Friday, December 30, 2011

Let's Hear It For Risky Behavior!


It’s not fun being sick on your anniversary. And I was. Last night was our 21st anniversary and I barely made it through dinner. I have this weird thing going on where my hormones go crazy at certain times of the month and I get flu symptoms. I get a terrible headache, ache all over, and throw up. It lasts for about 36 hours.  Not fun. Doctors are working on it, but no solutions yet. They tell me I’m a “special case”. Don’t we all love being “special”? Not this time! This was the sixth episode in the last six months.  I was not happy.   I lay there sick and hurting and wanting life to be different. I’ve been in this position quite a bit in the last few years with my different health challenges, and that just makes it harder to face. 

Praying for healing is such a challenging thing. I used to pray for the sick regularly as part of my church service.  I’ve seen some miraculous and instant healing. But then I’ve also had to face all the times that I wanted to be healed myself and prayed for myself and had other people pray for me and nothing happened that I could see.  God says to ask in faith, not doubting. But how can we ask in faith when it hasn’t worked so many times? That’s hard.

Last night I lay in bed and Nick rubbed my feet (poor man, not a great anniversary for him!) and the whole conundrum of healing was brought to the forefront again.  I wanted to be healed. Desperately.  I did not want to spend the next 36 hours throwing up and feeling awful. I had plans for Friday! For some reason I can’t explain, I was actually feeling hopeful. I prayed.  I asked Nick to pray for me, too. He admitted that it was hard to pray for me with faith when I’ve been sick so much.  But we both prayed anyway.  And I got better.  I relaxed, fell asleep and woke up feeling good enough to go to coffee with my friend Jamie.  I didn’t even throw up.

I still don’t get it. I don’t think God likes me better today than He did the last time I was sick.  We didn’t have more faith.  I was more hopeful, but I have no idea if that made any difference.  I’m just so grateful that I felt good all day and was able to tackle the “clean out the basement” project that I had scheduled for the family!  

God is mysterious and impossible to completely comprehend. I don’t understand Him but I love Him. I’m not going to give up trying to draw closer to Him and have faith for more of His power in my life.   I didn't occur to me until now, but maybe my being willing to risk praying for healing and hoping for healing is part of that risking that the Lord was talking to me about last week.  Hoping for my healing is definitely a risk I gave up on a while ago.  In this case, risking wasn’t scary….it was awesome!

Let’s hear it for risk!
Psalm 34:6 (NKJV)
This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him,
         And saved him out of all his troubles.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Can You Hear I Love You?



It’s 7 a.m. on Christmas morning and my family is still asleep. (Remember, I have teenagers).  I’m sitting here in front of our beautiful tree waiting for the world to wake and yet relishing in the quiet of the moment.  Presents will soon be opened, food will be prepared and families and friends will gather around the world as we celebrate. For those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ, we have been given a gift beyond compare. The gift that changed the world.  The one that gives us hope and makes this life worth living.

Sometimes I think it’s easier to accept this amazing gift in an abstract way rather than a personal one.  You can believe that God saved you, but do you believe He loves you? Like really? Not in an theoretical sort of “God so loved the world” kind of way, but in a personal “God loves me right now where I stand with all my failures” kind of way?

God values you. He loves you dearly. God is perfect which means He is perfect in love. It means He loves you more than any other being. Ever.  It means his love is patient and kind. His love is unconditional. Towards you.  As I sat here with the Lord this morning, wishing Him “Happy Birthday”, I heard Him say “I love you.” I heard Him say “I adore you.” My heart was warmed with a sense of His deep and unfailing love for me and it made me smile at Him and say, “I love you” back.  Tears pooled in my eyes as I received the gift of his unending and unfailing love. A love given personally to me.

Can you hear the Lord say “I love you”? I hope you take some time to sit in his presence today and let yourself hear those words. I pray that you believe in your heart that they are true and specifically meant for you. I hope you feel the joy that’s in his heart towards you. And that you receive afresh the gift of God’s love given to the world and specifically to you.  God had a Christmas gift for me today. The gift of his presence and his love. He has a gift for you, too. I pray you open it. J

I wish you a Merry Christmas, I wish you a Merry Christmas, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

John 3:16 (NIV)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Back To Longing



My very first post the day I launched this blog was about longing for God. As the year draws towards its close, I find myself in that same place again

I realized some things this week as I’ve spent time with the Lord (since it’s my Christmas gift to Him and all).  It is much easier for me to settle than it is to reach.  By nature I want to be content. I want to be happy with my life and I want to see the bright side of things.  I hate the pain of disappointment. The Bible says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” That’s exactly how I feel about hopes that I have that don’t come true.  It makes me sick. That was one of the biggest struggles with my leg last year. How can I hope for things to get better and not be bitterly disappointed with the present?

In my conversations with the Lord this week, He’s stirring some things up. It seems like He always wants me to keep reaching. He has more faith in me than I have in myself.  He sees me as stronger, more capable. He believes in me. He wants me to believe in Him. He wants me to risk.  But risk is well, risky. To risk is to face the possibility of disappointment, of hoping for something that I can’t have. I really hate that.   I’ve never been much of a window shopper. I don’t like to step foot in a store if I don’t have money to buy.  My mother says this aspect of my personality manifested when I was a baby.  She said I learned to walk at an early age, but I was very cautious in my methodology. I would pull myself up very carefully using a table. Then I’d look around for a while and make sure the coast was clear. I’d take careful, calculated steps. If I thought I was going to fall, I’d sit down. I manage my life like that, too. It’s safe and controlled, but limiting.

God Himself is limitless. He’s into risk. He’s into hope.  When I long for Him, it’s a risk. It means I am wishing for more of Him than I have.  Longing for more of the spirit of God to be present in my life, for more of Him and all that He represents to fill my life in all its aspects is dangerous. Longing for God to move more fully in my family, my friends, my church is to long for something I cannot see and cannot control.  But it is the place where He is nudging me.  My dear Lord--He loves faith. He loves hope. So I am going to go for it and trust in Him....the best that I can. If I find myself sitting down before I fall down, I will have to trust Him to help me get up again.


