Just a little distracted...

It was a Wednesday evening – choir practice had run a little late as we were preparing for the Christmas musical… it had been a glorious time of praise and preparation for the coming performance.  As I headed to the parking lot,  I was filled with wonder as I hummed the songs we'd just sang.  The closer I got to my car, the checking of my list of to do’s when I got home ramped up.  Maybe the girls would already be asleep, or at the very least in bed as Frank had taken them home earlier.  I got in the car and quickly backed out of my parking place.  Something caught my eye up in the window … oh look, there's Ginger, that very special childcare provider.  She was holding a sweet baby looking out into the starry sky… wow… its getting late, I realized.   I paused… just for a moment at that precious baby she was holding.  As I watched them gazing out into the night, I wondered if she might be sharing about that starry night when Jesus was born.  Maybe she was even gently singing Away in a Manger to that child she held with such tenderness.

Realizing I was wasting precious time, I continued backing out of my parking place...then with a slap in the face reality – I slammed on my brake, almost sending myself through the front windshield...  

That precious baby in the window...was MINE - waiting for me… and I forgot him… I almost left him at church…  I was his mother… how could I possibly be so distracted that I forgot him… He defined me… I was Clay’s mother – one of my most treasured roles…  As you can imagine, I ran into the church, up the stairs with breakneck speed, to greet him with such excitement and joy.  Thankfully, he was just a baby happy to see his (distraught) mother.

Friends, we can be and often are, defined by the roles we play – daughter, sister, mother, wife, grandmother, friend, employee, employer, girlfriend,  aunt, sister-in-law… and then all the added roles we take on… nurse, chauffeur, room mother, birthday party planner, counselor, accountant, nutritionist….

We are in the midst of the celebration of the birth of our Savior, and so often, we are so busy in the season, that we, most unintentionally, leave Him at church.  

You understand what I mean... we worship sincerely at church, and then the week begins... work, shopping, busyness, activities, responsibilities, school... It's not what we intended, we just allow circumstances to determine our day rather than first asking God to determine our response to our circumstances.

Often, we have arrived at December 26th, maybe the 27th, and talked seriously about the fact that next year we will do things differently.

So today... as you read this, will you join me in pausing for a moment to ask God to direct, to remind, to determine our focus in this day.

Simply following Hebrews 12:2
We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. (CEV)

Lysa Terkeurst writes of the prayer she begins her day with in her book, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, 

I want to see You.
I want to hear You.
I want to know You.
I want to follow hard after you.
And even before I know what I will face today, I say yes to You.

Black Friday meet Red Sea Rules

Not exactly a red and green Christmas title leading into December, right?  I've been studying with a group of ladies through the book, The Red Sea Rules, by Robert Morgan.  Mr. Morgan, using the passage from Exodus 14 as the Israelites were saved from the pursuing Egyptians by crossing the Red Sea on dry land, describes ten rules that he learned during a difficult time of decision in his life.

Front Cover

This week we are discussing rule 7 - "Envisioning God's enveloping presence".  This thought is based on Exodus 14:19-20:

 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night. (Exodus 14:19-20 ESV)

The angel of God who had been leading them moved behind them to protect them.  Morgan noted that the Lord is both a guide and a guard for His children.  

We did get out just a bit on Black Friday... there was quite a crowd.  I have to say... I wasn't exactly envisioning God's Enveloping presence around me.  I was seeing the crowd closing in on me several times...

Go with me just a minute - what if... we tried that... just for the month of December.  Wherever we are, whoever we are with, whatever happens... in the midst  of it - to imagine God's Enveloping presence.  So, when you walk into the Mall or any store, your thoughts, your actions, your reactions would be determined by God's enveloping presence - His thoughts... His perspective.

So, let's get practical... 
When you walk into the grocery store, look for someone to encourage. Better than that, ask God to show you someone to encourage.  

When you make a phone call that might be hard, ask God to direct your conversation.  

When you drive down the road, ask God to remind you of someone who needs your prayers.

When you walk into your job, ask God to give you purpose not only in your work, but with your coworkers.

When you rush into the store for that one more thing, ask God to slow you down enough to really see those around you.  

