Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Blogging just hasn't been happening much since my son-in-law died. I don't do any journaling either like I have done for most of my adult the very least sporadically and often regularly. I have been trying to find the words to say anything about how I am doing, how I feel, how my daughter is doing, how my family is doing, etc. But the words just don't come. I am blocked and haven't been able to get anything written about anything at all of anything of any importance. I do write at which is a social networking site based on starting and responding to discussions. But if you check it out and look at what I have done there, it is mostly responding rather than starting discussions. It is so much easier for me to just respond to something someone else already started discussing rather than trying to come up with something to say on my own. It is a lot of lighthearted and easy banter there.
Tonight I just wanted to try to blog about something and maybe even to try to blog about the more personal side. Funny, I can't do a private journaling. But for some reason I want to say something on a public blog.
On the main blog 'Talking It Over' I posted something my daughter had found and personalized for her myspace blog. I thought it was something so many people need to help them be there for friends and family going through various times of trial. And in so many ways, the things that her post says about how she is feeling and what she needs from her friends says the same things about me. It speaks what I have needed for several years, not because of someone close to me dying, but because of a marriage that died, a family that went through horrendous difficulties and is still dealing with difficulties, and the struggles I have gone through individually and as a result of the family issues as well. For the most part, I have felt that, other than Jesus who is always with me, I have gone through almost everything I have dealt with alone. And it has been that much harder because there weren't the people who tried to be there for me...or maybe they were there but they, too, were lost as to how they could help me. I have to give them the benefit of the doubt in that area. I know many have been praying for me over the years. But to be there with me face to face...that is another story.
One of the things that is really difficult for me these days with this most latest trial is that I am the Mom, the Grandma. I am the one who is here for my children and grandchildren to depend on and lean on during all of this. I lean on Jesus. But I really need to have someone to lean on that is flesh and blood right here that I can touch. Because I am weak. I have never been a strong person although many people think of me as being strong. I put up a good front I guess. But a lot of my physical ills are due to my body's reactions to all the stress I have dealt with in the past 15-20 years plus those things that I dealt with as a child growing up. I am not strong and my body is starting to 'leak' out of the places where the walls are cracking, like water leaking out through a dam. I think our bodies can only take so much stress, and when we have such a tremendous amount to deal with, the body carries what gets pushed aside for later. When I need to cry, I cry alone. When I need to laugh, I laugh alone. When I need to do anything that might help me get through some of this, I do it alone. I call on Jesus to give me His strength to get me through and most days it is a day by day, even minute by minute struggle to make it. I know without Jesus, I never would have made it as far as I have, and I wouldn't be here right now. I couldn't do it without Jesus. And I admit, I haven't done my part lately in keeping a healthy relationship with Him. I am well aware that I need to be back in church--somewhere--and I really want it to be my regular church home, but that is still difficult for me since I feel so abandoned by everyone I loved there. I also need to get back to regular daily reading and studying the Bible. I have always gone in spurts with doing that. I am glad I have a lot of it memorized, if not word for word, by part and message. But that isn't enough and I know it. I am worn out--exhausted. I have been carrying such a huge load and even though I try to do what we are told by Jesus to give Him our burdens and trust Him, I have a hard time doing that. Don't we all? Actually, I often find it difficult to even know how to do it--how to let go and give everything over to Him to work out. Some things just hurt so much and it is hard to know if I have given it over or taken it back or never let go in the first place. Because the hurt remains and sometimes takes so long to heal. Having not totally gotten over many of the hurts of past struggles, now I have these new hurts. And as I said, I am the one who is here for my children to lean on, especially for my daughter to lean on. And I feel as though I am having to do this alone. And right now I could really use some human leaning posts of my own. I know that a big part of it could be that I am such a private person for the most part. Blogging publically has been something very new and a stretch for me to lay it out in the open about personal things. People don't really get to see or touch the me inside, the one that has all the hurts because I rarely let her show. I think that is the way many of us are. We hold up these false masks to cover up who we really are and how we really feel on the inside so everyone out there sees what we think we want them to see. I don't cry in front of people. I laugh and have a good time. If the situation calls for someone to take charge and do something to help...if I have to I jump in...sometimes because I want to....most times because it is just necessary. So I appear to be strong. People think I can handle things that really I can't. And if it weren't for Jesus in my life, I guarantee they would see someone totally different facing these struggles.
Right now, I just sometimes want to scream, to cry, to curl up in a corner and let out all the tears and pain. But it hurts to do that. A couple weeks ago I cried so hard about things that my chest hurt so bad I thought my heart would explode inside me. It doesn't help to have things going on physically that make my chest uncomfortable anyway. Having one of those episodes of crying where it just comes out of the depths of your soul, as healing as it can be, hurts really bad at the same time. It takes your breath away and you feel as though you won't get another deep breath again.
Having that happen when you are alone stinks. When you are sick and alone, it really can be frightening. That is when I need someone so much. But it would have to be someone who really really knew me because I would never allow myself to break down that much in front of most people. There really is only one person I can think of with whom I could allow my emotions to be released that much. And that person is not anywhere near where I am. Sometimes just being able to talk to someone who understands and listens would be so helpful. I have had to go back to counseling for this reason. I have reached a breaking point in my life...where I felt that if things continued as they were, I would end up falling apart and not be able to pick up the pieces. That happened a few weeks ago when part of my son's family was in a head on collision. Praise God no one was hurt and everyone was treated and released. It was a miracle they weren't hurt or killed. But it happened almost to the day and hour 3 months after my son-in-law was killed and that pretty much was the last straw for me.
What I would like to understand here is that I am trying to figure out why God has me going through so much stuff alone? I don't understand that at all. I figured past trials were because I was placing too much emphasis on other people rather than on Him and that He wanted me to know that He was the One to be trusting and relying on. I thought I had learned that lesson. I almost feel as though I have to fight just to make myself believe I am worth having someone in my life that I can lean on and count on when tough times come along. From the earliest times I can remember at age 3 when I was first being molested, I have struggled and battled trials alone. Yes, I have always known Jesus was with me, helping me and guiding me. But other people have people to help also. What has He chosen me to be or do that He allows these things for me to face without the benefit of people to help me through.
I don't want anyone to get the idea that I have lost my faith or that my faith is wavering. It's not. But I have questions that I can't answer. And I don't know where the answers are right now. Maybe there are no answers this side of heaven. I don't know why my daughter has no husband and her son has no father anymore. I don't know why he was not spared, but my son's family was not that I would have wanted my son's family to have been hurt or killed. I don't know why my children have to deal with such grief right now in their lives as they deal with the death of this one who was so loved and needed. And I don't know how to help, or how to stop helping if it gets to the point where I am being called on too much either for their good mental/emotional health or mine as well as my physical health. And I don't know how to help myself get through this alone. Each time I have had to go through a major struggle I have come away with new spiritual strengths and new understandings. Why does growth have to hurt so much?
I am working to try to regain as much of my health and physical strength as I can since getting sick more than 2 years ago. Everything that has happened to our family this summer has just seemed to be like a fierce whip that has lashed through us and attempted to steal away every bit of composure we have left. I am at a point in life where I just am not sure there is much more I can take. Even with Jesus living in me...even with His strength holding me up...I feel I am crawling on the ground just trying to make it along this pathway called life. And sometimes I feel as though I am blindly feeling around on the ground to find my glasses so I can try to see where I am going.
Oh Lord, is there no one who can be there for me to lean on? Isn't that why you made people in multiples rather than just one? So we would be able to reach out and help each other? Isn't that what you say in Ecclessiastes about how one alone is helpless but how two can do so much and a strand of three cords is not easily broken? Thank You, Lord for being there always for me. I couldn't have gotten this far without You. I know You will never leave me and you will never leave my children or grandchildren. I pray others find You through any example You can use of my life. But I really need that one who can be an added strength for me. You know who and when. Thank You, Amen.
Well, thanks for reading this, if you did. Say a prayer for my family if you would. My daughter can use all the prayers she can get. And so can the rest of us. Me too, obviously.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I just had to include these videos here tonight. The first is from an email I got awhile back, but saved to my desktop, then found on YouTube tonight. The other two are of a precious little girl with some good talent at a young age...both musically and with memorization. I can't help but think God smiles when He sees these videos. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Just For a Bit of Fun

I found this website and wanted to try it with words from this blog to see what would turn up. I have done it with all my other blogs and was amazed at the cool results, so I wanted to see what would show up from this blog. Click on the link below to be taken to the word picture created from the use of words on this blog. For this one, I chose a particular page of the blog and used it for the URL I pasted into the create page. I like the results...what do you think?

