Archives for November 2013

Giving Thanks {I’m Reminded There’s No “Right” Way}

Turkey in the oven.  Pies cooling on the countertop.  Family gathered around the table.  Laughter filling the air.

Or maybe not.

Instead, perhaps your day looks more like…

Driving in the car.  Missing your loved one.  Serving in a country thousands of miles away from family.  Sitting alone. Longing for what’s lost.

Either way, there is much for which to be thankful.

Either way, there is no “right” way to spend this day…no “right” way to give thanks.

Today, and every day, it’s sweet to have dinner cooking and family gathered round the table, laughing and chatting.

It’s also sweet to remember loved ones who have gone.  To remember times gone by that were much happier while looking to God’s promises for the future.  To drive across country to spend  a few hours with friends or family.  To sit alone.  To serve others while thinking of those you love.

Or maybe a mix of both.  That’s where I sit today.

My mom has been cooking since 6 am.  She’s juggling ten dishes in her kitchen while Hannah and I sit in mom’s living room watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – a yearly tradition.  My sister and her husband will come soon and bring Owen who went hunting this morning.  My Granny will come with her pumpkin pies soon too.

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In a few hours, we will eat, laugh, and enjoy all God’s provided. In the meantime, I am enjoying each text from friends. God has indeed given me sweet people in my world.

But, still, for another year my dad’s seat is empty.  My kiddo’s dad is hundreds of miles away.  Our lives look very different this year than last.  We have lost much…but that’s not where we dwell.

Today, we dwell in what is, not what isn’t.  We dwell in the sweet arms of our Savior to whom we give ALL our thanks for his son.

When we view today in light of the gospel, knowing Jesus RESCUED us at the cross  from our sin and certain death, knowing there is NOTHING that can separate us from His love, we can not HELP but be thankful.

Our life is a gift. Your life is a gift.

No matter what it looks like right now, there is hope:  Jesus.

And that alone is reason enough to be thankful, friends.

On this and every day, I am thankful for each of you who reads and loves and supports.  I pray that your day is filled with joy and thankfulness.

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!  Worship the Lord with gladness.  Come before him, singing with joy.  Acknowledge that the Lord is God!  He made us, and we are his.  We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise.  Give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good.  His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. Psalm 100 – A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.  Colossians 3:15

God’s Gift to Me {Happy Birthday, Owen!}

God still has a plan for us, Mom.  Do you believe that? 

Yes, Owen, I still believe that. 

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These were the words my sweet son asked each of us after being told his parents are divorcing.  He’s a planner who likes schedules and steps, so he wanted to know the next step

My only answer was…We pray.  For each other and for the future. We ask God to help us. 

His response was a confident nod and loving reassurance that God is in control – He has a plan for each of us.

I love his heart for his family, his God, and others.  I am truly honored  that on this day 11 years ago – November 22, 2002 – my sovereign God saw fit to give me the gift of Owen.  A special little boy with a huge, tender heart that loves well.

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So, today, I celebrate my amazing son.  I wanted Hannah to have a sister; I had NO idea what to do with a little boy. But, God knew exactly what and who I needed:  Owen.

Owen is a conversationalist who loves to tell and listen to stories.  He loves sports and plays tennis, basketball, soccer, and baseball.  His favorite hobbies are playing the Wii and bowling (he even has his own bowling ball.)

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He texts me in full, correctly-punctuated sentences that make my English-teacher heart smile with pride. He talks with me daily, sounding more 25 than 11 as you never have to guess what Owen’s thinking; he shares his heart easily.  He’s also very clever, using his gift of sarcasm to make us all chuckle.

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He loves the Yankees and any sport the West Virginia Mountaineers are playing.

He also loves his family.  The way Owen treats his older sister warms my heart.  He’s protective and loving, always wanting to make her happy.

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Above all, Owen loves Jesus.  He loves learning Bible stories and is always sharing stories with me of those at school who need prayer or help.