Psalm 42:5 (NIV)
Why, my soul, are you downcast? 
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
   for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and my God.

Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
   but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Page Torn Right Out of My Notebook


I just spent time with the Lord and talked to Him about my blog post for today. I didn’t know what to write. After my conversation with Him I realized that the simplest way to share the gist of that conversation would be to copy/paste it right into the blog. (I told you this blog was about putting my heart out there!)  Here it is. What I said is in black. What I felt He said back is in red. I smiled through most of this little interchange.

Dear Lord,
I’m kind of stuck. I don’t know what to write. I know I need to write from my life but nothing much is going on this week. I am grateful for you. I’m grateful that you speak to me and love me. I’m grateful that Faye said I had an excellent manuscript. I’m grateful that I have 2 weeks off for Christmas. I’m grateful that you speak to me and you are my friend.  

You are so good to me….what do you want for Christmas? 
That’s a good blog topic…..
Jesus, you are brilliant. J
Yes I am. J Literally I’m a genius. My IQ is the highest in the universe. I’ve memorized all truth. No, I am all truth. (I laugh right here)
J This was a legit question, not just a “I need a blog topic”. What do you want for Christmas?
“All I want for Christmas is you…..” (I laugh again. This is one of my fav contemporary Christmas songs by Mariah Carey)
You make me laugh. Seriously.
Seriously. I want to spend time with you regularly this holiday. Like every day. Like this. You and me talking, being together.
That’s not such a gift. What else do you want?
It is too a gift. It’s the one I want. I know your health is a struggle and you are a busy mother. Time is a lot to ask.
But you deserve so much more.
Tammy, you already give me a lot. You’ve given me your life and your heart. Giving me your heart is the most precious gift of all. I cherish it. I cherish you. 
You give me a lot more than I give you.
That’s called being God. And besides, I’m not keeping track…. But if you’re so desperate to do something for me, write me a poem, or a song. That would be nice. It would be from you…just make it from your heart. That’s the best kind of gift.
I love you so much, Lord. You are so very good to me. I can’t thank you enough or love you enough. If time is what you want, time it is. Wrapped in a big bow and given with a big hug. I adore you.

 So reader, I don’t know about you, but I’m giving the Lord my time this Christmas (and poem or a song, too). I would encourage you to ask the Lord what He wants for Christmas. Our relationships with Him are all so different. Who knows what gift He’d like from you? 

"Oh come let us adore Him, Oh come let us adore Him, Oh come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord."  Taken from "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful" 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

To Obey or Not Obey, That Is the Question


Reasons I told God I could never start a blog:
1)      I don’t have time
2)      I’ve never read a blog (that I can remember)
3)      I don’t know how
4)      I don’t have anything to say
5)      Who would ever read it?

I came into the blogging world kicking and screaming.  One day last February, seemingly out of the blue I felt like God told me He wanted me to start a blog. I spent the next several weeks talking myself out of it. “This is not God.  Why would he want me to start a blog? No one will read it and that will be incredibly embarrassing.”   

After weeks of fighting the idea, I reluctantly started doing some research. I began with a plain Google search, “Christian blogs.”  That was unnerving. I couldn’t find a single blog that looked like what I thought God wanted me to do.  I felt like God wanted me to take my spiritual life and put it on the Internet. Be real. Talk about the struggles. Share the stories. Put your guts out there. This terrified me. I have to say, it’s not the way I usually roll.  I’m pretty private actually, though you’d never know it if you read this blog!

The struggle went on for months.  I was sure no one would read it, afraid that I was making the whole thing up and it had nothing to do with God.  No matter what I told myself, when the summer hit I started feeling guilty and disobedient. I couldn’t shake the feeling that God wanted me to do this—though I had no idea why.  Finally I couldn't take the pressure. I promised God I’d launch it by July 31st. I started working on a blog. I even wrote a bunch of practice entries. July 31st came and went and I just plain chickened out.

Now the guilt was choking me. I don’t know why this was such a cliff jumping experience. I was expecting public humiliation and failure and I couldn’t figure out why I had to go through all this.

I launched solely out of obedience on August 10th.  And I lived to tell the tale! This weekend my blog stats indicated that I’d gotten over 100 hits in the last 30 days. I was shocked when I saw that. It makes me smile just thinking about it because God was so right. He told me that people would read it and they would be blessed. I didn't believe it. I couldn't see it. But He could. And He was right. He is entirely worth trusting. 

(And by the way...now I really enjoy writing this blog. It's been very meaningful for me to be reminded of all God has done. I love telling the stories of how much He means to me.)


Psalm 25: 1-3a (NKJV)
In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.
 2 I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame,
   nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame,  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It Is Well with My Soul 6 - Thank God Almighty, Free at Last!


It’s time to bring this story to an end. So here’s what happened:

I tried to go to Mayo Clinic to make sure we had the correct diagnosis. Mayo has a lengthy phone interview process. Afterwards they told me that they actually agreed with the diagnosis of AS and recommended I go on Enbrel, a strong autoimmune blocker.  I’d have to go to the chemotherapy department of the hospital once a week or two to get an infusion for an hour. It’s very expensive, even with insurance, and your blood has to be monitored for possible problems related to taking it. This whole thing would definitely be better than not walking, but I was extremely, painfully disappointed. I felt like I’d be sort of a sick person for the rest of my life. Nonetheless, I called up the rheumatologist to begin the process.  What else could I do?

In the meantime I’d been doing research online and I found a big fight on the Internet. There were people with AS swearing by this diet where you cut out all starches and thus kill the bacteria that lives in your system and mimics the gene that causes AS. If you kill the bacteria, the body stops attacking itself.  Some thought this doctor’s work was a hoax but I thought, “What have I got to lose?” So I tried it. And it worked.   After just a few days.  This was in July.  My muscles, which were pretty atrophied after a year of not working, have been growing in strength ever since. I started the school year without crutches!!!  I even went school shopping…..and it was a joy! J Halleluiah!!!!!

