Wednesday, November 13, 2013

If Only...

When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  ~ John 11:32 NLT 

Brad and I were about to leave his office at church one Sunday when an acquaintance stepped in. She immediately expressed she had been praying for us since she heard of Brad’s cancer returning. Before either of us could thank her for being so thoughtful, her next words simply stunned me. 

“If only you had believed more, the cancer would not have come back.” 

What did she just say? 

I remember feeling instantly hurt, than angry. Thankfully, I didn’t respond, but wondered after she left, how could anyone think Brad’s cancer came back because we failed to believe enough? Seriously...that‘s just ridiculous! I instantly rejected her assessment of our faith in God’s ability to heal. 

During the next several months Brad’s doctor tried three different chemo treatments. I prayed fervently, always hoping with each treatment, God would use it to heal my husband. Yet, the cancer continued to resist each one. Eventually our doctor’s told us there was nothing more they could do. He said, It would now take a miracle of God to heal my husband. So I prayed continually for that miracle to happen.

Even there, when all seemed lost, I held onto the tiniest thread of faith that Jesus’ healing touch might still come in time to save my husband’s life. But Jesus’ touch of healing didn’t least not as I had intended… and Brad died.

“Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
In my grief, one of my most troubling emotions was that of feeling betrayed. I had waited expectantly until nearly the very end of Brad’s life, believing and trusting Jesus would come in time. Didn’t I pray continually and with expectant love for my Savior, night and day? “Lord, didn’t you hear me calling for you?”  
I wanted desperately to understand, why God didn’t come and rescue us as He had before when we prayed for healing. 
“Jesus, If only you had husband would not have died”
During those first weeks after my husband’s death, my thoughts occasionally considered the ridiculous comment made that Sunday morning months before; 
“If only you had believed more (Kathy), the cancer would not have come back.”
Was it really possible Lord, you disregarded my pleading prayers and allowed Brad to die because I failed to believe more?  Were those fearful moments of doubt I had when Brad’s cancer didn’t respond to treatments the reason you didn’t come and heal him? 
Thankfully the Lord did not allow me to sit in that mess of thoughts for long! I was encouraged through reading God’s Word in Luke 22:44;
“He (Jesus) prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.”
Jesus, who obviously knew how to pray and be heard by our Father in Heaven, never doubted His prayers were heard. Jesus, certainly “believed more”  when He prayed; “Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me…”  God did not allow Jesus to suffer the cross  because Jesus didn’t “believe more.” Jesus suffered the cross because God knew it was necessary. 

God didn’t allow Brad to die because my faith had moments of doubt. Brad died because God’s will allowed this to be the time and means for Brad to come home…and for me to live for Christ like never before.  

Although I would never have "signed up" for this method to be the one in which I would learn to trust God with everything...I am forever grateful that God loves me enough to want me to discover my satisfaction in life comes not from the people I love or who love me...but through my relationship with Jesus.

God has not once failed to provide me with exactly what I need the moment I needed it. Not once. He will do no less for you. He loves you too much not to give you His ability to overcome what you fear. His love never fails.  

It is my prayer that each of you who have lost a loved one, will allow yourselves whatever time you personally need to grieve. Do not be discouraged because you grieve so deeply and the pain is hard to bear. 

When my sorrow seems too great, it helps me to remember that Jesus deeply grieved the death of his friend Lazarus. Jesus didn't cry because He felt "sorry" for Mary & Martha...He cried because He felt the same deep cut of separation that death causes our hearts to feel. While Jesus' tears fell from His eyes, He knew He would soon be raising his beloved friend from the dead and back to life; yet Jesus cried anyway, because death hurts!

Jesus grieved with hope.Thankfully, your grief and mine also have this same thread of hope running through ours, because we know Jesus defeats death and conquers the grave. When I fix my eyes towards the goal of Heaven and the joyous reunion there will be the moment I arrive on the arm of my Savior Jesus...well, the things of this world fade, and my burdens are lifted. I pray this is true for you too.

God has some good plans for you...lean into Him and trust Him with your next breath and your next step...and the next breath and the next step after it. He will never leave you alone and He keeps all His promises too.  

Passionately His...


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Too Soon...

“Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live.”  -John 14:1-3 The Message 

I recall saying to friends and family during Brad's first remission with cancer; "There will never be a good time for him to die. Even if he lives to the age of 90 and than dies, If I'm still alive, it will be too soon." 

