It was a Friday afternoon in February of 2000 when my life suddenly changed forever.
I’ll never forget the phone call that came after business hours. I was in my office with coworkers and picked up after the first ring. The voice at the other end of the line was my children’s father, my ex-husband.
His voice was filled with concern as he said, “Sharon, you need to sit down.” Of course I didn’t as I recall…and then he said bluntly as if he had to say it before he couldn’t, “Chris is dead.”
I remember being stunned and confused about the words before they sank in, wondering why he would say such a horrible thing. I even remember asking, “Are you sure?” which I know was my mind begging for one more moment of not knowing. My knees weakened as he finished telling me what he knew about what had happened.
He had been out of town on business and upon returning, found our oldest son alone and gone from this world. Mercifully, gratefully, he had gone home to be with Jesus and that ray of Hope would be the shred of life that would survive while my heart and mind pulled on a shroud of deep black darkness.
The next few days I lived the nightmare of my greatest fear since becoming a mother, losing one of my boys. My heart was filled with infinitely more pain than my fear of it ever had. I isolated myself most of the time as family and friends came to the house offering condolences but I wanted to be alone…in my darkness. Even though I took comfort in knowing Chris was a believer and I would be reunited with him in heaven, my mother’s heart was aching and struggling with accepting he was gone from this earth.
Since Chris was an otherwise healthy 24 year old, his father insisted on an autopsy. The following
Monday was a holiday, so in short the funeral was postponed until almost a week later. I’m not sure how, but it was arranged and attended by more than 800 people I was told.
I can recall only bleak snapshots of that miserable week of waiting…my dad sitting in my living room in the navy tapestry wingback staring blankly overcome by grief, food piled up on every countertop and bulging from the refrigerator, and our house busy with well meaning guests. Then I woke up in the emergency room after blacking out for an extended period of time. I remember hoping to see Chris one more time and for some strange reason thought he was at the hospital. In times of deep sorrow and shock, your mind takes strange pathways.
In the following month, there were many beautiful cards, (I still have every one of them), visits and frequent phone calls of consolation. I returned to work way too soon because I didn’t know what else to do. Sorrow and emptiness became my new painful normal.
Grief is exhausting…not only emotionally but physically as well.
I often tried to pray, but the prayers never seemed to make it above the ceiling. Even though Chris’s dad was very angry at God for the untimely death of our son, for some reason, I never was. But I couldn’t feel His Presence.
Weeks turned into months and months into two years. Cards and visits had long since stopped. Everyone had resumed their own lives. The cruel emotions of hurt and self pity were added to the suffering because I felt so alone in my sorrow.
Sadness. Loneliness. Fear. Dread. Pain. Despair. PURE DARKNESS…EMPTINESS.
And then one Sunday morning we were getting ready for church. I was weary and worn thin from the weight of my grief. I had prayed to die so many times, but this morning, I literally looked toward heaven and cried out loud in total desperation, “God, please replace this horrible darkness and grief with some kind of joy!”
That morning, as I sat in the comfortable stadium seat of our church with hundreds of others, the message was entitled…
“Where Do You Turn When Life’s Not Working?”
I don’t know if there was a single other person in that congregation who needed to hear those words more than I did. I felt as if they had been eternally penned for me. I knew in the depths of my soul that it was God’s answer to my desperate plea earlier that morning, delivered by His obedient servant, a pastor I hardly even knew.
The message clearly charted the course of the healing power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As the words washed over me, I experienced a lifting in my soul. That day I actually felt for the first time the warmth of His Loving Arms enveloping me. I saw a beam of His Radiant Light shining from the far end of the heinous darkness in which I had hidden for the past two years. I saw Him…I felt Hope.
It’s not that I had never heard the things that were presented in that timely message. It’s that I had not chosen them as my foundational truths. I had spent a lifetime of self will ignoring the very thing that sustains us through times like this.
God loves us and is constantly pursuing His independent self willed creation.
He already knows every detail of your struggle and is patiently waiting for you to turn to Him for help.
Even though I had experienced salvation at the age of eight, and had been in church most of my life, I confess I had not invested in my relationship with my Heavenly Father and had grown very little spiritually. My quiet times were never very quiet and those spent in His Word were hurried and rushed. There is no wonder why my faith was so shallow…
I trusted Him with my eternity through my salvation experience but thought I could handle the “living on planet earth” on my own!
Simply put, when faced with the most difficult challenge of my life, I had chosen darkness instead of His Healing Light!
During those two years, many times, I had begged God to let me die, to be free of the pain. But He had chosen not to answer those misplaced prayers.
He did not send His Son to die so that we would be left in darkness!
The awakening that day was only the beginning of my healing. Over time, the hole in my heart was graciously being filled with His Truth and Promises as I spent time with Him, meditating on His Word. Leaning on Him for my strength and direction was infinitely the better choice…it was filled with hope and the blossoming of joy and new life.