The diet is not a joy. No starches of any kind means no spices, no starchy vegetables, no grains of any type. In my case it also means no sugar or milk. Though the diet is a trial, I am so thankful that it’s working and I was able to get off the road I felt trapped on.

Do you know the story behind the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul”? Horatio Spafford was a wealthy business man who lost his fortune in the Chicago Fire of 1871.  A short while later, his daughters were crossing the Atlantic and all four died when their ship collided with another ship.  Several weeks after this, his own ship passed the spot where his daughters died and he wrote the song we still know today.

It gave me such inspiration, that song. If Mr. Spafford could go through so much, and still write those words, then I could make it, too. And make it not with bitterness, but with love in my heart towards my good creator who loves me and walked through every moment of my trial with me. He was a strong pillar, my greatest comfort--just like He said He would be.  I have grown in a patient trust through this experience, knowing that He helps us weather every storm.  I learned, deep in my heart, that with Him it is well with my soul.

“It Is Well with My Soul” by Horatio Spafford 1873
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Refrain

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Refrain

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

Refrain

But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

Refrain

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Refrain

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It Is Well With My Soul 5 - Face to Face With My Pride


When I think of my season of not walking, there is one story that stands out. I’ll probably remember it when I’m 80.

School shopping is a time honored tradition in our family, something my two daughters and I look forward to eagerly. So, despite the uneasiness of my first real public event in a wheelchair, I was determined to go to Spokane with the ladies and spend the day. Nick went strictly as moral support, shopping being an item on his “mostly avoid” list.

Nick pushed me into the Spokane Valley Mall and I instantly wanted to disappear.  I loathed the attention and having people look at me.  Having someone push me made feel small and helpless.  How do you hold your hands and feet so that they look the least awkward? (I decided on hands demurely in my lap and ankles crossed).  The girls, being teenagers, were able to go to stores alone but this was a departure from our normal habit of all going together. It’s usually my job to sit in the dressing room, comment and find sizes. I love it.

This time was different. The stores where they like to shop have full racks and narrow aisles, too small for a wheelchair. I went into American Eagle because the girls wanted me to see what they’d picked out but I couldn’t get past the first ten feet. Eventually I got close enough to the register to pay so they could move on to the next store and I got in line behind another adult. The man ahead of me left, but instead of serving me next the cashier motioned to a line of people on the other side of the store. I sat there motionless for five minutes. I didn’t have the nerve to raise my voice and ask if she would consider helping me. I felt stupid and out of place. Finally she looked up and said, “Ma’am, if you’re waiting to check out you’re in the wrong line. You have to go back there.” She pointed to a line that stretched towards the back of the store.  There was no way my wheelchair was getting back there.  The entire line of people stared silently at me. I stared back in horror for a moment and then turned and wheeled towards the door. I didn’t know what to do. I was alone and too proud to be honest with the clerk (who was clearly lacking in sensitivity).  Nick walked in and I burst into tears. He took one look at me, got the items and told me to wait out in the mall.

I am quite aware that there are many who have it way worse than me. There are those who have never walked in their lives, people who are dying of diseases, just to name a couple of possibilities.  Regardless of whether or not I had a right to be upset, I was.  I was stripped bare. I wanted to be assertive but I was silent, I wanted to be strong but I was weak.  I was forced to come face to face with my pride. I didn’t want to be a needy woman who had to ask for favors or special help.  This whole situation got at something very deep in my soul. Stuck I was in a place not of my choosing but one in which I had to learn to accept vulnerability and neediness.  God help me. Thankfully, He did. Another stop on my road to learning what it means to live “not matter my lot, though has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”
     

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It Is Well With My Soul 4 - A Very Present Help in Trouble


The last post ended with me hanging on to my pillar for dear life--and trying to maintain the right attitude.  As I said before, I bounced around on that one.  I’d be at peace for days and then all of a sudden I would crumble. I’d cry and whine to the Lord and wish for things to be different.  Here’s the crazy, wonderful thing about God: I didn't blow Him away or freak Him out. He loves me. Period. He’s “an ever present help in trouble” just like the psalmist says He is.   He never got mad or told me to get over it. He didn't tell me how much better I had it than so many other people. He didn't ask me to “look on the bright side”.   Whenever I turned to him I felt waves of love and compassion. I felt like He was in the midst of it all, walking with me on the good days and the bad. It was remarkable. I’d go to Him at the end of my rope. Somehow in the exchange of my admitting my need and crying out to Him, He would meet me. He would fill my soul and I would be able to go on again.  I’d never experienced anything like it.  

This went on for a while.  I was able to switch from the wheelchair to crutches at the end of September, but after that there was little improvement. Finally, in January when I hadn’t really gotten any better I started seeing some other doctors. I had two to three doctor appointments a week, usually at least one of them out of town.  No one knew what the problem was.  My symptoms didn't really look like an autoimmune, so they weren’t convinced that was the problem. May came and there was no real change.  By this time it had been almost a year.  

When it all started I never imagined it would be year later and I wouldn’t be walking.  Not only did I need crutches, but I couldn’t walk that far on them either.   Shopping was out of the question.  One day I remember driving to the mall during my daughter’s soccer practice.  I had a Starbuck’s card and I wanted a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a handicap parking spot or any spot close enough for me to walk into the store. I drove around for ten minutes and finally gave up. I know it’s a small thing, but it made me feel helpless. It drove me to Jesus again, and in Him I found everything I needed to keep going….once more I would find that place where it is well with my soul. 

