Monday, May 7, 2018

On the Other Side of Bitter

I was sick for most of April with a sinus infection, which went into bronchitis. I went to the doctor twice for that, because I couldn't stop coughing. I had one good weekend where I felt a little better, and was able to make the long drive to go to my granddaughter's 7th birthday party.

The following Monday I was running fever in the evening. By Wednesday, my face was swollen and painful around my eyes and cheeks, so I went back to the doctor; the third trip to the doctor in 4 weeks. Seventy-five dollars in co-pays and $125 for meds later, I am finally almost completely recovered. It was an ordeal, though, and this past Saturday in my time with the Lord He showed me something that I wanted to share. 

So hang with me, I promise all this has a point.

I have had my share of health issues over the last ten years or so. One of my challenges is a stricture in my esophagus; a tight place that has been so small that I once had an Allegra capsule stuck there for 7 hours before it finally dissolved enough to go down. It has been dilated 3 or 4 times and it's about as good as it's going to be until God heals me completely, which I know without a doubt He can and will do.

Because of this stricture, I have limitations on what I can swallow, and I have to eat slower to allow time for everything to go down. It's frustrating, but I have adjusted and learned to live with it.

When the first antibiotic did not clear up the sinus infection and bronchitis, the doctor decided I needed something stronger to wipe out the infection. Now, I can swallow capsules the size of Tylenol capsules, but the antibiotic he prescribed comes in capsules quite a bit larger than that; too large for me to swallow.

I knew what I had to do; I've taken this particular medicine before. I had to open the capsule and pour its contents into applesauce to get it down. Four times a day for 7 days I did this. Twenty-eight times to be exact. Inconvenient, but doable. 

There was one problem, though.

The contents of these capsules are extremely bitter. It was all I could do to swallow it in a couple of tablespoons of applesauce, after which I drank a lot of water. It was horrible! I almost cried at first with the realization that I had to do this 4 times a day for a week. I started praying before each pill for God to help me. I quoted out loud, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." After a few days I started feeling better; the medicine was doing its job.

So Saturday morning I was reflecting about how God had been there each time and helped me endure the bitterness and He showed me something. This was a physical healing which required taking a bitter pill 4 times a day, but it applies to other healing as well.

In ALL things I need God, and He helps me through each "bitter pill" experience I go through. When He has told me specifically what path I needed to be on for emotional healing, at times it was so hard to follow through and I wanted to give up. Sometimes I did, and I would end up an emotional wreck again. I would go back to God and ask for healing and deliverance. Each time He was patient and kind and gently guided me back to the path I needed to be on for my healing.

Just like the strong, bitter medicine worked and cured the sinus infection when I took it as prescribed, God has delivered me from many different levels of emotional and spiritual bondage over the years. Each time I had to follow through and do what He had shown me I needed to do to be delivered.

On the other side of taking the 28 antibiotic capsules, I found that the bitter medicine had done its job and I was cured.

The same has been true spiritually. On the other side of the valleys I have gone through, I have found that I was healed after what had seemed like an impossible journey, full of bitter experiences.

I have heard testimonies of people who were immediately healed of all kinds of bondage; they laid down drugs and never craved them again, or they were instantly healed of depression.

For whatever reason, it hasn't worked that way for me. God has delivered me from depression, suicide attempts, and extreme emotional neediness, but for the most part I walked all of those deliverances out by daily following the Lord on the path He had put me on. One foot in front of the other, over and over, day after day I trudged through some hard and painful valleys. I wanted to cry, and many times I did. 

Every time I cried out to the Lord He always helped me. Every time.

And then one day I looked up and realized I was on the mountain top. I saw the sunshine instead of a dense forest of depression. I felt joy instead of sadness. I was happy and content instead of heavy-hearted and dejected. 

My chains were lying at my feet, no longer binding me.

My message is this: Do not give up. Keep on following the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepard. He will not steer you wrong and He really isn't trying to hurt you. It is all for your good and His glory.

Just as sure as 28 bitter pills healed a recurrent sinus infection, one day you'll look around and realize you are no longer in the valley. You are standing on the mountain top free!

"For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord--who is the Spirit--makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image." 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, NLT

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Be Still

In my last post, I talked a little about seasons, and how I was unhappy that Spring was trying to come in February. I wanted seasons to behave as they are supposed to;  Spring should start around March 20, Summer June 21, etc.

