Sunday, September 29, 2013

Just to fill you in. . .

I've been meaning to write this post for several months now and have decided there's just no good way to begin it, but it's something I feel I need to do. If you go to church with us or have talked to us much recently, it's all just old news, but somehow I've not found a good way to say it to others in this age of social media. 

So. . . for those of you who may not have heard, my sweetheart was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January. He took a couple of chemo treatments but soon decided it was best not to continue as they severely affected his quality of life. It has been quite a year so far to say the least, and I must say that it doesn't matter how much advance notice you have or how much people might think you can prepare for what is ahead-- none of that really helps make it any easier at all as things start to progress. It's just plain hard and heart-wrenching to watch and to walk through with someone you love so much. 

But we truly have been just taking everything one day at a time with thanksgiving for all he has still been able to enjoy.  And there really is so much to thank God for every day.

As I write those words, I can't help but wonder if even one person might read this who doesn't really know or believe that there can be real hope and peace at a time like this. If that is you, please don't stop reading! Everything within me wants to sit across the table from you, look you in the eyes, and say from the depth of my heart with tears in my eyes that God is real. And He is good and loving and compassionate and all-powerful. He cares for you as much as He cares for me and for my husband. He knows you by name, He formed your inmost being, and He knows every detail of your heart. His plans for you are perfect and for good. There is a true peace that this world can't describe. And this world is not all there is. The hope of heaven is not just a wishful-thinking kind of hope. It's a deep-down knowing and eager expectation that God will be true to His Word--
"No eye has seen,
   no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
   what God has prepared for those who love Him."
           - 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV84)
So we are hanging in there, as God keeps holding us. And if you don't know the hope and peace of Christ, I would love the chance to share with you more about it.
"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  - John 16:33 (NIV84)

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Phone, a List, a Book, and a Blog

When your phone quits working to start the day, that is usually not a good sign.  When your phone is also your planner, your notebook, your music player, your photo album collection, and your basic access to the outside world, it makes you feel pretty lost.  (Yes, I know these things can be backed up. . .  but then my phone is my only home internet connection as well, so I can only do some of that when I have access to wi-fi.)

Anyway, that was pretty much my Saturday. While I will spare you the long story of getting to the point where I do have my phone mostly functional now, the prompting of this blog post was really from thinking of one of the things I was most relieved to have saved. Now, those of you who know me well know that I really like to keep everything (and for all of our sakes, I will pretend to ignore the eye-rolling that is surely going on at this point), but one thing I keep on my phone along with many other items on my "notes" app is a list where each day I thank God for things I specifically notice as gifts from Him and ways He is providing for me. I keep it on my phone rather than in a journal because I always have my phone with me, and that specific note is a place where I only write things I am thanking God for, not other prayers and requests, etc.  That makes it easy to stay focused, and then it is so nice to be able to read back through and see those listings all in one place at one time.

The idea of a gratitude journal or thank-you list is nothing new and is something I had actually started doing before I came across the book I am about to share with you. God has taught me over the years that praising and thanking Him are essential to getting through difficult times (and are most appropriate in good times, of course, too!), so when my sweetheart received a difficult diagnosis this past summer, it wasn't long before I realized I better start being intentional about recounting and recording thanksgiving to protect my heart, my faith, and my sanity. So I started just writing one or more items each day in a note on my phone because it seemed the easiest to access and be able to keep up with at any time or place.

But even as God was already leading my heart in that direction, it was about to be taken so much deeper thanks to the writing of Ann Voskamp. With as much reading as I do, I'm not really sure how I had missed coming across her book up to this point, but I guess it was a good thing for just the perfect timing this past fall. With the exception of the Bible itself and a few Beth Moore Bible studies, I would say that Ann's book, "One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are," has definitely been one of the most life-changing, heart-transforming books I have ever read. Even though I finished it several months back, the truths Ann shared still affect my daily thought life. And I am thankful. Her writing is almost like poetry in a prose format and just exudes grace and compassion on every page. With heartbreaking times in her own life, she does not gloss over or undermine difficulties, but rather shares how we can still give thanks in their midst and see the grace of God that is there for us at every step. And she does the same on her blog (, so I would highly recommend that you check it out often and/or follow her on Facebook or Twitter as she shares the links there as well.

Anyway, her writing has so deeply affected my heart as I continue to keep up with my list, even as more difficult diagnoses have followed. I think in the past I had always thought of giving thanks in hard times of a way of survival and not much more, but Ann reminds us that it can be the way to joy in Christ in any season as well. Without sorrow or tears? Of course not. But with the peace that comes from knowing God's presence and working in all things at all times.

So, although I know it would have been OK if my list had been lost from my phone, as the process and the remembering are treasures in themselves, it was such a sweet thing to be able to have it back and read through so many of the ways God has shown Himself and His provision for me day by day, especially with the extra difficulties over the past couple of weeks. And yes, now my pictures are all saved to my computer and my phone is backed up (hopefully) to be able to save everything while transitioning to the replacement phone. But I did e-mail that list to myself so I would definitely have it to keep :) Thanking God for extra blessings and grace. . .

What are you especially thankful for today?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Embrace the Cross (Part 2)

When I titled my last post (Part 1), I had a particular idea in mind for what to write next. While I still hope to share some of those things later, it seemed that this post needed to go in a different direction, and today (Saturday, the day before Easter) would be the perfect day to write it.

When we think about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can easily jump from one to the other without giving much pause to the day in between. Today is the perfect day to do just that, but it really has so much application for our lives in so many areas, not just today.