This is one of my favorite Scriptures and one that helped get me through the past eight years. It is Jeremiah 29:11 from the NIV. So I had to do a wordle of it.

I also did one of the 23rd Psalm and Ezekiel 34.

If you would like to try this word art, check it out at .

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wavering Faith--Not in Christ--in the Church

Over the past couple of years as I have faced my illness and disability, mostly alone except for family and a couple good friends, I have questioned many things about the Church in general..the Bride of Christ. We all know the Church is actually made up of believers from all over the world. It emcompasses all denominations--whereever believers are, there is the Church. But the church is made up of weak humans. We are not God. We are not strong apart from Him. So, what about when the Church fails? Of course the Lord never fails. He is always there and will always be there. But what about when the people we need are just not there? What then?

As I have gone through this seige of health problems over the past two years plus, I have wondered where my church friends were. It hurt me that none of them were there. I was told by people who ran into them outside the church that they were praying for me. I was also told by some of my friends who do not go to this particular church that when they ran into my church friends, some of them thought I had started going to some other church. Of course, that wasn't the case at all. I was just too sick to go to church.

The past several months as I have been feeling better, I was starting to want to go back to church again. But did I want to go to my own church where I had felt so let down and so abandoned? I didn't know what to do. I went back once a few months ago just to see how it would be to go back. I haven't been back there since. Well, this past month I have gotten to see a church that so far has captured my attention in a big way. When my son-in-law died just over a month ago, knowing my daughter's church had already been contacted, as would his mother's church be contacted, I contacted my church for prayer. Both of my children and my grandchildren have attended my church over the years so the people who know me well there, knew them as well. Maybe I was expecting a little too much, but I don't think so. We never heard from any of the pastors. She heard from one staff member who she had been talking to recently about interest in a program and sharing it with her own church. We heard from only a very tiny few people who I considered my friends there. And of the many friends I thought I had there, only 7 showed up at the viewing/funeral. In addition, the many many cards my daughter received only held a handful from my church and those were more connected with the farming community than the church. A "collection" was taken up for my daughter from one of my church's small groups I consider myself a part of. It was a very very small amount which amazed me because the group is not a small group. In fact, I am not sure it was a collection at all but rather a gift given from the group's account set aside for that purpose.
So, okay, you might be thinking that this isn't such a big deal. My daughter wasn't going to church there anymore. I hadn't been there in a long time since I had gotten sick. But to me, it was the proverbial needle that broke the camel's back. After having gone through the two periods of homelessness and losing jobs, health, and possessions, and having my church friends turn their backs on me at those points too, when they turned their backs on me during this time of being sick, I was really hurt. I had times during that period when I thought I might not live through the night. No one called me or checked up on me other than one person who did it as her "job" as elder, and one other who was good in coming to visit occassionally. But like I said, I thought I had a lot of good close friends there. Where were they? Why were they so plentiful when things were going well with me, but went into hiding when I was in trouble? Was it because they just didn't know what to say or what to do? I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, for awhile. What about the pastors? Wasn't it part of their job to follow up on sick members of the congregation? In the two years I have been sick, I never got one phone call or visit from any of the pastoral staff. Oh, I take that back. One did come to visit me and pray with me before my heart catherterization back in Feb of 07. But that was it. Did they know I was so sick? Yes. I was on the weekly prayer list for months. I was gradually cutting back on my activities and groups and service at the church as I kept getting sicker. I was in several small groups and they all had me on their individual group prayer lists. Yes, they knew I was sick. This spring I was out with Son's girlfriend going to garage sales. I stayed in the car. One of the pastors and his wife showed up at the same sale and I stopped them as they walked past my car and I said hello to them. They said hello and kept on walking. Is that how pastors are supposed to respond when they encounter a faithful church member who has been very sick and unable to attend? By that time I could have been going more often, but I felt so uncomfortable and unloved there that I just couldn't bring myself to go back. Yet, I still needed to know if I should try to go back in spite of how I felt, or find another church.

Then my son-in-law died. And I saw an outpouring of love and support that I have never seen or experienced in my entire life (and I am not young) as all the friends turned out to be there for my daughter and grandson. I saw a tremendous outpouring of love and support from the church my daughter had found. It is a much smaller church but they had a much larger store of love and caring than my larger church seemed to have. My church is larger, but the members almost all know each other and are close. My daughter's church turned out with meals for 2 weeks, and all kinds of other supportive measures, including phone calls, cards, services. The pastor not only showed up at the viewing and performed the funeral service, he actually stayed at the funeral home the entire time of the viewing and afterwards until we all left. He made sure he was there for my daughter and any one else in the group of family and friends who might need him. Yet, none of my pastoral staff bothered to even offer a sympathy card, let alone a phone call or visit. There is something wrong with this picture isn't there? The other church involved...also offered help and support. Their pastor had to be out of town for a conference but offered to cancel. Son-in-law's mom told him to go ahead to the conference. But he was there in support before and after the conference for her and her family. Now, another church, another small church, has done something tremendous that amazes me. They took a collection and came up with a huge amount of money put into gift cards for my daughter and grandson. Strangers did this. Strangers sent money in cash, by check, but money...and lots of it. The thought keeps coming to me not to speak up yet because I might be putting my foot in my mouth. But it's been over a month, so I really do not expect to hear anything else from my church that I haven't heard already.
Three weeks ago, I started going to church where my daughter goes. Aside from the fact that the layout of the building is much more accessible for me, I want to be in a church where the people behave the way we have been taught by Jesus to behave. I want to be part of a church that shows the love of Jesus Christ and doesn't just talk about it. You can talk about it as much as you want to, but it is action that shows where you really stand.
Just a few weeks before this tragic accident occurred, I came across Ezekiel 34 in the Old Testament. If you get a chance, read it for yourself. I think this speaks of what is happening in the Church in this present time period and it isn't just my church, for I am still a member of that church. This is happening all over America. We have become fat and oppulent, selfish, and spoiled. Some of us Christians have forgotten what we are to be doing. Some of us have received so many blessings from the Lord that we have forgotten what it was like without those blessings, so we forget to share.

Really, is it any wonder why so many people do not want to go to church? We need to make a change. A real change. A lasting change. Is it too late for the Church in America? I hope not. There are still the real followers of Jesus Christ out there just doing what He has taught them to do. Thank God for them.

There has also been one other question in my heart and mind through all of these events of the last two it me? Am I the problem? I go to bed each night asking God to help me see the answer. For if it is me, I want to change that part of me that would cause an entire church to turn it's back on me when I need them the most, when I am so sick I think I might not make it through each night. Was it me? Were these people I considered my best friends, never really my friends? If not, why? Why the entire group? One or two maybe. Maybe even three or more. But all of them? So many different groups I participated in with people I got really close to. So many things I did to serve my God there. This was all a big change for me because I am typically very shy and in my previous church I did nothing to step out of my comfort zone. In this church I was constantly being challenged to do that and I did many times over. So was it me? Was I the reason they were not there when I needed them? Or when my daughter needed them? She was baptized there! Just a few years ago. And she was forgotten. Only the farmers cared because they lost one of their own. God bless the farmers! What a wonderful support network they are!

So, that is my current leg in this journey of faith. Oh how God has shown me His Grace and Mercy during this time of grief and struggle. Oh how He has shown me His mighty blessings in how He has provided for my daughter in her greatest time of need. Oh how He has been there for me in the most unexpected ways and from the most unexpected places. God truly is Good all the time! But we as His Church sure need a lot of work sometimes.