Of course in reality, it never happens that way. Where I live, Spring usually starts in early March, and Summer starts in late April or early May and goes on until about October. During those months I'm usually complaining about the heat and how I hate hot weather.

Or in other words, I'm usually complaining about whatever doesn't suit me. I realized this as I was in prayer a few days ago and it shook me. I was convicted, and I repented. I asked God to forgive me, and change my perspective. I want to be an encouragement to others, not bring them down.

And then it hit me. Actually, it's not really the weather that has been bothering me, it's the fact that seasons are completely out of my control.

Completely. Out. of. My. Control.  [insert record-scratching sound effect here]

Now, as they say, we are getting down to it. We as humans love control; some of us more than others. It's one of the reasons why people have rejected Jesus down through the ages. They want to control their own life, make their own decisions, and ultimately, live their way until they are ready to die.

The irony is, no one is ever really in control of their own life. God is in control of everything; He always has been, always will be.

God controls the seasons in our lives. Yes, the physical seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall, but more than that. He has a distinct plan for each of our lives, with seasons of different kinds woven into each plan.  Speaking in generalities, there is a season of childhood and a season when we are young adults, some of us getting married and having children of our own. There's a season when we are older and possibly grandparents.

There are also times in our lives when it feels like we are being disciplined. I believe God puts us in seasons like this to guide us and gently show us the way He wants us to go. Sometimes we may really enjoy the season we are in; sometimes, we may struggle and fight against what He is doing in our lives.

I'm of the opinion that if we fight what He is doing, we will just be in that situation longer. It is much better to submit to God's will. He promised to complete the work He started in each one of us. We just need to let Him get on with it.

In other words, just be still.

Since this little revelation, I have been attempting to "be still." He actually showed that to me shortly before 2018 began. Be still is my word for this season. I don't know how long it will be, but I am trying to not struggle and resist what God is doing in my life. I know He has a good plan for me, and He is not out to hurt me.

I hope you will also embrace whatever season God has you in, and be blessed.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Just a Daffodil

It warmed up last week and some little green sprigs of the early spring plant life in my yard started popping up here and there. Since winter is my favorite season, I was a little disappointed to notice that it is coming to a close without giving us so much as a single snowflake this year. So I have tried to ignore the signs of spring coming to life around me. Kind of like saying it isn't there if I don't acknowledge it.

That works, right? Ignore it and it will go away.

This past Monday as I was backing out of the driveway to go to work, I noticed a tiny little yellow
bud in a small patch of green on the left side of the car. Inwardly, I groaned. It's a daffodil. Spring is as good as here when they arrive. 

Every day as I left and came back, I couldn't help myself. I was drawn to look to the left of the driveway. The bud was unchanged for most of the week. It had turned off colder early in the week, so this had no doubt slowed its progress. It has rained every day though, so there was no shortage of water for the tiny little flower. It was just a bit too cold for it to finish blooming.

Saturday mornings, I usually linger a bit longer in my quiet time because I don't have to go anywhere. As I sat in my recliner enjoying the rain, I noticed the little flower. It had bloomed. In spite of the colder temperatures, it had hung in there. It was still alive; even thriving. It was drooping a little, but only because it is so small and the rain was beating down on it. 

The Lord spoke to me as I sat looking at the little flower. I felt Him urging me to not be upset with the daffodil because it's merely doing what He created it to do.

Yes, Lord, I know it is, I reasoned. But it's not spring yet. It's February. It's still supposed to be winter, and we never even got any snow. As if  He didn't realize that.

I got up from my chair and went on about my Saturday, but I couldn't get the little daffodil out of my head. I even went out and took a picture of it. The picture attached is the actual daffodil in my yard.

I thought about it off and on all day, and it started to come into focus in my mind that God is speaking to me through a flower.  A flower, and a yellow one at that, when He knows I don't like yellow. It's my least favorite color.

Sunday morning, I was having coffee and prayer time and I stole a glance in the direction of the flower. It was still there; kind of droopy, but completely in bloom. 

It was the only one in the yard.

I'm still not sure what the Lord was saying to me. Possibly that everyone has a purpose, even a tiny, lone daffodil. It doesn't matter if you stand all alone, do what you were made to do. 

That's what the daffodil did. It did exactly what it was supposed to do, in spite of the cold, in spite of the rain. It took it all week, but it finally bloomed. 

I left for church, and the lone daffodil stood proudly, though still droopy. 

When I returned, the sun had been out all morning. For the first time in a week we had sunshine. I expected to see the daffodil finally straightened up with its face toward the sun.