One day as I was in His Word, He gently reminded me that He had also lost His Son and He knew exactly how I felt.
And there it was, the very essence of Truth that sponged up the last ounce of my self pity. How could I have ever felt alone? The Creator of the universe, my Heavenly Father, knew how I felt. He had never forsaken me. I had NEVER been alone.
The realization of His intimacy flooded over me! I finally knew in my heart that throughout every moment of the journey since that Friday afternoon phone call, He had been right by my side. I had missed the miracle of it because of my foolish self will.
I realized His desire for me to live was a blessing. He was not finished with my story. He wanted me to share it and His message of hope with the world!
Would I have ever wished my son would die? Of course not, no mother would. But I will tell you that had I not gone through the devastation of losing him, I may never have ever known the glorious riches of walking with my Lord and Savior!
Someone said, “He never wastes a hurt.”
So be encouraged no matter what you may face, THE God of the universe loves you. So much so that He sent His only Son to die for you. There is nothing too big or bad for His sacrificial Love to cover. You only have to trust and receive His beautiful Gift of Salvation.
Life is full of crossroads and choices…choose life! Let Him lead you into His Marvelous Light!
He is a good good Father and His Mercies are new every morning!
In the past fourteen years, I still grieve over Chris but I have also experienced more Joys than I could have ever imagined because I opened my heart up to Him. Please don’t miss it! He will give you joy in your mourning too. Let Him have that chance. Open your heart up to Him…and ask Him.
Dear our precious Heavenly Father,
We thank you for your love, your faithfulness, and your son Jesus who died for us. We thank you for the person who is reading this post. I pray for the one who is struggling to open her heart up to you in her time of pain and grief. Please soften her heart to want to know you. Give her a hunger for your word. Give her your peace, your rest, and your comfort as she prays and cries out to you. Give her a humble and open heart that is ready to receive your joy and blessings and lean into you every day so that as you carry her, she finds her rest in you. Amen.
I opened my dishwasher on a Friday afternoon and my eyes filled with tears. But not for the usual reasons. Not because it melted yet another one of my son’s favorite sippy cups. Not because I was so weary of housework that I barely had enough energy to unload it. Not because I’m a wife and mother of two small children, which meant the burden of most of the household responsibilities fell on me and I was feeling sorry for myself again.
Not this time.
No, this time things were different. This time, my tears were tears of joy…and thanksgiving.
I was emotional over a full dishwasher because it meant things had finally changed. We had one more person at the dinner table where there once was an excruciating void.
My husband had come home.
Just four months earlier, my husband of 14 happy years walked out. I was left alone and confused and betrayed. I was served divorce papers. I was left to care for our children on my own. My heart was shattered. I had been told I wasn’t loved by the one person I loved the most. I had been rejected and abandoned.
But not by my Jesus.
He held my hand and my heart. He whispered promises into my very soul. He sent his people to care for me, encourage me, and pray for me. He comforted my children. He provided our every need. He spoke life and truth to me daily through his word. He told me not to give up.
My husband came back…in fact, he came home with a new light in his eyes and a fire in his spirit.
Jesus had been working in him just as he had been working in me.
God rescued him and made him a new creation. What I heard God whisper as I fell on my face before Him so many times was true. All things are possible through Christ who gives me strength.
It took a battle like that to open my eyes.
I have a different perspective today. God has placed His divine, unconditional love in my heart. He has restored and renewed my marriage and my family. It took the worst experience of my life to change my perspective.
I know now…
A full dishwasher means there have been meals shared on actual plates with conversations and warmth and a sense of family. It means we are blessed with food to eat and more importantly, people to share it with.
Serving my family and loving them as imperfect as they are is a joy, not a burden.
Laundry overflowing means I have a house full of people to love. People who play hard and experience much and have the wrinkles and stains to prove it.
A mess of toys all over my living room floor means I am blessed with children who won’t be children for long, but who find joy and happiness and laughter in my home.
A husband who keeps me awake with his snoring means I share my bed and my heart with someone who has chosen to be there. Someone who continues to choose to be there, no matter how much work it takes to be able to crawl into that bed night after night.
Wives. Mothers. Women. I know many of you today are battling in the trenches facing difficulties in your marriage or with your children, dealing with the busyness of life, the stresses, the fatigue, the worry. I encourage you today…Don’t Give Up! Pray for your family. Fight for them. And…
Strive for a heart like Jesus.
Strive to see and love your family and others the way He sees and loves you.
“God can raise marriages from the dead and He can restore life and purpose to those who have given up. He can forgive and purify the vilest sinner. God’s specialty is raising dead things to life and making impossible things possible. You don’t have a need that exceeds His power.” – Beth Moore
No matter what you are battling today, never give up. Let Him fight for you. He will reward you for your faithfulness because you are His child.
