Time for Everything

Have you ever felt both happy and sad at the same exact time for the same exact reason?

This week, I will drop off our first child at college.

I celebrated with her when she read the acceptance letter to her first choice school. I really got excited when her scholarship came through, making the dream a reality.

I look at the wonderful young lady she has become and I could not be happier for her. She’s been offered many opportunities and I continuously encourage her to seize them.

I’m her mom. I am so proud of her, so excited for her, and can’t wait to see where God leads her next. As her mom, I know I will miss her desperately.

As she’s been saying good-bye to everyone, it’s really sinking in. She won’t be at the dinner table. I won’t she her across the church, seated in the teen pew. I won’t get to embrace her and pray with her before bed each night.

How can I feel so happy, so excited, and so sad, simultaneously?

The God who created those emotions and who created me also gave recorded wisdom on this matter. Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 reads, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

In her preparations to move over 2000 miles away, we have shared much laughter! In those quiet times before bed, I’ve solitarily shed some tears.

God knows about those tears. He also knows about the joy I harbor,so thrilled at seeing His plans for her unfold.

He created all the emotions I’m feeling today. He knows. He will help me leave her there. He will be with her. He loves her even more than I.

Yes, there is a time for everything. Even when we weep and laugh and mourn and dance in rapid succession, He knows. He understands. And He will carry us through.

 

Known Heritage

Where do you come from? Families created through adoption often witness a teen’s curiosity about their birth parents as they grow up.

Who are my birth parents?

Where was I born?

Under what circumstances?

What is my biological heritage?

When we become followers of Christ we have a spiritual heritage. The best documentation of it is the Bible. God recorded people and places, promises and predicaments all inside, to pass down our heritage through Him.

He wants us to know what He has done; not only creating the world but also creating plans for you and me.

Not only working wondrous miracles, but weaving unfathomable disaster into faith-building redemption.

He wants us to know the legacy of:

His character,

His laws, and

His promises.

He wants us to know Him.

He wants us to follow Him.

He wants us to love Him as He loves us.

To know Him, follow Him, and love Him, we need to understand our inherited heritage He lovingly bestowed on us.

We need to know the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We need to understand how those stories apply to us today.

Like the people of Nehemiah’s day, learning our spiritual heritage can spark tears, sadness, and conviction.

Sometimes, we clearly had no idea.

But, as Nehemiah proclaimed, our heritage is a cause for celebration. As we know God more, we recognize His great love for us.

His heritage will captivate our hearts.

Suggested reading: Nehemiah 8; John 3:16

 

 

Navigation Desperation

Panic seized me as I desperately glanced from the GPS to scan the street signs.

The GPS did not know where I was! The connection icon swirled endlessly, indicating not only was I lost, but there was little hope of pinpointing my location anytime soon.

That thought terrified me as I followed traffic, frantically searching for a place to pull over, pause, and regroup.

Why isn’t my phone working? What is wrong with the connection? Do you ever feel that directions from God are not clearly coming through? Are prayers seemingly not heard? Have we lost that connection?

Even a long-time Christian can suddenly feel stranded on occasion.

But the  Lord promises to never leave nor forsake us.

So how can we reconcile that lost feeling with the promise of Deuteronomy 31:6?

God is there, always even when we can’t discern Him. (Joshua 1:9)

Feeling lost provides us with an opportunity to grow our faith as we witness His faithfulness. (John 14:23)

Cherish the thought that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. When we are lost, He is already coming to find us. (John 10:27-30)

Those three truths can alleviate the anxiety that can creep into a lonely and lost heart.

When we find ourselves lost, we need to find a quiet place to pull over and pause, pinpointing our present location and desired destination.

Sometimes, our usual communication seems to break down. My GPS wasn’t working and Siri was not telling me turn by turn where to go.

However, the Maps app was working. while parked in safety, I navigated through the app to turn myself around.

If prayers don’t seem to be providing answers, checking in on God’s map, the Bible, may clarify a direct path to your destination.

Getting lost can be terrifying and humbling. Once we’ve found our footing in familiar places again, we may see God was leading and teaching us every step of the way.

 

 

Conquering Foes

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who set out to do the impossible. He planned to rebuild what had been destroyed. He engaged a king to find him supplies. He journeyed a long distance, taking nothing but faith with him.  He was quite confident in his calling to construct a wall.

