Thankfulness

It was 3 years ago yesterday (June 21) that marked one of the events during our infamous “summer of 2013”.  Some days, it seems like it was decades ago and others like it was just last month. 

One of those events began on Father’s Day morning with a phone call that my Grandma had undergone emergency surgery over night and was in ICU with a unknown estimate of recovery.  After a couple days of waiting, praying, phone calls with family and discussions with my husband I purchased a plane ticket to go and see her.  The truth was, we didn’t know the outcome; and if we could only buy one plane ticket, I would rather hug my Grandma one last time than wait and attend her funeral.   I flew out the next day and had the chance to spend some time with her before washing her feet in a painful transition from life on this earth.  One of the hardest things I’ve ever done, to bear witness to.  It was an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, and at the same time wouldn’t trade one moment for anything in the world.  She passed away, and I flew home the next morning. 

That summer both of our children had pneumonia, my son had it twice and it took my daughter nearly three weeks to recover.  I lost my Great Grandmother, Grandmother and Grandma within five weeks.  Our water heater quit.  Discovered my husband would need cataract surgery.  Then for our berry farm, the pump in our irrigation well went out and we received a diagnosis of blight that nearly took one third of our new blueberry field.  We just kept getting hit with challenge after challenge, and I couldn’t seem to grieve because it was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of the other, do the next important thing.  Just.  Keep. Going. 

Looking back, some of that summer was such a blur that I don’t remember portions.  I do remember sharing some of what was going on with people at church and close friends, asking for prayer.   One night a friend brought us dinner, it was a memorable act of love that blessed our family with a night of reprieve.  We were blessed in huge acts of love and giving.  I knew others were covering us in prayer, and those prayers meant the world.  It was acts of love that kept me and my family afloat for those three challenging months.

But one of the most interesting things I’ve often looked back on and pondered was my personal prayers to God.  You see, I got to a place where I felt like I couldn’t even pray.  I could only repeat three words, because it’s all that would come out.  “Thank you, Jesus.” 

“Thank you, Jesus.”  “Thank you, Jesus.”  Over and over again.  I think this part of the season lasted at least a month, it was all I could do. 

It was in that thankfulness that I was able to trust God and His ways, and in a strange way see how my faith had grown.  It was in this season I trudged through a study on the names of God, learning more about His character.  I was thankful that to know I was not alone, and that my Creator would never leave me in the hard stuff.  It was thankfulness that gave me a sense of peace and joy amongst the sadness and mourning.  A James 1:2 joy and thankfulness;  “Consider it all pure joy when you face trials of many kinds.”  My favorite book in the bible is James, and I was thankful for the season to put into practice what I had first read on a creek bank in North Carolina when I was 17 years old.  A thankfulness that the promise we receive in the trials is perseverance, and that it would be a part of my completeness.    

At one point towards the end of summer, I called my paster after news of Gabe needing cataract surgery, wondering what I had done wrong to be going through all of this.  I had reached the point to which I thought I could take no more.  But, it was there and in the thankfulness that I continued to receive a peace that passes all understanding.  (Philippians 4:7) 

School began the end of August and I remember pressing forward, bound and determined for the “summer of 2013” to be OVER.  That “fall of 2013” became precious to me, because it’s where I had pressed in to Him in a new way and received the first inklings of what I believe He is asking of me.  It became a powerful season of spiritual growth! The hard labors of summer gave way to birth. 

In a funny way, that season gave birth to more questions than answers.  Questions that are still unanswered, 3 years later.  But I’m willing to wait on Him, walking by faith.  It was in the thankfulness where I learned, and in the thankfulness and God’s time that it will all be revealed.  It’s in the thankfulness that He will guide and use each of us.  In the thankfulness that we can give Him all the glory. 

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After a Sunrise Service one Resurrection Sunday long ago; Grandma, Mom & Me.
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Don’t. Worry.

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to attend Living Proof Live (LPL) with Beth Moore in Springfield,MO.  It was a great time, and I truly enjoyed spending time with my sisters in Christ.  It was a time to freely worship my Creator, and bask in the love He has for His people.  However, by Sunday I felt weary and worn, beaten up, yet grateful for answered prayer.  It wasn’t necessarily just Beth’s message that got me, it was more everything put together over the course of three days along with her message. 

When the Lord hits you with the same verse three times in less than 24 hours, take note. 

We arrived at LPL to find a scripture lovingly and prayerfully taped to the back of every chair in the arena.  Mine was 1 Peter 5:7, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”.  As the event started, Travis Cottrell led worship.  A song or two into worship, he read 1 Peter 5:7 to us, I turned and looked at the card taped to the back of the chair.  “Thank you, Lord” I said. 

When the event was over Saturday, we headed out for lunch and then to a Christian bookstore in Springfield.  There is a study I had thought about doing for quite some time, and sought out looking for the workbook.  Arriving at the shelves, I began to flip through ‘Experiencing Jesus’ and was pleased to see that it looked really good.  However, flipping through this study I once again came face to face with 2 Peter 5:7.  This was the third time in less than 24 hours.  And the funny thing was, it was the “wrong” bible study; I had intended to pick up ‘Experiencing God.’  