“Let us not be weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Before I even begin this post, I want you to know that I have full permission from my beloved husband to share this with you today. Every word written in this post has been approved by my one and only…and I appreciate his willingness to allow me to be so transparent in the hope to bring encouragement to someone who needs to hear it. Love you babe!
Now onto my post…
It was a beautiful day in June, 2001, the day we said “I DO”. Every single detail I had planned for the last year had come to life! From the beautiful bushels of off white roses trimmed in pink to the blush colored bridesmaids’ dresses (9 to be exact!). The music was heavenly with the warmth of candles everywhere. The dress…well, it was off white satin and the top of the bodice draped in jewels…it was stunning. It only took me 500 hundred other dresses too pick the perfect one (I KNOW some of you can relate- lol!).
The intro to “Hear Comes the Bride” began to play. The doors flung open and I made my way down the long center aisle. All eyes were on me, especially from the guy at the end…he was my prize. There stood my prince, my best friend, the love of my life…the one God had perfectly planned for me.
Scott was my college sweetheart. He was handsome, charming, smart and he loved God. He was one of the reasons I had grown so much in my relationship with the Lord at that time. He had a love and a reverence for God that I had never seen in a male before-it was contagious. I wanted a husband like that…So, I snatched him up.
There we stood before our friends and family and our God declaring our love and our promise to each other. We even wrote our own vows filled with promise and truth of what was to come.
We had made a covenant that would not be broken…for better or worse, until death do us part. It was a marriage in pursuit of God being the absolute center. A marriage that would reflect Christ in every way…A marriage that would be built on Scott being the strong spiritual leader of our home, raising our future children to know Jesus…A marriage where we would run our race together. I knew that life may not always be perfect, but with God at the center, we were sure to succeed.
That day was a dream come true for me. Little did I know how my life would change and my vows would be tested…
Fast forward about 8 years and my life was turned upside down.
All that I had planned, dreamed and desired to have in a marriage had been stolen by endless doubt, harassing questions and ultimately Scott walking away from God. He had become my prodigal husband.
We were now a house divided, not a home of unity…
No more spiritual leader. No more praying together. No more God being the center of our marriage. No more leading small groups together. No more praying with our children before bed. No more dreams of running our race together.
The day Scott walked away, I grieved. I grieved as if he had died. I would have never imagined that our life would change so drastically. For months we struggled to make it work. The hurt, the grief, the sadness, the anger, the division, it was all too much. We were like two roommates living under one roof and we were on very different roads now. The more I went left, the more he went right. The more I grew closer to God, the more he went further away. We had always said divorce was NEVER an option, but suddenly that word was being tossed around like the words “I love you” use to be. Neither one of us were sure we would survive…
I have spent countless hours in prayer and on my knees over this prodigal husband of mine. I have learned what it means to go to battle. I have learned what it means to be a prayer warrior (a term I thought was for all those “super spiritual” people). I have learned grace, unconditional love and patience. But above all that, I have learned the faithfulness of my God. He’s been so good even in the midst of this hardship. I would not be who I am today without this trial. I can honestly say I am grateful for how God has used every piece to shape and mold me into who I am today. I have been in the deep dark of hopelessness, but I have also seen great light. I have seen God move, heal and restore my marriage in countless ways and I have full expectation to see more!
Fast forward another 8 years…and here we are. Things are not perfect and we are still a house divided, but we have learned and continue to learn grace and unconditional love. We will celebrate 15 years of marriage in just a few weeks, and looking back, I wasn’t even sure we would ever get here. We have experienced more valleys then I would like to admit over these last eight years, but there have been beautiful mountain tops too! We have three incredible kids, two of which have come to know Jesus- Amen! I am just praying for my three year old son to sit still long enough to even hear from God! Lol!
My husband is incredibly supportive of all that I do with women’s ministry, leading worship and letting me continue to pour Jesus into my children. For that I am forever grateful.
This post is for the woman who has a “prodigal husband” or maybe a husband who has never even known the Lord and you are in the midst of the fight…DO NOT GIVE UP.
DO NOT GIVE UP believing that your God is ABLE.
DO NOT GIVE UP praying for your husband who desperately needs your prayers.
DO NOT GIVE UP when you are weary and want to bail out.
DO NOT GIVE UP in seeing God do what ONLY he can do.
DO NOT GIVE UP when the battle is raging…. you have an enemy who is out for your husband, out for your marriage and out for your family.
DO NOT GIVE UP because he is WORTH it.
Had I given up years ago, I am not sure what my life would have looked like. But I know this for sure… I wouldn’t have had my beautiful son, who is now three years old. I daily get to see the incredible relationship between my son and his daddy. Scott absolutely adores him. And it is a beautiful picture and reminder of the Father’s love for His son…His prodigal son.