Friday, June 13, 2008

New Test of Faith

My son-in-law was just killed in a tragic accident Saturday afternoon. I will be spending much time away from my computer to be with my daughter, so this blog will not have any new posts for awhile. Please if you read this blog, keep my family, and especially my daughter and her in-laws in much prayer. Thanks

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Faith In The Storm

My faith is being tested through literal thunderstorms right now. I am terribly afraid of tornados and wind storms. I currently live in a mobile home. Last week the next county over, across the state line, but tornados see no state lines, had a tornado warning. I hurried to a friend's home where there is a basement and company. We sat on her screen porch watching the weather that fizzled out, thankfully. After awhile I went on back home. The weather radar for our closest local television station, on tv and online, was full of action.
Tonight there were again severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings across the state line. The radar was full of action further northwest of us, but not a lot in our area. My friend was watching the tv news reports and I was keeping an eye on the radar online from the same station. The next thing we knew, our tornado sirens were going off. There was tornado action apparently in that same neighboring county even though the radar didn't show much going on. And there was suddenly tornado action right here in our county. I hurried even faster than last week...which isn't easy for me to do in my current state of health. This time I was driving through a lot of the wind and flying tree limbs and falling branches.

Am I safer in the mobile home or in the car trying to get to a friend who has a basement? What if there is no one home at the time and I have no where to go quickly? I have several various locations where I can go to, but each one gets further and further away from home, which means driving further in the storm.

Where is my faith at times like this? On the road with me...ahead of me....causing big tree branches to fall just before I get to them so I can stop or go around and avoid getting hit....opening up the road for me to get through when hundreds of outdoor concert-goers are rushing out of the park and home to safety...keeping my family safe even when I am not near them and have no control of their plans of action for safety.

Okay, so my faith isn't at the point where I am not going to be afraid in the storms...the ones of nature or the ones of life. But I know I can count on the Lord to take care of me and my family through the storms.

I didn't feel good going out tonight into the storm. It has been so hot and I have had trouble sleeping this past week or so, both from the temperatures and other reasons contributing to being unable to get comfortable in my bed. Today was really hot...yesterday was really hot. Today I ended up back in an atrial fibrillation episode which does not make moving around quickly an easy thing to do on top of arthritis. So, to say I don't feel very well tonight is a bit of an understatement. But I am home. I am safe. My family is safe. God is good.

If you want to see some pictures, although not the best due to being taken through car windows, of the sky after the storm, check out my photography blog at . A bit of the Glory of God and His creation.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thank God For Small Miracles!

When I got this home after leaving the shelter almost two years ago, I didn't plan on getting sick. I had so many hopes and plans for things I was going to do once I got settled here. Even though I didn't feel very good, I was enjoying garage sales and finding items to fill my home with furnishings all over again. I had to start from almost dishes, table, chairs, living room furniture, and so much more. And I wanted to get started back with the Indian cooking I love to do so much, including trying new things I hadn't tried before.
Getting sick less than a week after I moved here didn't slow me down right away. I didn't think when I moved here that I would have any problems taking my laundry to the laundromat, for instance, because I was strong and able to do that without a hitch--even though I didn't relish the idea through the winter. I didn't realize that down the road, within about six or seven months I wouldn't even be able to carry my laundry basket from one room to another, let alone get it outside and into my car. Days when I felt well and convinced myself I could do it, I would get out there, then be so exhausted that I could hardly make it to the laundromat, let alone get back home and carry the baskets back into the house. Shopping was another area that caused me difficulties I never expected. Up until almost Christmas that year I managed to go shopping doing several mini-trips during the week so I wouldn't have to carry more than three or four light grocery bags from the car to the house...whatever I could do in one trip, including my purse, holding my arms straight down. I still remember the night I decided to do some Christmas shopping for my daughter during the overnight hours when I could park close and not have to battle crowds in the store. That was the first time I used a motorized cart for shopping. But I just didn't have the strength in my legs or in my heart to walk through the store anymore. As it was, the new supercenter was so huge that I had never gone through the entire store before anyway. Now I use the cart everytime I go shopping, but I don't go alone at all anymore unless I know I am only getting a few light items I can carry by myself.
Any housework I do myself is done sitting down. I have a chair with pillows on it in my little kitchen area so I can cook and wash dishes sitting there. If I sweep the kitchen floor, which I have only done myself this past month, I do it from that same chair. In the morning I plan on buying my first vaccum cleaner since losing my other one when I lost my home...and a feather duster too. I am planning on finally being able to clean my house by myself, even if it takes doing it in segments with a rest in between.
You see, I am feeling better these past few months. I can breathe with less shortness of breath. Even in the worst of it I would walk as much as I could, from the car to the store, for instance, so I would not lose the ability to walk altogether. Muscles tend to atrophy when they are not used. I have lost a lot of muscle tone over the past two years of being sick. But I am feeling so much better that I am trying to do more and more on my own. When I can clean my own house again, I won't have to pay someone else to do it for me.
When I was sicker than I am now, I lost interest in doing anything other than just managing to survive. I held down that full time job for ten months after getting sick, then came home and managed to fix my supper, watch tv and go to bed just to get up and start all over the next day. I had previously been attending church four times a week including twice on Sundays. By Christmas that year I had cut down to Sunday mornings only which really hurt me, but I just didn't have the strength or energy to do more than that. After Christmas I stopped going altogether except for a rare Sunday morning when I would feel up to trying. Since Christmas 2006, I have only been to church maybe ten times total. I made it back a month ago for the first time in several months. That was a victory. My interest in other areas of my life has come back and I am setting all kinds of goals of things I want to do soon. Along with being able to clean my own house again, I am getting back into cooking the Indian foods and other foods. I still don't cook any real meal more than once or twice a week. The rest of the time I just have either leftovers or simple foods that are easy to fix. That can help or not help in trying to lose weight, too, depending on what I eat.
Today, in this blog, I want to announce a new victory, though it may seem small to you. It is huge to me. In cooking the Indian foods, I cut up several onions. I used a chair at my old apartment for anything that required being at the sink or stove or counter for very long, so I don't know really how long it has been since I have cooked standing up. I do know I cooked at the shelter standing up, but I never cooked much that required standing for very long. If I needed to do anything that took any length of time, I did it at the kitchen table. So, today, I had a victory. An unexpected victory. While I was cutting the onions, suddenly I was tired of sitting there in the chair and I stood up. Even though I had to lean on the edge of the sink, I finished cutting the onions while standing up at the sink instead of sitting in the chair at the sink. It was only for a few minutes, but it felt so good to be able to do that.
My healing is coming in baby steps. I have to work for it. Maybe God would choose to heal me all at once. Maybe I am one of those that is just not ready for that kind of miracle. But for me, today, standing at that sink cutting the onions was a miracle. The mental and emotional improvement as I am getting physically better is a big encouragement that leads to more physical improvement. It becomes a cycle and it is wonderful.
I am off one of the strong and dangerous medications as of last month and I am so glad of that. Being allowed to stop that medication not only helped my budget, it helped my attitude. I feel better not taking that medicine. It is another encouragement that I don't have to take that medication. There are still heart issues and unless God chooses to heal those issues completely, I will live with them the rest of my life. But they are manageable now and I can at least get things done I couldn't do at all last year.
Knee replacement surgery may be an option way down the road. But that would only happen if the heart issues get better than they are now and if I can lose more weight. That's another problem with getting sick for a long period and not being active. The weight seems to pile on much easier than it comes off. So losing weight is something I am working on at the same time I am working on getting better in other ways.
There are some who would say that whatever happens in my improving health comes because of the doctors' efforts and my own efforts. Let me tell you this: The doctors got their talents and intelligence as a gift from God. The fact that they have agreed to help me even though they knew I had no way of paying them...that is a gift from God. The fight in my heart to keep me struggling to keep going no matter what has happened....that is a gift from God. There were many, many times I thought to give up...times that I did give up as I mentioned in previous posts. There were times from my childhood even until various times as an adult that my struggles were so difficult that I contemplated suicide...the fact that I chose to live...that is a gift from God. God has kept me. God has guided me. God has preserved me to this day. He put me here for a reason and He has a plan for my life. I have learned to trust His plan even though I don't know what it is completely. But now, when things get hard, I remember all He has done. I remember He still has a plan, and until He is done working His plan for my life, I will survive on this earth. When He is finished, I will get to go home with Him then, and only then. That gives me even more strength to hold on and not give up ever again. THAT is a gift from God. I know that I know that I KNOW that I would not be alive today apart from His hand in my life.
Quite a long post to report this small miracle today. The funny thing was...when I got tired of sitting there at the sink and stood up to finish the onions, it was as natural a move as any and it wasn't until I was standing that I realized what I was doing. In fact, I did a lot more walking and standing today than I normally do. It has been a GOOD day.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Through It All

Faith must continue. The journey does not end with the telling of the story. Each and every day there are things that I face that I need to bring to God to help me deal with. I don't always know how things are going to turn out. I don't always know what my next step should be. But what I do know is that I am never alone and I am always able to go to Jesus and ask for help. He is always there. As you can tell from the story so far, what I would have wanted to have happen wasn't the way He worked things out for me. There have been times when I was really afraid, but He never left me alone to deal with my fears. And He always had help right there.