I loved my husband Brad so much. I have to admit, I kind of thought of Brad as "mine" and even pleaded for God not to take him from me.
If we can love each other this much more must God love us?  After all, we don’t really “belong” to each other...we belong to God. Amazingly, God shares us with each other, and is the One who gave us the hearts we have to love each other so deeply. 
The Lord not only shares us...He blesses us with some pretty special people to love and share our lives with here on earth too. Some of these special people are called my spouse, some are called my children. Others are called my family, and some are called my friend. We easily take possession of these special people by holding them tightly in our hearts with the deepest of affection and love.

"I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live.” 

You and I may believe it would have been a greater blessing for God to have allowed our loved ones to stay with us here on earth. To us, it seems too soon for them to be gone from our lives. Yet, in God’s perfect timing, they lived a full measure of time here on earth. At just the right time, our Father couldn't wait any longer for them to be with Him!
Thankfully God is compassionate and understands our feelings. When the time came for our hearts to become so closely acquainted with sorrow, His love compels Him to comfort and encourage us.
God’s Spirit reminds us He is anxiously waiting for our arrival too. As believers in Christ, when the time is right, we also will be with Jesus in Heaven!  When we die, it will likely seem “too soon” to those who love us as well.
I can only imagine God is right now anticipating that special day when He will see the look of wonder and amazement on our faces, the moment we arrive into His presence. 
As Jesus shows us around our new Heavenly home which God created for us to share with won’t seem too soon to us!  

In fact, I'm certain we'll know the time couldn't have been more perfect! 

Oh how He loves... Glory!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Embracing Life!

"So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him."
Romans 12:1 The Message 

When Brad died at age 51 after battling with cancer, I couldn’t imagine living life without him. His death shattered all my dreams and expectations for my life. I didn’t even want to imagine my future without him.

The first two years after Brad’s death were the hardest. I would sometimes awaken in the middle of the night wondering why I had to leave behind my married life. We had built such a strong and lasting relationship that was good and full of love. To be honest...I felt frustrated and even a bit resentful in having to give up even the most routine and ordinary aspects of our life together.

During this time I prayed constantly and depended completely on Jesus to help me adjust to my new life. With each passing day I became more aware of God’s provisions and faithfulness. I felt closer to God and began to accept some of the changes I had at first resented. Inside my pain-filled grief, a deeper and richer relationship with Jesus was born.

It was during the third and fourth year after Brad’s death that I became even more accustomed to my new life. During these years I often heard people say how they saw me as being very strong in my faith and resilient in adversity. To God’s glory alone. I knew it was all God’s strength and resilience they were seeing, not my own.

In fact, I was still struggling with a deep sense of grief during this time. Only the Lord saw how I had secretly tucked inside my heart the tinges of frustration and resentment I had felt from the beginning. I still resented being forced to give up the life I once loved.

Oh, I may have seemed to others as having adjusted to all the changes in my life; but I still wanted my old life back. I knew it was irrational and impossible. I knew I needed to let it go...but I loved my life with Brad so much more than I liked my life without him.

All it would take was one of our special dates or an anniversary approaching on the calendar and I would automatically withdraw and become overwhelmed with sadness. Every year without fail, I would toss aside all God had accomplished in me without really looking at it. I focused instead on what God had allowed to be taken from me. Every year, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I often didn’t know what to pray. So I didn’t. I just cried.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves...”
Romans 8:26-27a  The Message 

This year, the fifth anniversary of my husband’s death was different. This was the first time since my husband’s death that the weeks leading up to it I didn’t live in dread. For the first time since Brad’s death, I felt the chains of grief that had shackled my heart, finally drop to the ground. I finally felt free to completely embrace life again.

So what changed?

Over the years of Brad’s illness and death, The Lord has been teaching me that everything about life is an opportunity to worship God. The world and our own nature has us wanting to hold onto what we have been given. It’s hard for us to imagine why God would give us a special gift, only to ask us to release it, instead of allowing us to keep it.

I remember back when I pleaded with God not to allow Brad to die. I even reminded Him how grateful I was for giving me something as special and beautiful as my marriage with Brad. I also remember God saying He loved Brad too. And than He asked me if I would give Brad to Him. At first I was stunned He would ask such an impossible thing. Then, I did the unimaginable...I released Brad as my offering to God.

As I neared the fifth anniversary of Brad’s death, God asked me to give Him what I had been gripping tightly onto since Brad’s death. So I unlocked my heart and released my treasured grief to God. As an act of worship, I gave all my sorrow to God as an offering.

