Broken Places

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It started out as an ordinary day, running around, doing my ordinary errands in my ordinary way … but I knew there was “trouble” when I slipped into the car after one of my stops.  I had left my phone in the car and had picked it up to see if there were any missed calls.  To my chagrin, there were not just one or two missed calls, but there were seven!  And they were all from the same person — our daughter Alicia!

This did not look good.

With trembling hands and palpitating heart, I reluctantly hit the “call back” button.

My suspicions were correct.  There had been an accident.

A mother never EVER wants to receive one of those calls!

Alicia told me that Rebekah, our youngest daughter, was, at that moment, on her way to the hospital in an ambulance with her three-year-old daughter, Hadassah.  A refrigerator had fallen on her, completely severing two of her fingers from the first knuckle up.

As bad as that was, it was a small miracle.  Hadi’s baby brother had been crawling on the floor close to where the fridge had fallen.  It could have fallen on him which, most assuredly, would have killed him.

But it didn’t fall on him.

Like I said … a small miracle.

The full weight of that beastly appliance did, however, fall on little Hadi’s hand.

What does a woman do when, on an ordinary day, doing ordinary things, she receives extraordinarily devastating news like this?

First, she groans with every fiber of her being.  She resists the pain …

… then come the tears.

And then she realizes that the only thing to do, being 2000 miles away, is to fall at the Throne of Mercy and cry out.

But what does she cry?  I don’t remember.  She just cries

…from the depths of her soul

… groanings that cannot be uttered

… groanings not only for her grandchild, but for her child.

Being a grandma doubles the joys, but it also doubles the sorrows.

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It seems so senseless.  What possible “good” purpose could God have for allowing two digits to be severed from the hand of a sweet little girlshe wonders?

Her precocious little granddaughter had awakened that morning with a perfectly intact body, and it was now broken, never to be the same again.  How does a grandma wrap her head around that one?  It’s not easy.

It’s not easy at all.

Numb with shock, and (naturally) worried about my baby girl, Rebekah, who was dealing with her own pain, I knew I had two ways to respond.

1) Curse God because of this, or 2) Praise God in the midst of this (Job 2:9-10).

I opted for Choice #2, for shall we receive good at the hand of God and not receive evil?

I decided there is no tidy pattern for who gets pain and who doesn’t.

I decided that God allows pain into our lives because we are most near the broken heart of Christ when we slip into the “broken places” of life.

So what am I going to do about this?

It’s all about perspective.  It’s all about choosing to think on what is lovely.

Choosing to trust.

Choosing to believe that good will come of Hadi’s loss.

Choosing to believe that God will use her story for His glory and for her good.

Choosing to believe that all the days of Hadi’s life were written before there was yet one of them (Psalm 139:16), and that this event came as no surprise to the God who created her for a purpose.

So when we don’t know why sorrows come our way, all we can do is go with what we do know.  And we do know that God is good and that He loves us …

We do know that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 35).

Hadi has a strong little spirit, and I have no doubt she will rise above this.  She will one day step upon this platform of pain to proclaim and praise the wonderful Name of her God and Savior Jesus Christ.

She has incredible parents whose faith is set in stone, and in the words of Hadi’s mama, I will close:

“Will you rejoice with us in praising God for preventing what could have been?  As much as we’re grieving over it all, I’m thankful that I still have all four of these sweet babies living and breathing tonight.  Thank you Jesus!!!”

Gratefulness like that from a grief stricken mother can only come from a fully surrendered heart.  That’s my girl.

And that’s my God — the One I serve — and His praise will continually be on my lips no matter what … by His grace.

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For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. ~ Psalm 34:1

 

Lost ‘n’ Found

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Have you ever lost a valuable item?  What a sinking feeling!  Especially when it’s MIA for a long period of time!   I had been in search of a “treasure” for nearly three weeks, having prayed DOZENS of times that it would surface — to no avail!

I didn’t relish the thought of the small fortune it would cost me to replace it.