Too many times we hear that once you become a Christian life should be without troubles. That is not what the Bible teaches. In fact, many times, for many Christians, life can become harder because of the persecution they have to face for their choices. All you have to do is read about the missionaries around the world who are sometimes tortured for their faith, and the Christian converts who are arrested, tortured, and even killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. The persecution we face here in America for being Christian is little compared to what these brave believers face every day. Yet, we also have our trials and tribulations here. It comes with the territory. What we also have is a God who loved us enough to give His precious Son's life to pay the awful price for the penalty of our sins. We no longer owe that debt to Him because Jesus took our sins upon Him on the cross. All we have to do is believe it and accept that gift He gave for us. With everything we end up going through in our lives, nothing compares to what we have in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. I cannot imagine what would have happened to me without Him in my life. One thing I am sure of, I would not be here today.

I don't know what the rest of my life holds in store. I don't know what tomorrow holds. What I do know is that I can hang on to Jesus and I will be okay. Life can be a wild ride--an adventure. Right now I am continuing to trust God in several areas of my life including my health, my in finances, my shelter/home, and my relationships. I trust Him with the little decisions I have to make every day and I trust Him for the major decisions that come my way. Right now I think I need a new place to live even though He is the One who provided this place for me. There are some major things that I need that this place does not offer me so I have been looking for somewhere else for several months now. In fact, I had planned on being moved by this time. But it hasn't happened and I am still looking...still waiting. With God, there is a lot of waiting at times. Other times the answer can come almost immediately. For instance, the car I am driving now was given to me on Mother's Day three years ago. I prayed and asked God to provide me with a minivan the night before, Saturday. The next morning at church a minivan was offered to me through very interesting channels. Basically, I was at one of the entrances greeting people as they came into the church and handing out the bulletins. The church secretary who is also a friend of mine came and asked me if I still needed a car, and I said yes, why? She said she would be right back. She came back a few minutes later and told me another person in the church had a car they were giving away to someone who might need one in the church, so she told him about me. After I was done greeting I met with the gentleman and was offered the car for free, if I wanted it...a minivan. I had possession of it that afternoon, less than 24 hours after my prayer request. On the other hand, there are other requests I have been waiting for much, much longer. And there have been things impressed upon me by the Holy Spirit through various pastors' sermons, Scriptures, and in other ways, that seem impossible...and in human terms are quite impossible. But the Bible says nothing is impossible with God. The Bible says all things are possible with God. And the Bible also says, without faith it is impossible to please Him. So I wait. Somethings I have been waiting to see the fulfillment of my faith in what He has said to me for years. It can get very discouraging at times. But everytime I am discouraged, He shows up with just the right encouragement I need. And I remember that God is never late. He is always right on time.

Mr. Andrae Crouch, over 30 years ago, wrote a song that I have loved ever since the first time I heard it. Below are the words to that song. I was still a teenager when I first heard it, and I didn't have any idea of what my future would be. Now, looking back, how could any other song lyrics fit so well?

I've had many tears and sorrows
I've had questions for tomorrow
Ther've been times I didn't know right from wrong
But in every situation God gave blessed consolation
That my trials come to only make me strong
Oh I've been to a lot of places
And I've seen a millions of faces
But there are times I still fail all alone
He knows lonely hours
Those precious lonely hours
Jesus let me know I was His own

Through it all, through it all
I've learned to trust in Jesus
I've learned to trust in God
Through it all, through it all
I've learned to depend upon His word

I thank God for the mountains
I thank Him for the valleys
And I thank Him for the storms He brought me through
For if I'd never had any problems
'cause I won't know that He could solve them
I'd never know what faith in God's word could do


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Praise Him With Me Tonight!

Tonight I just want to post some moving videos that mean a lot to me and speak a lot about my faith and how it has grown in the past 15 years. I hope you watch and listen and enjoy these videos. They are very special.