Take your everyday, ordinary life...and place it before God as an offering.”

What has God been teaching you in your season of grief?

Is there something God is asking you to release as an offering?

Perhaps like me, you have been grieving for several years and wondering if it will ever end. If so, may I encourage you to lay your grief before God as an offering? Trust Him. I have a feeling one day soon you will see how God took your offering of loss and turned it into gain. His love can do the most amazing things. Glory!

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”
~ Philippians 3:7-8



Thursday, August 1, 2013

Again God...Really?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” ~ Hebrews 12:1-2a NLT 
It will be five years this September 1, that my husband Brad died in my arms from cancer. I seriously believed after devotedly caring for and helplessly watching the love of my life endure a prolonged and painful death that God would never have me witness that kind of loss again. 
But I was wrong...
This past July 5, my 85 year old mom who for the past two years lived with me so I could care for her, passed into Heaven in the arms of Jesus. Her death however didn't come without a battle. I  quickly realized our time together was ending, when my mom’‘s health took that giant step in it’s decline last month. I knew she was going to die soon since she had become bedridden. Her frail frame, weak and in constant pain desired no food and longed only for rest. 
Soon our days and nights began to blend into one constant struggle to find rest. As I focused nearly every waking moment on trying to find ways to alleviate my mom’s discomfort and suffering, I inwardly sensed that familiar panic and fear I had when my husband was suffering before his death. The weight of despair in my heart bore down on me and I was overwhelmed by sorrow. 
I remember a couple of weeks before she died, sitting beside her bed one night. I held her hand while she slept, and prayed for God to take her now like this. I wanted her death to be peaceful and swift. I wasn’t seeking His will and endurance that night...I firmly wanted mine. I couldn't imagine any good reason in the delay of her going home. I felt certain whatever God's purpose in this suffering, it could be accomplished a better way. 
These very thoughts were like the ones I had as I helplessly looked on when my husband laid suffering day and night before he died. As I became overwhelmed with the memories of my husband's long journey towards death while holding my mom's hand, my heart seemed to scream "Again God...Really?" 
The Lord seemed slow to me in answering. I must admit, I felt expectant of Him to quickly remove my mom's suffering and to see things my way. He did neither. 
Instead, He comforted me by reminding me that as I can only hold my mom's hand for a brief visit, but He never leaves her side and is carrying her tightly to Himself. He also reminded me, as I walk in this dark valley of suffering again, I do not walk it alone. Jesus is a faithful guide and He will never leave me.  “Trust me" I heard God whisper through my tears...”remember always I am here with you both.”  
I found sweet comfort as I envisioned being tightly drawn to Jesus' side so as not to stray; walking bravely beside Him in His strength, as He gently carried my mom in His arms. The three of us together in the valley, yet feeling unafraid of the next step because God is with me. I was covered in His peace.
I don't know why God allowed my husband and mom to suffer so greatly before leaving this life to be with Him in glory forever. I also don't know why God would have me experience their last days, feeling helpless in their suffering. I may never know this side of Heaven the good it brought or His purpose fulfilled in it, which could have been accomplished "a better way" as I often think it could. Thankfully, God didn’t ask me to understand...He simply asked, “Do you trust me?”  What else could I answer but, “Yes Lord, I trust you.”
Today like many other days, I miss my husband...and I miss my mom & dad too. The three people who mattered most to me are all gone from my life now. Still...I hold in my spirit that great hope and comfort in knowing I'll see them again one day in Heaven; but that doesn't mean I don't have days like today when I just plain want to see! There have been many times when unexpectedly the deepest pain hits, leaving me feeling empty and gasping for "something more...something better" than what I feel I’ve been left with.
Sometimes the very thought of having many more years here without them can be quite depressing...until I stop looking at my future as I see it through what has been lost. Instead, I’d rather see my future through God’s promises and believe God’s Word which say His plans for my future are good and my life will not be without His good purpose being fulfilled. I'd rather live expectantly & with anticipation of what God has in store for my future days than live them out in dread and defeat. Just writing that makes me smile at the thought of death's sting losing some of it's power over me.
What about you? Will you join me and set your eyes on Jesus too as we run this race called life together? 

You know...during times like this, I even think I can hear my husband’s voice among the distant cheering crowd as I endure another lap of grief, with my eyes and thoughts fixed on Jesus, running towards the finish line with Him.

Victory in's already mine. 