He had to motivate his coworkers.

He had to ignore the nay-sayers.

He had to fight the enemies who tried to stop him.

Staying away from the enemies had not worked. The enemy was bent on coming to him.

What did he tell his coworkers concerning the enemy’s arrival? “Do not open the gates of Jerusalem until the sun is hot.”

Nehemiah knew he could not stop his adversaries from approaching, but he thoughtfully determined the details of what they found.

Let them approach in the light, when they are clearly seen.

Let them approach when it’s the busiest time of day, with many others around.

Let them approach when we are ready.

Nehemiah’s plan offers wisdom for us today. Our enemy may not always be a physical soldier but a spiritual warrior bent on killing just the same. We can not control our enemy’s arrival. But we can control how he finds us.

Make him come into the light to find us. The Prince of Darkness loathes the light of Jesus. Let’s saturate our spirits, our minds, and our hearts with God’s love through His word, the Bible. When we are reflecting the light of Jesus, Satan has no choice but to approach the light if he’s trying to get at us.

Nehemiah wanted others around when his enemy approached. We need the love and encouragement of people who will spiritually fight for us when the enemy authors an agonizing battle. We do not want to face him alone. Friends and family of faith will happily hold us in prayer and keep words and deeds of encouragement coming.

Nehemiah wanted the enemy to find him ready. How do we prepare for our enemy?

Prayer

Reading and knowing God’s word

Refusing to yield to fear and anxiety

Self-care for the best physical, mental, and spiritual health

Nehemiah did not halt his efforts to fulfill his calling in order to prepare for invasion. He constructed the wall while fortifying his own defenses.

God calls us to follow Him and His leading while trusting in Him. By following Nehemiah’s instructions we can survive the enemy’s attacks and even emerge victorious!

Heart Guard

I am so blessed, I get to go to work today! Sierra thought as she jumped from bed minutes before the alarm sounded.

Humming happily, she buzzed through her workout and breezed into the shower. Smiling as she shampooed, she thought of how she might create today.

Her first commissioned work was foremost on her mind.  She needed to do her ultimate best to boost her work, promote the studio, and hopefully someday earn a comfortable living.

How blessed am I to use my gifts, my passion, to glorify God. Stepping out onto the fluffy, white towel, she suddenly stopped; realizing something which halted her heart.

All week I’ve been thinking of and planning for work each morning, breaking my routine of focusing my thoughts on the Lord. I’m so anxious to use the gifts He gave me, to see what I might accomplish in a career, and so excited to finally see the end product; I’m more focused on what I might create than the Creator who gave me the gift.

Sierra slowly toweled off, her heart deeply troubled. “Lord I didn’t mean for my love of my art to overtake my love for You.”

Proverbs 4:23 quickly came to mind, “Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Her heart had hung all week on her artwork, her masterpiece-in-the-making. It was filling her final thoughts as she drifted off to sleep and consuming her conscience as she awoke each day. It was forever on her mind, always the top priority.

Not today, she thought, shaking her head. She turned on the Christian radio station, streams of Scripture flowing through the lyrics, soothing her longing soul.

After completing her grooming, she carried her Bible to the breakfast table, vowing to start her day with Jesus. She began a conversation that she would revisit throughout the day.

Can you relate to Sierra? I know I have. I can get so excited about an assignment, especially when ministry related, sometimes I forget the true purpose in pointing life toward God.

In the work He gives us, He wants us serving Him, loving Him. What a blessing to enjoy the assignment! But we need to be on guard that the assignment we get to do does not overtake the position of the One who assigned it to us.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to remember our hearts are to be first and foremost overflowing for God, not for our God-given assignments.

 

Keys

Samantha gazed adoring into her darling daughter’s face. This perfectly beautiful baby slept so peacefully, not a care in the word.

Samantha began a prayer she would pray over all her children the rest of her life, “Lord, may this beautiful child love You and serve You all the days of her life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Who will she become?

What will her personality be like?

What gifts will she possess?

What challenges will she face?

In that hospital room, holding her newborn baby in her arms, Samantha knew tomorrow she would carry her home.

What is the most important key to life I can teach her?

How to stay safe?

How to love?

How to be kind to all?

Psalm 27:4 provides a weighty answer: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only so I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” NIV

 

The Message version of Psalm 27:5 further explains, “That the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world, the perfect getaway far from the buzz of traffic.”