Monday, May 5, 2008

RAIN--Rob Bell

The Caves of Ai

In the Old Testament there is a story of when the Israelites fought against Ai. Without going into the story or the details of the battle, I just want to write about one point that was taught at a very special revival at my church. It wasn't that the revival was of any special significance from any other revival service. It was special because of how the Lord reached into my heart and started the process of getting me to face truths I didn't even know were there, and some I did but refused to deal with before this time.
Have you ever had a really infected wound or cut that had to be treated seriously before it would heal? For instance, when I was in elementary school, I had blisters on my hands from playground equipment and much of it had chipped paint and was rusty. The rust got into the open blisters, which healed over without anyone really knowing about the rust being there. When my hand started getting red, inflamed, and swollen, my mother took me to the doctor. The doctor had to take a scapel and cut into the old blistered palm and deep into the flesh. Then I had to go home and keep soaking my hand on and off every 30 minutes in water as hot as I could stand it that had epsom salts in it to draw the infection out. This went on for several days, including wearing a soaked washcloth wrapped in a breadsack to bed at night to keep the wound open. Every day I could watch as the poison would come out of my cut hand.
In much this same way, sometimes we have to go through painful experiences before we have been cut deep enough to get to the poison that is inside of us...the infection that needs to come out. It is not pleasant to go through times like that. But to be the people we were created to be, it is necessary to get rid of all those things hidden deep inside us.
That is what the story of Joshua and the Israelites and the caves of Ai is about. As the battle raged, the enemy kings were captured. Joshua had them thrown into these caves and a guard set to the openings so they would not get away. The message the evangelist taught that night was that Joshua had these kings held there while he continued with the battle. When the battle was over, Joshua went back to the caves and had the kings brought out. There he dealt with them and had them executed. The message for us...for me...was that in life we are busy with dealing with the current battles. We get these important issues that need dealt with, but during the battles we have no time to deal with those issues. So we stuff them back into the caves of our heart. But, unlike Joshua, we don't come back and deal with them. Then they fester and grow until they become an infection in our lives. And the bad thing is, the longer they stay buried there, the more we forget about them. The longer they stay buried, the more we are able to end up deceiving ourselves...that is lying to ourselves...and telling ourselves there is nothing there to worry about. The more they fester and infect our hearts, the more they infect our lives. We have to get it all out. That revival message was a life-changing week for me...just that one message that one night was especially crucial to where I am now.
Oh how sure I was as I listened to the evangelist that night that I had already dealt with everything there was hidden in my life. So why did I feel this gnawing in my spirit that things were not well with me as I believed they were?
That wasn't the only message that week that reached my heart. In fact, I have to say that this particular revival week was the most enlightening one I had ever participated in. It was as though everything that had happened up to that point was groundbreaking and foundation for what was to come. To say that within a few weeks after this revival my entire life direction was changed would be an understatement. Before the revival I thought I was going in one direction and within a few weeks I was going in a totally different direction in just about every area of my life. I was given instruction, guidance, and direction the like of which I had never experienced before. Things became clear to me that I had not seen or had refused to see before this time.
For two months I wrestled with the Lord about the direction He was pointing me in. I didn't think I wanted to go that way at all. And I argued with Him about it. I am so glad He loves us and knows us inside and outside. You see, I am not afraid to argue with my Lord. He knows what I am thinking and feeling anyway. If I hold it back and do not express it, I feel that I am just lying to Him and to myself. In Isaiah, scripture says, "Come, let us reason together." Call my arguing reasoning with Him if you will...only He ends up being the one reasoning with me. He sets me straight when I am willing to listen to Him, even if I disagree. And He is patient enough to wait for me to see things His way. And wait He did. And reason He did. After those two months passed I had finally come to realize He was right all along and that the direction He was pointing me in really was the direction I wanted to go all the time, but had just not thought it possible. So I had convinced myself it was not the right direction for me. He changed my mind about all that.
When I finally agreed with God about the direction He wanted me to go, it was only then that He started having me start dealing with what was inside the caves of my heart. It's possible that had I not agreed to the change of direction at this point, I never would have dealt with the issues buried in my heart. For when they began coming out, much like the infection coming out of my hand into the hot water, it did not feel good. It hurt. It hurt bad. Why? Because the things the Lord was helping me dig out of my caves was all the things I had buried that I had done wrong to hurt people I loved over the years. The Lord was showing me, slowly and over time, that the pain in my life was not centered around all those people who had hurt me. It was centered around all the things I had done to hurt them.
Isn't it just like we humans to want to always point our fingers at others and what they do to us? Isn't it like us to hide and cover up all our own flaws? We like thinking we are good people. We like thinking we are nice, caring, loving, etc, etc, and etc. But the Lord knows, we are far from perfect. Well, we aren't perfect now are we? We make mistakes. And if we are in pain, if someone is hurting us and we are flinging arrows back at them...we are bound to land a few if not all of them into their soft skin, hurting them in the process. And what if we are the ones throwing the first stones? Or taking the first jabs with our spears of hurt? Then what can we say for ourselves? Shame takes over and we end up buring these things deep inside of our hearts where we hope no one else will ever see them. And we hope we never see them again either. Then, we end up "forgetting" them. But our bodies don't forget them. Sickness happens many times because of the stresses built up in our lives. We also end up with these things called triggers. Triggers are things from our hidden memories that show up unexpectedly and can bring out all kinds of reactions to things around people's actions, and other things. Then when we react, we end up with more shame...and we end up buring even more stuff in our caves...stuff to get more infected and putred over time.
It has to come out. Joshua took care of the enemy kings right away when the battle ended. And he put to death those that were going to cause further damage. When we dig out the things from our caves we have to put to death in our lives those things that are going to cause more damage down the road. If we let them live, we haven't resolved anything and we will end up in another mess. And we can't do what God wants us to do with our lives if we are constantly stuck in battle mode with the past.
So, God took me through this process that took another several months. During all this time I did not yet have a job that could keep me self-supporting, and I ended up truly homeless for the next nine months. I lived in a homeless shelter for women and young children. As I was finishing up this level of cleansing, I ended up going back to school in the local adult vocational training classes for certified medical office assistant. About halfway through the program the school recommended me for a job in a local business working in data entry as a temp employee. I kept that job for 15 months. After the first 5 months I was able to get my own place again. Right after I moved in, less than a week later, I got sick physically. At first I thought it was the usual occassional episode of atrial fibrillation that I had been dealing with for the previous 12 years so I didn't think much about it. But when it didn't go back to normal sinus rhythm I started to worry. I didn't have insurance and I was afraid to go to the doctor because I believed I would get put in the hospital and I would lose my job once again. So I worked sick and got sicker and sicker until I had no choice but to go to the doctor. He worked with me so I could stay out of the hospital. Eventually, though, after 15 months on the job, I was fired for missing too much work. Once again I faced losing everything. God, what would happen this time? I knew I was too sick to go back to the shelter. It was three floors up and I didn't have enough strength to climb more than the few steps into my home.
Once again, it was back to another lesson in faith. From the middle of April until the middle of September I had no income other than occassional help from a couple of churches, and the local Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation which was helping me get set up in a work-from-home job while I was waiting to find out if I would qualify for social security disability benefits. It was a day-by-day struggle to keep my head above water as I dealt with bill collectors and the landlords. But I never missed one month's bills. They were sometimes late, but they were all paid before the next month's bills arrived. God supplied in wonderful ways.
All my life in one way or another, by one person or another, I was told I was no good or didn't measure up to someone else's expectations of who or what I should be. In fact, after going through a childhood like that, I was the biggest offender of all, telling myself I was no good. All through this process I had people telling me I was doing the right things to help myself. I was doing everything I needed to do to get things done so I could make it. For the first time in my life, during this most difficult time, I was being encouraged to keep going and keep doing what I was doing. For the first time in my life I felt like someone believed in me. And mostly I realized the God believed in me. At a time when so many people were beating me down with their words of accusation because I had no money to pay them what I owed them, on the other side of the fence were these wonderful people giving me the encouragement I needed to hang on.

Over the years from 2000 until this time period in 2007, God led me from being self-abusing emotionally, mentally, and physically with my overeating to becoming someone I really like and respect. Of all the lessons I learned during these past few years about myself, and what was buried in the caves of my heart, I learned that I am not the person I believed myself to be growing up and moving into young adulthood. There was a constant battle raging within me. On one side was the little girl who felt unloved, a target for abuse, alone, and no good. On the other side was the girl who enjoyed life and had a spirit of laughter and joy that spilled over into every activity she was involved in. And often the sad, hurting little girl got pushed further and further into the cave, there to cry year after year as more of the bad side got shoved in with her. And over the years when the stresses of life got a little too hard to deal with, there would be an eruption in the cave and the nasty would come out and attack those around me. But I wouldn't recognize that and I would bury all the evidence back inside the cave when things calmed down again. By the time of my divorce, the caves couldn't hold it anymore and I was pretty much an active volcano all the time, smoking and sputtering lava words at my husband and my family whenever things went wrong or I thought they were going wrong. What might have happened had I been able to deal with those caves years sooner? I can't tell, only God knows. All I knew at the time was that I felt I would implode if I didn't get out of the marriage. What I thought was going on...what I blamed it all on, of course, was my husband's actions. Not once did I look at myself and admit that I could be causing any of the problems in our marriage. I couldn't allow it. I couldn't look into the caves because if I did, all that ugly stuff would spill out and everyone would see the nasty, ugly me. I had buried it so deeply I didn't even see it there anymore. All I knew was that I was turning into an ugly shrew by the end of 1998 and it could not go on. My solution was divorce. Things calmed down after that and life seemed good again, especially after I got back into church. By the time God used that revival to change my direction and to get me cleaning out the caves, I was ready for just such guidance even if it was painful.

Since September 2007, I have continued to work part time from home, and have been receiving disability benefits. I am financially better than I have been in a long time, and better than I ever have been on my own. Guess what? The caves are not empty yet. God still reveals things to me that need dealt with. Just last week I was confronted with yet another issue that I am still having trouble accepting about myself. Yet, it is there and I need to deal with it. Thank God I don't have to do this alone. God is with me all the time.

So where is the faith journey at this point? Still moving forward as it will for the rest of my life until I am home with my Jesus. Remember Job? He lost his property. His 10 children were all killed. He lost his health. He spent some time with his "friends" who were not very encouraging. Even his wife advised him to curse God and die. After a time God came and spoke with him and helped him see things from His perspective. And after Job talked with God, and prayed for his friends, God restored to him all he had lost, and much more. Including giving him 10 more children. He got double of everything he had lost. Including the chidren. For his first 10 were with the Lord and he would someday be with them again, and now he had 10 more.
All through the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, God speaks of restoration. Restoration of health, restoration of life, and more. God is a God of restoration. God is a God of second chances. And where there is faith, God is pleased and shows Himself strong. Jesus said "Without faith it is impossible to please God." I want to please God. I am glad to have started this faith journey 15 years ago in April 1993. I am now beginning my 16th year of learning to trust God. I wouldn't have it any other way. I believe what He has spoken to me through the revival in Nov 2004 and I follow in the direction He is leading me.

This ends the story as far as the past 15 years is concerned. There may be times when I will tell you a story or two about something I thought of that happened during those years that brought me closer to the Lord. But I will hopefully continue the story as it continues in my life for as long as I feel led by God to do so. My hope is that through all of this you may be encouraged in your own journey to hang on and to trust God with your needs, with your struggles, no matter how difficult they are for you. God knows the beginning from the end. He knows everything that is going to happen before it ever does and He is never taken by surprise. He never panics. Cast all your cares on Him for He truly does care for you. And remember, if you ask for more faith, or to learn to trust Him, be prepared for the lessons of the classroom. But don't worry, it's all worth it in the end.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Alone, On My Own--Now What???

Job lost his possessions. His cattle, flocks, almost everything. And Job was a very wealthy man.

In the summer of 1999 I lost the family home. The house was paid mortgage. But property taxes were way past due and I didn't have the money to pay them. The house was needing some major repairs and I had no money for those either. Eventually the house was going to go up for sheriff's auction so to try to get more out of it, I put it up for auction through a realtor who helped me get settled in a mobile home of my own fully paid for, with a brand new storage shed, and help paying off my car and getting a car down payment for my son to use to get to and from school and work. I didn't get much for the house, but it covered the needs I had at that time.

