Late afternoon sunset over parking lot

When We Want to Ask Why

This post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, where this week’s word prompt is why.

 

*****

Late afternoon sunset over parking lot

 

In this week’s devotional reading, author & speaker Jennie Allen is speaking to me about suffering. It is a deep and painful topic, but something with which we all must come to terms.

She says,

“I am a big believer in Christian counseling, and that may be an important step in your healing, but no study or counselor can do what Jesus can do. He suffered and wants to walk with you through your suffering as the open wounds heal into scars, leaving a memory and a mark but losing their sting.”

That last sentence reminds me so much of the outcome of my younger sister’s suffering as her first husband went through four years of fighting with Hodgkin’s disease. He had good seasons and bad and even underwent a bone marrow transplant, but in the end, God chose to take him home at a very young age.

Not too many years after that, on one particularly significant date in their relationship, I asked her if the memory was still painful. I’ll never forget my sister’s answer to me at that time. She told me that with the passing of time and the healing she had worked through, it was as if the experience was tucked into a folder, which she could pull out when needed, but it no longer caused her daily hurt. She could use her experience as a tool to help others, but it no longer had to live in her heart.

I also think way back to when my grandfather passed away early on the morning we were supposed to leave for our family vacation. As I awoke as an 11-year old with the anticipation of leaving on our trip, I immediately sensed that something was wrong. My parents explained that Grandpa had suffered another heart attack and had gone on to be with the Lord.

Of course I was sad and would work through my own grief as I watched the pain of my grandmother and mother, but in that childish moment, the first question I tentatively asked my parents was if that meant we weren’t going on our vacation. I knew the answer, but my heart still felt disappointed in the moment.

I don’t even remember exactly how my parents answered (except that we would go later on), but I clearly remember that even though my mom had just lost her father, she understood my question and allowed me to first grieve the loss of a vacation before I processed the greater loss of our loved one.

These experiences are two of many times of suffering we have known, but they teach me something about pain, suffering and loss.

I think it’s OK to ask God the question, “Why?”, as he understands our frail human emotions. It’s only natural to ponder the reasons for hard experiences, and we’d be lying if we pretended everything was just fine. After all, the Bible speaks of many people of faith who asked God these hard questions.

But in the end, it’s a matter of the heart.

Do I trust God enough to believe, even in my questioning, that he loves me and is faithful?

I have a choice when it comes to my times of pain and suffering.

I can choose to dwell in the hurt and questions, or I can allow myself to grow, stretch and heal, until one day the experience is there only as a testament to his faithfulness and a reference to help others.

Jennie Allen also states,

“Out of our pain we could heal our world. Fires are lit in our lives through our suffering and they can burn to shine light or cause destruction; we get to decide which purpose they will serve.”

So go ahead and ask the hard question, “Why?”. I’m sure that God’s shoulders are big enough to handle it.

Then make a choice to allow your why to become a part of the greater purpose that God has for your life.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

looking up giant tree trunk

The Gift of Being Able to Depend

looking up giant tree trunk

 

This post contains my brief but deep thoughts today, and was produced to add to the link-up at Five Minute Friday, where the word for the week is depend.

*****

Another shooting on the news this morning.

And this trailing shortly behind natural disasters that have affected so many.

When will it ever end?

There is trouble in this world, to be sure. Every day brings more confirmation, whether it is broadcast from the news or I feel a discord deep inside my heart.

I almost didn’t write on this link-up. When I saw the word prompt, “depend”, I thought it was too similar to the last post I wrote for this link-up on the word, “support“.

But after listening to details of a new (and possibly the worst) shooting on the radio while driving today, my thoughts, emotions and determination turned back once again to my utter dependence on God.

I can’t do this life alone. I just can’t.

But neither could my relatives long ago who followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and left the Ukraine for North America. If they didn’t listen, I probably wouldn’t be here today.  My grandmother from that same family depended on God her whole life, from the painful loss of my grandparents’ six-year old son (my mother’s young brother), through an early death of my grandfather to a heart attack (yet still managing to live a full and joyful life in the midst of hardships), to a difficult, yet victorious end at the ripe age of 93.

On my father’s side of the family, my grandfather became blind as a young man. Despite the fear and frustration of having to depend on his wife for support (in a time where this was contrary to society), he embraced his condition in time and was one of the most happy (even silly!) people I’ve known. My grandmother became the provider for the family for many years. They both depended on their faith in a God in whom they chose to trust.