Being held securely in a parents’ arms feels safe and secure.  Going out into the world doesn’t always leave us with the same warm fuzzies. Every parent knows this vast world can be wonderful, and it can also be heart-breaking.

The best tool we have to offer our children, our friends, and even ourselves for navigating life is to introduce him to the Lord.

When we do life with the Lord, we are not alone. He’s not the magic genie in the sky who suddenly makes it all better. However, He does promise:

– to stay with us always (Deut 31:6)

– the pain has a purpose (Romans 8:28)

– He will redeem everything we go through. (Romans 8:28)

Samantha knew the proper order of things. As she watched the infant’s chest rise and fall, she knew mothers should not outlive their children.

Chances were, she would not always be there. However, if the baby grew up with a foundation of faith laid on her heart, she might choose to love God with all her heart, soul and strength.

She would have courage in scary scenarios. She would find wisdom when she felt clueless. And, even if she lost everyone she knew, she would know the Lord, and never, ever be alone.

 

You Can’t Lose God

She moved her hand toward the plastered mess on her face. She discovered it was her hair. She gazed about stunned. Unbelievably the sun was shining as though nothing had just happened. Liar!

LuAnn stared around at the once pristine beaches now waist-deep in water. She wasn’t sure how far the waves of the tsunami had carried her, or where her family was, or if any were still alive.

She squeezed her eyes shut against the last thought, ignoring the pressure of the murky water swirling around her. Psalm 27 came to mind: “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?”

God, where are You now? A sense of comfort hit her, shocking her still more. God, I know You’re here. You kept me alive. Her peace wavered. But Lord, I am so scared, she shook from shock. Sobs welled in her throat, bursting forth just like the uncontrolled waves she’d witnessed moments before.

“The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid?”

“God, You’re in control, even now, when it doesn’t feel like it. Please Lord, help me trust, slow my racing heart, give me clarity of mind to know what to do.”

“Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear.”

Those waves Lord, that wall of water taller than the hotel- it assaulted  EVERYTHING! Despair threatened again, Please help me God!

It would be a day and a half until LuAnn could get to a make-shift clinic. Her wounds, which were actually quite minor all things considered, were bandaged, her broken leg set, and she was fed and rehydrated. Those days plus four more were the longest, most confusing days of her life.

As she wavered between sleep, wakefulness, and simply dazed shock, she tried to pray, tried to be positive. She tried to fight the fear inside her heart.

Six days after the tsunami, she awoke to the touch of someone or something in her hair. Her eyes opened to focus on her husband’s face, bruised and battered, but oh, so beautiful at that moment.

Her two children, bruised and still in that day’s clothing, now torn and filthy, chattered nonstop.

Her chest heaved as sobs could not be contained. God had saved them all!

“Though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.”

Months later she recounted her story. She reflected on her faith that horrible week. Then she wasn’t confident of anything except the fact that God was there. Her eyes told her everything was lost, probably even her family.

But as those waters rushed and darkened, she knew God was there.

LuAnn’s story is dramatic, yet not necessarily unique in the sense we have all experienced a tsunami of some sort. Oh, maybe not literal walls of water, but emotional tsunamis which prove no less heart-wrenching.

When we surrender our lives to Christ, He doesn’t promise perfect pages in our biographies.

Sometimes, we lose lovely moments.

Sometimes, we lose loved ones.

Sometimes, we lose lovable lives.

Yet, we choose if we lose the Lord.  He promises to never abandon us (Deut 31:7)

We need to make the choice not to abandon Him.

LuAnn demonstrated how even, when we are hit hard, when we can’t feel God in the moment, we can cling to His truth, and His promises. When we need to, we can, and should, ask for faith, for peace, for the ability to trust.

Philippians 4:19 promises that God will supply all our needs. Even when we are desperately in need, especially when we desperately need Him like never before.

 

Waiting for Grace

Waiting.

Forever. Or so it seemed.

“God, it’s difficult to do the “right” thing, especially when I don’t see Your mighty hand sweeping away the sadness, the agony, sometimes found in this life.”

Silence.

Sheila huffed and reached for her beloved Bible. She picked it up tenderly, as the binding sometimes lost pages and the covered sometimes slipped off.

She recalled when it was new, and her faith fresh in a wonderful world.

Shaking her auburn hair away from her eyes, she settled back onto the plush, green couch.