I was only working part time, but since I only had a small lot rent to pay and utilities were not bad, I was doing okay. Then in January 2000, I lost that job. I got another job and ended up having to give that up because it caused further damage to my right knee which was already giving me a great deal of pain. I found another job that helped me be able to work and still not be on my feet all the time. It seemed to be working out well, and even though my knee was getting worse, I was able to keep working until I passed the probationary period so I could get medical insurance. Right away I went to the doctor who ordered me to not go back to work until after I talked to an orthopedic surgeon. I had all the necessary tests and had the initial appointment scheduled. About that time, my employer called me and told me I had a choice...either I had to come back to work or be terminated. By that time I had pushed myself so much I could hardly walk, so I really had no choice. They said even though I reached the probationary period where insurance was taken care of, I still needed three more months before I could take a leave of absence. Since they had no idea when I would have my surgery or how long I would be off work, they could not work with me. So, in 7 months time I had lost 3 jobs.

All through the previous year and into this year I had been praying that I wish I could take a vacation. Now really, this was not the kind of prayer we think of when we talk about praying. But I have learned that God hears our prayers whether they are spoken formally, informally, or just a cry out in the night. My prayers for a vacation were more like the cry out in the night kind. For the next six months I tried to find another job, but I was unsuccessful. The money ran out, the help ran out. I was battling with a faith issue at the time about food stamps and other governmental help vs trusting God. The food stamp program administrator was nasty as they come and the stress I was already dealing with that had gone undealt with combined with the current stress was more than I could deal with when I had to deal with that woman on top of it all. I took another leap of faith and stopped all food stamps and other assistance. Very soon after that I was hired for a job, the employer knowing that I had surgery coming up. The wait for all of this was 6 months. About 3 months into the wait, it dawned on me that I had asked for a vacation, so I should be trying to enjoy the time I had. I stopped letting myself be so scared and I started working on making individual scrapbooks for each of my children for their Christmas presents that year.
Getting to have the surgery was something provided by God, but He used government assistance I did not ask for to get it for me. I got a letter concerning medicaid and that since my son was still 18 we both could now get medicaid until he was 19 and because I had been turned down before we each got a free 3 month medicaid card. I got my surgery and all the other medical things done during that three months that I could get done.

It turned out that the company that hired me knowing I was going to have surgery kept me only through the time it took for me to build up my department so they could pass their state survey. They already had their person they wanted for the job in place but she had no certification and had no time to get it before the survey. As soon as the survey was over, they found a bogus reason to fire me. Yet another job lost. What's going on here God?
At this time I was trying to help my daughter with her wedding plans. I had bought all the flowers and decoration things and was working on making all the bouquets and corsages (sorry I can't spell the French word I want). I was out of work for almost a year. How did I survive? Here is an interesting story about God and how He works.

After I lost the family home I bought a mobile home. Back when I was a teenager I enjoyed reading David Wilkerson books. In one book he told about how he felt convicted that his family was watching too much television. He was not sure about what to do so he asked God if He really wanted Him to get rid of the television to send someone over to buy it from him. That night someone knocked on the door and before the night was over David had sold his television to the visitor. I remembered that story all the rest of my life. When we couldn't sell our family home while we were living in the other state I believe it was because God knew we would need it when we came back. After almost a year in my mobile home, and having the financial difficulties I was having, and realizing that I would be soon needing to sign another lease for the lot, I prayed. I asked God what He wanted me to do. Should I keep the mobile home and sign another year's lease, or should I sell the mobile home and move somewhere else? At this point, I believed that it just didn't matter if there was a realtor involved and a sign in your yard or not. If God wanted me to sell, He would provide a buyer, just like He provided a buyer for David Wilkerson's television. I asked God to provide a buyer with the price I wanted in time for me to know what to do about the lease if He wanted me to sell. Nothing happened. I stayed another year.
So the year 2000 had been a year of learning to trust God's provision in the midst of being alone, out of work, no income, and a knee needing surgery. When the W-2's came out I found I had survived the year on just around $7000 total income. And I did not go without one thing that I needed. The year 2001, although starting out like it was going to go well, turned into another financially difficult year. I had had my surgery in January, and lost my job the first week of March. What little money I had saved was almost gone. Once again, it was getting closer to time for deciding what to do about signing the lot lease for another year. There is a park not far from where I lived that has a duck pond and it is one of my favorite places to go pray. I once again asked God what He wanted me to do. Once again I asked Him to show me by providing me a buyer at the price I wanted if He wanted me to sell the mobile home and move somewhere else. (As I write this I am realizing that both prayers happened in April because the lease was due to be signed in June. Is there something special about April in my life? Only God Himself knows that.) I reminded God that I had faith that He would be able to do something this seemingly impossible. After all, I had not contacted a realtor about selling the mobile home. All I had done was confide in a friend of mine that I had been thinking about it. After I spent some time at the duck pond praying, I went home. Within 3 hours--yes 3 hours--I was talking to a woman on the phone who had called me wanting to buy my mobile home and she wanted to spend the exact amount of money I had told God I wanted for it! So, the first year I prayed, God sent no one. The second year, He sent someone within 3 hours of my prayer! Not only that, as we chatted, we found out our children knew each other, and we went to the same church. I don't know what you think of that, but I think that is so amazing! God is amazing!

Okay, so I started packing and looking for someplace to move. Laughing at myself I realized I had not put anything about where God wanted me to go in my prayers. So I started praying about that. I was also praying for some way to be able to afford some kind of exercise program to help strengthen my legs after my surgery. Not having an income at that time not only limited the possibilities of finding any exercise program I could afford, it also limited my opportunities at finding a decent apartment. At this same time, I found a part time job doing private duty home health care which gave me a small income to get by on. Plus I had the money from the sale of the mobile home. So how did God provide for both of those prayers?
He did it with just one answer! I got accepted into an apartment complex, fairly new in the area, and very nice. The apartment was on the third floor--36 steps from ground to home! Thirty-six steps to climb up and down at least once every day! Oh how those helping me move complained. I felt so bad for them. Laundry facilities were on the ground floor so that meant I would get plenty of exercise for free just going up and down those stairs every day. God has a sense of humor. The only way I got into the apartment was because I had that part time job. The money I got for the mobile home mostly went toward future rent, future car payments, utility bills, and stocking up on groceries so that I would not have to worry about anything for awhile which would give me time to find another job. My knee was much improved and I had no doubts that I would get a job sooner or later. It turned out to be later...much later. And once again, I ran out of resources, and I ran out of time. For the first time I was facing homelessness and I was threatened with losing my faith.
Through all of this--through everything that had happened from before I lost my marriage--from before I saw my children pulling away from me and from home--I was identifying myself with Job. I was losing everything. What was I going to do? Amazingly, this trial was one that taught me so much about how our wonderful Lord is our Jehovah-Jireh--The Lord Provides. During this year as I continued to try to find a good stable job, the Lord guided me to read the scriptures and whenever I found anything at all about Him providing for His people, I should write it down in a little notebook that I could keep with me all the time. The notebook is still in my purse with me to this day. Whenever I was away from home where I had no Bible to reach for, that little notebook was with me and if I became fearful, all I had to do was pull it out and read what I had written in it up to that point. One day as I was flipping through television channels, some words from a Christian program jumped out at me. The woman was saying that we would never need faith unless we were going through trials. Without trials, faith is not necessary. I hung onto that. I also had a pile of old Guidepost magazines from the 80's. As I read through those I kept finding stories that encouraged me to keep trusting God to bring me through my situation.
So there I was, facing eviction, facing homelessness. At Christmas time. In the middle of winter. God did you bring me to this place to let me fall? Would you lead me on a journey to learn to trust You and then just let me go on alone without Your help? NO! NEVER! All through the holidays, I was learning something new about God's provision. For example, I learned what a "Pentacostal handshake" was. That is when you shake hands with someone and find money in the palm of your hand at the end of the handshake. That happened twice. $50 at Thanksgiving, and $100 at Christmas. I received foodbaskets for the holidays. I found $20 in my coat pocket once and I have no clue how it got there, but it arrived just when I needed it. One person gave me $75 to use when I move and that money ended up paying for a storage unit so I was able to save about half of my personal belongings. But up until the very last day, I had no place to go. The next day I had to be out. I had held on as long as I could, even going to court and getting only 10 days more. This was day 9.
It was time to go to church and a friend was coming to get me. My car had been repossessed. She didn't show up. I wasn't really feeling much like going to church but I thought, one more night of having people pray. Maybe God yet had a solution. So, not living far from the church, I trampled through the snow and bumpy ground and walked to church in the dark. When I got there, my friends told me that about that same time the one who was supposed to pick me up remembered and went to get me. We just missed each other. During the prayer time I once again raised my prayer request. At the end of the service a woman I barely knew approached me. She had not been able to attend church for a few weeks and had not heard of my struggles. She offered me a room at her house and in exchange I could work for her in her home business, helping out a little here and there while I got myself back on my feet! What would have happened had I given up and gone back up those 36 steps and not gone to church that night?
God may cause us to wait. But He is never late. He is always on time. When w-2's came out that year, my income including the sale of my mobile home was just slightly over $8000. Who can live on that without God's provision?