But it was gone. My heart sank. I parked the car and walked over to where the flower had been. No sign of it anywhere. Not one indication remained that there had ever been a yellow daffodil there. The entire plant was gone. I looked all around, thinking maybe one of the squirrels ate it, but there was no yellow anywhere. I don't think it was a squirrel that got it, because they are messy; when they eat pecans on my porch they leave crumbs and shells everywhere.

I think someone picked it. Lots of people walk in my neighborhood and it was close to the street. 

I may never know why the slowly blooming, early daffodil caught my attention, but I actually felt loss when it was gone. I felt like I had been robbed. Actually, I had. It was on my property, so it was mine. 

I was looking forward to seeing it standing upright and not drooping and now I never would.

Pretty silly, I know. All this fuss over a daffodil when I don't like spring, or yellow. Somehow, though, I think something warmed slightly in my heart. The little analogy of a too tiny, too early daffodil resonates within me. A very important truth has been revealed to me.

No one is too small, too insignificant, for God to use. Not even a tiny daffodil. 

I will never look at daffodils the same.

"The Lord has made everything for its own purpose..." Proverbs 16:4 NASB

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

God's Timing

One of my absolute favorite Christmas albums is by Mannheim Steamroller. On this particular album, there is a medieval sounding tune called "Fum, Fum, Fum." I know it's silly, but I love this! Anytime I hear it throughout the season it instantly lifts my mood and brightens my day.

On the last Monday to work before Christmas break, I was dreading the day. We were having semester tests at school and it's always a busy and stressful time in the office. That particular morning, though, as I got in my car to head to work, that favorite little Christmas tune started playing as I started the car.

Wait a minute. It was just where the CD happened to be right at that moment in
time, right? What's the big deal?

I will tell you. I do NOT believe it was an accident or coincidence. I believe it was God's timing, because He knows it's my favorite and it would instantly lift my spirits. I sat there and thanked Him before I backed out of the driveway for timing it so that song would play when I needed it so badly. He cares about even little things like a silly song that makes me happy. For some reason, I was deeply affected and suddenly very aware of God's timing. I marveled at the fact that He has every detail of our lives in His hand.

Fast forward to New Years Day. 

I've always seen it as a day of promise, of new beginnings, and writing resolutions. A day to watch the Tournament of Roses parade and eat the traditional New Year food. I usually go into a new year hopeful for improvement in some areas of my life while reflecting on what was good and bad in the previous year and thanking God for His guidance, blessings, and protection.

This year, however, I came into the year with a broken bridge. Yes, you read that right  The back tooth, the anchor of a four-tooth bridge in my mouth broke, but remained in place, before Christmas. I was able to get an appointment on December 29 to get some preliminary work done and made an appointment to get the rest done in January.

New Years Day the tooth anchoring the other end of the bridge came loose and the whole bridge fell out in my hand.

Happy New Year!

This was not exactly how I had envisioned 2018 starting out. I was at first horrified, because there was now a gap near enough to the front which revealed that I obviously had a tooth missing. My pride was severely damaged. As I gave it all to God, though, He began to reveal to me that it was not as bad as I had thought it would be when it first happened. Count your blessings and be thankful for the timing, I heard as I waited before Him.

Hmm. Blessings, you say? Let me see.

First, it was a blessing that the whole thing started in the previous year, because I still had insurance available for 2017 that would pay for 1/2 of the first part of the repair work.

Second, because part of this was paid for out of last year's insurance, there would now be enough to pay for the rest of it out of this year's.  Perfect timing.  

Timing? Honestly, if it had happened earlier in the year last year or just a little bit later, it would have been a huge financial burden, because it would be mostly out of pocket.

God's timing. 

The timing of this whole event was arranged by God. I am extremely thankful for this.

I was able to go in the next day and my dentist worked some "magic," gluing the front tooth and one connecting fake tooth back in temporarily until my appointment later in January.

So I became suddenly aware of God's timing in December, when my favorite, whimsical little Christmas tune was played just for me. This  is my word for 2018: timing. He has continued to unfold things in HIS TIME, and I am utterly amazed. I believe I will continue to see His amazing work revealed to me all year, and the timing will be perfect, because He is perfect.

Happy New Year, even though I waited until January 31st to tell you. I've been unable to get the words out until tonight, when it all came into focus for me.

I think it's the way it was supposed to be. It's in God's timing. 

