Waiting

Waiting rooms aren’t much fun. I know. I’m in one right now. There are few seats left in this one and yet more and more arrivals.

I hear the sounds of lots of cheerful conversation going on around me as I type.

A quick scanning of the faces tells me that not everyone is cheerful. Some of these faces are worried. Some are thoughtful or introspective in appearance. There are a lot of cell phones out for updates and games, emails, work…but mainly, they’re out for distraction.

No one likes to wait. Even when you’re used to it. No one.

My own odd entertainment comes as I type this and receive a text from a friend in another state–and another hospital!–to me know that they are prepped…and waiting. (Insert a very small wry grin here!) God is funny that way sometimes​.

We’re all waiting for something. Whether you’re in a hospital or not doesn’t make much of a difference in that. Answers to emails, phone calls, or prayers; waiting for the weekend, the vacation, or just for the coffee to make or the microwave ding, waiting happens to all of us.

So, what do we do with that? What can we learn and share? What can we accomplish while we wait? The answers are as varied as the individual.

I choose to pray and be reminded of this:

“But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

Grace and Peace while you wait today!

Day 22–NCN2016

As I’ve prepared to write the blog posts this month, I’ve read research about how complaining affects our brains and thought patterns, our health, the people around us, and a LOT of people’s opinions about it. There are quotes and videos, books and memes all over the internet. Resources are seemingly endless on this subject because, well, sometimes the complaints apparently seem so, as well.

Most of the recommendations in these resources, however, can be adequately summed up in just a few words, like: “Don’t do it!”  and “Stop!”  and “This is not a healthy life choice!” There are all kinds of different reasons behind each article, book, or quote, but this one little quote seemed to sum it up best for me:

“The hammer never complains of the noise.”  ~Marty Rubin

I love that! In fact, I stopped looking for quotes after I saw that one. It is, to me, the epitome of what this challenge is all about. If we are to really make a difference with this challenge, we’ll need to do more than just watch what we say.

We need to become agents of change and people of action. See something wrong? Make it right. Don’t like the way it’s done? Speak up with a solution or, at the very least, open the door for a conversation about how to improve it!

We all have our pet peeves. One of mine is negativity/ingratitude. One of my husband’s is to complain without posing a solution. To pose a solution, you have to look past the irritation and think for yourself instead of about yourself. It means you become the hammer.

Those who are busy working on it rarely have time to complain about it.

 

Which one are you: the hammer or the noise?img_1583

Think about that as we go through these last few days of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER. Make your time in this challenge count for more than one month out of the year. Become a person of influence! Change the world where you live…for the better…and for all of us.

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

 

Taco Bed Becky

SONY DSCGod started teaching me very early in life about change. My parents were foster parents. From that day when I got off the bus from first grade to find that I suddenly had two older sisters, I began to realize that change was a part of life and people would be coming and going from then on in it. Actually, I got the part about their coming into my life that day…the part about them leaving it didn’t really sink in until later.

My extended family wasn’t Ward and June Cleaver stable. They were more Smokey Mountain stable–rock solid and comfortably immovable, beautiful and a little bit wild around the edges, full of the kind of surprises that make you glad to be there and happy to be a part of it. They were big in number and in stature, loud in laughter and with a work ethic that just wouldn’t quit–everything from hoeing corn to shelling peas, picking up sticks for a bonfire, playing softball or badminton,and seeing who could find the best hiding place was a contest that ended in a good-natured joke. In my innocence, I didn’t realize everyone didn’t have that kind of stability.

Because we lived out in the country with no street lights (easier to make sure you weren’t being followed), my parents took in children from emergency rescue situations as well as some who stayed with us for years. I lost count of the number of times I rolled over in the morning to find a face I didn’t know looking back at me. As the foster children began to come in and out of our home, I learned the value of stability in life and how it was our responsibility to give that gift to each one for as long as they were with us. There were no favorites in the house–the rules were the same for all of us. For some, it was the first time they had ever experienced that kind of love. For us, it was just normal. Stability in fragments. It’s quite a concept.