One of my favorite holidays is Mother’s Day. This is because it’s all about me, and I love celebrating me. I believe that carrying a child in my womb for nine months, giving birth, changing diapers, making lunches, wiping up vomit, and kissing boo-boo’s is deserving of a day of celebration and fanfare. Who’s with me?
So the truth is, I don’t quite feel like I’m Mom of the Year every day. In fact, those moments are few and far between. I, like many of you, struggle with believing that I’m not scarring my children for life. On any given day, I’m battling large amounts of guilt because I feel like I just can’t get this mom thing right. I didn’t put cute notes in their lunch boxes. I didn’t get the laundry done. I forgot about picking up the kite for “kite day” at school and I fed them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Slim-Jims for dinner… Again.
And some days, those are my shining moments, because the real truth is that sometimes, I mess up in far bigger ways. I yell in anger. I stare at my phone, interested in everyone else’s life while ignoring the three little people sitting in my living room. I get distracted and don’t remind them who they are in Jesus and instead, rush through the routine so I can binge watch Parenthood on Netflix. There are days I fail and camp out there, letting feelings of regret, shame, and sadness overwhelm me.
I’m learning that when I fail with my kids, it’s usually because of one of three big reasons. I’m living in fear. I’m dealing with insecurity. Or I’m battling emptiness.
When I’m fearful, I’m actually just failing to trust God with my children. I feel out of control and become paralyzed with fear. So in order to get back the control, I yell or become angry and unkind.
When I’m insecure, it’s most often because I’ve spent way too much time comparing myself to all of the other amazing momma’s around me. Often in my skewed perspective, every other woman is nailing this mom thing and I will never measure up. Therefore the pressure grows and I can’t deal, or I give up altogether.
In addition to these struggles, I often parent on empty. I’m simply not prepared to pour out love, grace and wisdom because I haven’t been spending time with Jesus – the one who pours love, grace, and wisdom into me. Difficult days will come. Hard moments will try me as a mom. I know the truth is that I have to be filled up with the grace of Jesus in order to pour that grace out onto my kids.
So today, I’m speaking hope to you and to myself. There is hope for us mommas who don’t get it right all the time. That hope is found in Jesus. That hope is realized when we know and believe that he is a God of forgiveness and favor.
He forgives. Let this truth sink in. Your Father, the Creator of the universe, loves you so much that he created a pathway for forgiveness. As much as I wish I would never hurt my children, I know I have and I will again. But there is mercy for my failures. And I know a few reading this, simply cannot believe that you can be forgiven. I know you believe that what you’ve done is unforgivable. Maybe, you’ve led a life of deceit, hurting your children in the midst. Maybe, you’ve been addicted and absent and the relationship with your children seems broken beyond repair. Listen to me. Our God heals and restores. There is no one beyond His reach. He will forgive. Even you. Even me.
I can also know that he grants favor. That is, he gives us the grace we need to lean into to make it through each moment. His grace is all we need. All of his blessings are undeserved, but it’s his nature to bless us anyway so that we can walk in the strength of his favor daily.
Forgiveness and favor are ours for the taking. They make the difference and set us free and sister… if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed! (John 8:36) It’s not enough to know they exist. We have to receive his forgiveness and take hold of his favor.
I’ve been a momma for almost 14 years now and I’ve learned a few things that have been difference makers in this journey.
Know who you are. Get in God’s word and know the truth of whom He made you to be.
Understand the power of the repair. We will mess up; in small ways, and in big ways. You need to know that our God restores. When you blow it, ask forgiveness from your kids, remind them of truth, and pray with them and over them. Ask God to heal any broken places in your heart and theirs. Pray bold prayers of protection over your relationship.
Let the Holy Spirit work. Believe that if you are a child of the Most High God, then you have his power at work inside of you. God’s word says that his strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) My need for God’s power has never been more evident to me than in my desire to parent and to love my children well.
Don’t do this alone. No lone ranger momma’s allowed. We need each other. Find friends who can speak God’s truth into your life. Look for momma friends who will walk this out with you. Be that kind of friend to someone else. No more judgment on other moms. We’re all fighting a battle. Our enemy is not each other. When you see that momma in the grocery store with the screaming child; figuratively, link arms with her, pray a prayer for her, and give her a smile and a word of encouragement. We’ve all been there. I’ll probably be that mom later today, and if you see me, I will most likely desperately need your grace.
My Ella, Sam and Drew are precious gifts from God. They deserve the best, but they wound up with me. And the good news is that I’m the best momma for them. I will fail- maybe not today – but most certainly I will continue to do this momma thing very imperfectly. I’m so grateful for grace and new mercies. So, I’m ready for Mothers Day. I’m ready to celebrate all the ways I love my children well and I’m ready to celebrate a gracious God who fills in the gaps with his forgiveness and favor. Happy Mother’s Day, sweet sisters. Party on.