My mind and heart have been drawn to how those who loved Jesus must have felt after he was crucified and buried. Their lives had completely changed when they began to follow Him. They saw miracles, signs, and wonders beyond what they could ever have imagined. They knew there was no one like Him, and they truly believed He was the Christ, the Anointed One, the Son of God.

But after seeing him beaten and hanging on the cross, so many of their hopes and dreams must have died with Him that Friday. And imagine the depth of hopelessness and despair that was settling in by Saturday. Think of all the questions, the doubts, the fears. Couldn't God have stopped this? Were we wrong all along in following Him? But what about the other miracles? What do we do now? The list could go on and on.

They didn't realize that in the midst of the most hopeless-looking scenario they could ever imagine, God was already working a bigger miracle than they could ever begin to hope or even think to ask for. The plan was still in place. Nothing had thrown it off. God was still in control. And their minds were about to be blown like never before.

The thing is, Jesus had told them ahead of time what would happen, but they didn't get it. They couldn't comprehend what He meant when He said, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life." (Matthew 17:22b-23a)  They were grieved on hearing those statements, but they really had no idea what would happen. They didn't understand His words enough to hold on to that hope after the devastation of the cross.

How often do we find ourselves in situations where we can relate? He tells us ahead of time. He gives us His promises. But sometimes it can be hard to fully take them in.

  • "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)  We know this. . . But do we really take in that it includes ALL things, even this thing? (And my "this thing" could be different from what you would guess. And your "this thing" could be different from what I would ever guess...)

  • "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17)  Can we begin to fathom this glory that will eclipse all our afflictions? (Now I'm thinking of that line in the song, "How He Loves". . . Ah, love that song!)

  • And Jesus said-- "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Truly He has overcome. The celebrations and focus of this weekend always stir my heart. But the fact that He has overcome can allow us to take heart every day. In all our "Saturdays" where waiting and not understanding can start to weigh heavy, we can still trust and "wait in hope" for the Lord, for the One who brings the miracle of Sunday, for the One who already has a plan, for the One who is still working in everything, and working for our good.

Sunday is coming! We will praise Him then, and we can praise and thank Him now. He is worthy!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Embrace the Cross (Part 1)

Spring is in the air today, and it has me thinking about Easter a little more than usual. It will be here before we know it. Really, if you're involved in choir or children's ministry or much of anything at church, it comes to the forefront of your mind pretty much as soon as Christmas is over (if not sooner). And I like it that way. Easter is at the center of the gospel we proclaim every Sunday, and hopefully every day we live as Christians.

There is a song in the Easter musical our choir will be singing this year that has words so rich that hearing them just once as we sing feels not enough. I wanted to share them here so you can fully take them in line by line as they so beautifully express a glimpse of what the cross of Jesus Christ means to us. And I pray it can be an encouragement for you in whatever season you may be experiencing right now.

Embrace the Cross

Embrace the cross where Jesus suffered,
Though it will cost all you claim as yours.
Your sacrifice will seem small beside the treasure.
Eternity can't measure what Jesus holds in store.

Embrace the love the cross requires.
Cling to the One whose heart knew every pain.
Receive from Jesus fountains of compassion.
Only He can fashion your heart to move as His.

O wondrous cross our desires rest in You.
O Lord Jesus, make us bolder
To face with courage the shame and disgrace
You bore upon Your shoulder.

Embrace the life that comes from dying.
Come trace the steps the Savior walked for you.
An empty tomb concludes Golgotha's sorrow.
Endure then till tomorrow your cross of suffering.

Embrace the cross,
The cross of Jesus.

written by John G. Elliot
Copyright 1989 Universal Music - Brentwood Benson Publishing (ASCAP)
from the musical "O What a Savior" arranged by Russell Mauldin

Every line is so rich I could write something about what each word means to me, but I think what keeps standing out the most to share is that Jesus, on the road to the cross and dying on the cross, felt our every pain and took on our every sin so we can be saved and also so we can receive from Him "fountains of compassion" no matter where we find ourselves. He knows. He understands. He bore it all for us. We can simply receive what He freely pours out. And give Him thanks.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  -Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV84)

"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens."  -Psalm 68:19 (NIV84)

P.S.  If you're still reading this far. . . I wrote (part 1) on the title purposefully to make myself come back and write something else, hopefully soon!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Out of His Fullness (intro)

Let me be completely honest and say right off the start that I have no idea what I am doing starting a blog, but somehow it seems to be a step of obedience in something God has put on my heart over the past several months that I can no longer put off or explain away. Only He knows if I will end up actually writing on it very much or not, but at least I am completing the first step! (First steps are always the hardest, right?)

The words from John 1:16 have continually pressed upon my heart in seeking a name or direction for the theme of this blog, and I actually had decided on "From the Fullness of His Grace" as a title (from the NIV wording that I'm used to), but alas, that name was already taken. I have to admit, though, I was even more blessed in looking up several different translations of that verse to find alternate wordings. The Amplified Bible really gives a more FULL rendition of some of what we are given in Christ: "For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift." What a beautiful picture of how God keeps giving and giving out of His complete fullness!

While I don't envision that this introvert will jump into sharing lots of details about my personal life in this potentially public forum, it does feel like such a meaningful thing to just proclaim that I believe this verse is true today as much as any day, in this season as much as in any season, and in every moment for the future as well. To quote Ann Voskamp (which I do envision happening more often), "All is grace." The more I allow my eyes to be opened, the more I see this is true in everything. His grace is enough. His love covers and fills. All of these can show up in the most unexpected of places and ways. So I want to keep my eyes open to see and my heart open to receive all that God will continue to bring "out of His fullness."