sweetie Bear. Don’t feel good do you?” She picked him from his bed and settled him in her lap. Getting very old aren’t we? You’ve always been my baby and now you’re sick and there’s no extra money for a vet. So, we’ll just stay here at home together and I’ll nurse you, best I can.”

Her dog let out a long sigh as Judie dialed the hospital’s number.

“It’s a very hard evening tonight.” She later updated her Facebook friends. “My dad is suffering and not doing well, and I think God may call him home soon, but when that happens, I know he will no longer be in pain, and when he wakes again, he will be looking in the face of Jesus.”

Her next update read: “My canine best friend is very sick too. I don’t know how to help Corgy except to keep him comfortable. He has been with me almost thirteen years, from the minute he was born, I knew he was my dog. I’m trying hard not to cry……………”

The next day all she shared was: “My Corgy is gone.”

Time and energy were at a premium. Closing her computer, she grabbed her purse and followed Keith out the door to the car. The decision had been made to bring Pop home to die. They were on their way to help get him settled. Today she would miss work. Even though her oldest brother and his wife were there and had been helping with Mom and conferring with Pop, she longed to be with him, longed to do what she could. Anything.

They helped move the hospital bed. Watched pain meds being given. Said good-bye to the hospice aids. When Wes’ car pulled in, Judie met him in the drive.

“Oh, Wes! He’s going so fast!” She threw her arms around her brother’s neck. His close, wordless hug was the comfort she sought.

“So how’s it going?” His moist eyes met hers. After discussing the day’s events, they entered a quiet house of waiting.

Later that night, Pop was resting on clean sheets. There was nothing more to be done. She would have loved to stay the night, but she wasn’t needed. It was time to go home.

“Pop,” Judie bent over and placed a kiss on his beloved, craggy face. “We’re going home, but we’ll be back. I love you, Pop. I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” he rasped. “Take care now.”

Wes walked her to the door. “Sis, I’ll call you if anything happens.” His hug warmed her as she walked out into the cold December night.

The next day she opened her computer and typed: “My dad passed quietly in his sleep this morning. I was so lucky to have him as my father. Pop, you sure did fight a good fight. I am hurting because you are gone, but joyful that you are at peace. It won’t be long before we all are together again. I love you so much Pop. We will take care of Mom for you.”

Pop's FuneralThe decision had been made for her mom to live with her sister in the Midwest.

“Mom, won’t ever live here again,” her oldest brother had informed her after the funeral. “She can’t live alone.”

Two days later, tears streamed down her face as she watched the car with its precious, petite, white-haired occupant disappear from sight.

2011

January

It took time to get back to her Facebook friends, but when she did she wrote:

“I now know what true love is. It is letting go of someone you love very much for their sake.

How much my dad suffered hurt me worse than his death did. I am so glad he is now at peace.”

There came a day when the rush and surge of the past months’ trauma mounted until her dam of emotions finally burst. In the overflow, she once again shared with her friends: “I’m feeling the pain of losing Pop, my animals and Mom moving. On the other hand, I am also looking forward to a new grand baby, spring coming, and I’m happy at work. Next week Keith and I will be married 17 years. Every cloud has a silver lining.

April

“Whew, what a long day this has been.” Judie came through the door and slumped on a kitchen chair. “I don’t know what happened, but I am hurting so bad.”

“So sorry, honey.” Keith looked up from wiping the stove. “Maybe my home cooked meal will help you feel better.”

“Oh, Keith, what would I ever do without you? You spoil me.”

“Love spoiling you! You’ve just overdone it. Perhaps a good night’s rest will do the trick.”

It was noon the next day when she knew she was in serious trouble. Looking for inventory, down on her knees at work, she had to call for help to get up.

At home that evening she told Keith, “This feels like when I had that uterine mesh implanted years ago. I don’t know if I have the strength for this. Let’s pray for a miracle.”

“Yes, and then let’s get you to a doctor.”

June

After going from doctor to doctor, with little success, Judie decided she was not like fine wine, where older is better. “I am tired.” She told Keith. “I now know what it means to be ‘not as young as I used to be’ and I realize Pop was right. He always said, ‘Getting old is not for sissies.’”

September

Wes had spent the spring making repairs so their parent’s house could sell. Now it was fall. The house had not sold, and Judie was scheduled for surgery. One day after work, Keith met her at the door. “We’re moving!”

“Moving?”

“Yes! Your Mom, your brothers and sister have offered us Mom and Pop’s house. It was their idea. We can live there free of charge except for doing the upkeep. It will save us money on rent. We won’t have to worry about a place to live. And my mom needs a place. We both know she does. The house is plenty big enough.”

“Keith, this is a wonderful idea! What an honor! Just to think, me the baby of my family, taking care of my parent’s home!”

 

Photograph of House

October

“It’s comforting to be here,” Judie told her Facebook friends the first weekend in her new home. Her son and family had just left after bringing lunch over. “It’s comforting to be surrounded by memories of my parents and family, sharing love and joy. Thank you again, Mom and family, for allowing me to make this my home. Thank you, God, for my family and friends.”

Four days later they rushed Keith to the hospital for a pacemaker replacement. Finding work for him now was out of the question.

November

Another Thanksgiving was coming around. A Thanksgiving without her parents. It had been almost a year. Judie pondered what she would do.