No, it appeared God hadn’t moved on this, yet she knew His promises could be trusted.

She opened her bookmarked page and reread what was already etched on her heart. “But the Lord loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones.” Psalm 37:28

She reflected on David’s life, the author of many of the Psalms. If anyone knew the frustration and weariness of doing right yet being persecuted, David did.

How long did David, God’s anointed run for his life, waiting for God to change his circumstances? And yet, David didn’t strike out on his own, taking matters into his own hands.

“How long, Lord?” She sighed, resting her head on the back of the couch, lifting her eyes to the ceiling.

The Lord will not forsake his faithful ones.”

In the end, David was king. His time fleeing from a madman who wanted him dead was redeemed.

His time hiding in caves, protecting his life, was redeemed.

His time refusing to seek revenge, was redeemed.

God is always faithful. He knows what happens. He doesn’t always prevent the hard stuff, the stuff we think He should edit right on out of our story!

But He is faithful, thought Sheila again. As hard as it is, I must be faithful to Him, trusting His word, His promises.

Lord,” she prayed closing her eyes against the frustration she felt, “please help me to be faithful to You. Please help me to patiently wait…”

Held

“The Lord is my strength,” Stacy repeatedly murmured to herself as tears slid down her cheeks. Quickly brushing them away, she tried to focus on the task at hand, if nothing else, than to ensure the safety of her sweet daughter in the backseat.

Crisis had hit her like a brick wall. But unlike other obstacles she had endured, this one was not her story to tell. No asking for prayers, not able to talk to a friend. She was not the leading role in this tale, only a strong supporting character who must remain silent.

The tears fell as she turn up the volume of the Christian rock music already vibrating the car. “Focus on the positives, ” she reprimanded herself, “God’s got this.”

God did have even this, but He wouldn’t solve it overnight, or as Stay would learn, even the next year. But, He would reach down and comfort as only He could.

Arriving at the lesson for her little girl, she tried desperately to compose herself. As always, Stacy switched off her ringer before entering the creative sanctuary of the studio.

The lesson, progressed as usual; Stacy relishing some normalcy in the moment. As it ended, Stacy helped her daughter collect her things, and as they steeped away, Stacy felt herself gathering despair and anxiety as she approached the car.

After securing her chatty daughter in her car seat, she dropped into the driver’s seat. Heart ever-so-heavy, she turned on the ringer and plugged in her phone. That’s when she saw it: the message that changed everything about her mental mindset.

“You have been heavy on my heart today. I’m praying for you. I have no idea what’s going on, but God does. If you don’t need these prayers today, save them for a day you do. And remember, it you need anything, I’m here.”

There was no earthly way this godly woman could know about anything; Stacy had not even seen her in weeks.

Stacy’s eyes brimmed over once more and a little voice from the back seat asked, “Mommy, why are you crying?”

“These are tears of joy, honey. God sees me. God hears me. And He’s reaching out to remind me of these truths.”

Starting the car Stacy knew, whatever her day held – and she really had no idea what might come God was right there with her. He might not always halt the horribly hard things of this life, but He held her right in the palm of His hand.

Always There

Pouncing, playing and protecting. That’s a very accurate description of our favorite furry family member.

Minna, a one-year-old Rottweiler puppy, loves each member of our family with her whole heart. It’s evident in the way she lives: she sleeps lightly, springing to her feet at the slightest sound. She often detects things we never would have noticed. But nothing escapes her monitoring.

When someone is upset, she runs to him, nuzzling her big black head directly into his face with her warm, comforting tongue depositing kisses all over until  laughter abounds. Often, she detects emotions even the most perceptive humans miss.

And if anyone new approaches, she is watching the interactions like a hawk, ready to jump to our defense at an instant!

Minna demonstrates a lot about God’s character.

God never loses sight of what is happening to us, and He is always there to carry us through. Whether it’s a physical challenge or an emotional hardship, He is constantly there. He promises He will never leave nor forsake us. He means it – NEVER.  He will always be there, even if we don’t see Him immediately. He is present, watching carefully what is occurring, and seeing far more than we can see with our human eyes.

Dog people will attest to why dogs are called ‘Man’s best friend.’ People who know God say they could never do life without God.

I am so thankful I have both.

God uses Minna to comfort me in addition to His presence and peace. He will never forsake you or me.