Your presence in our lives is a gift that we can share so readily.  Give us this week, this month... an awareness of Your presence enveloping us  so that we "act like people of the Light and make our light shine..."  (Ephesians 5:8-9), and that someone else's day may be just a little bit brighter.

Just change your name

Really, would you?  Change your name, I mean... you can, you know.  Susan means lily, that's what I've always been told.  I did a little google search, and, among other information, found this:

This name limits imagination and vision.

Well, that's great...I knew I wasn't creative... I've been telling people that for years... no wonder I'm not a Pinterest enthusiast.  Just maybe, that website I googled doesn't really define me.

My husband, Frank, is the 3rd in a line of Franks.  That shocking ultrasound in 1997 confirmed, that we would be adding a boy to our family of 3 girls.  As we begin to think about names, Frank was adamant about two things... 
1. He must have a one-syllable strong name.  (Remember our girls are Katie, Kellie and Mollie - all two-syllable names - not exactly sure who one-syllable is "stronger"... but I agreed to his request.)
2.  He was reasonably sure that his name would not be Frank IV.

So I agreed, and after much discussion, we determined Clay.  On August 4th, 1997 Clay was born and named Clay Ellis Wilder - all was very well.  About 3 months later, I began questioning that decision.  We should have named him after his dad, and his grandpa, and grandpa's dad.  What were we thinking?  This just isn't right.  In order to see how the name would actually fit, we began calling Clay - Frank or Frankie to determine if we could change his name.  We even spent that holiday season asking some of our family and friends to join us in the name switch.  With again... much discussion, much thinking and much prayer, we affirmed our decision to leave his name - Clay.  Thankfully, he was young enough that we didn't create an identity crisis as far as we know.

Naomi carried through her idea of name change.  She was Ruth's mother-in-law from the Old Testament.  
There was a famine in Bethlehem (where Naomi and her husband, Elimeleck - his parents weren't concerned about syllables...)
So they took their 2 sons and moved to Moab to live.
Elimelich died
Their two sons married Ruth and Orpah.
Their two sons died.
Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem.
Oprah stayed in Moab; Ruth traveled with Naomi.
Naomi changed her name from Naomi (pleasant) to Mara (bitter).

None of us would discredit her decision - she had experienced such loss, such difficulty, such grief.

Some days I'd like to change my name based on how I felt that day or on circumstances.

 Hey, ya'll, today, call me...

Tired... not much sleep last night.
Fearful... not sure how all "this" is going to work out
Joyful... those grand boys spent the night last night!   (maybe Joyful Tired)
Uncertain... which decision is best
Discouraged... that didn't go the way I had hoped
Overwhelmed... its just too much to process
Thankful... so very cared for

The rest of that story... Ruth married Boaz who was a gracious man - he took care of both Ruth and Naomi.  Ruth and Boaz had a son... they named him Obed... giving Naomi a grandson.  Now just let me tell you about grandsons - they bring joy, delight, pleasure, enjoyment... and so did Obed to Naomi.  "Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him."  

We know the rest of the story... Obed was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David... in the line headed to the birth of Jesus.  God's plan and God's timing are always His to determine and are always perfect.  My prayer today for you ... for me... is that we will be much more concerned about our obedience to His word than to our uncertainty in our circumstances.

So, for today... call me simply Trusting... and I will do my best, with prayer and petition, to wear that name well.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.  Proverbs 3:5-6.

Raise my Ebenezer... my what?

Christmas is coming ... 65 days from today to be exact.  I mentioned Ebenezer at a Bible study this week, and my friend asked with concern... Scrooge is in the Bible???  Well, not exactly.  She accepted Jesus as her Savior just a couple of months ago and hadn't yet hung out much in the Old Testament... she is learning every day!

Do you have one?  An official ebenezer?  When our family experienced the most challenging time of our lives, Frank was struggling with chronic back pain... there seemed to be no solution and no option to "manage" his pain.  Along with physical pain, there were numerous other painful factors... a seeming insurmountable loss of a place and ability to work, a place for our family to live, a place of identity, a place of financial rest... you understand.  We have all faced painful factors, haven't we?

Our "place to live" journey became clearly and totally dependent on God's provision and direction.  We could never have imagined how HE would offer to lead us - only God would provide for us to move 7 times in 3 1/2 years.  That is still unimaginable... in human terms.  I often lean to Isaiah 55 - "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord."