Can you love somebody you’ve never met?
Ask any mother and she will tell you “yes”. Before that baby was born, she already loved him or her.
In this digital age, we are networking and connecting to people in different cities, counties, even countries!
When we realize we have shared experiences, we form invisible bonds. The chance to meet these new friends face-to-face is a great reward. And when we find that our new friends are friends with other friends, we grow into a community!
I love some women I have never met face-to-face. They are my sisters. We share one common love. We love because He first loved us. I read their stories and jump up and down shouting “me too!”
I cry at the pain in their stories because I’ve had that same pain. Maybe God loved us first because we really aren’t so different.All of these friends are willing to tell me their shortcomings—and yet that’s the thing that makes them so appealing to me. (And it works the other way too)
Just like me, they are not enough by themselves.
Perhaps you are out there feeling lonely and unloved.
Maybe someone hurt you with their ill-timed good intentions. Maybe someone hurt you on purpose. I want you to know, this is your place.
Here, we’re all a group of real girls, brave not because we’re special, but because we are loved.
We are wrapped in the purpose that God chose for us for His glory. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says that our weaknesses exist that the Power of Christ may rest on us, so come on in!
We’ll laugh together, cry together, and most importantly, battle the real enemy together.
You matter. How you feel is important.
So is truth.
Let the lies fall flat. We approach the throne of grace with CONFIDENCE.
God is working through you. Declare it!
And know that your story matters. We’d love to hear it!
If you missed it last week, please read BraveGirl Martha’s post, “#NoFilter“! It’s all about community and being real. 🙂
What does it mean to walk by faith? What does it look like to you? Have you ever walked by faith? If so what happened? If you haven’t why not? Maybe we don’t because of the possibility of being exposed to ridicule or being drilled with multiple questions. What about that ugly lurking pride that can’t risk being wrong—especially in front of others. Our words may say we believe, but do our actions reflect what we believe?
My dad recently found a new love in his life after the death of his wife four years ago. This October I was blessed with the opportunity to spend some time with Marge and my dad when they came to Oregon for a visit. She had also suffered the loss of her spouse three years ago. During their visit they shared with the family that they were planning on getting married. The wedding would be in Tulsa, Oklahoma in six weeks!
My family lives a simple life—either we have the money or we don’t. You won’t find any credit cards in our wallets. The savings account was low on funds, the holidays would be here before you know it, and our six month car insurance bill would be in our mailbox soon. For three weeks I prayed, asking God to provide the means for me to go to the wedding. One day, as I was praying, a question came to me. Did I believe that God would provide for me to go? My answer was, of course! If I did believe, then what was I sitting around for? I had a wedding to get ready to go to! As I thought about the preparations I would have to make for the care of my children, it occurred to me that I could share with people that I believed God can and would provide for me to go to Tulsa for my dad’s wedding—which was only three weeks away now.
For we walk by faith, not by sight 2 Corinthians 5:7
The first person I invited on my journey with God was my husband. I asked if he had any objections about me going to Oklahoma if God provided the funds. (Since he would be out of town hunting, our boys would have to stay with friends.) He didn’t have any objections. I opened up to two Christian friends who offered encouragement and prayer support through this.
For the next two weeks there were moments where it was easy to share with others and other times when I couldn’t get the words out. This was definitely exposing my weaknesses and fears. The clock was ticking and I still had no way of getting to the wedding. I felt discouraged when people would say “Oh you’re still doing that?” or “Don’t you think you should start asking people for the money?” and “How are you going to get the money?” There were times when I was tempted to ask a Christian friend who is financially secure for the money. I didn’t want my friend to provide, though. I wanted God to provide. I valued my friend’s wisdom more than her money. What seemed like a simple walk of faith was more challenging than I had anticipated. Countless times my eyes instantly flooded with tears at the thought of not being able to go. One night I found myself sitting in a parking lot with a foul attitude. Not wanting to go home and expose my family to it, I prayed asking God for help and to take my ugly disposition. The truth was that the gift was becoming more important than the giver. My prayer changed as I began thanking God for everything in my life.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7
Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Then call on me when you are in trouble and I will rescue you and you will give me the glory. Psalm 50:14-15.
On a Wednesday morning I made the final arrangement by asking our teenage neighbor to watch our dogs. There were only nine days until the wedding. That night as I sat in the car waiting for my son’s basketball practice to finish, I received a call from my dad. He was calling to find out if I was going to the wedding because I hadn’t responded to his text. What text? The text that he sent on Saturday to all of his children offering to help pay if any of us wanted to go to the wedding. A text that I never received but all my siblings did. My response to my dad was YES! YES! I want to go the the wedding! That night I had my airline tickets to Tulsa!
