Monday, May 18, 2015

The Heartache of Disappointments

Sometimes life just happens.

That's what the world believes, but not this lady. (Although, sometimes I feel it and have to speak truth to myself.)

I found myself telling my littlest (again) about God's best plan for us (His sovereignty) when some plans got cancelled and the disappointment kicked in. (Along with her legs and voice!!) As I spoke to her yesterday about her response, I was totally convicted about the way I handled my weekend and my own disappointments. (Boy, was I kicking and screaming inside!!)

We have plans. God does too. We have dreams and desires and God knows those too. 

I found myself wanting things differently than what they were. I couldn't get my head out of the, "Why can't this be me?" So instead of a temper tantrum, I cried. I thought things. I found myself idolizing an idea and an image. This brought despair instead of joy. 

Sunday morning I woke. The song on my lips and running through my head were not what I was feeling, but was truth. My sister in law had sung this for her son who graduated. It spoke to me right where I was, too. 



Of course, it was my turn to be part of the praise team that morning, something that was far from my desires. I wanted to crawl back under the covers and wallow in self-pity. I decided to fight. I jumped in the shower hoping to awaken more than just my eyes and Matt Redman's song, Never Once, came on the radio. 

I cried as I heard the words that spoke to my soul.

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far weve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You've done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful


I knew I needed to fight through this. I was not alone. God knew my every thought. I settled into the drive to church and it seemed every single song was put there just for me. Every. Single. One. But especially this one.




The message from our Pastor was entitled, "Praying When God Seems Silent - Psalm 13

BAM!!!!

I was reminded of the honesty of King David, the psalmist. He questioned God about His seeming distance. He felt forgotten. He felt cursed. He wondered how long would he feel despair. He wrote this psalm out of desperation. He then, asked God to ponder his problems. He begged Him to answer. He asked for a clear vision from the Lord of the correct perspective. He told the Lord his fears. He reminded Him of what was at stake, namely His glory. (At this point, I was wondering if our Pastor had read my mind all weekend.)

Many of the things stated by the Psalmist were his feelings of the dire circumstances he found himself in, yet he was willing to pen them as part of the journey. I thank God we have this example to help us know how to pray when we are in the pits of despondency.

The key to this passage, though, is how it ended. David did not stay in this thought process. He then expressed his confidence in God. He determined to rely on His mercy. He rejoiced in the future deliverance His faithful God would give. (The last three paragraphs were points on the message.)

And just as I was ministered to by music earlier in the day, David sang to his creator. He belt out thanksgiving and anticipated the blessings of God. 

So, there, you have it. Be honest with the Lord. Cry hard to Him, but come back to acknowledge His supremacy and omnipotence of what is best for you. He is a good God and He deserves our full trust.

I'm back in the land of the living today and feeling thankful. My circumstances haven't changed, but my focus has.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Case For Grace - For Kids

Grace. It's a hard concept for children to get. Dang! Isn't it even difficult for us adults as well?

 But thankfully we have people like Lee Strobel, who can capture this marvelous thing and bring it to a place they can relate. Through lives of other children he shares stories of God's amazing grace. In his latest book, Case For Grace For Kids, Mr. Strobel introduces young ones to the concept of God's grace at Christ' expense. He explains how the very God, Creator of the Universe, humbled Himself, and in turn, showed us sinners favor. 

Whether your child is small or preteen or even teen, they will be able to relate to the instruction of Mr. Strobel, as he shares the life-changing truth of the Gospel. We are all born sinners and as children grow they especially can struggle with selfishness, autonomy, and pride. Grace dispels all of that. I am thankful there are resources like this to minister to my children.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Those Very Special Women in My Life

Mother's Day is a day that has many mixed emotions. Years ago, I protested this day since my womb was barren and my arms were empty. Now, I usually have a few tears for missing my mom. And a few tears for those dreaded expectations that I seem to have a hard time working through. So this year, I wanted to focus on some pretty special ladies in my life who help me to see past the end of my nose; who are honest and are being used to help me to grow more like Christ.

1. My beautiful older sister, Jenny, you are the epitome of beauty. There are so many wonderful memories of growing up together. I still have the note you sent to me, letting me know all the women in the family were going to be fasting and praying one day a week for me to conceive after I got married. I still cry when I read it. I have seen you grow so much in the Lord. We have memorized James and now we are on to the finishing up of Philippians. Chapter three just about did us both in. HAHA! We have plodded through the ups and downs of life. You have been such a beautiful example of a Godly wife and mother to your three beautiful boys. Happy Mother's Day to my amazing sister and friend.

2. My wonderful, amazing, crazy youngest sister, Melissa. You are a woman of fortitude and determination. God has done incredible things in your life. You have taught me more than you know, and I am so thankful as I see God work in you as He grows you more and more to be like Him. You are honest and thoughtful! (I look at my flower garden chair every day and thank the Lord for you.) You are such a giving person, never expecting anything in return. Thank you for loving me too. By the way, I love laughing with you! We, sure are crazy together!