We knew He was directing... because the thoughts certainly weren't ours... and didn't make any sense in my thoughts.  Thus, creating one of my Ebenezers.

1 Samuel 7 is where you find the story.  I'll condense it a bit.  (I know many of you are giggling right out loud at the thought of me "condensing"  anything with words!?

So, our Israelites had gathered with fear.  The mighty Philistines were upon them.  Samuel prayed earnestly for the Lord to intervene.. and HE did.  The NIV Bible says, "But that day the LORD thundered loudly against the Philistines."  So the battle was won, and Samuel (and the Israelites) knew Who was responsible.

 Then Samuel got a big stone. He set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer. He said, “The Lord has helped us every step of the way.”

Samuel asked the Lord for help, the Lord helped, Samuel thanked the Lord and set a BIG stone... to remember HIS help.

So, at the end of our 3 1/2 year journey through seven houses, we needed a "stone" for which to remember and acknowledge the Lord's help... every step of the way.  My stone hangs on my wall, it is a big stone... I need "big" reminders... It measures about 4' by 5' and hangs in a conspicuous place in our home.  A picture of each house and the verse that God reminded me with over and over again. 

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  Ephesians 3:20-21

I have other Ebenezers - one is a stone with a date written on it... a date I hold to as a specific answer to a question that I needed to be answered - that one wasn't what I planned... most of them aren't ... in my experience.  One is a very small silver bell - reminding me of a specific time and direction from the Lord.

What about you?  The Lord helps us every day... no doubt, but I believe we need those tangible reminders, don't you?  Many of us love the song, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing", that speaks of raising our Ebenezer.  Chris Rice sings a gentle version of this hymn, 

Take a listen and thank Him for helping you thus far.  If you don't have one in place, would you consider what that physical reminder of your Ebenezer might look like?  

Would you share it with me... I would love to praise Him with you through your Ebenezer.  HE is worthy of all praise, glory and honor!!  And then, we have the privilege of sharing with others what a Great God we serve.  He is trustworthy... always!


 Thank you Father, 
"This marks the place where YOU helped us.” (The Message)

Am I "stiff-necked"? What about you?

Not the most popular question posed on a lazy Sunday afternoon...  and probably not the first, or even second question I might ask you if we grab a cup of coffee... I promise!

I've been studying through the Old Testament books of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy... and the word continues to pop up.  Those wandering Israelites. defines stiff-necked as having a stiff neck and also stubborn, obstinate, pig-headed.

Can you relate to having a stiff neck?  I sure can.  After my collision on the softball field with the ball, then the ground, my experience was intense.  Moving my neck even to the slightest degree seemed impossible, and at the very least - extremely painful.

So, let's move to the stubborn, obstinate, pig-headed...  my mind went immediately to a specific day and time.  We were visiting a pediatric endocrinologist.  Clay was extremely sick during his first year of life - we spent much time in and out of the hospital.  He was eighteen months old and wasn't growing, so we were again discussing with a doctor the next step for him.  In six months, according to the measurement just taken, he had gained less than 2 pounds, and his height had not changed.  I just kept shaking my head in disbelief... "I know the pants he has on right now are shorter than they were just a few weeks ago."  The discussion continued, and so did my certainty that the measurement must be incorrect.  The doctor assured me that the nurses were well-trained (and they were) and were aware of the gravity of the situation.  I relented, and the specifics of the coming process of daily shots for the next 15+ years resumed.  "No," I began again, "this can't be right.  Please could someone just measure again."  With gentle patience, the doctor agreed and simply grabbed the tape - I helped to be sure his legs were totally straight! :)  Looking back at his chart, her elation showed, he was measuring an inch and a half growth - still barely on the "official growth chart", but enough to table the discussion.   As many of you know with much prayer and nutritional advice, Clay finally resumed the path to health.  No shots... and many more of you that now, at 19, he measures about 73 1/2 inches... 6'1 1/2'.  That stubborn, stiff-necked momma (and dad) were right to be a bit pig-headed.

So back to my study in Exodus.  I looked up stiff-necked in a Bible dictionary and saw the definition a bit more intense... the word used is impenitent - meaning "not feeling regret about one's sin or sins; obdurate" - which means unmoved by persuasion...

