Who Knew? Glad I didn’t.

Last year our family celebrated Christmas in Germany. We spent time with our son-in-law’s family who lives there, holding hands around the dinner table as we prayed. We toured Hanover and the Christmas market, rubbing elbows with happy strangers. We gathered in packed cathedrals and sang worship hymns.

“The World is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”― J.R.R. Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring)

No masks. No social distancing. No fear or thoughts of catching a deadly disease.

I’m glad I didn’t know a world-wide pandemic would hit us like a tsunami in 2020. I’m glad I could live in the moment. Clueless to the new normal that would change life as we knew it.

I’m glad I rang in the New Year and hugged my folks in Texas without worrying that I’d unknowingly expose them to a disease I may or may not have. I’m thankful I didn’t know I wouldn’t see them again until November.

In early February, my husband and I flew to Georgia to celebrate our grandson’s first birthday. If you’d told me that our traveling days were over, our church services would Have to stop meeting in person, we’d rarely (if ever) see our friends, and I’d have to stop cooking/serving the homeless–I wouldn’t have believed you.

When I attended our local theater to watch a play in early March, I didn’t know that live theater would disappear indefinitely. School, sports, and ALL outdoor events like our county fair would be canceled.

Thank goodness I didn’t know in January 2020 that …

My prayer list for sick, dying, depressed, and unemployed people would grow longer.

My 15-year-old kitty would have to be euthanized.

My son-in-law’s parents wouldn’t be able to travel to the U.S. to visit.

One of my family members would need to move in with us.

My mask would become a new accessory, hand sanitizer my new lotion, and toilet paper a thing to be hoarded. The list goes on and on. Right?

But today is December 1, and I’m decorating my house for Christmas with more fanfare than normal. For everything bad that happened, I have a gratitude journal and a blessings jar to remind me of everything good that happened this past year. For one thing, my 89-year-old dad survived a major heart attack. My mom couldn’t even go into the hospital to be with him.

I get to choose each day how I see my cup. Half-full or half-empty? But I prefer to see my cup as full and overflowing because my attitude is the ONLY thing I can control. And our attitude affects our emotions and how we respond to this pandemic.

I’m especially thankful that when I don’t know what’s around the corner….God knows. He’s not only waiting on the other side, He’s with me in this moment. He’s shown me the things that I thought were important ain’t so important after all. God’s also stretching my stiff-neck ways to make me more pliable, and toning my flabby faith muscles so I’ll trust Him more.

God has a bigger plan for my life and yours. He’s not concerned about our happiness and entertainment as much as our character and the salvation of our souls. God wants us to love others and show mercy. He wants us to seek Him rather than His gifts.

Who knows. Events in 2021 might make 2020 look good. But for everything I don’t know about tomorrow, I Do Know that God Doesn’t Change.

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins (1 John 4:9-10)

One day we will see our Savior face to face. “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!” (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus).

Until then, the Lord is our anchor. Our hope. And all the more reason to celebrate this Christmas with renewed focus on what matters most! Faith in the risen Savior, Family. Friends.

How are you coping with this pandemic especially during the holiday season?

Photos: K. Foster

Are You Grieving This Season?

I wrote this three years ago. I still think about the families who lost loved ones that year. And this December, I know several more families who are in the midst of grief. I pray these words encourage someone’s heart.

Even In This

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There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on.”

Thus sings a young man (in the musical Les Miserables) after his friends have died in battle. And it was these heart-wrenching lyrics from the song Empty Chairs, Empty Tables that echoed in my mind as I drove to the airport a few days before Christmas.

Although I was over-the-moon excited to hug my son who was coming home for the holidays, my heart mourned for two moms who will never hug their sons this side of heaven.

A week earlier, their eighteen-year-old sons were killed in a vehicle accident while driving in our town. I didn’t know the young men. Never met the families. But my heart still aches like an open wound whenever I think of them; pray for them.