3. Amber, my sister-in-law, is as close to a sister that you can get. I think back over the years of knowing you and marvel at the growth in your life. You are woman of prayer and such an encourager. You have sent me countless notes reminding me of God's faithfulness and surrounding me with prayers. Thank you for being part of our family.

4. Chrissie, Wow! I can't believe how long we've known each other. We each had about half of our families back then and it has been a joy to love you and mother right along with you. Even though we see less of each other, you will forever be an integral part of my life. I have cried with you. I have laughed with you. You have housed our family and children at times we needed an extra roof. You have been profoundly generous with your time and use our time to speak truth into each other lives. Thank you dear friend.

5. Rachel.  ..... Prayer. That's the mark of our friendship and for this I am grateful. I love our early Friday mornings together lifting up our families before the Lord. We have seen answered prayer and it is so faith-building. You have such a giving spirit. Thank you for teaching me crochet and all those hours of sipping dunkin, baring our souls, making those squares, amidst the cries of, "Mommy....." Although you have moved our of state, you are forever in my heart.

6. Myra, I am honored to be your friend. You inspire me to love Jesus more. You know just when to give me a word of exhortation, and do it with love. You exude Jesus. You sacrifice each day in the service to your family and to our local body. Without ever complaining. Thank you for your example.

7. Mary Ann Puebla. As a mother-in-law, you are one of a kind. I have come to know your heart. One that truly loves your family. One who, although at times, doesn't know how to say it, perseveres and says it: "Love ya." You have given me a husband, your son, who cherishes me and loves me. Your son is all I have ever wanted in a husband. Thank you for including me into the family 20 years ago. And for loving me in those special ways.

8. And lastly, Heather. God blessed me just a few months ago with your friendship. You have taught me so much in a short amount of time about patience and fortitude. God sent you at such an important time in my life. There are so many things that He knew I needed help muddling through and knew you would have first hand experience with. Thank you for giving into my life and those of my girls. Thank you for being a true woman of faith. One who shares Jesus and lives what she shares.

God has blessed me with many others as well, but wanted to just shout out a special thanks to these gals. Happy Mother's Day to all of you!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Approval

Speaking up against the culture is always a very difficult thing. Being the minority can put one in a very difficult position. 

In John 12, we read about Mary anointing Jesus' feet with the costly perfume. On the very next day, the crowds worshipped Jesus as they waved palm branches and proclaimed him as their king. He then, teaches a discourse concerning the cost of following Him and in hidden pictures spoke of His death and victory over death. After this John says this: verses 42-43; "Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; FOR THEY LOVED THE APPROVAL OF MEN RATHER THAN THE APPROVAL OF GOD.

This is a powerful statement! So often we have a choice to speak up about Christ; to give the Gospel; to pray with someone who is hurting, but we fear man and what they will think or say.

This we must fight against! We must have courage.

I think about all those who are being persecuted around the world. This persecution will hit America sooner than we think. Are we ready, fellow Christian, to speak boldly for His name? We must be bold! We must not love the approval of men over the approval of God! 

Our focus must not be on the temporal of here and now, but on the eternal. There is life after this life. What people say and do in this life is nothing compared to eternity. 

Confess Him today!


Monday, April 27, 2015

Hard Life Lessons on Sin, Death and Grace Gifts

This last week was a tough one for my littlest. My nature lover. The friend of all animals. It was sanctifying for me too.

It started out as a regular ole' school week. Math lessons streeeeetttcccched out for longer than necessary. Sassy talk. Discipline. Hugs. Laughter.

Until Mr. Cartwright called home. He found a possum. A baby possum. He had thought of our little one who loves to nurture on lost and needy animals. I asked him, "Please not this time....I don't think I can do a possum." Well, little Inger overheard the conversation and asked permission to call her daddy about this issue. He was long gone from the sight he had found it, but PROMISED that the next time he found one, he would bring it home. Now mind you, HE HAD NEVER FOUND A POSSUM. EVER.

The very next day he came across another little guy. And he kept his promise. So Prince came into our lives. I NEVER would have EVER said I would have a possum in my home, yet I knew this would be an important experience in my little one's life. We read and learned tons about possums. Did you know they do not suck like other baby animals? They are marsupials who are in the momma's pouch for 90 days. We think our little guy was about 5 months old. He still needed milk although he lapped from a water bowl. So we gave him a bottle that he chewed on and we'd squeeze a few extra drops into his mouth.

I caved after the first night of him sleeping in a box in the garage. Inger begged for him to be in the zippered cat carrier on her bed at night. This worked well. She was such a good momma! She carried him in her apron or robe pocket. She played with him as he seemed to be getting stronger and stronger. She would walk around with him on her shoulder and he'd just sit there looking around.