Somewhere along the way, I managed to get a bit mixed up about the concept of stability, however. I truly didn’t mind the additional people in the house–I was used to large numbers of children because I had a WORLD of cousins and all the neighborhood kids were regularly in our yard, anyway. I was ok with change…as long as it didn’t involve ME or my stuff. Everything had a place and was in it. Woe to the one who moved it.

I began to set such store on keeping “things” as they had always been that I actually pitched one of the biggest fits you’ve ever seen when my parents were finally able to purchase a new mattress for me and my sister. Our old one was pitiful. We would roll to the middle and the edges would creep up a bit like a taco every night. My parents were doing a good thing in trying to change it, but you’d have thought they were trying to kill me from the ruckus I made. They prevailed. We got the new mattress…and the world did not end. We actually slept better. Change. It happens…and sometimes, it’s for the good, I thought then…as long as there isn’t too much of it. (grin/grimace)

I thought about that this morning as I stood over my sink looking out into the rain-soaked yard. My life has been chock-full of change now for as long as I can remember. Over and over, I’ve had to re-learn the taco-bed lesson as God has moved people and places and things all over my world. We’re facing a lot of it right now. You probably are, too. People we love are ill or hurting and the number of situations about which we have no control in our lives mounts daily. It makes the stability of relationship with God even more important. He has no favorites and the rules are the same for all of us…whether we follow them or not.

All of this “disruption” makes me glad He already knows what’s going on and what is to come. I trust Him to do the right thing for me…even if it makes me uncomfortable for awhile. As I mentally ran through a list of changes we and our loved ones are facing right now, I suddenly asked God to please not let me be Taco Bed Becky–hanging on to those things that need to change in order for His best to be evident in our lives. I’m so grateful that He is my stability among the fragments. I need that today.

And I’ll be praying that for you, too.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (HCSB)

Ahhhh, stability…without stagnation. Now, there’s a concept.

Grace & Peace!

 

 

Preaching to the choir…and myself

There is absolutely nothing super-spiritual about getting bad news or watching loved ones suffer. Yes, it IS an opportunity for more prayer and yes, it is another opportunity for those around you to see your faith in action, but in truth, it will also wear you out.

I know this from experience…both personally and from friends who are also currently experiencing similar situations. We’re all well aware of the promises made in Scripture and we know almost every verse that tells about God’s greatness and His goodness and His plans for us. Yes, we know all of that and still…honestly, there are still days that we’d just like to skip to the end of the movie, to understand the plan, and be done with it all so we can go back to our “regular” life where it is all good and easy and safe…and sometimes you can’t.

So, what do we do on those days when our prayers feel futile? Pray anyway.

And when the promises feel like they’re for everyone else? Claim them anyway.

And what about those days when we’re tired of doing those things and it doesn’t seem like we’re ever going to get a break? Praise Him anyway, yell for a friend, and pray with them–and for them because, most likely, they need it, too.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said, “If He never blesses me again, then I’m still the most blessed person I know.” I’m serious. It’s true…and yet we never really expect God to stop blessing us, so–on at least one level–it’s also a little bit disingenuous. SO…on these days when it’s hard to see the good and we’re all just tired of it and ready for some “normal” again? What do we do then?

We get to choose to live what we know instead of what we feel. We get to go deeper than the tired and further than what we can see right in front of us. We get to LIVE HIM and remember this:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  ~Lamentations 3: 21-24

And while we wait for morning, we are

Still standing.

Still praying.

Still trusting.

Still hoping.

Still expecting great things from our great God.