Sadly, they’re not alone this Christmas season. I have several friends who celebrated…

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Which Voice Do You Believe?

 

depression-1250897_640You know how it’s difficult to taste food when we have a head cold? Well, my horrible health during the winter months affected my senses. I could taste and see the Lord’s goodness in my friends’ gifts to me: cards, meals, prayers, visits. But I couldn’t feel God’s presence or hear His voice.

I might have cried, “God, why have you forsaken me?” But two things helped me tread the deep waters while I waited for my good health—and a renewed spirit.

1). I can’t trust my emotions, but I can trust God.

My mentor/friend, Loretta, once said, “I can’t count on my emotions when I’m feeling low.”

True. I’ve seen how my negative emotions make it impossible to think clearly. They can also steer me down a destructive path. Pity party. Hopelessness. Spiritual lethargy. Does anything good come from viewing life as a half-empty cup? Or questioning God’s goodness?

I learned to trust God back when I had three miscarriages. Satan (father of lies) took advantage of my grief. He filled my mind with doubts about God’s love for me. He accused me of being unworthy. Grief spiraled into despair. I had to sort through my emotions and identify the lies. And then, I renewed my mind with God’s truth.

I’m glad I learned that lesson because this year, when God seemed silent while I lay ill, I refused to trust my emotions or listen to the enemy’s lies. Instead, I trusted God’s character and His promises.

Throughout scripture, the Lord tells His children: Do not be afraid. I am with you. You are mine. You are loved.

I choose the voice I listen to.

2). I can’t manufacture spiritual highs, but I can believe God.

Being ill is part of the human experience. I was willing to endure anything if only I could sense God’s comforting presence. I prayed for His peace and joy to buoy my spirits while my body healed. I read Psalms. I listened to praise music. But for all my efforts, I could not manufacture that mountain top high, or afterglow, that comes from spending time with God.

So I stopped trying so hard to hear God’s voice. If I didn’t have the energy to walk, or the ability to concentrate, then I needed to give my spirit permission to rest. And be comfortable with God’s silence. Knowing this too shall pass.

Spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible reading are opportunities to meet with God and hear His voice. But God doesn’t ask us to jump through hoops (or bust a gut) to get His attention. He sees us. He knows our name. He knows when our health suffers.

God says, “Believe.” Believe I’m present. Believe I love you. Believe I can use all things (even the silence) for your good and My glory.

Which voice do I believe?

Who do you listen to and believe when you’re going through a trial?

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Do You Believe God when He’s Silent?

Life happens. One Saturday, I’m hosting a baby shower for my pregnant daughter. My heart bursting with joy. Monday, a week later, I’m in the hospital with a heart monitor tracking my pulse. Extensive tests showed one of my arteries needed a stent.

“Not fair!” I whined. “I did all the right things. Ate healthy. Exercised. Didn’t smoke. Kept my weight down. I can’t believe this is happening.”

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When the shock wore off, I said, “Could be worse! Thank God, He showed me a problem before I had a major heart attack.”

Life got worse.

Angioplasty went fine, but another health issue plagued me. Thanksgiving and the Christmas season came and went without fanfare while I languished. Unable to travel and be with family, I stayed home with my husband, wondering what the new year would bring. Would I be healthy in time to travel for the birth of our first grandchild?

Every week, there were doctor appointments and medical tests. Every day, I woke up nauseous and faced my demons including fear, anxiety, despair.

I didn’t ask God why I was ill. I could point to people worse off than me. But, I did ask when will this be over? Will I ever get well?

Like the sick woman in the crowd who reached out and touched Jesus’ cloak, I’d raise my hands to heaven and pray for healing. However, I also prayed God would use my circumstances to teach me His lessons and change me.

I didn’t realize how long the lessons would take.

Two months is a long time to wait for healing and wonder if you’ll ever feel healthy again. I had to rest. Pray for patience. Contentment. God’s peace.