So the next day I arrived at church with the thought of joining a different class for a couple sessions. I had been freed up from teaching my Connection Class (Sunday School), due to an awesome and important series on All In Orphan Care taking place, which most classes participated in.  But this break provided a wonderful opportunity to join others.  Well, the basis of my 1 Peter 5:7 verse that had been so prevalent the previous 36 hours continued.  I couldn’t escape it!  For the next hour we discussed worry and healthy concern, focusing on Matthew 6:25-34.  I walked out of the class with another, “Thank you, Lord.” 

The church service began and after worship, our preacher began.  And wouldn’t you know, by the end we had landed in Matthew 6:25-34.  The message was being received, loud and clear.  “Thank you, Lord.” 

You see, I had been worrying about something for roughly three weeks.  The worry had crept up on me.  I knew I was worrying, but I physically couldn’t seem to do anything about it.  Every time I would have a moment to make progress, distractions invaded.  I became crabby and irritable, short tempered and scowled.  I had begun to take something that needed to be done with strength and guidance from my Creator and ever so slowly took it upon my own strength.   I was taking something that belonged at the feet of the Lord, and took it all upon myself.  I was worrying about an impossible time line!  What I discovered is that it wasn’t God’s timeline, it was my own.  And often, my own timelines do not work when it comes to big, life changing events. 

Getting pregnant with our first child did not fit my timeline, it took way too long.  And, loosing that child was not on my timeline either.  Getting pregnant with our son was not on my timeline, in my mind it happened much too quickly after our loss.  However, the Creator’s plan was much better than my own and I wouldn’t dream of exchanging His timelines for my own.  His ways are so much higher.  

1 Peter 5:6-11 is what I needed to be mediating on, casting my worry Him.  And in verse 10 it says, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 

I believe it was the God of all grace that lovingly, and gently, whopped me over the head with this verse and theme over the course of 2.5 days, correcting and drawing me to himself.  His timing is perfect.  His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  One thing I am learning in this process is that I am to not worry, trust His perfect timeline.  (He has been in charge of it since the beginning of time you know…I think he can be trusted.)  Cast my burdens upon him, because he cares for me!  It is through things like this, and casting our worries upon Him, that we will be restored, confirmed, strengthened and established in Christ.  His steadfast love always has his children’s best interest in mind.  SONY DSC

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil or spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”  Matthew 6:28-30  (ESV)

He uses all things as opportunities to grow our faith and trust in Him.

A Canyon Creation

Recently, my family had the opportunity to take a family vacation and enjoy some summer before our u-pick berry farm opens for the season.  It was fabulous to get away, and it’s been hard to re-adjust now that we’re home.  We visited 4 national parks in nine days; camped, hiked, laughed over a camp fire and spent plenty of time in a car together.  The memories are those which will be carried with us forever, with pictures to prove it. 

One of the things I really wanted to do on our visit to the Grand Canyon was to witness a sunrise, all by myself, and read God’s word.  However, that desire of my heart was doubly blessed because not only did I get my sunrise, but one evening the four of us enjoyed a sunset together.  Wrapped in blankets, taking in the dusky sunset and changing light along the Canyon walls.  As evening set in and the sun was down, we headed back to our little cabin in the woods and enjoyed a camp fire with hot chocolate and watched the stars come out. 

The next morning, I crawled out of bed around 4:30 in the morning and drove to the same point we had watched the sunset the night before.  Not knowing exactly where to start reading, I thought what better than to read the creation story, or at least the part in Genesis 1.  It was perfect as the first early light of day flooded the canyon.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  And God saw that it was good.  And God separated the light from darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.  And there was evening and there was morning on the first day.” (Genesis 1:3-5 ESV)

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Trail marker along the Grand Canyon

We know that the canyon was carved by water and time and all kinds of other geological factors. (Honestly, it’s kinda hard to wrap my mind around.) But to sit there and bear witness to the majestic land before me, knowing that it was the Creator’s hand which carved the canyon long before I ever took a breath, the scriptures held a fresh understanding for me. 

“And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’  And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse.  And it was so.  And God called the expanse Heaven.  And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.” (Genesis 1:6-8 ESV)

Sitting there, reading, it dawned on me that the same Creator that carved the canyon before me, created me (and you).  The same power, the same love, the same patience, the same creativity.   His hand is always at work, molding and shaping us with an unchanging and unwavering love.  The Holy Spirit is always carving us, like the river through the Canyon, to be more in likeness with the Creator.  Sometimes, the molding feels like a tidal wave flood, while others times it’s more like a gentle seep spring within.  But always at work, with a steadfast love.    

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Genesis 1

As I sat there, taking in all of the grandeur of the Canyon, I thought about how differently God sees us compared to how we see ourselves.  In His eyes, we are clothed in garments of salvation with a robe of righteousness.  We are a royal diadem and crown of beauty in the LORD’s hand.  And, just as we delight and rejoice at the sight and creation of the Grand Canyon, so the LORD delights and rejoices over me (and you).  (Isaiah 61-62)

Oh, that I would be able to know and live as He has created me, an expression of His steadfast love.  To be able to see, and treat, others (and myself) as His majestic and marvelous creations.  For me, it is a new view of His heavenly creations.  I’m so grateful for the time at the Canyon with my family, and with the Lord.  And I’m grateful for the new opportunity and awareness to experience what His steadfast (and majestic) love is like.