As I studied the Israelites, I believe I realized something important about stiff necks.... they are always looking aside... or back - behind where they are, or just to the side... not focused on what (and WHO) is leading.
Maybe they didn't fully trust GOD... I get that.  
Maybe they didn't know HIM very well... I get that.  
Maybe they didn't want to go the way HE was leading... I get that.
Maybe they thought their plan was better or even made more sense... and I get that.

So if I "get" it, what do I do with "that"?  I'm in the midst of the study of Hosea, and Jennifer Rothschild has led us through a series of questions and thoughts relating ourselves to Gomer - you know the wandering wife of Hosea.  He continued to "go get her, to redeem her, to love her as the Lord loves the Israelites..."  One commentator notes that Gomer was 'clearly a high risk for a lasting relationship'.

Jennifer points out that the words, lie, pride, and sin have one letter in common... right in the center... "I".  So does the word, stIff...

So, how do you get "I" out of the middle?  I'm wishing there was a magic button here like the "easy" button for the office supply store.  Haven't found that yet.  What I have found is simply this.  

Ask for HIS help. 
 Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. Psalm 28:2
Read HIS word.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 
Psalm 119:11
Choose HIS way over my own.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Matthew 6:33
Turn my stiff necked heart and mind toward HIM.
Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
Psalm 119:36

Our Father,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, oh Lord, my Rock and Redeemer.

Plan or purpose...

When the question of Mary or Martha comes up, my "lack of official list-making and list-completing" lands me, by default, in the Mary camp.

Since organization challenges me, when the question is posed, which is more important - plan or purpose?  Purpose often defeats plan - based solely on my own inadequacies.

For several months this past spring, the question of future seemed to permeate numerous conversations.  Mollie was graduating from college, then two weeks later, Clay was graduating from high school.  Where will you get a job?  Where have you applied for a job?  Where will you live?  What will you do if you don't get a job?  Where do you want to go to college?  What do you want to do with the rest of your life, or at least, what do you want to major in?

Mary, Martha, purpose or plan, the rest of Clay's and Mollie's lives... what's the connection?  Well let's add one more Biblical component:

Let's travel  to the Old Testament ... In the first chapter of Joshua, Moses had died; God commissions Joshua as the new leader for the people.    Joshua 1:6-7 offer specific intention:

 Be strong and courageous, 
for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 
Only be strong and very courageous...

...  So Joshua's purpose is clear... lead the Israelites into the land that God had promised to them, had planned for them and had purposed in them - God's redemption.  Keep in mind these descendants of Abraham had been enslaved in Egypt for 400 years. 

So what was the plan?   First order of business was to cross the Jordan River - which just happened to be at flood stage, then there was that seemingly impassable wall around Jericho, followed by numerous battles with God's miraculous intervention at every turn.  The plan continued to unfold as the purpose guided.

The purpose clearly dictated the plan.  Back in Joshua chapter 1, God's plan for Joshua was clear, 
I will be with you. 
I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid.
Do not be discouraged,
I, the Lord, will be with you wherever you go. 

Joshua's purpose, our purpose, is simply obey God without fear, without discouragement, WITH assurance that He will be with us, He will never leave us.

Clay now attends the University of Louisville.   Mollie has a job at the school she loves.  But for the two of them, and all the rest of us, the "what" is much less important than the "why" or maybe even the "Who".  

Interestingly... Frank and I have challenged each other a few weeks ago to revisit/reread Rick Warren's, The Purpose Driven Life.  The first line of the first chapter reads, "It's not about you." 

God's purpose will not be thwarted - we are reminded in Job 42.  (Don't you just appreciate the word, thwarted!?)

I just love the book of Philippians in the New Testament.  Paul's words are both powerful and challenging.  For me, Philippians chapter 2 gives us the clearest picture of our purpose.... to look to Christ as our perfect model, and follow his perfect example... ultimately ALL for and to the glory of God... how we act, how we talk, how we treat others... how we live every day.

Verse 13 ... "for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose."

So, then comes the plan.  For today... I so appreciate the simplicity of verse 14 that follows...

Do everything without grumbling or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.

Just like Joshua, our plan will unfold: sometimes with absolutely clarity.  More often, the plan comes as we take the first, then the second step in the direction that the PURPOSE directs.