"It is Well With My Soul"
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It Is Well With My Soul 3 - God Is My Pillar


How do we live with circumstances we don’t like and can’t control? In the midst of my muscle drama I tried on different attitudes like people try on hats.  I wanted to stay close to God and maintain a godly attitude. I wanted to be hopeful, but patient, positive but not demanding. I wanted to contend for healing and yet be at peace.  Most of all, I wanted to hold tight to my belief in the goodness of God when my world didn’t seem very good.

And my world wasn’t great.  I felt terrible. My leg hurt all the time. A lot.  By two in the afternoon I was barely hanging on. It wasn’t just leg pain, either. Due to the autoimmune I hurt all over and didn’t have any energy. Everything was an effort. I probably should have gone on disability. I could have, but I didn’t want to!  I wanted to be there for my students. I’ll let you in on a little secret about children----they hate substitutes. With a passion.  

By the time I got home every night I was done. Then I had to watch my family do everything for me. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, the works. I hated it. They were wonderful, but I hated it.  The guilt ate at me.   This wasn’t supposed to be my life.  

But it was. And I couldn’t power out of it. 

A curious thing happened in August. Before school started. Before I knew I’d be in a wheelchair.  In fact, at this point I was still hoping foolishly that it would end soon.  I wasn’t walking much at the time but I went to church that day with a cane.  On our way out of the sanctuary I was stopped by a gal I hadn’t seen in years.  She said God had given her something for me and asked if she could share it.

She didn’t know my situation. No one knew what I was really facing at that time, especially me.   But here’s what she said.  “God wants you to know how much He loves you and how dear you are to Him. He’s proud of you.  He wants you to know that He is going to be your strength. He is a strong pillar. He wants you to wrap your arms tight around Him and hang on.  He isn’t a hard pillar, either. He’s warm and soft and you can hold tight to Him.”  I had no idea then what that word would come to mean to me.  My God, who loves me dearly, wanted to communicate His love to me and let me know that He would be there for me. All I had to do was hang on. And that’s exactly what I did.
More to come…..

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It Is Well With My Soul 2 - The Only Way is Through the Storm

My last post ended with a pulled muscle. What happened next?  I spent three years visiting doctors around my state, but no one knew what was wrong. As soon as I tried to start exercising again I’d pull a hip muscle.  Eventually, I went to a big clinic in Seattle and they told me that I was in the bottom 5% of all athletes in flexibility. They also said that if I didn't stretch and exercise regularly I’d wind up functionally cripple by the time I was 40. 


Well I never was able to sustain any type of exercise program.  I’d get started but then I’d have muscle trouble. Over time I got all caught up in the busyness of job and family and stopped doing my stretches, too.  That was plain foolish… my tight muscles caused back trouble. I had back surgery in 2000 and missed a quarter of the school year.  At this point I thought I was “all better” and was able to walk for exercise.  Even though I was faithful with walking, in 2005 I started having hip trouble and was diagnosed with an autoimmune that attacks the connective tissues and joints of the body, Ankylosing Spondylitis, or AS.  At least we found the source of all the muscle problems! My real relief came in the form of a physical therapist. She was the fifth one I’d tried and she was awesome! With her help I was able to become active! I could actually walk for an hour, bike, ski, dance.  I’ve continued to have stiff and challenging muscles, but I’ve made incredible improvements.

I thought I was home free until June of 2010 when I pulled my hip flexor (same one by the way) and it just wouldn't heal.  I spent the summer trying to rest it. My poor daughters, they spent the summer fetching and carrying for their mother!  When the school year began I still couldn't walk on it so I had to start in a wheelchair! I’ll never forget the day I wheeled into the school office, looked at the secretary and my teaching partner who were standing there and burst into tears. I couldn't believe it had come to this.   

“This is not my life!!!” Have you ever said that? Have you ever demanded a refund? “This is not the life I picked!!” That’s where I was at. I was an active, athletic person--not a cripple! I’m determined, but all the determination in the world wouldn’t help me. I couldn’t tough my way out of it. The only way was through.  I desperately needed God.  This is when I learned to embrace the old hymn, “Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”  It’s the moments when we are desperate to change our circumstances, but are powerless to do so, that we find out who our God is.
More to come……

“It is Well With my Soul” by Horatio Spafford
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Friday, November 25, 2011

It Is Well With My Soul


I cooked my turkey and baked the pies.  We spent nine wonderful hours at Thanksgiving parties; I even ran the Black Friday gauntlet from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. with my good friend Anita. We did Thanksgiving Big! Before I move quickly on to Christmas, I want to pause a moment and truly BE thankful.

When I think about thankful, one word flashes across my mental screen: walking. I will never take walking for granted again. It’s amazing how much one appreciates something when one has lost it. And I lost my ability to walk last year. I actually started the 2010 school year in a wheelchair!

My physical struggles began years ago….isn't that how all good stories start? Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away and all that. Well, this isn't THAT cool of a tale, but it will take more than one post. I’ve always had trouble with my muscles. They are tight and inflexible. I have one unfortunate childhood story of the time I tried to do a back flip into our swimming pool, but I hit the edge with my head because I couldn’t bend far enough backwards.  I wound up with a cut on the head and the conviction that I would never be a gymnast.

I was a serious distance runner in high school, logging 40-60 miles a week year round. I won multiple state championships and set the state record. I even went to the Olympic Development Training camp. My senior year I trained like a maniac, wanting to break my own record and set it back so far no one could touch it. I ran through one of the worst winters ever--the roads were covered with snow for six weeks! I can remember jumping into a snow bank every time a car went by on the small track the plows had carved out. Not exactly the best environment for record smashing behavior. In the end it didn’t really matter.  I tore my hip flexor two weeks before state. I won at state but my time was slow and my scholarship prospects gone. I never really ran competitively again.

In the 30 or so years since that time I’ve gone from struggling over losing my running career to struggling over losing my ability to walk.  It’s amazing how life’s circumstances change one’s perspective.  As I take a moment to be thankful for walking, I am also very thankful for the road I’ve traveled. It’s made me who I am, a woman who knows that it’s God who makes the world good, regardless of my circumstances.  