My mother, grandmother, father-in-law and my sister’s first husband all fought cancer. There are those in the family who are fighting today, but not without dependence on their faith to see them through each day. There are many different outcomes to their unique struggles, but what they had in common was they all chose to depend on God and trust him to use their circumstances for their ultimate good.

I have seen and felt joy, peace, blessing and extreme happiness, and have lived through pain, hurt, fears and disappointment.

And through it all, I am not ashamed to say that I depend on a faithful God who loves me, even through the hard times.

I admit my absolute need to lean on those around me whom he provides for my support, help and pleasure.

I desire to be one on whom others can depend.

I’m so thankful that often dependence is a happy thing, but grateful also that it is there when I simply cannot.

My life will continue to depend on more than just myself.

And that’s OK.

It is a gift.

*****

 

 

 

Sky and treetops near Algonquin Park

Try

Today’s short, unedited post was produced for the link-up at Five Minute Friday (even though it’s Monday). 🙂

*****

Sky and treetops near Algonquin Park

So often in life I waste precious time and emotional energy saying, “I’ll try”.

I’ll try to get to bed earlier. I’ll try not to waste money. I’ll try to use my time better. I’ll try to work harder, be a better wife and mother, pray more and complain less. I’ll try not to worry.

I’ll try not to sin. I’ll try to hit the target; not to miss the mark.

The problem is, trying often feels like striving.

I don’t know about you, but the longer I live, the longer I try, I seem to keep coming up short.

I can work hard, will myself and determine to do something to an extent, learn from my mistakes and grow through hard times, but I cannot do any of this successfully on my own.

My strength falters, my determination gives way, I get tired and weak, and I sometimes fail miserably.

This is not to suggest that we cannot learn tips and strategies for growth and being more productive, or even use tools to help ourselves do better at many of our actions and responsibilities in life. We can and must make commitments to ourselves and others as well.

But after more than 51 years, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am human.

I am imperfect and weak.

But I am fashioned after Someone who is strong, perfect and never misses the mark.

I am lovingly designed and especially created to be the only “me” in this crazy world.

There is grace and forgiveness for sin and help when we are weak.

And I don’t need to try anything to receive God’s amazing love for me.

I can rest in the assurance that he loves me as I am, faults and all.

He wants me to lean on him and draw from his strength.

I can have peace and give my fears to the One who made me.

I don’t have to continually struggle and try.

He is enough, so I am enough.

 

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT

 

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:8-10, NLT

*****

 

blue evening sky with clouds and trees

Expect

blue evening sky with clouds and trees

Welcome to another Five Minute Friday post, where a bunch of writers write for five minutes on a chosen prompt, without over-thinking or editing.

While I admit that I usually go a little over the five minute time suggestion, and perform a few minor edits, it’s still been a great exercise for someone who naturally tends to be too detailed and a bit of a perfectionist. Because I am learning to allow myself to not be perfect, this is why I have refrained from using a strict timer, or marking on the post where I’ve started and finished.

Join me today as we ponder the prompt, “expect”.

*****

What exactly do I expect?

It’s natural and not necessarily bad to have expectations.

I have expectations for my life and those of my family. Our youngest son just graduated from high school and our oldest son is already in college, so our thoughts and feelings have been more about their futures and what they will bring.

I am still on the long road to finger recovery since my recent knife mishap, and I tend to easily be concerned about how all that will turn out.

I like to look forward to things, but often find that people and events often do not live up to my expectations. I most surely do not always live up to my own expectations.

But what if I were to let go of expectations and hold on to hope?

The Bible informs me that hope does not disappoint.

 

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

– Romans 5:3-5, NLT

 

 

I also read many great stories of faith in Hebrews 11.  Those who live by faith have put their hope in a sure place, or namely the person of God.

 

 

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

– Hebrews 11:1, NLT

 

 

So rather than cling to my feeble thoughts of what my life should look like, instead of living in fear that things will not turn out the way I planned for my family, rather than constantly finding myself in a state of disappointment because people don’t do what I think they should, I will choose to hope.

Hope allows me to look forward with expectation, but helps me to trust in the One who cares for me most, even when difficult or unknown circumstances ensue.

Hope causes me to extend grace to those around me, and pray for their growth and peace.

When I live in hope, I can give grace to myself, as well.

I no longer have to worry about all the things I expect, but can live in the peace of entrusting all to God, who cares for me.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

less is more with injured finger tendon

Empty

less is more with injured finger tendon

So this is what happened on a Friday afternoon almost two weeks ago…..