“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” ~ Philippians 3:14 NLT

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tribute to my Mom

"But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:

Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?
                                                                                                                                It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God! ~1Corinthians 15:51-57 The Message

I had the most wonderful, generous, adventurous, courageous, amazingly strong, fun and loving mom…but if she were sitting here among us still…I'm pretty sure she would say that I'm "just being nice" and want to remind me of all the times she failed at being any of these things. 

Yes…sometimes my mom was frustrated, tired, fearful, weak, no fun, and had "lost that loving feeling"…but than who here hasn't? The conflicting mixture of emotions and attributes that weave through my mom's 85 years on this earth only cause me to love and admire her more…not less. After all…as her youngest child of 3, I recall being at the root of many of her frustrations more often than I care to count. Thankfully, I feel confident that her love for me overshadowed all those times and perhaps I even became a root of her joy, her comfort and a source of her loving care.  

I loved my mom and I thank God that He gave her to me.

I must admit when my mom came to live with me full time a couple of years after my husband died I wasn't prepared for the changes dementia had caused in my Mom's ability to reason or understand the things that seemed basic or simple to me. My mom's physical care also had increased since the last time she lives with Brad & I, so it was quite overwhelming at times for both of us as we learned to adjust to each other's ability to cope with the changes in both of our lives. 

I was use to a clear thinking and more mobile mom.  My mom no doubted missed Brad's ability to diffuse the tension between the two of us stubborn women who were use to "their way" of doing things. 

It took God's love and wisdom, His strength and grace to help me adjust to caring for my mom…and His mercy and grace for my mom to accept not only my help, but to forgive my many failures in patience & tenderness and to accept my willingness to sacrifice for her good and not feel resentful that she needed my help. 

The adjustments were quite a process and was actually ones that never stopped being a process since my mom's health was in constant change. We had many "rough patches and I had many nights I cried out to God that this was all too impossible for me to handle. This was too much pain and suffering for my mom to have to bear and that she deserved a better caregiver that what I could offer. 

Yet, I can't count the times my mom expressed to me her love and I express my love for her. What joy we shared together in all those moments...all of these are precious keepsakes in my heart. The other stuff...has already begun to quickly fade into the background to be forgotten. 

On July 5th, 2013 my mom breathed out her last breath of this life and breathed in her first breath of Heaven. I rejoiced for her and God covered me with His peace and assured me that He was pleased that I had fulfilled my vow to love and care for my mom because I trusted Him over my doubts and had not given up. 

May I encourage you with these thoughts. 

You may find yourself in undesirable circumstances, but as Romans 8:28 tells us, God can take these bad things and work them together for your good and his glory if you are his child.

Our all-knowing God knows what is best for us and can direct us clearly by our circumstances. 

This is what the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says:

I am Yahweh your God,
who teaches you for your benefit,
who leads you in the way you should go. ~ Isaiah 48:17(HCSB)

Too often we give up instead of waiting for the Lord's perfect timing to grant our hearts desire.When we don't see our prayers being answered...we answer our request our way instead of God's...& this contradicts God's will. 

I used to plead for God to~ "Rescue me from this!" Only to realize that He has rescued me "in it." Recently while feeling at my weakest, I cried out to God that it felt like I wasn't getting stronger in this trial but only weaker. His answer to my heart was, "I am not trying to make you stronger...My strength is revealed perfectly in your weakness." I felt suddenly relieved from the pressure I had been under...I know how to be weak! And His strength was suddenly uncovered. Glory! 

The morning after my mom died, I woke up feeling "adrift" in a sea of aloneness. With both parents gone, my identity had once again changed and I don't much care for losing my beloved titles in this life of "wife" and now "daughter".

I could chose to just sit in this pool of self-pity but if you know me well...I'm not much for getting into the water and than drowning in that mess. No...I'd rather prefer a big comfy floating devise that allows me to rise above the waves and enjoy life's journeys. 

I have found such a vessel in Christ! God in His faithfulness that morning quickly reminded me that I am the bride of Christ...and I am the daughter of the One true King. Death can not steal these eternal identities from me...nor my Christian brother & sister can he steal them from you. 

 “Death, where is your victory?
Death, where is your pain?” 1 Corthinians 15:55 NCV

My mom is in Heaven today and she is more alive and more vibrant than when in her youth she walked this earth. She is surrounded by loved ones who had been waiting to see her again...but none anticipated her arrival more than Jesus! Oh what a joyful moment that must be...when our faith become our sight and we see Jesus face to face. 