Psalm 100 NIV
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.  Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God.  It is he, who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Exceedingly Above All We Ask or Think 8 - The Rest of the Story


And so today we come to the end of a rather long tale.  At the conclusion of the last post Nick had just bought a sedan I hated. I didn’t want to admit to Nick how upset I was about buying the sedan because it felt so materialistic and ridiculous. I wasn’t saying anything, but he knew something was wrong, which made him upset too.  It was a mess. Finally, when I realized I couldn’t keep silent with grace I told Nick how I felt. Poor man, he got an earful!  I will always appreciate his response.  He looked at me and said, “I am so sorry this happened. We are going to fix this. There has to be a way.”  

The next day Nick called up the dealer, told the man the whole story and asked him if he’d let us out of the contract and give us our deposit back. To my utter amazement, the dealer agreed!  It would never have occurred to me to go back to them and try to get out of the purchase!  I was deeply touched that Nick was willing to swallow his male pride and admit the whole ridiculous story to a guy he didn’t know. But he did it for me. That’s some serious love.  Sometimes I wonder how that man loves a passionate and opinionated woman like me. It must be a special grace.

Anyway, at this point we were back to having money to spend and a car to choose.   After much discussion and some more shopping Nick decided that he wanted a red Prius.  It was, you guessed it, the fuel efficient car that I really wanted. And it was on sale! Halleluiah!  We’ve had it for a month now and everybody loves it. What a relief. 

Now to debrief:
Lesson #1: It’s bad news to turn the volume down on God.  Never stop trying to understand what the Lord is saying.  He wants to speak to me and He wants to be close to me. 

Lesson #2: God loves me. He gives good gifts to His children and that includes me. I can’t earn it and I’ll never deserve it. I realized that was part of my wrong thinking. I thought that when I was sacrificing by paying a huge tithe like we did when we were younger, then somehow I earned His blessing, whereas now I am on my own.  Crazy! My thinking is sometimes just plain crazy. It isn’t a matter of deserving.  God’s good, that’s just how He is.

I’m SO ridiculously imperfect. It’s like I’m stumbling around trying to live a life that honors God but I fall so short!  I keep trying though, because He is worth it and I adore Him.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Exceedingly Above All We Ask or Think 7 - We Have No Idea



Have you ever gone through a time in life when everything seems to go wrong, break down or fall apart?  That’s what we went through over the last six months.  There were state budget cuts, thousands of dollars of repair for the princess car, my health issues (that’s another story), not to mention small things that added up like the plumbing, the prongs on my wedding ring…you name it! I could have been a walking advertisement for financial adversity!  Because of that we didn’t have the cash for a car that we expected to have by this fall.

I wish I had done what God asked. I wish I had thought about what car I wanted and waited to see what He might do. Then, when my dad called and said, “We’re giving you $20,000” I would have known what I wanted and once again seen the miraculous workings of the Lord manifest as the money seemingly came out of nowhere. That would have been a great cause for celebration and joy!

Instead, I ignored God and decided that we just needed to be economical and get a Honda Fit. “Car and Driver” has placed them in the top ten cars for the last 5 years. They get great gas mileage and aren’t that expensive. It wasn’t what I really wanted but it was a logical, practical solution. Unfortunately, Nick really doesn’t like them and I couldn’t stand the idea of getting a car Nick didn’t like.

So one Saturday we went to look at cars, trying to find one we both agreed on.  Even though we’d been given money at this point, I was still stuck on a “buy economically” focus, trying not to think about what I wanted. Nick fell in love with this very practical sedan that was on sale and a great deal. I hated it, but I was trying to be a good economical wife and let my husband get what he wanted. I told him I didn’t like it, but when he pressed, I caved.  He bought the car before it had been inspected so we left it at the lot and went home without it. The farther we got from the lot, the more upset I got. We’d just had this miraculous financial gift and I got a car I hated with it! I didn’t realize it until it was all over, but I really cared what car we got. I didn’t want to care. I wanted to be a non-materialistic Christian whose head was in the kingdom and not in the world.  But I couldn’t. It wasn’t until the dust settled that I realized how much the whole thing bothered me.

On my next post I will bring this tale to a close and tell you what happened, but I want to end today’s with the following outrageous reality:  God knows me so much better than I know myself.  He knew I’d get money from my mom and dad. He knew I’d care about the car we chose. He tried to help me by asking me to think about what I desired.  He could have told me not to care because it’s so “of the world”.  Don’t we expect God to tell us not to care? God didn’t. He told me to choose what I wanted knowing that the money would be there when we needed it. He gives good gifts to His children. He loves me so much. He loves us all so much. And we have no idea how much. 

Matthew 7:9-11 (NKJV)
Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Exceedingly Above All We Ask or Think 6 -- Lessons Learned and Unlearned


Now that my stories have caught us up to the present I can finally describe the recent circumstances that transpired in a way that will make much more sense—and the good, the bad, and the ugly will be clearly obvious.  Life has changed since the trailer days. We are making more than twice the amount of money we used to and are tithing a different amount.  Nick bought a cool but dilapidated 75 year old house that was twice the size of our original small home and he’s fixed it up beautifully.  

The wolf is no longer at the door financially, so when we decided about a year ago that we were going to buy a car this fall it was simply part of financial planning.  At several points in the process I felt God speak to me and say, “You need to think about what you want.” After all of my past experiences, you’d think I’d zero in on that comment.  But here’s the heartbreaking truth.  Instead of turning up the volume and really listening to Him, I put Him on mute.  It makes me so sad to face this.  I didn't even realize what I’d done until the dust had settled and the whole thing was over. The big question is, why? Why, after all God had done for me did I quit listening?   I've spent the past several weeks answering that question and here’s what I discovered.  