I cut my index finger right at the joint while attempting to cut some watermelon with my sharp knife. After a stressful trip and several hours at the ER, I came home with a small splint, three stitches, and orders to return first thing Monday morning for surgery to repair my severed tendon.

I admit I am not good with medical procedures and emergencies.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a tendency to feel faint or go into mild shock when dealing with an injury. I don’t like this about myself, have worked and prayed my way through many situations, and have grown much, I think, but it still seems to be a weakness I must continue to deal with.

What makes it worse, is that I know that this is just a minor situation compared to what others have dealt with.

There are much more serious medical conditions and diseases (such as my friends and family members who have gone or are going through cancer), and many people I know have suffered great losses and pain of a more serious nature.

I have repeatedly wondered why I seem so weak.

I’ve come up feeling rather empty.

And this is the word prompt from last week for Five Minute Friday. I’m finally feeling enough strength today to write (typing with one hand), and link up with some wonderful fellow bloggers, squeaking in just under the wire before this weak’s new prompt.

I’ve been thinking about this all week, and really wanted to write.

Last weekend all over the world, Christians celebrated Easter. We remembered the life, suffering and death of God’s only Son, and rejoiced together in his victorious resurrection. (If you are not a believer, these amazing claims at least bear some serious contemplation.)

And the victory of Christ can help me in my weakness.

I know that in my brokenness, Christ can become strong in me.

Because the grave is also empty, I can find healing for both my body and my soul. Even my thoughts and fickle emotions can learn to be at peace.

I guess it’s not so bad to feel empty.

 

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:8b-10

 

So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:21

 

He personally carried our sins
    in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
    and live for what is right.
By his wounds
    you are healed. – 1 Peter 2:24

*****

 

 

 

God will supply all my needs

Be Sure to Make Time to Breathe

God will supply all my needs

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday. Join me there as we write for five (mostly-) unedited minutes of writing on the prompt, “breathe”.

*****

If only I could just find a minute to BREATHE…..

 

Do you ever feel this way?

Or perhaps a better question is how do we avoid feeling like this for much of our necessarily busy lives???

 

I’ve had a hectic month. While January is usually busy as we “undo” from the holidays and get back into the daily swing of things, this year I have felt especially over-scheduled and overwhelmed.

Due to some family transitions and responsibilities (nothing critical or life-altering; just “normal” family busyness), it has simply flown by. And I’ve felt so behind and not on top of things.

I’ve finally managed to put most of the holiday stuff behind me, but am still sorely feeling the need for more time and space to work on goals, resolutions (if you will), and just general overall life scheduling and planning.

Well, today I slept in, and despite the feeling that there aren’t quite enough hours left in this beautiful day, I have been blessed with a quiet day at home.

My dear (and wise) husband left me with his Jesus Calling devotional open on top of my computer, which was the perfect “hint” to put first things first today.

Here is the reading for this day:

Devotional about anxiety and focusing on Christ

I was aptly reminded that my anxiety is based on my focus being in the wrong place. When I simply look at what’s visible around me, I fail to recognize that I belong to a God who will never leave me, who promises to be always by my side, and who cares for all of my needs.

My “verse of the day” from the YouVersion Bible App is also appropriate for me today.

 

“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

-Philippians 4:19

 

When we turn our eyes and our hearts from what we can simply see around us, and intentionally place our focus on the One who created, knows and loves us best, we can sit back and rest assured, and breathe.

It’s so important to not only carve out some time from our busy schedules to stop, think, plan, pray and rest, but also that we place our focus firmly in the right place.

God has provided all I need.

I need simply to stop to breathe and take it all in.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

pink blue sky with tree branches and snowy roof

Freedom in Learning the Balance of Control

 

 

pink blue sky with tree branches and snowy roof

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday. Join me there to read other writers’ brief, unedited thoughts on the prompt, “control”.

*****

Control.

So difficult a word for some of us. Or is it really quite simple?

I like to feel in control. My personality is most comfortable when I am the one in control.

I don’t always live with intention to control the things I can, such as my time, energy, attention, words, thoughts, and actions. This is an area that I am determined to change.

But there are so many things I cannot control.

It was so much easier when my sons were little. A parent can do well to provide a good deal of control when their kids are too little to understand what they need to do.

But teens and young adult offspring are not only harder to control; they also need to learn to live their own lives with intention.