The next couple days were amazing as I shared with others how God had provided. Even the dreaded “what to wear to the wedding” was a humbling and praiseworthy experience. Instead of complaining that I had nothing to wear and no money to buy something, I shared what God was doing with a coworker. My generous coworker lent me a dress.
I was scrambling to finish all the loose ends at work on a Tuesday when I received a message from Marge’s son. He asked if I would like to say a few words to represent my dad’s family at the wedding. Marge’s grandson would be speaking for their side of the family. My first reaction when I first read it was “No. Someone else can do it better.”
But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before the Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” God answered, “I will be with you.” Exodus 3:11-12
I decided to take my break and call my Christian friend who just happens to be the same one in this story who is financially secure. She immediately said Yes I should do it, because it’s a wonderful opportunity to honor my father. With no clue of what I would say, I responded in obedience and said “Yes, I’ll do it.” My future step-brother and I decided that this part of the wedding would be a surprise for his mom and my dad.
Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you what to say. Exodus 4:12
Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours before my flight would leave, my husband arrived home from a successful hunt. All the preparations that took me three weeks to plan only took three minutes to undo. I was amazed that my pride didn’t take over. I usually don’t take it very well when all my planning and organizing is undone. We celebrated God’s provision of food from his hunt. I was also grateful to spend time with my husband and our boys before I left.
It was Thursday and I was finally in Tulsa! The next twenty four hours were filled with meeting the new family members and friends. I spent quality time getting acquainted with all my aunts and uncles who I hadn’t seen in years.
Friday evening we all entered the church for the wedding. It was beautifully decorated in an autumn theme. The centerpieces had lit lanterns surrounded by fall leaves, branches and pheasant feathers. There were brightly lit candles on and around the stage. A slideshow of pictures representing both families was presented on the large screen. Instead of your standard wedding cake, they had a magnificent tower of assorted gourmet cupcakes. With the guests seated, the music began and the ceremony started. Within a few minutes, our surprise was in motion as Marge’s grandson was the first to speak on behalf of her family. When he was finished, he handed me the microphone. Here is what I said to honor my dad…
Dear Heavenly Father,
I sing glorious praises of joy to You for bringing all of us here to be a witness to this precious covenant. My heart overflows with gratitude because You have united my Dad and Marge. The presence of Your peace rests in me when I see the two of them together. Thank you Father, for graciously giving my Dad and our family a kind, loving, woman of faith. Please watch over them and protect them. I pray that this covenant radiates the love of Christ and glorifies You.
With all of my love,
I handed back the microphone and returned to my seat. As the ceremony progressed something wonderful happened. I was filled with overwhelming joy! Not just because I was at the wedding, not because I finished speaking, but because my dad was TRULY HAPPY NOW! He wasn’t alone—he had someone who would be by his side and would take care of him. The agony of losing his spouse to cancer and the years of loneliness following were finally over. My dad was not only marrying a loving woman of faith, but he was graciously accepted by her family, church and friends. A new season in my dad’s life had begun. Knowing all this was a precious gift from God.
I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. Psalm 9:1
May your faith be strengthened and blessings be bountiful as you walk by faith in 2016!
Fall is here. Lately, many of my friends have expressed how tired they are. Some of them feel overwhelmed with how busy they are. And it seems like the pressure is growing. Certainly the start of school brings an element of “busy” that is not present in the summertime, but after we settle into a routine, that rushed feeling usually passes.
This year, the pace seems faster and more frantic. Have you been feeling it too? Do you feel overwhelmed? Part of it is our accessibility. There is never a time where we’re completely able to “shut down” or shut it all off. Between email notifications, texts and videos and pictures being messaged to us, Twitter and Facebook and Instagram updates, we’re constantly being fed without a break.
Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary.” In the Message translation, Matthew 11:28-30 reads as follows: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Some of our weariness comes from saying “yes” to very good things that aren’t a very good fit for right now. Or, too many good things. Instead of worrying that it won’t get done if we don’t do it all, we need to rely on God to take care of things and ask Him where we fit into that picture. Where does God want me to put my time and energy right now?
That can be a difficult question to ask, because we don’t always want to hear the answer. We like what we’re doing, but it’s leaving us tired and frantic and empty, and it’s not really bringing the fulfillment we are searching for.
“The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”
Psalm 90:14-16 (NIV)
I’m going to challenge us to see if this makes a difference: for the next few days, if we find a verse on our Social Media or in our email that feeds us, we are going to write it down. Not print it out on a laserjet. Write. It. Down.
Or, write the reference down and then look it up in a paper Bible. (Have you noticed the difference between reading a paper book and scrolling on a tablet? There’s something different about the experience of paper and ink.)