It’s true that having more money made me less needy.  We haven’t been praying for our wants/needs for several years. However, not only did I not feel like I needed divine intervention, I didn’t think I deserved it, either. God had been there for us when we were desperate, but we aren’t desperate anymore. After all, I am a big girl now and it’s time for me to take care of myself. We have a nice house, the princess car….we even have a boat! People around the world are starving for God’s sake.  What right do I have to want something as extravagant as the car of my choice? I need to be practical and economical.  It’s wrong to even expect to get what I want in light of all the needs we have with two teenagers about to enter college and the world in such a financial state.  And so I tuned God out and moved forward with my own plans.  They didn’t go so well…..to be continued….. J

Whether or not I've believed this lately, it's still true: 
Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.



Friday, November 11, 2011

Exceedingly Above All We Ask or Think 5 -- The Gold Chariot


And now we come to (almost) the end of the car stories. It’s fall of 2002. One day I’m driving down the street thinking of nothing in particular and I distinctly hear the Lord say, “I’m going to get you a new car and I’m going to get you exactly what you want, so you need to decide what you want.”  It didn't make a lot of sense at the time because I loved our Explorer and it was running great. We expected to drive it for several more years so we weren't even thinking about another car.  Nonetheless, it was such a clear direction that I believed it was Him and I started looking earnestly. It took me several months, but in the end the car I most wanted was a Gold Chevy Tahoe (SUV), a 2000 or newer.

Since it was still distinctly possible that I was hearing things, I didn’t tell a soul. But when I asked Nick what he wanted, if he could in fact get any car, I was delighted to learn that he wanted the same vehicle, color and all. I had talked to God about cars several times, but in January I gave Him my final answer. His response was, “If that’s what you want, then you’d better start shopping.”  Again this seemed strange as we were still very satisfied with our Explorer, but I obeyed Him anyway. I studied SUVs until I knew features, prices, everything.

June arrived and the Sewells went on vacation to Yellowstone Park. We were towing a large tent trailer that we were considering purchasing from a neighbor and in the middle of Montana our transmission went out on the Explorer. Fortunately, the car died less than 30 minutes from condominiums our friends just happened to be staying at and they rescued us, providing a nice place to stay and comfort in our distress. Unfortunately, the mechanics told us that our Explorer was done, scrap metal.

Nick and I needed a car and we needed one fast. Not just any car, but one that would successfully tow our neighbor’s tent trailer over the Rocky Mountains.  Right after the meeting with the mechanic we returned to the condo. My friend Karen had been looking through the paper and showed me what she’d found. In the middle of the page was an advertisement for, you guessed it, a gold 2000 Tahoe.  We bought it that day. I knew prices and features so we were able to shop with knowledge. It was an amazing deal, and the car only had 25,000 miles on it.  The government was giving out tax rebates that summer and the money helped us with our purchase.

Whenever I see that car parked in front of our house I smile. To this day. I call it the princess car. After all, it’s gold, beautiful, and given to me by a king.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Exceedingly Above All We Ask or Think 4--The Pink Rollerblades


Of all the things that God provided for us during our “poverty” years, one of my favorites was a pair of Rollerblades. They weren’t just inline skates; they were Rollerblades (the cool brand), black with bright pink laces and wheels.  I’d put them on my “desires list” because Nick had a pair and I thought it would be fun to skate together. Nick grew up playing hockey and he was pure poetry on any type of skates…..I’d go skating just to watch him and be able to say, “That guy is my husband!”  Bragging rights aside, I knew we couldn’t afford them so I put them on the list. 

During the summer of that year we went down to southern Idaho to visit our families. While we were at Nick’s house, his mom offered me her Rollerblades. Now that doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it? What makes it funny is that Nick’s mom was 65 years old at the time! She was a real character who lived life to the full. She started rollerblading right when it first came into fashion, but over time she knew some good friends who had really hurt themselves.  She was afraid she’d fall rollerblading and ruin her golf game so she offered them to me. She had no idea I wanted some.  What shocked me is that they fit! I wear a whopping size 10 and she was several inches shorter than me. They looked brand new.  Oh and one more thing, hot pink was my favorite color at the time.

I know that life can be disappointing and painful. God does not come running in and solve all of our problems or “make it all better”.  I don’t believe that things will be “all better” this side of heaven. But the God I got to know during that time of my life wasn’t capricious or indifferent. He loved. He cared.  He cared enough to find me some great Rollerblades with bright pink wheels!  My rollerblades were a small thing that meant a great deal.  I didn’t have to have them, didn’t need them to survive. But my God who loved me provided them anyway. That’s just the kind of God is He is.

Ps….I still have them. J

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)


Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Exceedingly Above All We Ask or Think 3--Lessons in Poverty

Poverty taught me a lot. Listen to me use the word “poverty”!  I wasn't poor compared to the world, but I was USA poor and the years in the trailer were painful.  However, I learned to rely on God in a way I never would have done had I kept all my money. I’m not necessarily recommending that you part with a significant portion of your discretionary income…..unless God calls you to it. But that’s between you and Him.


Before I go on to my next car story, I feel like I need to stop and elaborate on this time of my life, this time in the trailer, when Nick was in and out of work, before the fairy tale house and the bright gold carriage. (Yes, our Chevy Tahoe is a gold SUV and I call it the Princess car….sappy but fitting. J)

During this time I learned to pour out my heart to the Lord regularly. I kept nothing back from Him. I told Him of my frustrations and fears and the difficulty I had with our current life status.  I begged Him to change me, begged Him to help me; I was honest about my embarrassment over my attitudes.  He became my number one confidant, the one to whom I poured my heart. The thing that blew me away was that all I ever heard from Him in response was encouragement.  I would have expected Him to blast me. I thought He’d go on about how materialistic and whiny I was. I thought He’d tell me to shape up and be thankful I hadn’t been asked to die for the sins of humanity like He had.