It’s tempting to try to control those around us, even other adults (ask my poor husband), whom we have no ability nor business to do so.

I’d like to control my circumstances, but aside from using what God’s provided in this season of my life intentionally, I cannot control most of what the ebbs and flows of life bring.

But perhaps it’s really not as complicated as I make it out to be.

I can only change the things I can change. I’m learning to live more intentionally, but have a long way to go.

The rest I must leave to God, trust others to do their part, and chose my response or reaction with love and grace.

I guess this prayer really holds more wisdom and truth than I realized:

Serenity Prayer image

 

By learning to live this way, I may just find freedom.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

fall sunlight through trees with barn

To Those Who Are Hurting

 

fall sunlight through trees with barn

I see so many around me hurting.

Some of them I know, and some are still strangers, but they’re out there.

We’ve just come through a tumultuous election and it seems the discord, dislike and distrust are still rampant. There are many with fears and those who seem to have lost hope.

darkening sky at sunset

But I know many who are experiencing an even greater sadness. Recently, they have lost someone dear to them.

More than one family that I know are living in the aftermath of an unexpected loss of a loved one. And that is one of the hardest griefs to bear.

fall field grass

We sang this song in worship on Sunday. I was ministering with our worship team, so I heard and sang it over and over.

And when I got home, I realized there was a message of hope and help in it that could bring some small healing to the hearts of those I care about.

Listen to this version of, “Lord I Need You”.

The lyrics, “I need you; oh, I need you” are a familiar refrain to many of us who have sung them from our youth.

But they are ever true.

sun hitting bare tree branches against blue sky

When we are experiencing a loss or in the midst of grieving we may feel this “need” more acutely, but in reality it’s always present.

I am reminded of the wise words of one of the former presidents of the Bible college I attended.

He was a stately man of Welsh decent, and had a gift for articulating thoughts in such a meaningful way. He was the type of man who could speak truth so succinctly that it would give you something to think about for days, and even stay with you for life.

One such time was in chapel after we had just sung the words of an old chorus, “As the Deer“, which come from the scripture in Psalms 42:1.

“As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after thee”

You can read the story behind that chorus here.

barn and pasture in late afternoon sun

Our president shared that the intent of the scripture wasn’t that the deer waits until it’s almost too late or it’s been without water so long that it can barely go on, but that the deer desperately needs the consistency of water every day of it’s life.

So are we with God.

We may feel our need for God more passionately in times of stress, hardship and pain, but what the Bible is getting at is that we need God and his Word in our lives always.

It needs to be as the food we eat and the air we breathe.

And just as all living things need water to live, so we will die without him in our lives.

He is our Source, our Comfort, our Strength, and our Song. He leads us and goes before us, carries us when we are weak, gives us the strength and wisdom to carry on, and stays with us at all times.

If you are in a season of uncertainty or pain, let me leave you with a few lines from “Lord I Need You”.

 

“Without you I fall apart.

You’re the one who guides my heart.”

 

Every hour I need you.”

 

“When I cannot stand I’ll fall on You.

Jesus, you’re my hope and stay.”

 

Our hope has never been in the people who lead the country, nor in the circumstances of our lives.

My prayer for you is that in your greatest hour of urgency as well as in your daily need, you will call out to God, let yourself fall on him, and put your trust in His mighty, unending, sacrificial love for you.

 

*****

 

closed door close-up

Learning Not to Push Open Closed Doors

closed door close-upLately I keep encountering the same message.

Don’t push open doors that God has closed.

Let go of the past.

Move forward into something new.

I’ve encountered this message recently in my various devotional readings. Interesting, as I’ve been encouraged particularly through two entirely different authors from unrelated ministries. One is from a Bible reading plan on YouVersion (the Bible app.), and the other from the Loop devotional emails I receive each week.

I shouldn’t be surprised, though, as I recall that my word of the year is “new”,  (or perhaps “change”). I honestly had forgotten about that in the busyness of these past few months.

As I shared in that earlier post, I have been in a transitional time in my life as far as work (outside the home) is concerned. Interestingly, this trend has continued for the past year, as I enjoyed another part-time job since I wrote the original post which also ended within a few months with re-structuring in the business. I am even now facing the end of my current seasonal position at a local farm, although this time it was to be expected.

As I’ve begun again to think about looking for work and what that might look like, I have thought about the possibility of “pushing on” some old employment doors. Usually, as long as I haven’t received concrete advice or an obvious “warning” feeling not to, I would proceed to “turn over every stone”, or go ahead and knock on any door, trusting God to lead me to and/or away from each job as appropriate.