My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me. Psalm. 31:15 NASB

Sunday, December 17, 2017

All that Glitters

Well, it's December, and here we are in the middle of the Christmas season.  For many it is a super busy season; there are presents to buy, decorations to put up, and family gatherings to prepare for. There are just not enough hours in the day to get it all done. 

Also amid the carols, lights, parties, and shopping, though, is a lonely soul for whom Christmas is painful. They may have been alone for years or lost a loved one recently and a huge, gaping hole is in the middle of all the merriment where their loved one used to be.

It is both stressful and painful in many cases.

For both extremes there is something you need to remember to keep everything in perspective: Social media paints an incomplete picture of what is really going on in most cases. 

Remember that while the tree may be near perfection and the pictures of the party trappings may look like something in a magazine, just off camera in some of these homes is a stack of empty Christmas decoration boxes and a sink full of dishes. 

Perhaps the smiling families in those pictures have not all been together in many years, and this year they finally managed to get their schedules together. For most of those years, there was a family member or two alone during this season.

Try to remember that even though it looks like everyone but you has it all together, this is a delusion. Things are not always as they seem to be.

All that glitters is not gold.  

Life is imperfect and most humans are just like you and me; figuring it out as they go along. So while your news feed may be filled with smiling faces and glittering decorations, don't beat yourself up because your house seems to fall short of what you perceive to be the norm. 

And don't lose heart if you are feeling lonely, smiling on the outside but crying on the inside.

Most people are just like you, they just don't take pictures of everyday life usually. We all fall into the trap of only showing the best, and we all need to remember that next time we are scrolling and feeling inadequate.

Truth is, we are all inadequate.

We are all imperfect and inadequate, that is why we have Christmas in the first place. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" as it says in Romans 3:23. 

So take heart, my friends. You are not alone and without hope. Christ came to save us all, and He did that because He loves us.

He loves both the extremely busy and the utterly alone equally.


Have a blessed and merry Christmas this year and remember why we have this celebration in the first place.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Perfect Life

It was a particularly busy day at work one day recently. The whole day it seemed that I would no sooner start on one project until 2 more came up almost simultaneously. There was a steady stream of people in and out of my office needing something or asking questions. There were deadlines to meet, places to be, and a stack of things to do.

I fuss about it, but I love the pace of my job. I thrive on it.

I took each thing as it came, as I have learned to do, and pushed through.  Days like that, though they may seem overwhelming, do at least make the day seem to fly by.  In the midst of all the busyness, though, the Lord prompted me to write about a question that came up as I was reflecting on this chaotic day.

What would I be doing right now if I had been given the perfect life I always thought I wanted?

In the seventies when I was a teenager, I remember thinking a perfect life would be to get married, have children, and be a stay at home mom all during their growing up years. Before you judge me too harshly, remember one little detail: In those days it was quite common for mothers to stay home with their children while the husband went off to work everyday to "bring home the bacon." 

I had a brief ambition in high school to go to business college and be trained in office administration before getting married. However, I fell in love my senior year in high school, and the fleeting ambition to go to college fell by the wayside. After high school graduation I got married at eighteen and had three children within the first decade of our marriage. I got to stay home with my children part of the time, but for the most part, my dream life was not working out like I had planned because:

I kept having to return to the workforce.

Except for a few precious years, I was a working mom. I was thinking about what life was like when my children were small. I can never really know what "might have been," like George Bailey did in It's a Wonderful Life. I have an idea, though, that what I thought I wanted was not at all what I needed.

I remember being unhappy about having to go back to work when the youngest started first grade. The monetary strain of raising a family caused the need for me to seek a job. If I had stayed home, though, the chain of events that unfolded over the years would not be the same.

For one, I'm quite sure I would not have gone to college. The job I was forced to seek out got me out of the house and allowed me to be more comfortable around people. Back then, I was such a timid shadow of the person I am today. I gained confidence in my abilities by learning this new job. This reawakened my love of learning--I remembered that I love school!  The possibility of college entered my mind. As my confidence increased I worked up the courage to take a chance and enroll in "Intro to PC," my first college class. 

Because I found the courage to go to college, I discovered my fascination with technology. Who knows if I would even know how to use a computer if I had my "perfect life?" I love working with computers; I continue to learn as I go and have never been afraid to try the next new technology. 

After I had been at my job for about 6 years, I felt led to apply for another job. It was almost a year later that I got that new job. Here I was around technology more and more, and as communication in the workplace evolved from memos on paper to emails, I adapted to the changes. Because of this job, I now had access to email in the nineties, about the time when it was becoming a new way to communicate. The internet was a new, exciting thing and I was eager to learn about it.