I wish it all were a simple dot to dot or A, B, C - 1, 2, 3 -- but I am learning purpose trumps plan every time... and the LIGHT of the world will illuminate the path as I choose to obediently follow.

And friends, let's walk without grumbling... even when we don't understand the direction...

... that's just Grandma

Many of you know how very thankful I am that 3 special boys call me MiMi.  This past week I was thankful to attend a time at each of their schools honoring grandparents.  So appreciative of two of those events in "my" honor that occurred at 7:15 AM... :) yes, that is early morning!   We enjoyed a yummy breakfast and a time to see each boy's classroom.  Corey, our youngest grandson, was to participate in his grandparents' time of honor in the afternoon with delicious donuts and a time to be introduced to all the purposeful play that he enjoys each day.  Not 100% sure I would be coming that afternoon, Corey rounded the corner where all the waiting grandparents anxiously anticipated the arrival of their precious one.  He surveyed the giddy crowd without recognizing a face for a moment - I waited quietly with anticipation as he glanced my direction - no double take needed... he  dropped the hand of his escort and sprinted with absolute certainty toward me.  There is no better greeting on this earth!

I'm so thankful that my kids have grown up not only knowing their grandparents but having the joy of their involvement in our lives.  My parents live several hours away, but every awards presentation, every ball schedule, every dance recital date and all other important events marked their calendar in the kitchen, and they attended many of those ongoing events.  Frank's parents lived in Louisville for several years when our children were young, offering to help out any way we needed.  One such day, I had an appointment that I had forgotten.  My mother-in-law agreed to pick Clay up at preschool - I would simply call his school and let them know she would be there to get him.  There she was, standing at the door, exactly where she supposed to be.  His teacher turned to Clay and said, "Oh, Clay, do you know who this is - is she your grandmother?"  Clay took a quick glance and returned to his block tower, then replied, "No... (teacher gasped with uncertainty)... she's not my grandmother, that's just Grandma.  I'll be ready in a minute - she won't mind to wait." :)

And I can tell you, I wouldn't mind a bit to wait as one of my grandboys finished his block tower either.

I have been reminded again this week of the patience that our Heavenly Father offers us... I wonder how many times just this week, I have asked... can you wait just a minute... I'll get right to you... only to become distracted again with the many block towers I felt I needed to build.

As I listened and sang along in worship this morning, I was overwhelmed with the thought and decision... I do so want to trust it all  - for all my days...  to God - to His plan.  That I really mean my life is in His hands.. my dreams and all my plans... every block tower I want to build..  all to His glory.

Oh Father, may my anticipation of all my tower building be preceded by my sprinting to You with absolute certainty that You will guide every placement of each block as I seek You first...

 But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.  Matthew 6:33 (Amplified Bible)

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.  Proverbs 16:9 (ESV) 

It's just pain

From the post I wrote on September 25, 2015...

"This is THAT post... the one I so would wish that you were at my kitchen table with Frank, me, and a full pot of coffee, so that you could just hear our hearts.  Would you just pause for a moment and ask the Lord to speak clearly to you through my words.  To the glory of God!

God IS good; God WAS good; God ALWAYS WILL be good.  In fact, we know and say God IS great; God WAS great; God ALWAYS WILL be great!

So here's what Frank would say to you:
My back doesn't hurt today.  It hasn't hurt for more than 3 weeks.  Praise the Lord!"

So, here we are today, September 4, 2016, almost a year has passed.  Today Frank would gently say to you... "My back hurts today.  It has been hurting for more than 3 months.  Praise the Lord!  Not because my back hurts again, but because HE is GOD, and He promised never to leave or forsake me, and HE never has and never will.
Again, I wish you were at my kitchen table today."

  We visited with some dear friends this week, and the question came to Frank about how he felt.  His response was quiet... "It's just pain..." and I know he means that.  As I write that, tears flow freely - tender.  I don't want Frank to hurt.  That's the way it should be, right - I so love him!  We are human, and we would like to be without pain, without sadness, without tears, without cancer, without heartache, without death, without ...