Our conversations were nothing like that.  He would tell me how proud He was of me, that even though what He’d asked of me was very hard, I was willing to make any sacrifice for His sake. He seemed blessed that I’d do something for Him that was such a challenge and told me that meant a great deal to Him. (Go figure!) He repeatedly asked me to trust Him and promised me He’d take care of me.  At His urging, I started a habit of making a list of all the things I wanted or needed in my journal. Then I’d watch Him supply all the things on that list one by one.  It was this process that drew me to Him in a way I’d never imagined.

More to come…..

Philippians 4:19 (NKJV)

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Exceedingly Above All We Ask or Think--2

I want to state this disclaimer right up front: I know that God is not my fairy godmother, even though some of my life stories sound like fairy tales.


In my last post I told about our saga with the Ford Explorer. We got the Explorer in the spring of 1997. At the time we were living in a 30 year old mobile home trailer. I was 33 and this was a hard road for me. I’d grown up with money. We weren’t zillionaires, but we had a swimming pool in the backyard, a hot tub room and big screen TV (before they were popular).  If someone had told me I’d grow up and live in a mobile home when I was 30, I would never have believed it.

I wish I could say I loved God so much that I didn’t care. But I did care. A lot. Every day as I drove my car up that hill to spot #51, I grit my teeth.  I didn’t want to give people my address because they’d know I didn’t live in a house.  It bothered me to be poor and it bothered me that I was so materialistic that I cared. It would be so much easier if it didn’t matter! One day I was groaning to the Lord in my journal and I felt like He asked me, “So what are you looking for in a house?”

Well, I knew that God didn’t say those sorts of things to people, so I ignored it. He asked me regularly for months. Occasionally I’d give a half-hearted response. One day I spilled it all out in my journal. I wanted a new house, a pretty house, one that didn’t need to be fixed up. I wanted three bedrooms, two baths and a family room. After I was done, I heard Him snap His fingers and say, as King might, “Done.” I was so frustrated at this response that I threw my journal across the room.  After all, God doesn’t say these things to people! But later on in the day I went back to the Lord. “As long as you’re asking, and just in case this really is you, I want to add a couple of things. I want a porch and a fireplace.”   (After all….what if it really WAS God?)

The thing is, there wasn’t any building happening in our town, except for a few expensive homes. There hadn't been new building for years.  But God sees the future when we cannot. One day I was driving to work and I noticed a new billboard, advertising, you guessed it, affordable new homes.  I called them up immediately.  We were one of the first people who signed up.  The house we had built had every single feature I’d asked for. Even my “add on’s” were added on.  We signed in the spring and in August they told us that they were adding porches to all the houses, including ours.  Right after we moved in Nick’s dad decided to give us a glass front fireplace!

As you can imagine, I was beyond delighted.  More to come……

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Exceedingly Above All We Ask or Think



God is continuing to use vehicles to address issues of my faith. Who knew? In thinking back, I was reminded that car stories play a distinct role in my story with the Lord. I have no idea why.  It seems odd, even to me, and I’ve lived it! In order for you to understand my current story, you need to understand more of the bigger story.

When Nick and I were first married we felt challenged by the Lord to give a large tithe, between 23 and 25% of our gross income.  That made our finances very tight. It was compounded by the fact that Nick had graduated with a plan to go into sales and marketing, but we lived in a small town without those types of jobs available. We felt led by the Lord to stay in our small community. The ramification of this was that we had very little money.  It also meant that Nick was bouncing around from one job to the next. He kept trying his hand working with new businesses.  He tripled the sales of the first company he worked for within 18 months. Unfortunately, the owner was so delighted he decided to move the business to the coast. He begged Nick to come with him but we felt like we were supposed to stay where we were.  After that Nick tried several different jobs but to no avail. Finally, he just gave up trying for sales and decided to try and get a job at a local university. 

In the midst of all of this, our oldest daughter was born and I became pregnant with our youngest. In fact, during my second pregnancy Nick was out of full-time work. He was working several menial jobs trying to bring some money in, paper routes, a cleaning job, definitely not things that make you proud of your career!  We were praying desperately, knowing that the minute our youngest daughter was born we wouldn’t be able to pay for her life.  To make this story more interesting, that summer I was pregnant with Jacqueline we hit a deer that completely wiped out the front of our car. It was still drivable, but it looked terrible. The entire front end of this sedan was entirely smashed.  We didn’t have the money to fix it, and also knew that it wasn't worth fixing, but we couldn't afford a new car. So we were driving it around in its smashed in state.  Very humiliating to say the least!

Three weeks before Jacqueline was born Nick got a university job. As you can imagine, we were ecstatic! After a few months of steady income from Nick we started looking for a car. I knew what I wanted, I wanted a Ford Explorer. I remember the Lord speaking to me in my journal. He told me I was going to get what I wanted.  I wasn’t sure how that was going to happen because some friends advised us against buying an Explorer and we decided to follow their advice. I put what I wanted on the shelf and started looking for a practical sedan. Nick called his dad to tell him what we were thinking of buying and his dad said, “Nick, your mom and I have decided to give you our Explorer. It’s 6 years old, but it only has 40,000 miles on it.” This Explorer was absolutely beautiful. Exactly what I wanted.  They had no idea that we wanted one.  But God knew. Why did He do that? I have no idea.  It was a tangible expression of His love for me, though, and has always been a meaningful part of my story.  More to come……..

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Caught



I’m a hypocrite! Two posts ago I wrote about God’s loving-kindness towards me being precious.  I was reveling in the thought that God’s love for me is beyond anything that I can comprehend. Here I am a week later doubting that love. This morning I caught myself not really believing in the truth of God’s love for me.  That’s exactly how I felt, too. Caught.  Exposed in the reality of my belief system.  Here I thought I was all confident in my graced place before the throne. In truth, I was worried that God wasn’t out for my good. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I feel like an Israelite! Have you ever ridiculed God’s chosen people? Whether or not you’ll admit it, if you’ve read the Old Testament (and you’re honest) you have thought those guys were idiots at least once.  Well, maybe not anything as strong as “idiot”, but surely the thought “How could they doubt God like that?” crossed your mind. Come on, think back to the time right after the Israelites miraculously crossed the Red Sea and then they decided to ditch God and make a golden calf.  Doesn’t that story cause disbelief to well up in your soul? How could they do that?