I’m encouraging us to have a tangible connection to God instead of a digital one. This doesn’t mean that the digital isn’t feeding us. I start my day with BibleGateway.com and a chapter of Psalms, and I copy and paste into a Facebook group. It’s feeding me. But, I think we’re longing for our senses to really be stimulated. We want to touch God, to take in His Word. And by writing it down or physically opening our Bibles, we are going to be making a tangible connection to that promise. Something we can “hold on to” to strengthen us. Ultimately, I hope that Word commits itself to our memories and that we can call it to mind when we’re in a crisis.
Sisters, this is meant to strengthen and encourage, not guilt or burden us further. I believe God wants us to no longer be running on empty, but running on a full tank, with joy and fervor! That we’d be able to use our passions for His glory and really find energy and strength in what we are doing. I’ll be committing to this challenge too, and if you would like, find a verse that really gives you strength. I know these two passages are rich. Find a translation you enjoy, or search a few and see how they differ. (The internet is a great resource for this, but please remember to write it down instead of just clicking “print”!)
Photo credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e7/Phodopus_sungorus_-_Hamsterkraftwerk.jpg/1280px-Phodopus_sungorus_-_Hamsterkraftwerk.jpg “King James Bible 1772 – Psalm 90” by Oxford University, Oxford, England – http://dohistory.org/archive/doc155/155_title_img.html / Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Massachusetts. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:King_James_Bible_1772_-_Psalm_90.jpg#/media/File:King_James_Bible_1772_-_Psalm_90.jpg
As little girls, we long for affirmation and attention. We dress up in fancy dresses and twirl. “You are beautiful, you are worth pursuing, you are worthy of being loved.”
As little boys, we challenge each other and wrestle and race, longing for the thrill of victory. We want to be noticed and affirmed. “You are the champion, you are strong, you are brave, you are admirable, you are worthy of respect.”
As adults, we still have those desires. They run deep within our veins. But who is it we are really trying to please? To prove ourselves to? Whose attention are we really seeking?
I believe it is God. Deep down, we need to be valued. We need to know we matter. God has been speaking to me through the Bible and through books I’ve been reading recently. He sees you. He sees me. He loves us. We love Him because He loved us first. If we are looking for Him, for His approval, and hoping He’ll take notice? We’ll find Him.
You have a purpose. You DO matter. Jeremiah 29:11-14 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.“
What brings us true happiness? Doing what we were designed to do. For an introvert, that will look very different than for an extrovert. When God made you, He chose the time period, the country, and all the people you would meet and affect. He was intentional in His creation of you from the moment of conception.
Ephesians chapter two spells out God’s reason for creating you. “So that He can show the incomparable riches of His grace.” He created you and me to be an extension of Him and His grace.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10)
It is our human nature to do good and call attention to it. “Pay it forward” is a frequent way to boast about our good with a hint at good intentions. Jesus said in Mark 10:43-45 that if you desire to be great, you must become a servant.
Have you ever tried to do things without taking credit for them? It’s more difficult than you would suppose. Still, it is when others call attention to your good deeds that people are moved.
You will find more satisfaction for your unsung deeds than the ones you post about.
This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
He is leading me to pursue being a nobody on earth. To celebrate my smallness. To work for the Lord, not for men. (Colossians 3:23) To bring honor and glory to His name. For over 2,000 years, the name of Jesus Christ has continued to be known. That is the name that I want to honor and praise and bring attention to. Even if CNN and Fox News never know my name, He does. He spoke me into being. And my name is in His book of life. I don’t have to try so hard if I’m just trying to please Him. He will lead me right where I am designed to fit, and I will find joy. And so will you!
Here’s a song from Francesca Battistelli to encourage you. He knows Your name. 🙂 (Here’s the link if you’re reading in the email. https://youtu.be/ZtlDVleJBtA )
July 31st, 2014 was a day to celebrate! It was my husband’s birthday. We had gone out to celebrate with our whole family. All the girls in our family were also planning and preparing to go to the Coast the next day to celebrate my Grandma’s 80th birthday! We were making more summer plans to go camping and enjoying the summer life that so many love here in Bend. But that never happened.
That night we had relatives staying with us and I had said good night to them. I fell asleep snuggling next to my husband, Sonny, and my seven year old daughter, Rhynn. At about 1:00am Sonny was awakened by a loud thump. He felt Rhynn next to him but couldn’t feel me. When he got up to try to see what had caused the thump he saw me slumped over, wedged between the bed and the dresser, and I was having a Grand mal seizure. He immediately noticed I wasn’t breathing. He ran to get my Aunt and Uncle and asked them for help. They thought maybe a tree had fallen because of how loud the thump was. They called 911.