I had to let go and submit to whatever God allowed in my life if it was for my good … because sometimes a person’s heart needs more than a stent to make it healthy.

During those long winter nights, and grey rainy days, I’d listen to praise music. I’d count my blessings. I’d read my Bible. Hoping to sense God’s presence and experience His joy.

I was doing all the “right things,” but the joy of the Lord alluded me, despite my willingness to physically suffer if only my heart could sing.

Even worse—-God was silent. I could not sense His comfort or presence no matter how hard I tried.

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The only thing I could do when my emotions flatlined was to TRUST God’s promises. “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

I had to BELIEVE God was with me and ignore my feelings. Knowing physical pain effects my mood and emotions. Knowing the enemy loves to make me believe God doesn’t care.

Like the Apostle John, I’d lean into Jesus’ bosom. I’d envision His arms holding me, carrying me when I had no energy to walk.

“Without faith, it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Faith to endure. To trust Him no matter what.

Was that the lesson I needed to learn?

A week ago, a few hours prior to another medical procedure, I was inundated by people’s text messages and emails. They asked about my health, told me they were praying. Many of them didn’t know about my procedure. So I knew the Lord had laid me on their hearts to encourage me.

When I left home for the hospital, I also received a card in the mail from a new-found friend who wrote, “Pain–it’s hard to endure, but He is with you.”

I pressed the card to my heart. Joy bubbled inside me. For the first time in two months, I felt God’s tangible presence. For I knew in the depths of my stent-filled heart, the Spirit of God had roused His saints and used them to show me,

He Cares and is with me…even in this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank God, I’m Sick

“Thank God, I’m sick.”

I’m laying in bed with a tissue in one hand and a cup of peppermint tea in the other. The room smells like Eucalyptus oil. I’ve been housebound for two weeks.

Sadly, I’m not alone. Every time my cell phone beeps, someone is asking for prayer concerning their health. Toothache, flu, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, miscarriage. When I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself, I remember to pray for other people’s health.

Mostly, I’ve been learning to thank God in everything—even when I woke at 2 a.m., hacking till I thought I’d spit up blood. “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Oh, I know how to be a pollyanna—an optimistic character. I’ve learned to look for the silver lining. When a tree fell on our fence this spring, I thanked God the tree didn’t fall on our house. When I got sick, I thanked God for medicine, health insurance, and a husband to bring me tea. I thanked God I didn’t have pneumonia. But, if I thank God in every circumstance, shouldn’t I thank Him that I’m sick?

I know God can use all things for my good and His purposes, but thanking Him for being ill sounds ridiculous, right? However, I’m here to say thanking God this past month (even prior to my illness) has made a difference.

When we went to our son’s college commencement ceremony outdoors, it was raining. I had to wear a poncho over my new dress and walk in sandals over a squishy wet lawn. “Thank you, Lord, for the rain.”

Was I thankful? Not really. Did I sound sarcastic? Yep.

Thanking God in everything requires obedience before there are results. The day after commencement was so hot and humid that, given the choice, I was grateful we’d sat in the cool, drizzling rain rather than squinting and fanning ourselves in the sun.

However, what if we don’t see the positive in hindsight, other than, it might have been worse. Well, when the bad germs first hit me and I felt like road kill, I couldn’t see anything positive. My first instinct was to grumble, “No, spare me.” Then I remembered to thank God in everything. I forced myself to say, “Thank you, Lord, I’m in pain. Thank you for this horrific cough.”

Just saying the words, “Thank you,” put my eyes on God. He knows I’m ill. I know He cares. Thanking God for being sick has kept me from grumbling. How do you thank someone and grumble at the same time? And not grumbling keeps me from having a pity party.

Now, if I’d been ill during my son’s graduation, I’d probably be singing a less thankful tune. But, based on my God lessons and quizzes thus far, I can honestly say:

Being thankful doesn’t change the weather. I’m sick whether I thank God or not. And yet, thanking God in everything does make a difference … even in this.

 

Photos: Pixabay

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