In the evening of the sixth night we'd had him, he stopped eating and grew weaker and weaker! We tucked him in for the night, but I knew he wasn't going to make it. Little Prince died that night.

The next morning, my hubby and I were up early talking and getting ready to read Scripture, when a little person came out of her room wondering what happened. She snuggled up on me as I told her Prince had died. She started sobbing! Crying harder than ever!

I took her onto my bed and let her cry, talking to her about how God loves his creation. How He cares for the birds of the air and gives all those flowers she loves so much their beautiful clothes. I reminded her that Jesus knew little Prince was sick and allowed her to be part of his life. I, then, turned to the subject at hand. This subject being a little harder to discuss with her as she struggles through her own life, blinded to her sin as of yet. Not thinking she needs a Savior up to this point. But, this mommy's heart, knowing this was another opportunity to help her see the effects of sin on the world. Sin that separates us from a holy God. Sin that demands judgment. The Gospel became central again. I prayed that it hit close to home for my little lamb.

I turned to my own thoughts. I realized it just happened to be the anniversary of my dear mother's home going 5 years prior. I allowed myself to shed tears that were bottled up for the day. I tend to "keep busy" so that I don't have to face my own sadness at times, but my Heavenly Father knew I needed to grieve as well. This was a grace gift to start my day.

I laid there as we cried together. Both hurting. One of us knowing grace; the other needing it.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Story About LIFE!

I love a good book....(as if you couldn't tell..)

Better yet, I love true stories that inspire courage, choosing joy and unconditional love. 


Bella's gift, written by Rick and Karen Santorum, along with their daughter, Elizabeth, tells of this family's journey as Karen gives birth to Bella, their 8th child. But, profoundly, their story starts a few months before this, when they are given the devastating news that something might be wrong with their "surprise" baby. And, in turn, doctors giving their "two-cents" about what is best. 
Their faith is tested, their marriage is tried, 
but they come out the other side with stronger faith and a stronger family. 

In a time, when there is little trust in the realm of politics, it is beautiful to see a politician's family being a real family. A husband putting his marriage and wife first. (That's why he dropped out of the presidential race...I vaguely remember this.) A father putting his family first. Rick and Karen's love for each other is concretely seen in how they work through the birth and life of their precious Bella. Most children born with her condition pass away within the first year. They have loved her through to 7 years. But ultimately, we know God is the giver of life and taker of breath. They know this too.

Each day is a new day to be blessed with their daughter and they do an amazing job of chronicling all the struggles and blessings. 

As a personal comment, their faith is rooted deeply in the Catholic religion. Although I will not discredit their confession of faith in Jesus, I do get concerned when the lines are blurred as thickly as they are in this book. Salvation is by faith alone, through grace alone on the only Jesus Christ.

P.S. As a part of the blogging network through Thomas Nelson, I received a free copy of this book.


Friday, April 24, 2015

God Uses the "Special"

I have a beautiful daughter who has special needs. She is now 16 years old and growing more beautiful day by day. Her heart and soul ooze Jesus. This is the epitome of beauty.

But this doesn't take away the hurt and struggles that she lives with daily. Especially as she ages, she sees these differences.

She has had a couple of meltdowns frustrated at her inability to understand or be able to discuss things with others her age that she can't get. But overall, she has come to an understanding of God's miracle in her life and the mantra we drilled into her...."God cares more about your ability to love others, to show kindness and overcome evil with good, than He cares whether you know how to add or subtract."

As I was reading through the book of John this week I came across a story in chapter 9 that I have heard many, many times before. But as I read about Jesus healing the blind man from birth, it struck me how it all came to happen.

Jesus was with His disciples and they questioned Jesus about this blind man they saw on the side of the road. The blind man never cried out to be healed. There is no commentary except the disciples wanting to know why he is blind. Jesus says an amazing thing: "This happened so that the power of God could be seen in him." We see that after Jesus healed him, he testified to the religious leaders, believed and worshiped the "One" who did this.

Now, I'm pretty sure that at the time of his birth, his parents did not think to themselves, "God made our boy special to be used by Him to proclaim His glory." I am pretty sure they were hurting and struggled to accept this initially. I think most parents do. But how exciting for them later on to have their son healed.

 Yet, you read in the narrative, that they were afraid to tell the religious leaders who healed their son, because they had announced anyone proclaiming Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. But, their blind son, who now saw, believed.

In this age of euthanasia and throwing away of those who don't measure up; in this world of medical pressures to abort when faced with a "special" baby, we must remain steadfast that God's glory is on display. Choosing life is choosing God's way. Choosing life is choosing for God to work in ways that we have a hard time seeing initially because of our own pain. I know several families who have children with down syndrome. I know those who care for their precious children with the utmost care and believe without a shadow of a doubt that they are placed in this world to be God's glory-shiners.