The paramedics showed up and rushed me to the hospital (Rhynn never woke up in the midst of all of this. I believe an Angel was in the room protecting her). My sister followed close behind. I don’t really remember much of this. I just remember being scared and confused. I was paralyzed on the left side immediately. I couldn’t move my arm or my leg and half of my face was paralyzed. I do remember, however, having an MRI and then being told I had tumors in my brain. I had Melanoma for the second time in my life.
Over the next four days of my stay in the ICU it was a blur from the drugs I was on. I went home and waited for the swelling to go down so they could do surgery. What I thought was one night was actually four nights before they could perform surgery on me. In those four days, friends and family came in and out of my house, one after another, encouraging me, praying for me, loving me and my family.
My diagnosis was three to six months to live, three months with no treatment and six months with aggressive treatment. The Doctors didn’t think they’d be able to remove all three tumors (I didn’t know this at the time). Two nights before surgery my long time friends, Joe and Katherine, came to my house to pray over me. Immediately afterwards I lifted my left arm up, something I had not been able to do, then I got up and started walking. My brother-in-law later commented he wouldn’t have believed it had he not seen it with his own eyes! That was one of the many miracles that I’ve experienced since then.
The night before surgery we had about 100 friends and family come over to pray over me, sing worship songs and they took turns telling me how much they loved me. Afterwards Sonny made a video of me for my kids. I wanted my kids to hear what I thought was most important, in case I didn’t make it through the surgery. I told them I loved them, that Jesus loves them. I told them through many, many tears how much I love them, that when we belong to Jesus He will pursue you and that they always belong to Him. I said the things I never thought I’d have to say to my kids for them to watch when I was gone.
When I went to bed that night my son, Randon, who was 18 at the time, came into my room and told me he didn’t want me to do treatment because he didn’t want me to be sick the last three to six months of my life. That was the first time I had heard that diagnosis. I was shocked and confused. We cried together, talked about how it would be one day at a time, fighting all the way. I told him I needed him to pray for me and believe that God would heal me.
My pastor, Steve, came the next morning before surgery to pray for me. I don’t remember it but I’m so thankful for him and the church family that we love so much. They have been such a big part of my journey with their generosity. I was told the entire waiting room was filled with our church family and family members, standing room only. The Doctors ended up removing all three tumors! I stayed in the hospital for about a month, or maybe longer. I don’t remember exactly how long. I don’t remember a lot of it. It was still being said that I would probably only live for six months with aggressive treatment. There is no treatment for Melanoma cancer. Today it’s been over a year since my surgery. They were wrong. God is good. I have continued to say “You’re talking Science, I’m talking God. My God is bigger than Science”.
Joy and her husband, Sonny, live in Bend Oregon with
their four children ranging from six to twenty-one years of age. You can learn more about Joy’s journey through her blog where she inspires many with her transparency, strength, and hope in Christ.
She and her family repeat a daily mantra together:
“I am powerful and what I believe changes the world! So today I declare: God is in a good mood. He loves me all the time. Nothing can separate me from His love. Jesus’ blood paid for everything. I will tell nations of what He has done. I am important. How He made me is amazing. I was designed for worship. My mouth establishes praise to silence the enemy. Everywhere I go becomes a perfect health zone. And with God…Nothing is impossible.”
I hold my daughter. I stare lovingly into her innocent eyes. My heart overflows with affection. I cradle her in my arms and stroke her hair. I speak:
You are precious.
You are beautiful.
You are strong.
You are special.
You are perfect.
You are mine.
I love your little grin.
I love your noises.
I love your face.
I love your heart.
I love your personality.
I will take care of you.
I will protect you.
I will make it all better.
I am your Mommy.
She peers deep into my eyes and listens. Once in a while, she grins, as if she understands that I’m speaking words of life into her soul. As I softly pour my heart out, she slowly closes her eyes and peacefully drifts to sleep. She knows she is loved.
And I sit and ponder the heart of my Heavenly Father.
He holds you, His daughter. He stares lovingly into your weary eyes. His heart overflows with affection. He cradles you in His arms and strokes your hair. He speaks:
You are precious.
You are beautiful.
You are strong.
You are special.
You are complete.
You are mine.
I love your little grin.
I love your questions.
I love your face.
I love your heart.
I love your personality.
I will take care of you.
I will protect you.
I will make it all better.
I am your Daddy.
He wants His affirming words to sink into our very core, but it’s hard to hear the quiet whisper of our Father over the rushing wind of our own self-doubt. We are struggling, squirming our way through life – trying to prove our worth and value. Today, if you stop and allow yourself to peer deep into God’s eyes and listen, you might find yourself smiling as you begin to understand that He is constantly speaking words of life into your soul. As He softly pours his heart out, you might just be able to slowly close your eyes and peacefully drift to sleep because You know you are loved.