This a journey we have walked before - we can walk again - not on our own, but with our God.  Frank was 42 when we began the journey with pain - he's 55 now.  God has graciously walked with us 13 years in this "bend" in the river of our lives.  Pain doesn't and will not be allowed to define us - God tenderly defines us simply, as His children.  

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, 
that we should be called children of God.  And that is what we are. 1 John 3:1

Ephesians 5 gives us clearer definition... we are dearly loved children... His holy people. Thankfully, I know the family of God celebrates joys together and weeps in sorrows together.  We are overwhelmingly thankful to be in HIS family.

Will you just continue to pray with us - for each other... that God's purpose in our lives will be clear... that we will, in all circumstances, praise the Lord for His great gift of salvation and grace.

Frank will be healed - he will be pain-free... for eternity, just not today.

God gives, God takes,
God's name be every blessed.
Job 1:20 (The Message)

Eternity is forever... we are even more convinced that we want to and are commanded to share this good news with all - God made a way for ALL to live with Him forever.  Jesus is the answer - His sacrifice, His crucifixion, His resurrection - He is the way, the truth and the life.  We know it; we believe it, we strive to live according to it.

And ultimately, friends... we know...

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21:4

Well.. that was embarrassing - pull it together

A typical Saturday - my normal grocery shopping day.  No big deal - I had a list, a few coupons; wasn't even a rush.  Ran into a friend in the produce - a quick hello and how are you?
Continued on through the meat section, passed by the bread aisle, then the soups and canned vegetables... and then it happened.  I sure wasn't expecting it - I wasn't at all prepared for it - If I could just find my friend from the produce section, she could talk me through it...
Just like every other week for the past 25 years or so... I reached for the blue box... the blue box of macaroni and cheese... and just as soon as my hand grasped the box, I felt that moment when you just know this is going to get ugly... FAST.  Hold it together, Susan, take deep breaths, think good thoughts.  It began as just a gulp, push that crazy feeling down in your gut!  This monster of emotion simply overtook me.  The gulp became a sniffle... the sniffle become a quiet tear... the quiet tear become a sob... and the sob became an out of control... trying to control... which made it even more out of control... sputtering, noisy, embarrassing wail.

The older lady riding the scooter approached me.  I had helped twice already... once finding 'baby' sweet peas - not those big mushy one; then on the next aisle as she couldn't reach the bowtie pasta on that high shelf.  She gently scooted closely and asked, "Honey, are you okay?"

"Yes  ma'am,"  I managed, "It's just.... just... (another dramatic sob).. it just that I'm not buying macaroni and cheese today - I DON'T NEED IT!"

She didn't quite get it, so I gained a bit of composure and tried to quickly explain that my last child had left for college three days earlier, and for the first time in a very long time, I didn't need to buy macaroni and cheese.  She giggled a little, and simply said, "Oh, dear, you will have many more times to buy and cook that macaroni and cheese - you better keep a box in your pantry... "

Well, of course she was right.

But can I just tell you, I certainly did not expect to have an embarrassing, empty nest, sad momma moment in the pasta aisle at the grocery store!!  Like some of you that have moved a child (and, yes they are children!!) to college in the past few weeks, I've read many of the "how to let your child go",  "how to allow your child to grow up", "how to help your child adjust to independence" and "how to keep the lines of communication open" articles.  They are all helpful.

As I finished putting the groceries away at home on Saturday afternoon, I had a few moments to think through the day, the week, the year, the chapter.  Frank and I have been parenting a child in our home for almost 30 years.  We have taught, we have disciplined, we have parented okay, we have offered thanks, we have parented poorly, we have apologized, we have advised, we have challenged, we have encouraged, we have laughed, we have cried, we have sobbed, we  have cheered, we have prayed... and the truth is... many of those "we haves" will continue... but more than anything now, we will pray... for our children, for their friends, for our grandchildren, for all those we have the privilege of influencing.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ... Philippians 1:9-10

 So, if you see some 50something lady sobbing in the mac and cheese aisle, just smile and tell her to buy it anyway...

and then we may or may not have spent the rest of the afternoon watching home movies...