I don’t happen to have a small fortune lying around waiting to be spent!

Desperate to find it, I had stooped to the ultimate low by digging through stinky, smelly, slimy garbage cans! I had looked in every possible crack and crevice of the house.

Nada! GONE!!!

I don’t know why God doesn’t always answer the fervent prayers of an absent-minded, gray-haired woman!

Because it was “time sensitive,” I knew I would have to replace it if I hadn’t found it by “x” date.  The day arrived.  It was now necessary to take steps to replace it.

With much chagrin, I readied myself to head to town. I had prayed a few days prior, asking the Lord to, in His mercy, help me find it before I spent the money.

Because don’t we ALWAYS find things after we have spent the money on a new one???

No response. Nothing.  Chilling silence!

Disgruntled and cringing over the anticipated expense, and chiding myself for being so careless, I sat down in the living room to put on my shoes before heading out the door to make the dreaded purchase, setting my glass of water on the doily-covered coffee table in front of me.

But, LO!

It ROCKED unsteadily!

Something was beneath it!

I moved the glass to investigate.

You guessed it! My valued item had been there the whole time, camouflaged by the intricate designs of the doily! I must have passed that spot a hundred times in my frantic search over the previous few weeks!

Sometimes God waits until the midnight hour before He chooses to act, and I believe that’s what He wanted to teach me.

His ways are surely not our ways, are they!

Don’t you just love the way God speaks to our hearts through real-life situations — everyday circumstances that are analogous to deeper spiritual truths???

… and so I wait in glad expectation for other “unanswered” prayers that sit on my plate of petitions.

Be still, my heart, and rest … for He is never late!

 

Valentine’s Day Surprise

Two days ago, my husband came home early from work — serendipitous for me because my love language is “quality time.”

It didn’t surprise me, though, because, after all, it WAS Valentine’s Day!

However, I thought it was odd that he didn’t bring the usual card or box of chocolates, but then I thought, “He knows how I feel about cards.” (They are a waste of money in my opinion.) And also, “He knows I’m cutting sugar out of my diet,” so I was glad he didn’t bring home tempting goodies!

We had an unhurried dinner and a nice conversation! I was on Cloud 9! Then he said, “Why don’t we watch a movie? I’ll make some popcorn!” So we did.

I thought to myself as I snuggled next to him during the movie, “This is the BEST Valentine’s Day ever!!!”

After the movie and before going to bed, we did our usual “look-through-Facebook-posts routine.” We scrolled through status after status of photos with flowers and frills and beautifully decorated table settings … and friends talking about love.

The color drained from his face and he gasped in horror, “Is THIS Valentine’s Day???”

I looked at him in disbelief!

“Doing life” with my guy is a hoot — most of the time anyway!

For in his mind, EVERY day is Valentine’s Day!

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More of Him; Less of Me

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My heart dropped to the floor.  It began to palpitate.  Sweat dripped from my brow.  I could feel the prickly paws of gloom, despair and agony scratching at my pathetically pitiful and prideful soul!

Is this what a panic attack feels like? I wondered, as I labored for air.

Rewind to several months prior to this day.

I was in my prayer closet, asking the Lord to show me the theme for an upcoming retreat where I had been invited to speak. 

Yes!  I was in PRAYER!!!  That should pretty well guarantee everything would be okay … right?  

After all, I was speaking to my Father — the One who knows everything about me and loves me anyway.  The One who always has my best interest in mind.  

What could possibly go wrong … right?

Hmmmmmmmm.

In the depths of my being, as I sought Him, I kept hearing the words of John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease,” and then I thought of Kathleen Carnali’s song, “More of Him; Less of Me.” 

Yes!  I knew that was to be the theme!

Earlier in the planning stages, one of the event planners had asked for my bio.  She had also asked if I wanted her to use the picture on my website, or if I wanted to send a “different” photo for the promotional materials.

I remembered the picture that was on the link I had previously sent to her (photo B), so I said with confidence, “Please just use the picture on the link I sent you,” and that was the end of our conversation.