I might go to the cemetery and talk to Pop, pour my heart out, actually. But I know he can’t hear me now, just like I know God can. And I’ve learned God has a very good Ear.

2012

April

Lily of the Valley sweetened the air as Judie wandered through her mother’s flower garden. Iris spears were already pushing their healthy way skyward. Late daffodils tossed their heads in the light breeze. Tears sprang to her eyes.

I’m too emotional. Maybe it’s better not to think so much. Oh, how I miss Mom! I wish she were here, but I know she is better off where she is. She is 82. How many more times will I see her? Here I am, in her home, surrounded by her flowers and plants and all she loves, but I can’t reach out and hug her. I can hear her voice on the phone and see her on Skype, but it’s not the same. Besides, Keith’s mom needs us now, but sometimes I find that difficult. Sometimes I want to be selfish, but I can accept things as they are. I am thankful I have a home that can be shared. I have friends all over the South. I have a family who loves me. I have a wonderful job. As long as I don’t think about it, I’m okay. But the ache in my heart is always there.

2013

July

Judie again sat at her computer and shared with her friends. “I did go to the doctor yesterday. He refused to treat me. Said I had already had surgery for that repair and he wasn’t going to touch it. I lost a day of work and paid a $45 copay for that information. I made another appointment closer to home. Hopefully I can get some answers. This next doctor is one I have gone to before, and I hope she can help. If not, I will have to go out of network, I’m afraid. But I’m sure God has a plan. I’m not worried.

October

“My spirit is sad for my body today.” She typed. “I know that sounds strange, but I don’t see me and my body as being the same thing at all. My body is totally dependent on me. And my body apparently isn’t doing too well.

Judie after surgery

Judie after surgery

I am praying I have made the right decision, because it’s finally hitting me what I have to do. If I have counted correctly, this will be surgery number 23. I’ll hit 25 before this year is over.

I’m not really scared, well, not of pain, not of what ifs, but some decisions you make in life you can never change. Since the deal with the mesh, I find it very difficult to accept medical help. However, in this case, I seem not to have a choice. My body has been in pain for a very long time. I have to do what I can to take care of her.

God has been kind in providing all my needs. I pray for His continued healing and support. I pray for your support as well.”

 

November

During Judi’s last surgery the doctors had inserted hardware in her back. Now it was infected with MRSA bacteria. She was back home with an open incision. Keith prepared to change the dressing.

“Now turn over. Get comfy. I’ll just take this dressing off and clean you up.” Keith’s hands gently removed the bandage. He inhaled sharply.

“What? What’s wrong?”

It’s just, I can see the hardware in your backbone, but lie still. Let me finish.”

“Oh, Keith!” Judie buried her face in her pillow while her tears flowed.

December

Judie lay on the couch. Keith methodically moved the vacuum across the carpet. Satisfied with his job, he reached for the plug and silenced the vacuum’s drone.

“Come sit beside me, Honey. I’ve been watching you work. It’s been so hard on you, me being sick and you taking care of your mom too.”

“At least I know I’m needed.” He placed a kiss on her forehead. “And you can do light chores.”

“I don’t know how I would have made it through these months without you. In my darkest moments you have cared for me, held me when I’ve cried, put up with me when I’ve been frustrated. I love you so much. So very much.”

“We’ve been through some hard times, sure enough.” Keith agreed. “But God has never left us.”

Judie laced her arms around his neck and drew him close for a lingering kiss. Then with his face close to hers she searched his eyes. “You know, with money the way it is, I can’t buy you a Christmas gift this year. Will my undying love and gratitude be enough?”

“Absolutely!”

2014

February

Judie was back in the hospital. “I had another surgery this morning on my back.” She updated her friends. “Apparently I had a screw loose. For those of you who know me, that is probably not a surprise. But I mean this literally. The MRSA had infected one of the screws in my fusion causing it to loosen. My doctor took out both screws on the left side, cleaned up all the infection, and sewed everything back together. I am praying all goes well this time. Thank you so much for all your prayers and support. Please continue to pray for me as I fight this battle.

Judie&Keith

April

All did not go well. After still another surgery to completely remove the hardware in her back, Judie continues to fight her battle. When she shared the facts of this story with me for Penpoints of Light she wrote:

“For the last eight months I have been unable to work. Where would we be if God had not put us here in Mom and Pop’s home? Does God care about us? Absolutely. All our needs have been met, all our prayers answered. Yes, things have been difficult, but mine and hubby’s love has gotten stronger, as has our faith. I know I am surrounded by family and friends who lift me up and a God who holds me in the Palm of His Hand.

* * * * *

“God did not promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain,

but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.” — Unknown

We all have a choice.

To trust and praise God in the hard times

Or to turn our face away and curse him.

Whatever our choice, He has promised to never forsake us.

He will always walk with us.

It’s up to us to take His hand and experience His presence.

* * * * *

Have you ever wondered how a God of Love can let such hard things happen?

Take a bit of time and listen to “If God is so Good” by Herb Montgomery.

Story contributed by Judie Plumley and written by Merita Atherly Engen

Many thanks, Judie, for sharing the glimpse of God that you have gained in your hard times. Our prayers are with you and Keith and all of your family.

 

 

 

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