The Talk

Author’s note: Last evening I was given the privilege of being one of four speakers at the Ladies’ Night Out Advent dinner at our new church. (Well, we’ve been here for several months now, so maybe it isn’t really new anymore.) Anyway! We each had a topic assigned to us that fit in with the Advent theme. I was given the topic of Hope. Because the majority of my friends and family live elsewhere and were unable to attend, I was asked to share here what I shared last night. Those who have walked this journey with us and prayed so diligently for us will recognize that this is very much the pared-down, bare-bones version of our story…but seriously, I only had about 10 minutes, so I tried to fit in as much of it as I could. God is SO good, so very faithful, and regardless of whether or not those of you who will hear/read this for the first time understand this, I am STILL the most blessed person I know–mainly because I’ve been blessed to know my God in such personal ways. I don’t wish our story on anyone else, but I certainly would wish what we’ve learned about our God and His faithfulness for each of you. I hope that this will encourage you to seek to know Him more intimately and that it will spark an Advent-attitude that will stay with you throughout the coming of the season and celebration of the Coming of the Christ.

SONY DSCHOPE

My topic is Hope. I’m telling you that up front because some of what I will share later doesn’t sound very hopeful at times.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord and He was high and lifted up and the train of His robe filled the temple…” That’s the start of the 6th chapter of Isaiah. While those first 7 words sound pretty mild when you just read through them, Isaiah’s words had a far different story to tell.  It was a time of loss, shock, and grief; a time of unknown outcomes, a time of chaos and changed plans. Things had been going so well for God’s people…and then disaster struck.

It is safe to assume that almost everyone in this room has had at least one such experience. For us—my husband Mike and I—it started in October of 1997. It had already been a big year for us. I had changed jobs, we had moved and he had required surgery. We got that out of the way and proceeded with our plans.

You see, I’m a planner. I’m generally well-organized and I tend to think ahead. Up to that point in my life, things had pretty much gone according to the schedule I’d set for myself when I was just about 12 or 13. My plan was “simple”:  High school, college, grad school, leave MS and find a job in Atlanta, find the man I would love forever, get married, settle down and make sure the careers were established so that by the time we’d be married for 5 years, we would have a stable home and be ready to have children. Easy, right?! So far, so good.  Everything was on schedule…until we were about 5 months away from our 5th anniversary.

Too many details to go into led up to a quick and slightly panicked Thursday night trip to our local ER with the possibility of heart symptoms where they declared Mike’s heart to be “functioning just fine…but there’s something near it on the x-rays that we need you to get checked out.” Four days later, he was told that it was almost 90% certain that he had cancer…and our normal suddenly vanished.

They weren’t wrong. It was cancer, wrapped around his heart and extremely aggressive.  According to x-rays , it had more than doubled within the past 5 months…and it had been missed on the x-rays prior to his earlier surgery. Because of the location of the tumor, he was told that with treatment, his chances for survival were less than 30%; without treatment—less than 15%.

We did everything right that was within our power. We had great Drs. We had the elders of our church anoint him with oil and pray. He was on prayer lists literally around the world and so we began the adventure God had chosen for us instead of the plans we had made. There were many extremely difficult days. It was during this time that I managed to have the absolute worst day of my entire life.

At the end of what had been an ugly-long and beyond-challenging day, I stood in my living room and I felt that on that day, I had not managed to do a single thing to make a positive difference on any front. I was so tired I hurt. I wasn’t a good wife. I wasn’t a good employee. I couldn’t fix my husband and I couldn’t make anyone (including me!) do what they were supposed to do with the great attitude that I just knew that God expected us to have. Looking back on it now, I realize that I was exhausted because I had taken on God’s job to “fix things”. I was trying to make things as perfect as I could for everyone else in my life so that they wouldn’t be inconvenienced by what was happening to my plans…and quite frankly, for perhaps the first time in my life, my best just wasn’t going to be good enough.