I have a beautiful daughter who radiates God's miraculous work. I have been asked by doctors, nurses, and other professionals what we did to help her excel as much as she has. I then, have an opportunity to gospelize. I have a starting point at which to say, "God; He is the maker of all things beautiful. He gives us wisdom. He gives her understanding that she may not have ever had otherwise."

So I leave the blind man with Jesus and head to John chapter 10, ready to read about my Good Shepherd, who watches over the souls of those He loves. I know whatever may happen to my little lamb as she ages, she has a Wonderful Great Shepherd who will never leave her.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

An Amazing Woman

I still have dreams about her. I often wake from those dreams thinking she is still with me. Alive. Here on Earth. Then I remember.

She's gone. Still Alive. But gone.

It has been five years today since Mom went home to be with the Lord.

Every year I consider a different aspect of the legacy Mom left. This year I have thought so much over what she gave in the years when I was 4 years old until 13. My life could have been very different if Jesus had not intervened in my parent's lives as well as mine.

When I was two years old, they were ready with papers to file for divorce. My dad came to Christ and soon after my mom did as well. This started them on another path. One of giving of their lives for others, specifically, teens at risk. They became foster parents for teenagers. Many boys and girls came into our lives, for just a season. But I know one of change for them. For most heard about Jesus, maybe for the first time. During these years, I am told there were struggles. I am told money was sparse. I am told life was difficult. I didn't know any of these things until I was older. NEVER.

My dad worked at IBM; my mom stayed home. She babysat for extra money and led Back Yard Bible Clubs. They both had Bible Studies with other couples. They counseled couples. We were able to attend a Christian School. We went to Lake Drive Baptist Church two times on Sunday and every Wednesday. It was 45 minutes from home. Priorities were made and the Lord blessed.

Their heart's desire was to start a full time ministry, a home for teens. The Potter's Wheel, this was to be called. I still remember the dark gray farmhouse they had found in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. But the Lord had other plans. The current house we lived in would not sell. And through God's great providence, we ended up moving down to Florida so our family could be closer to Grammy Stebbins, my Father's mother, who was dying from cancer. And years later, am thankful, as I look as my beloved and give thanks.

Looking back on these few memories from life and childhood, I remember how constant my mother was. I know my love for adoption and the desires to help hurting children and even my love for Biblical Counseling was fostered through her (and my dad's) examples. We are still in contact with some of those teens that grew up and now have families of their own. We see the hurting couples that my parent's helped, thriving and doing well.

My mom loved well. For this I remember her today.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pain Is Productive; Courage Turns to Encouragement

The last 6 years of our lives has seem to go at a snail's pace yet speed faster than a jet plane. Discouragement sets in; courage lifts us out. Our eyes wander from the cross to the darkness of the deepest pit. Yet, still His grace finds us.

Discouragement hit lately. The asking, "What if....." Wondering where the next leg of this journey will lead us.

But I am so thankful to the Lord that He helps us fight. Each time we fear, He reminds us He knows the outcome already and will be with us to face it. Each time we stumble in our own rebellious responses, He gently prods us back to His embrace. Our God is so good.

Recently I was able to write a brief synopsis of our journey in a pro-family magazine, called Above Rubies. As I wrote, I prayed. I prayed for the words to convey truth and honesty, yet humility and love. I prayed for those reading it. I asked the Lord to use it to encourage others going down the same path that we had traveled...and still are.

I have received emails from hurting parents. I have felt their pain. I have prayed for them.

I SEE!!!

I see how God does this thing. How He uses our lives to intersect with those going through similar pain. He shows such grace by using His clay pots. Some of us are cracked from such heat and the feelings of being dropped, although I personally know, I have never been out of the Savior's hand.

Wherever you may find yourself, friend; in whatever trial you are surrounded with, know He is there with you. Look around and see. There are others hurting like you are. Sometimes we are blinded while sitting in the heat, but at some point we must use the pain to encourage the body of Christ.


Monday, April 13, 2015

A Beautiful Touch To Your Morning With Your Savior

There is nothing better than to open the Bread of Life each morning. But, if I could add one thing to make it better, it would be to commune with the Lord in the midst of his creation. Whether I am sitting out back on my deck in the sunrise mornings, or on vacation in the mountains or at the beach, taking in the beauty of His gift to us adds a dimension to His glory!

Miriam Drennan has helped us to revel in this by writing the book, Devotions From the Garden. The photos are unbelievably awe-inspiring. They are true photos from nature. On each day she uses the topic of gardening to bring about a spiritual concept to our daily walk with Christ. It is thought provoking and exceptionally beautiful. This is a beautiful addition to a study through the Word of God. She adds personal contemplation, prayers and encouragement through the beauty of God's creation.

As part of the booklook blogging network, I received a free copy of this book.