Months passed.  Everything was fine.  The Spirit of God had been graciously dispensing tidbits of verses and biblical principles for me to use for the weekend retreat.  I was looking forward to sharing my wonderful Lord and His Word with the new friends I was going to meet — more of Him; less of us!

Then it happened.  I received a copy of the registration form from the retreat team.

I couldn’t believe my eyes!  I blinked.  I blinked again.  And blinked once more.  I shook my head in denial and disbelief, attempting to clear my head — my eyes — whatever it was that needed to be cleared!  

It didn’t work.  It was still there — a picture of me from a mission trip I had taken to the Philippines two years earlier (photo A)!  A hideous, sweaty image of myself was staring back at me, as big as life, on that registration form!  

There I was, clad in a cotton summer top with narrow straps, dripping wet from the humidity.  Unruly waves had overtaken my entire head of hair, and (save for a little lipstick) had nary a stitch of makeup on, accentuating the dark circles beneath my eyes and swollen face from the “heat stroke” or whatever it was with which I had been suffering since landing on the island of Mindanao.

In spite of my adverse physical reaction to the climate, which was foreign to this high desert girl, I had been pushing myself to minister Christ on this Pacific island.  After all, my son-in-law had graciously arranged outreach opportunities for me throughout my 21-day stay, i.e., ministering at a women’s birthing center where my daughter was serving, at a children’s feeding program, at children’s outreaches in poor villages, and at Tim Tebow Cure Hospital with post-surgery children.

I had been determined not to let the nausea and headaches prevent me from doing what I went there to do!

But somewhere along the way, someone had taken a picture of me in my distressed state … and somehow, THAT picture (photo A) had apparently ended up on the webpage I had sent to the retreat planners (unbeknownst to me)!  

Is there a hacker on the loose???

“Noooooooooooooooooo!!!”  my voice echoed in the silent room where I sat alone, looking with mortification on that sick and sweaty woman staring back at me.  

That CAN’T be the picture on the promotional materials!  Please God!  Let it NOT be!!!

(This takes us back to where this story began.)

That’s when I heard (again) the still, small voice whispering deep in my spirit — except this time it was in question form: 

“More of Him; less of me, you say???”

“Yes … but … but … but LORD,” I stuttered.  “Do you SEE this picture???”

Silence …

… except for the repeated phrase, “More of Me; less of you,” followed by,

“This isn’t about YOU.  It’s about ME.”

I slumped in resignation, knowing He was right … again.  He’s always right, you know.

“Yes, Lord.  It is about You, not me.  Forgive me and take away this ugly pride that stands between You and me.  Please, Lord!  Less of me and more of You!

As hard as I thought it through, I never did arrive at a satisfactory explanation as to how on EARTH “Photo A” had come to be the profile picture on the webpage that I had sent to the ladies!

I could only “try not to think about it” (as my husband has been known to say to me on a number of occasions throughout our marriage).

I turned to God’s Word for comfort, as is my custom when feeling distraught.  And by His divine grace, I was able to give it over to Him — but I have to confess that it wasn’t without a fight.

Then this is the clincher:

Later in the day, while checking Facebook, a friend’s status jumped off the screen at me.  This is what it said:

“… A person with godly humility looks to the Master.  He or she neither exalts nor denigrates self, because to do either is to make self the center of our universe.  When we’re really serving Christ, our reputations and abilities [and photographs?] simply cease to be so important.  We must decrease that He may increase “

That’s what the post said!!!  “We must decrease that He may increase … “

Did I not NEED to see those words right then and there???  How grateful I am to that friend who obeyed His nudge to make that her status that morning!

God had taken me full circle — back to my earlier prayer in my little closet of a room — more of You; less of me, Lord.

The Spirit of God had moved on my dear friend’s heart to type those words — a friend who lives nearly 700 miles away and who knew NOTHING of my present dilemma!  And, since my friend was quoting a famous author, our loving Father would have had to have placed those words into the author’s heart at some point … to be read and posted by my friend at another point — for such a time as this!  