But more and more, I am sensing that God has new direction for me.

This has been confirmed by those closest to me, as well.

This doesn’t mean that perhaps he will not open an “old” door, but I’m less inclined to push hard on them.

It continues to be both frightening and exciting.

Some time ago, I also wrote another post about what it means when God closes a door in our lives. I hadn’t thought about that one lately, either, but found it interesting to go back and review what God was showing me several months ago. Every once in awhile I need to listen to my own advice!

The thing about it is this: it’s easier and more comfortable to pursue the same old ways we have known. My personality especially likes my familiar routines and ways, and finds changes and new ventures stressful and usually overwhelming.

It takes courage, discipline and a little faith to step out into something new.

I cannot do it on my own, but I pray that with God’s help I will find the path he has for me for this next season.

I want my life to count, and more than that, to give glory back to him.

On this bright and sunny mid-October day, the cold weather that seemed to have too quickly sneaked up on us seems to be taking a little break, and I’m told that temperatures will be in the upper seventies (almost eighty degrees….or about 25 degrees Celsius for the rest of the world!), in the next two days.

With this recent reprieve in the cooler fall weather, as I throw open my windows, I have been inspired to apply this to my emotional and spiritual health, as well.

Instead of just “surviving” or plugging through this next unknown season (especially for job-hunting and finding my true purpose for now), I am encouraged to throw open the windows of my heart and life! Of course there is the important balance of guarding my emotions or my heart, but I wish to confront this time with intentional focus and joy, rather than dread, hopelessness or just haphazard steps.

A few days ago I read a wonderful blog post that so spoke to my heart about change that I kept the tab open all weekend because I knew I’d need to read it again. I received the link in an email from the (in)courage blog to this article called, “Why God Allows Change“, written by guest author, Melanie Davis Porter. It is just what I needed to hear again! Maybe it will encourage you, as well.

Reading this post encouraged and challenged my heart to embrace and follow God’s changes in my life, even when it doesn’t feel like it makes sense.

Thankfully, there are no surprises to God!

I simply need to trust in his proven faithfulness and plan for my life.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

– Jeremiah 29:11, NLT

Lord, help me to accept the good changes you have in store for me, and not allow the past to dictate or cloud my future. I put my trust in you. Amen.

*****

Do you find change difficult or exciting? In what area of your life do you need to put your trust in God? Is there a “closed door” that you need to walk away from today?

 

 

wooden Adirondack chair

His Love Changes Everything

wooden Adirondack chair

Yesterday we rested in this place; my husband in his new Adirondack chair, and I in the plastic green one.

But today I awoke to unrest.

A simple occurrence in the otherwise mundane hours of a Monday morning sent my heart racing just minutes after I awoke.

My trust and peace were tested.

But I pressed on with my morning, intentionally turning next to my devotional reading with a song that showed up in my inbox for today.

 

You can listen to the song here:

And for those who want or need to see the lyrics, here they are.

 

Through the lively worship, the upbeat music, and the encouraging, truthful lyrics, my spirit was lifted, my heart encouraged, and my joy and peace began to return.

“His love changes everything.”

My emotions can turn at the slightest waver in my routine of regular, everyday life, but my faith and trust in a loving Father remain.

Though situations may bring doubt, fear and uncertainty or sometimes joy and elation, His love truly does change everything.

Because it changes me.

This song is a call to “come”; all those who feel broken, all who call God their Father and are his sons and daughters.

Don’t run away; avoid being pulled in all directions by fear, disappointment and distraction; just come.

Our life circumstances may not change. Events may be frightening or cause grief; the repetitious routine of ordinary life may be tedious or dull, or we may find ourselves in a rare place of felt peace and happiness, and even apparent lack of need.

Wherever we are, let’s come.

Because I don’t know about you, but I need God’s love to change everything. I would like it if some circumstances would change, but I need a heart change.  I need a mind change. I need to learn trust.

And what better place to put my trust.

 

I have a God who promises to never leave me.

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,

‘I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you’ “

-Hebrews 13:5, NLT

He promises not to give me more than I can bear.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

-1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT

But he loves me too much to let me remain stagnant in my comfort zone.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

-Romans 5:3-5, NLT

 

When we come to Him, his love changes everything.

 

So, come.

*****

You can purchase this song (or the entire album in MP3 format), here:

 

I hope you enjoy this music and are blessed.