At this point, you may be asking yourself, or wanting to ask me--How can I say He is never late? How could He allow me to lose my home once again? How could He want me to go through such fears and emotions? In all honesty, I cannot answer those questions other than to point you back to the story of Job. God is good. There is nothing in all of this that I would ever want to go through again. At the same time, had I not gone through all of it, I would not be the person I am now. I would not have the strong faith in God that I do now. I never would have learned any of the things I know about God without going through all of it. And this story is still not over. I also know that there are things I needed to learn about myself that I was too stubborn to face. There were things buried inside me that I needed to have dug out into the bright open light of day...things I didn't even realize were there. Things I still didn't know about myself.
Please come back for the next part of the story.

Monday, April 14, 2008

He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear...

It amazes me how much God loves us. It also amazes me the lengths He will go to to help us find our way to Him. For some the road seems easy and straight. If we could only see what they have really had to go through, we just might be surprised to find out that their road was not as straight as it appears. Then there are those who seem to end up on a road that is leading them down to destruction. Are we surprised to learn that those roads also lead to Him? Along the way there are forks in every road and we have to make decisions which fork to take. Some forks look so very tempting while others look hazardous. Is there more to it than what we think we see?
Sometimes when we are seeing others going through many struggles and difficulties we question God, or we more likely will question their choices they have made. It is such a common thing to question what a person must have done wrong to have ended up in such a mess in life. But is it a mess in God's eyes, or is it being used to strengthen and mold someone into the person God created him to become? And why are we humans so very quick to judge?

1999 was my year of rebellion. Rebellion against all I believed in including God. I was angry at God for letting me down and for allowing my family to fall apart. Don't misunderstand me. I had not completely turned away from Christ. If you can picture an upset child refusing to talk to her father because she is angry with him, you can understand a little of where I was. If you can picture this child throwing a temper tantrum, you can really understand where I was. I was not getting my way and I decided if I couldn't have it the way I had wanted it, I would just do whatever I wanted to do. I was tired of everything and decided to just forget all the rules. God apparently didn't care, so why should I? That was my frame of mind for most of 1999.
But life wasn't working out any better in my rebellion. As I have been thinking about how I would proceed from this point on in this story, I have also been doing some bit of photo organizing. In doing this last night, I came across some pictures of some of the people in my life in 1999. One of them was of a young woman who I had met through a self-help group I was a member of. She attached herself to me but as we talked and visited with each other, I grew more and more unable to trust her. Just before I had come to know her, I had contact with someone else who pretended friendship with me and then when I allowed her to use my computer she managed to get contact with my online friends and one by one destroy all those relationships. I don't know what she said to them that they chose to believe her over me when they just met her, but after she had access to my computer most of them would not even speak to me and I could do nothing to change their minds. So, when this new friend entered my group of local friends, and things she did were inconsistent, I became cautious. She and I remained friends through the end of 1999 and into the early weeks of 2000. I can't even remember her name at this point. But over New Years' 2000 as I was thinking about the previous year and all that had happened, as well as my life up to that point, I started thinking about why my life was such a mess. I had tried to be a good Christian believer. What was wrong? Why couldn't I live the way I thought a Christian was supposed to live? Why had everything fallen apart for me?
By the end of January, this friend and I were talking about going back to church. First we had heard of a singles dance that was held on Friday nights somewhere in town. We had also heard about a singles group at a church in town. We decided I should call to find out about the dance and the group. I found out that the dances had been discontinued due to lack of interest, so I let her know about that. That Friday morning when I got up and started my day I was so tired of staying home all the time. I needed to get out of the house. Still rebelling to some extent, and yet also trying to figure out how to live as a Christian, I "told" God that I was going to get out of the house that night even if it meant going to a bar! You have to understand that our little "city" has nothing to offer anyone in the way of entertainment where you can just go out and find something to do anytime you want to. It is either the local WalMart, or a bar. That's about it for the social life. I knew there was no dance that night so I called the church to find out information about the singles group. What I found out was that the singles group sponsored a Divorce Recovery Group once a year for 6 weeks and that it had just started the previous week and is held on Friday nights. Coincidence? Or an answer to a desparate prayer? I was given a phone number of the lady in charge and was immediately welcomed and invited to come join the group that night which I did. On Sunday, I went to church for the first time in a long long time, joining the singles Sunday school class and sitting with some friends I knew from the church for the main service. From that day on for the next seven years I very rarely missed a Sunday service.
My friend decided to check out the singles group, but she eventually decided she did not like the way it was run. She thought it didn't have enough social activities. Somewhere in this same time period I was thinking again about my life and why nothing was working right. Whether it was the Holy Spirit's gentle whispers or something else, I am not sure. I tend to think it was the Holy Spirit. I started thinking that I was living my life sitting on a fence with one part of me trying to be a Christian and the other part of me playing around at life with all non-believing friends. I realized that I had no Christian friends at all that I could really call good friends. And I also realized that my non-Christian friends were dragging me away from God more and more. Finally I made a firm decision that I was not going to participate in any non-church activity or continue with non-Christian friends until I knew I was strong enough to deal with the pulls of temptation.
As I slowly started to come back to God, as a tearful repentant child returns to her father's forgiving arms, I found a new facet to my relationship with Christ that I had never experienced before. God put a kind gentleman in my path from the singles Sunday school class. We became fast friends and he did several kind things to help me out in ways that generally women need a man to do for them. I needed help with car issues...he was a mechanic by profession. I needed help with a drain problem in the pipes under my kitchen sink and he was able to help with that. Aside from those things he did, he talked to me about God and his own ideas about human relationships. He was younger than I by a few years so he had musical interests a bit more youthful than mine and he introduced me to Rebecca St. James, her music, and her message. He also introduced me to Joshua Harris' books and videos I KISSED DATING GOODBYE which talk about the difference between what the world sees as dating and what God prefers which is courtship. With all of this friend's influence in my spiritual growth and return from my rebellion, I, for the first time, had seen a glimpse of Jesus in someone else's life. This is the way Christians are supposed to be. Why don't we see it more often? I stopped and tried to think of anyone else in my life who showed Jesus through his life and I saw my grandpa. What amazing men these two men God placed in my life were! Eventually my young friend married a young lady he had met in a singles group in a nearby city and they moved to her hometown. Through the music he introduced me to, and the reading materials he provided for me, and through the friendships I developed at church, I felt God was actually washing me clean from all the filthy stuff I had gotten myself into during that previous year of 1999. I needed that cleansing. Also, He provided me what people sometimes now phrase, "a soft place to land". I had a place I could fall and not be ashamed. I had a place where I could take time to rest and heal from all the hurts of the past...hurts that went back to my earliest childhood.