Joy in THIS journey

I watched Ashley grow up.  A few months ago we were chatting over a little color and cut - (she graciously takes care of my hair)  Of course the conversation turned to McKinley.  McKinley is their daughter - she and Evan.... officially their daughter just a few weeks ago.  Joy unspeakable.  Tell me the story again, I pleaded.  She knew that I was preparing for a conference - Joy in the Journey. Well, you know, she began, I wasn't experiencing much joy... as a matter of fact, I was experiencing just the opposite: feelings of abandon, defeat and depression.  When she and Evan married, they expected to start a family immediately.

"I always considered myself a glass half full and positive gal, but honestly my cup was running on empty.  Sad, angry... angry at myself, angry at my body that wasn't working; questioning was God punishing me.  Several miscarriages brought despair to a new depth.  I stayed home from church, stayed away from prayer, seemed to be just existing.  I found myself in the middle of an honest conversation with someone I barely knew.  I caught myself in mid-sentence - thinking - if I were the one listening to this... I would run form this negative, defeated person.  All I heard was:
 I... I... I...
I am angry... 
I am depressed... 
I can't have children...  
With all those "I"s, I realized I was the problem.  So I found myself asking who does God say I am?  Were my words, my thoughts, my actions pleasing to Him and indicative of who He created me to be?  

My Heavenly Father reminded me of who He was - trustworthy, loving, deliverer, the Giver of so many blessings in my life.  In a prayer of desperation, I asked God to forgive me for doubting His plan, to forgive me for not trusting Him and to forgive me for not living in joy He provided.  During this time, I came across the verse I now try to live by, Romans 12:12 - "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." These are now the words I repeat.

The call came to the receptionist at our church, "Do you know anyone who wants a baby?"  Ashley's mom just happened to be within earshot.  That evening Evan and Ashley drove to the hospital and met a desperate mom looking for help.  After some discussion, she agreed to terminate her rights if they would adopt McKinley.  Two days later they drove away from that hospital, and that baby girl has never been out of their sight.  

Ashley's words, "I had a baby girl in my arms that would forever call me 'mom'.  God is real and always present in our circumstances.  God graciously bestowed this miracle to me in the form of a precious baby girl.  He clearly taught me that we can't find joy in ourselves or our circumstances, but only in and through Him.  He is faithful.

Many of us would agree that our circumstances, in and of themselves, rarely offer joy.  Clearly the Bible states in Hebrews 12:2-3:
For the joy set before him he endured the cross,
 scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Our joy comes through the hope we have in Jesus as He endured the cross with its shame for our salvation!  Thanks be to God the Father -  We have this hope and joy in our journey!

What do we do?

We are valued - we are all valued... 
not because of what we say...
but because of what God says...

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; and God blessed them.  And God saw everything that He had made, and behold  it was very good.  Genesis 1

We are valued - we are all valued... 
not because of what we do...
But because of what God did...

For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

We are valued - we are all valued... 
not because of how we respond...
But because of how Jesus showed us to respond...

Jesus replied:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Matthew 22:37-39 

Dear friends, like yours, my heart is heavy for our nation, for our people, for families that are mourning today.  What do we do?  What can we do?  Where do we turn?  Never do I believe a trite answer of... just pray... is appropriate.
What I firmly believe is the unmistakable answer is ... we MUST pray.  I've just finished reading the book of Daniel... you know the stories - the lions' den, the fiery furnace... the 10 days of only eating vegetables...

As I read through these 12 chapters, there is certainly an intentional thread that runs through Daniel's life... he simply MUST pray.

He prayed consistently in times of mundane, in times of uncertainty, in times of desperation, in times of fear, in times of thanksgiving... He prayed.

All that we read about Daniel... I would categorize him in the righteous group, for sure.  He was obedient to God, he was seeking God, he was faithful.

Daniel prayed in chapter 9 for God's forgiveness.  His people had sinned, had turned from God, had been wicked, had not listened.  Daniel's prayer is powerful... for his wise words, for his fervent thinking, but what has gripped me more that any of that... His humility.  

"Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, WE have sinned and one wrong.  WE have been wicked and have rebelled; WE have turned away from your commands and laws...

Would you join me in praying from Daniel's words in Daniel chapter 9:3-18 - 
realizing our circumstances are not the same... but realizing OUR need for the understanding of God' love and our response through repentance are... 

Daniel 9:3-18English Standard Version (ESV)

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you.To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. 12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us,[a] by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lordour God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord,[b] make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.