As I stood there with tears rolling down my face in utter defeat, I remembered a verse I’d read long ago. I was so tired that I couldn’t begin to think about where the verse could be found, but deep within my soul, I heard it out loud…just a thread (maybe from the Psalms?) that reminded me that God inhabits the praises of His people. I needed Him more than I ever had before, but I couldn’t begin to think where to start on a praise list, so I just stood there and sang. I started with a song we’d learned at our previous church home: “We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord!”

In the beginning, my version wasn’t very loud and it wasn’t joyous and it wasn’t even very pretty, but all of a sudden I understood that song in a brand new way. Sometimes praising God IS a sacrifice. Sometimes praising Him doesn’t feel natural. Sometimes it isn’t even fun, but when you do what God says even when it doesn’t make any sense, He still honors the obedience. Standing there, I made the deliberate choice to praise Him even though…no matter what…because I needed Him and I needed Him to show up. And you know what?  He did. He showed up and gave me comfort.  He gave me strength. He reminded me that I was His and that I was not alone. He reminded me that HE was in charge and that He had a plan…and it was for my good whether it looked or felt like it right then or not. In short, He gave me hope.

Over the next year, we became the poster children for hope to people we didn’t even know. God used our Drs to send us to places we had never seen…ostensibly for treatments, but in fact, because God knew there were people there who were hurting and they needed some hope. Sometimes, they called or came looking for us—even at work! Sometimes God’s Name was never even spoken, but we were both given opportunities to share our story and our peace and help fellow patients, spouses and family members find better or more practical ways to handle their own similar news.

This past August, we celebrated Mike’s 15th year of being completely cancer-free! He is living proof that God is able to do whatever He chooses. So, why am I sharing something that happened all those years ago with you tonight? I do so because our battles didn’t end there. In fact, they had just begun. Within 6 months of his being declared cancer free, Mike was part of an economic downsizing at his company and we lost his job. God—in evidence of His never-ending humor sent us back to MS–to my very own home town I’d been so determined to leave, and where there were no jobs in my field! He kept us in place there for almost 15 years. Again, not part of my plan at all, but definitely part of His.

While the treatments were successful, they also meant the end of our ability to have children naturally and because of Mike’s medical history, we were not considered as viable candidates for adoption.  Additionally, within the past year and a half, he has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure which we are told is the much-delayed, but direct result of the very treatments that God used to keep him here. We will go this coming Friday for another surgical procedure to help him manage some of the possible side effects of our current challenge.

Through it all, God has remained faithful and allowed us to use our faith and our experiences to help others and point them to Him. While it is often tempting to ask “WHY ME?” in times of difficulty, we’ve chosen to ask a different question: “Why NOT us? Who better to show the world that God is real, in control and that He is still on the throne–that Joy and HOPE are more than possibilities, they are a REALITIES!–than two of His children going through whatever He chooses to send their way?

You see, we already have the Hope of Christ inside of us! We get to CHOOSE to access it, CHOOSE to display it, and CHOOSE to share it! No matter what else we face, no one can take that away from us! We get to have HOPE no matter what we face because HE is our hope.

Isaiah said, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord and He was high and lifted up and the train of His robe filled the temple…”

I say, “In the times of shock and pain and trauma and through the death of many dreams—in the changing of all my plans—on the good days and on the bad ones and on the in-between days, too—EVERY SINGLE DAY–I SEE the Lord and He is high and lifted up and the train of His robe fills the temple…and He gives me hope.”

So now what?

I wrote a blog post last week that got quite a response. It garnered such response because, at some point, every single person who read it has had one of those hard days. It’s a pretty universal experience.

The post was shared and passed around and commented on and several people who love me reached out to me asking how they could pray for me after they read it. I can’t tell you how much that touched me. Truly, the fact that they were praying was the most helpful thing they could have done at the time, but honestly, I couldn’t share many of the details that went into the need for writing that post. Why? Because a lot of it just wasn’t my story to tell…and that’s still the case today.  Here’s what I can tell you:

Those stories belong to the families of the four (yes, 4!) people who died within 48 hours of that posting and the six (yes, 6!) personal relatives who were dealing with painful, life-threatening or life-changing health issues…and the multitude of friends and family members who were joined in prayer across the globe for each of them. That’s a lot to deal with and although none of it happened in my house, the calls for prayer came in here and the needs were felt here because I love each and every one of those people who called or emailed or expressed their pain or loss in person.