I am not sure of the date, but sometime prior to May 2000, we had a special revival service where an evangelist came to speak and he spoke on sanctification. Although I had heard that word many times before I did not know what it meant until that revival. After he spoke and taught on sanctification for the first few nights, the last night I knew that I had to do something to take the next step with Jesus and getting myself on the right road. I knew I was getting closer. But since I had been a Christian since I was 14 and had not been properly taught how to live the way I should, I knew it was time for a committed change to how I was choosing to live. As briefly as I possibly can, sanctification to me meant that not only am I set apart for God, but I make a conscious choice to be set live for accept and do His will in my life as He guides me into it...and to put away all parts of my life that do not fit into His will for me. That last is the hard part. But I knew it was time and if I were to get beyond this mess I had made of my life, God's way was the only way. I went forward and declared my commitment to sanctification to my Lord and I have tried my best ever since that time to stick with it. It is a day by day process which we never complete until that time He calls us home. Little by little, baby step by baby step, the Holy Spirit showed me things that I needed to change in me. It amazed me that whatever He would be dealing with me about throughout any given week, that following Sunday, the pastor's message would be about that very same thing. Even the songs that would come to my heart and mind during the week would be the same songs the worship leader would have chosen for the following Sunday services. Confirmation of what God was teaching me was right there in front of me each week.
Changes such as what I need in this messed up life of mine take lots of time. In May 2000 I formally gave up membership in the church I had been a member of for 26 years so I could join this new church that had so welcomed me into its arms. I know some people may disagree with me on this point as it is a common disagreement between Christians. I know that I never lost my salvation in 1999. Just as children do not lose their parents each time they do wrong, but are continuously forgiven with open arms, my loving heavenly Father never let go of me. I had come to the end of my rope, or tree root, or however you want to say it. I had let go and I fell into the softest place I could possibly land. In my Savior's arms.
For questions about my belief that I did not lose my salvation, check the parable of the Prodigal Son. Most of us think that is talking only about people who were never saved, coming to Christ for the first time. I don't think that is what it is saying at all, although that could be part of the story. The story talks about a son who rebelled and left home while his father waited and waited for him to return. He was already a son...a son who had left the path, but returned to a joyous reunion. He never lost his sonship. He was still the son of the father. The next place to look is the passage where Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. When told that they didn't think they were worthy to have Jesus wash their feet and that they were too dirty, Jesus replied that they had already been washed, but since they are walking in the world, they needed their feet washed. I believe that means that even though we are saved, we still mess up from time to time, and when we do, we need to have our feet washed. Sometimes our feet get more filthy than at other times.

This is not the end of the story by far. In fact, the most important parts of this story are still to come. More next time.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Identification With Job

If you know the Bible, you know who Job was. Job was a righteous man who was close to God, who prayed often, and who considered his children and their relationship with God by offering prayer and sacrifices for them as well as for himself and is wife. His children were many, and they were grown, living all on their own. Job was also a very wealthy man. The Lord had blessed him with much land and livestock. The Lord was happy with Job and was telling the angels about him, including Satan. Satan challenged God and said that if God took everything away from Job, he would turn and curse God. God then allowed Satan to smite Job as long as he did not take his life. In the process of the next few days and hours, Job's livestock was all dead, his servants were all dead except for the ones who were allowed to live to tell Job what had happened, and all his 10 children were dead. Then, on top of that, Job's body was afflicted with sores and boils. How many of us could have even a part of these tragedies happen and still love and trust God? Then, Job's friends came along. Oh what a comfort they were to him...NOT! Even Job's wife told him to curse God and die.

During the previously mentioned six years from April 1993 until April 1999, as I was in the process of losing everything I loved and cared about, from my marriage, children, home, and more, I could not help but think of Job. Oh how I prayed that God not allow my husband or children to be taken from my by death like Job's children were taken. What a time of learning to trust God this time period was. It seemed like every day something worse was happening. Even my health was beginning to become a threat to me. So many times I prayed and prayed, trying to keep in touch with my Lord, asking Him what was happening and why. We think that we can't question God, but when things happen that we cannot handle, what else can we do but question God? I am so grateful that God held tightly to me during these difficult times because I was losing my strength to hold on to Him.
At the same time...and this amazes me looking back on it all...God was drawing me closer and closer to Him through everything that was happening. The worse things got, the more time I spent reading the Bible and praying. I came to see the Bible in a whole new way during those years. I had always loved reading the Bible, but I have never been one who has been able to discipline myself to read it daily, except in certain sporadic times. Up until 2000 when I went back to church, I was not even a regular church-goer. Church attendance was sporadic as well. But during those six years as I spent more and more time reading the Bible (remember I was not reading any other Christian materials or listening to any Christian programming the first couple of years) God began showing me who He is and how much He really does love me...and loves everyone. He showed me that the Bible is His love letter to each of us. I read the New Testament and even more I read the Old Testament. I had not spent a lot of time in the Old Testament before this time, but during this time period, I spent most of my time there. In the Old Testament I found God: who He is, what He is, how much He loves us, what He can do, and so much more about Him. In the New Testament I found how much He loves us, what He was willing to do for us to prove that love and to keep us with Him forever, what we need to do to receive His love, and how He wants us to live our lives.
During those six years of troubles, I received peace and healing for many past hurts. That peace and healing helped to lay a foundation for me to stand on when things were still getting worse. I do not think I would have made it through everything without God's presence and provision for me through it all. And like Job, I prayed and prayed for my family for God's protection over each of them no matter what else happened. Then, in my prayers I began saying something to Jesus that I knew I meant with all my heart. Having the idea that maybe I was being tested somehow like Job was, and having already been praying for God to not take the life of my children or husband, I added another part to my prayers. It was scarey to say the words, but I meant them with all my heart. "Lord," I said, "whatever is taken from me, whatever I lose, as long as I still have Jesus, I have everything I need." I could not have said those words in my own strength. There is no way I could have done that. I knew it was true, but to speak the words was like jumping off a cliff knowing that I was looking at a long long fall. At the time I had prayed that, things were bad, but the worst was yet to come. As I said in the last post, by April 1999, my marriage was ending, my oldest child had moved out, and my youngest was too stressed to spend much time at home. I had been dealing with various health issues over the years from 1994-1998, probably all having to do with extreme stress in one way or another. By the end of 1998 I was at the end of my rope. I just could not hang on anymore. I even tried to threaten my husband that I would kill myself and he believed me. But it didn't change anything. I convinced him that I was just saying it to get him to see what everything was doing to me, but down inside I always questioned if I really could have done it. I do know that only the Lord's presence in my life, and my children kept me from suicide.
I want you who may be reading this to know that this has not been easy for me to write. I have spoken of these things to only a small number of close friends. But I want you to see the power of the presence of Jesus Christ in a person's life. I would not be here to write this blog if He were not there in my life at that time. There are things in my childhood where I had come at various times to wanting to kill myself. Even then it was Jesus who kept me from doing anything drastic.
Like I said in my previous post, the more I tried to hang on, the worse things got. The more I tried to keep things together, the more they fell apart. Nothing I did helped. After feeling like death was the only way out of my problems and realizing that that would not solve the problems and it would make things worse for my family, I felt I had to do something else or I would die just from the stress of it all. At that time, for the first time, I let go of the rope I was holding onto. I gave up. I could not hold on one more second. And I told my husband that I wanted a dissolution.

Have any of you ever heard the little story about the man who fell off a cliff and found himself hanging onto a tree root for dear life. He had no way to get himself back up to the solid ground, and far down below him were only rocks to land on. He was in a predicament if there ever was one. He started to call out to God for help. After all he was out there all alone and there was no one around for miles who would ever hear him or find him. How would he ever get back to safety? Then he hears a voice. It is God and God tells him He is there to help..."But first," God told him, "you are going to have to let go of that tree root."

How long I had been tightly holding on to the end of my rope. I finally gave up and let go. Do you know I am a very stubborn person? Do you know I need to have control? Do you know that fear drives my life....or at least it did back in those years? Do you know that in letting go of my rope...that giving up...even though my actions after I gave up were very un-Christ-like...very un-Christian...were just what was needed for things to finally start changing? Do you know that when you need to learn something big, like how to trust for example, you are going to have to go through something that is going to require you to trust?

Do you know that when you ask God to teach you to trust Him, you will go through some tough situations that will require you to let go of yourself and let Him have control of all those things you thought you needed to have control of? Guess what? That is what happens....but through it all, He is the instructor and He will not allow you to fall. He is right there to catch you when you stop clinging so tightly to your rope, or your tree root.

Later on in another post we will talk about what happened with Job. If you can't wait for that, go get the nearest Bible and read about him. He has his own book in the Bible...right before Psalms which is in the center for those who haven't read the Bible in a long time, or ever.