Well, I’m no better. I have the Bible. I have Jesus and the redemption of my soul by his grace. I have innumerable scriptures that testify of God’s unending love for me.  And still I doubt.  I am embarrassed. Why is it so hard to believe that God loves me unconditionally? God has more for me. He wants me to believe. He wants me to trust. 

Dear Lord, help me to know the truth deep in my soul; that you love me and are full of goodness towards me.  Help me to understand the truth of who you are and the way that you love.  I pray for revelation of the truth. 

Romans 8:38-39
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Flying Blind


My grandfather owned a small airplane that he flew for years. By the time I was born he was older and had long since sold it, but he liked to regale us granddaughters with stories of his younger days and that included talking about his plane.  He told me once that the instrumentation in planes at that time was very simple, nothing complicated like they have today.  They were so basic that the plane had no indicators to tell the pilot whether it was flying right side up or not.  It was possible to get in the middle of a deep bank of clouds, get turned upside down and not know it. So he tied a string to a pencil and taped it to the ceiling of his plane. That way, if the plane turned upside down the pencil would fall against the ceiling and the pilot would know he was in trouble.

I want indicator lights in my life. Lots of them.  I find myself constantly looking for feedback. I look to my circumstances and want to draw conclusions from them.  I want good circumstances so that I can feel like God is happy with me, and I’m tempted in bad circumstances to worry that God might be mad. I want positive feedback from others so I can feel good about how I’m doing. I want to look everywhere except to the one place where I should.

Getting caught up in trying to read God’s pleasure or displeasure in the circumstances of life is a dangerous business.  There have been times when my circumstances have been bad, but God has been amazingly present and changed my life. I’ve also experienced very positive circumstances both when God seemed present and when He did not.  

I need to fly blind, with only a pencil hanging from the ceiling, the barest of instruments lighting my way.  I want to cling to God, to His presence and the promises in the Word about who He is and what He offers.  When I’m in the midst of clouds and can’t find my way, I want to remember to look to the ceiling and let God direct me.  If I can do that, then my faith is unshakable. In good times and in bad I look only to the author and finisher of my faith.

Psalm 31:3 (NKJV)
For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, Lead me and guide me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

God's Loving-kindness Towards Me is Precious



Psalm 36:7-9 (NKJV)
How precious is Your loving-kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.
They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.

This section of scripture gives me hope. It reminds me things about God that are important for me to remember.  God’s loving-kindness towards me is precious.  He really likes me! A lot! That makes me smile as I type.  Imagine the most doting father or grandfather in the world. They cannot in any way compare to God. His love is beyond anything I can comprehend.  It just fills my heart to think of that much love directed towards me. I can place my complete trust in Him. I can draw near to Him and He will love and protect me.  He will keep me no matter what is going on in my world. Circumstances change but He is my constant.

The psalmist says that the children of men  are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of God’s house, and that I can drink in the river of His pleasures.  God wants me to be satisfied in Him. He wants me to know abundance and fullness. He doesn’t want me to be empty or longing.  He even wants me to enjoy pleasures!  That is what God desires for me every day; that I would know abundant satisfaction in Him.  That sounds lovely. A God who loves me wants good for me. I’m going to try and live this verse….all day. In order to do so, need to remember that He is the fountain of life. If I want abundance, I need to look to Him.

This verse is going to brighten my day as I think on it. I pray it brightens your day too!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Truck Drama: The Sequel


The day after I finished writing my last post we had a car accident. Nick and I were transporting our boat and it came off the hitch and crashed into the back of our SUV.  So now our once nice car is all patched up with garbage bags and duct tape across the back windshield.  It will go into the shop this week…..giving us all more quality time with…..the truck.  J

I was talking to the Lord about the situation and I just wanted to make one thing clear to Him. I know I said I was in pursuit of not worrying about what other people think, but I really hope that didn’t mean I was going to have to go through all sorts of uncomfortable and painful circumstances!  Can you get a “do over” with prayers? Can I amend my request to say, “Lord, I really want to grow but can you do it without having to make it hurt very much?” I mean, I can take a little pain, but I’m becoming worried about how painful this might get.  I’m not ready for a true Job experience.  

I called my dad to wish him Happy Birthday the day after the accident. In the course of the conversation he told me that he and mom had gotten inheritance money from a relative. They had decided to share it with us kids and would be sending me a check. It’s enough for me to walk out and buy a new truck tomorrow if I want to.  So back to the Lord I went.  “What, Lord? Are any of these circumstances from you? Are you trying to say something to me here? Or is this just a string of coincidences?”

I had been living in anxiety because I just couldn’t seem to get free of my preoccupation with what others think. I figured God must be unhappy with how long it was taking me and how poorly I seemed to be doing.  Maybe He would send me a bunch of bad circumstances to teach me a lesson! Then along came some better circumstances. Did that mean anything?  

Finally it hit me (or maybe God revealed it to me). I needed to quit thinking about the circumstances and focus on the issue.  The real problem is that I’m trying to perfect myself again, trying to fix what’s wrong with me and make myself acceptable to God.  I’m worried that if I don’t He won’t like me.  I’ve got to quit trying so hard to make myself acceptable and accept His grace. The blood of Christ isn’t just about salvation, it covers all my sins….even worrying about how I look driving a beat up truck. 

I have to face it (again). I need God. I will never outgrow my need for God. I need His forgiveness and His grace. I need His help. I must trust that He loves me and He will help me. God knows I can’t do it on my own.  He knows I need Him. He wants me to need Him.  And He will always love me, even in the midst of my struggles.

Coming to this place of neediness drew me to God in gratefulness and love.

Psalm 138:8
The LORD will perfect that which concerns me;
         your mercy, O LORD, endures forever;
         do not forsake the works of Your hands.