Finally, and most importantly, I might not be a Christian. It may sound like a stretch, but if I hadn't been forced to go out and get a job, I might never have had the courage to try a new church. It was only because my daughter wanted to go to a local church after she had a God encounter at a youth outreach they held. Even though I was raised in church, I never knew Jesus as my personal Savior. I gave my heart to Christ while going to this church that my daughter wanted to go to. 

My life began to change when I accepted Christ as my Savior at age 39.

So, though I was unhappy about it at the time, the adversity in my life that caused me to get a job outside the home in the first place was actually a good thing. It led me to college, which sparked a fire in me to learn more. This in turn caused me to get the job that led to my present job, which I believe is a gift from God. 

I can honestly say I am thankful to God for allowing the pain and need that caused me to seek out that job back in 1988. I so desperately did not want to stop being a stay at home mom; I felt like I was deserting my children at the time. Now I see it was all part of God's plan for my life.

As I was reflecting on all the pain and struggles I have been through, I remembered a story I heard. It is said that if the caterpillar has help getting out of the cocoon, it doesn't form properly into a butterfly and will soon die. It's the struggle of getting out of the cocoon that causes it to become what it is meant to be.

My struggles over the years have been painful, and sometimes I just wanted to give up. Literally. In other posts I have shared about my battle with depression, and how I was suicidal at one time. I wasted a lot of time and energy being unhappy about having to work outside the home because it was not what I had wanted. 

It was all part of God's plan, though.

These days, I am so very grateful for God's intervention and guidance. He has guided me every step of the way and I have not one doubt that I am exactly where I was supposed to be all along. I am actually glad that I had to work, because I believe it was part of what God used to help make me who I am today. 

Put your life in God's hands and trust Him to lead you in the ways you should go. He always knows what we need, even if it's not what we think we want at first. 

He always knows best.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take." Proverbs 3:5,6 NLT

Saturday, September 16, 2017

When Worry and Anxiety Come

"Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?" Luke 12:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

Just days after my last post, Hurricane Harvey slammed into the coast of Texas. For about a week previously I had been watching the weather closer than I normally would, for you see, I have family in Houston. Very close, very dear family; my youngest son and his wife live there. Sure, they are no longer children, of course, but as any mother will tell you, your babies are always your babies, no matter how old they are, no matter that they have been grown and on their own for many years.

When it became clear that Harvey was indeed heading for Houston, I hit my knees, and enlisted my brothers and sisters in Christ to agree with me in prayer. We prayed protection over not only my family but the entire area.

Thursday evening, I texted them to see how they were. I asked if they were evacuating, and they said no, they were on high ground and had supplies.

Friday the hurricane made landfall, southwest of them in Corpus Christi. I checked in on them that evening and was told it was raining a little, "really more drizzly than anything." They had gone for a walk. Life was still fairly normal. They were prepared to evacuate if it became mandatory, but were optimistic that they could ride it out.

At this time, we didn't know that the hurricane would stall out and sit over them for days, dumping tons of water and flooding many areas of the city.

For 5 or 6 days, I texted my son and daughter-in-law about twice a day. Each time, they were fine. Even though it rained, and rained, and rained. By Sunday evening, it was still raining there but my family was still high and dry. I had been praying all along and giving them to God, but I was still nervous and worried about them. I was doing my best to trust Him, but it was so hard.

Then it all changed. A peace settled over me as was praying that evening. It began to sink in what was going on: God had directed them to the exact area of the city to live in when they first moved there several years ago. He knew this was coming, but He took care of them. 

This is one of the times I can honestly say I experienced what Paul talks about when he said:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6,7. NASB

I like the way the New American Standard phrases this passage; "Peace that passes all comprehension will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus..." We can't even comprehend it; we can't get our minds around how He can do that, but He does.

That's exactly what happened. God's peace just enveloped me; it settled over me like a warm blanket on a cold day. Even though I was still praying and still checked in on them, I was not worried anymore. 
It continued to rain until about Wednesday, but I remained calm.

I know many people were flooded out of their homes; some lost everything. My heart goes out to them. I do not begin to understand why some were flooded and some were not; I just know that God spared my family. They stayed above the flood waters the entire time and even kept electricity. I do not believe it was by chance.

I believe my God heard and answered our prayers, and I wanted to testify to His goodness and mercy. 

"Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen." Philippians 4:20 NASB