So now what?

I’m a bit analytical (yes, I just heard the snorts of laughter from several friends) and I serve a God who does nothing without purpose (yes, I just heard that bunch of amens, too!), so I started looking for what I was supposed to learn in all of this world of hurt that happened. Here’s what I know for sure about why all of that pain and loss was necessary

 

(silence…lots of silence…crickets chirping in the background kind of silence…and then more silence…)

 

Nothing. Just like Sergeant Schultz, I know nothing. I have absolutely no clue why those lives were lost and why that kind of pain was necessary. God didn’t share any of that with me. So now what?

Here’s what I saw when I started looking at the lives that were lost:

I knew two of the people who died personally and had close relative or personal friend accounts of each of the other two lives and I found that they all shared two common bonds. They all loved Jesus and they all loved their families…passionately. Their loss was felt so keenly because that’s the way they had lived their lives. That’s pretty important. Each of these four people hadn’t done life perfectly, but they had managed to get the most important question—what are you going to do with this Savior, this God who loves you more than you can ever imagine?–answered correctly…and they had managed to live lives that reflected that answer as they shared His love with those closest to them.

By the way, those six relatives of mine who were dealing with those painful life issues…they’ve all made the same choice, as well.

So now what?

Those people who died last week? Those lives aren’t truly lost. God knows exactly where they are…because they’re with Him and they are reaping the rewards of their choice right now.

Those people who were in physical pain? Well, some of them are better, but most of them are still hurting. They’re healing, but they’re still hurting right now. The exact same thing can be said of those whose loved ones lives weren’t truly lost last week, as well.

So now what?

Those of us who are left still have questions to answer and lives to live. If you haven’t already decided what you’re going to do with this Savior, this Jesus the Christ, this God who loves you more than you can imagine and came to earth so you could be with Him forever, then today can be your day. Choose Him. He’s already chosen you.

If you’ve already made that decision, then you have a life to live well. Live it as passionately as Christ loves you. That’s going to look differently from person to person because God has such a creative streak, but make sure you tell those around you about Him and make sure they know that you love them…even more…because you know what it is to be loved by Him.

So now what? Jesus said it best:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

For your weekend…

Once again it has been a very busy week.  Everyone I know can say the same thing.

I’ve used a bit of my down time (what little there was!) to look at quotes that would inspire me to keep going.  What I kept finding surprised me greatly:  I seemed most drawn to the ones that decried busy-ness.

Our society has made it almost manditory, you know.  We must stay busy, nose to the grindstone, work hard to get ahead…or just to stay even.  We must produce in order to prove our worth, our importance…maybe even our social status?  Our main means of competition these days can often be seen in the comparisons of whose calendar is most full.  I sometimes think that we lose quality of life at the expense of quantity of activity.

It takes a great deal of resolve to do life differently.  To deliberately slow down, take your time, actually be aware of your surroundings…and the people you love…to do love deliberately.  That’s not a typo, you know.  Love is not just a feeling.  It is both subject and verb.  We must DO love, not just give it lip service.  Love is action…that sometimes needs to be expressed by a cessation of activity.

Think about that this weekend.  What can you eliminate from your schedule in order to show love to those you hold most closely in your heart?  What can you DO to show them that they are more important than the items on your to-do list?  What can you NOT DO in order to give them proper priority?

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

There’s a reason these verses are in there. It is a choice. Will you make it with me?

(And she says all of this just before she runs out the door…because, yes, there’s a lot of choosing to be done here, as well.)

Grace & Peace! (grin)