Oh the intricacies of His divine plan to mold us, each one, into His image!  How can we not but speak of Him to everyone who will listen!

Give me a pure heart, O God!  One that seeks after You!  I confess my sinful pride and lay it at the foot of Calvary’s Cross.  Change me, Lord, from the inside out.  I want to cooperate with You — not fight against You.  I surrender all.  Please transform me into Your image — the Image of Loveliness — that the only beauty in me would be the reflection of You.  

This is my heart’s cry, dear Lord:  More of You; Less of Me.

Amen.

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Superman Goes to the Supermarket

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You know you’re in a good place when you’re aimlessly wandering around the Walmart parking lot (in a nearby town) –bordering panic mode because your car is NOT! Where. You. LEFT! It!

… when suddenly a faceless voice speaks forth from the array of vehicles.

You whirl around to identify the source, and there stands your neighbor (from the other town) like a knight on a white steed, or like the masked Lone Ranger, or maybe even like Superman in his cape, speaking these words of comfort:

“It’s over there—>!” pointing south.

Your eager eye follows his finger and you indeed catch a glimpse of your car, subtly tucked away … “over there” … a ways south!

You regain your composure, profusely express your gratitude, scurry southward toward your carriage, slip in, and drive away … heartily thanking God for good people in a fine community in a grand state in the greatest country in the whole wide world!

I wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else!

(For other parking lot escapades, see “A Beautiful World” and “Turkey Trot.”)

Common Core and “Chantilly Lace”

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The air is thick with tension. It is fifth hour — two hours after lunch — and Mrs. Snyder’s students (who are as sleepy as she is) are practicing with TAXING Common Core “expository reading” and “evidence finding.” Hearts are heavy-laden and burdened with the pressure. We can cut the air with a knife.

Mrs. Snyder sits at her desk, scoring papers, while the students strain their tired little brains with this high-level reading activity. Her heart goes out to them because they really are giving it their “all.”

That is when Mrs. Snyder gets a hair-brained idea:

Since the bell will ring soon, it is time to liven the place up!

She secretly goes onto YouTube and types in “1950’s music” (because the lyrics are sure to be “safe”). She finds a link, cranks up the volume, and hits “play” — not knowing which golden oldie is going to grace their ears.

Suddenly, out of the speakers comes nothing but a loud, DEEP male voice — no music:

“HELLLLL-O, BAAAABY!!!  (Yes, it was “Chantilly Lace.”)

…surprising Mrs. Snyder more than anyone — and then the wild music cuts loose and shatters the walled silence!

Kids look up, stunned at first by the booming voice, wondering who on earth had just stepped into the room.

Then, once the music starts, and they get over the shock, the atmosphere rocks with hilarity — some of the more sanguine students jump out of their seats to dance!

Mrs. Snyder is bent over with laughter, recalling the astonished expressions, tears streaming from her eyes.

Mrs. Snyder still laughs today, remembering that moment!

She wonders if her students remember.

Life is just way too serious sometimes, don’t you think?

… as You Were Comforted

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The world is full of comfortless hearts. I’ve been there.

Do you ever wonder why you are passing through some special sorrow?

You must pass through afflictions if you are to be useful vessels and make an impact in the lives of others. So, in a sense, your own life becomes the “hospital ward” where you are taught the Divine art of comfort. You are wounded so that, in the binding up of your wounds by the Great Physician, you may learn how to render first aid to the wounded who cross your path.

After ten years have passed, you will have come across others who have been afflicted as you are today. You will tell them how you suffered and were comforted; then, as your story unfolds, you will find yourself sharing the healing balm that God once wrapped around you. That is when you will know why you were afflicted (at least in part), as you will see God use the wealth of your experience to comfort others.

Remember … God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.

(Paraphrased from “Streams in the Desert” January 11.)

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.  Isaiah 40:1

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.   2 Corinthians 1:4