To God be the Glory...what great things He has done! 



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

If It Looks Like A Duck...

Jesus...said to them, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must give up himself and his own desires. He must take up his cross and follow Me. If anyone wants to keep his own life safe, he will lose it. If anyone gives up his life because of Me and because of the Good News, he will save it." Mark 8:34-35 NLV

Last week I discovered a nest of 9 mallard duck eggs in my front flower bed. They were well hidden behind a small azalea bush, tucked safely next to the brick wall of my home. If not for the eagle eye of my friend's son Dillon, who was helping me with my yard work, I might have missed the joy of seeing them there.  

Excited about our find...I quickly went to my computer in search for any knowledge about duck eggs and about the mother’s habit once the eggs are laid. After getting past the search links about how to "prepare" duck eggs for consumption...I finally found what my curiosity was seeking...a very informative article about the behavior and habits of mallard ducks.  

As I clicked off the page about mallards thoughts clicked onto a common saying;

"If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and quacks like a duck...then it must be a duck!"

When I first saw the well hidden nest of duck eggs...I had no idea what kind of eggs they were. If my young friend hadn't told me they were duck eggs, I could have easily thought it possible they were from some other species of wild life.  

I couldn’t help but see the correlation between the saying above and how as a Christian...people should be able to identify me as a follower of Christ. When people’s lives come in contact with mine...they should easily distinguish me as a Christian not only by what their eyes see me doing, by how I act, and by the words I speak...but also by my appearance. 

Like these unmarked often do we find Christians who are keeping their faith hidden and unhatched in a cozy nest away from seeing eyes? Can a coworker, friend, or even strangers come across us while they are in the midst of just living life as best they can, and identify us as a Christian living among them? 

When people see our response in the trials and triumphs of they easily overlook us because we blend in with the lifestyle and attitude of everyone around us? Or are their eyes opened by our distinctive appearance to the likeness in Christ? Like my young friend Dillon who quickly identified the nest of eggs as belonging to a duck, can people quickly identify you as belonging to Jesus?  

“...he must give up himself and his own desires. He must take up his cross and follow Me. If anyone wants to keep his own life safe, he will lose it.”

What makes the life of a follower of Christ distinctive is that our focus in life is not on satisfying our desires or living a “safe” faith by blending into the ways and wants of a dying world. Because we know this life is not ours to live as we please, that it is a life created by God to please Him...everything we say and do should point others to the saving love and grace we are all offered at the foot of the cross. 

God never promised us that dying to self would be easy...but He does promise us the reward of following His Son is greater than any sacrifice we will ever make! 

So...may it be said when people meet me;

"She acts like a Christian, looks like a Christian, and talks likes a Christian...then she must be a Christian!" 



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Soul Restless or Restful Soul?

“...Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls."
 - Jeremiah 6:16

This morning when I sat down with my unexpected sigh escaped my lips all the way from my soul. I instantly whispered aloud this prayer;

“Help me, Lord! I’m so tired...even my soul is restless!”

My days lately have become an unending road of pressures from a pile of decisions I need to make. Instead of relieving this pressure by listing each one and then taking care of them in order of importance...I have chosen instead to apply my own proven stress increaser; Indecision. 

Of course, my indecision only leads these “undone decision” to slip over into my tomorrows, where several new decisions are awaiting me. I then add to my weariness a boulder or two of self-pity which only further blocks my soul’s pathway to peace. 

Is it really any wonder I'm “soul restless?” 

All this discontentment has lead me to a crossroad. It’s time to make the most important decision I have facing me. I can either take the path that leads me further away from the rest my soul is seeking...or I can take the path God offers. 

In this world, God’s way can seem old or outdated in comparison to all the new ideas we hear about on how to achieve inner peace...but His way is the only proven path that promises to deliver the rest our souls need.   

I love how God encouraged me through my usual morning devotion time and reading of His Word. I just happened to be in the Book of Jeremiah...and I just happened to be reading the 6th chapter...And God just purposely had a message for me...

"This is what the Lord says:
“Stop at the crossroads and look around.
    Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it.
Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls."
                                                                   - Jeremiah 6:16

This morning my soul spoke to me through a sigh that we had reached a crossroad in our search for rest. With God’s leading...I stopped in prayer, looked around at the paths before me, asked for the godly way to walk, and then began my travels on the Lord’s path that is providing rest for my soul. 

How about you? Have you reached the crossroad too? The path you choose will determine if your days are filled with a soul that is restless...or one that is restful.