I simply love this little guy who brightens every single one of my days.

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Happy Birthday, Owen.  You are a gift.

Love, Mom

Where are God and His People? {When We Suffer}

Responding to emails. Grading papers.

That’s yesterday afternoon in a nutshell.  Until…beautiful words of love and encouragement began pouring through text and Facebook messages, a phone call, and blog comments in response to yesterday’s post.

God loves you and your children are amazing kids because of God.

Please know that I will cover you all in my prayers.

I have no doubt that God will be carrying you through this valley to brighter days.

I know you have a lot of people who are there for you, but if you ever need another…know I am here.

If you need anything – any help with the kids – let me know (again and again)

When I get home tonight we will decide if we will continue on or he will ask for a divorce and we will tell our children.  The timeliness of your blog post isn’t lost on me.  God is a gracious Father that way.

God is so good and I choose to trust Him.

I promise to pray for you…you’re in my prayers…praying (These words in some form over and over.)

I know the heartbreak all too well, and I hate this for you.

We serve a mighty, mighty God, and I can tell you that I know brighter days are ahead

I love you, love you, much love (over and over)

As a child of divorce myself, I can tell you that your kids will be so, so fine.

I got a divorce after 21 years…I knew that I had no control, so I finally gave in all to Him and went along for the ride.  He delivered our family…

I wish I could give you a great big hug.

To say “hang in there” is not enough, but hang on to God. 

Our God will hold you close…

I could go on…so many heartfelt words.  And, I know: These aren’t empty words.  These people mean…call me and I will be there.

If I ever doubted what the “church” is or if it’s still alive and well, I no longer doubt.  While the “church” that showed up yesterday wasn’t exactly who I expected or in exactly the way I might have imagined, it was indeed the “church.”

And I am beyond grateful.  Speechless.  Humbled. 

These precious women took time to share words of encouragement and  snippets of their very personal stories – all to encourage me. To provide evidence of God’s redeeming work in each of their lives.  To give me hope, my children hope, and my husband hope.  To pray and love in the midst of busy, stressful lives.

That can only be Jesus.

That can only be a sovereign God working all things together for good.

And I am beyond grateful.  Speechless.  Humbled.

For each phone call, comment, message, and text.  Your reminders of who I am, who He is, and who the church is has given me a peace and hope that passes all understanding.

Thank you.

And if the Christ followers being the church weren’t enough…my God is making himself known in every crack and crevice of today.

I regularly read three, short devotionals each morning. These are excerpts from today’s devotionals…amazing.

Leave outcomes up to Me. Follow Me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out. Think of your life as an adventure with Me as your Guide and Companion…You already know the ultimate destination of your journey:  your entrance into heaven. From Jesus Calling

The outcome isn’t up to me. I can be faithful, but I can’t control.  With my entire life up in the air, I follow Him knowing my destination is heaven – and nothing else.

Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again. (Psalm 71:20)  Never doubt God. Never day that he has forsaken or forgotten you or think that He is unsympathetic.  He “will restore [your] life again.”  From Streams in the Desert

Never doubt God. He will restore life again.

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.  Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in Him. (1 John 3: 14-15)  This portion of your Word puts all my hating into perspective.  I’m sobered by the warning concerning the hatred of people – especially hating my brothers and sisters in Christ. 

 Holy Spirit, I ask you to examine my heart and quicken my memory.  Who are the people toward whom I have feelings of hatred?  Though I may have never spoken the violent words “I hate you” to their face, nevertheless I have committed murder in my heart.  I’ve relished their reversals, dreamed of their demise, and longed for their languishing.  

Big disappointments and painful betrayals are common in life, even by the hands of those with whom we share life in Christ.  Some of us have been egregiously violated and seriously abused, too often by those we were trained to trust.  But when our real hurt grows to retaliatory anger and our anger morphs into spiteful hatred, arrest our hearts, Lord.  Let me see the ways I become the very thing I hate.  Bring us back to gospel sanity, sooner rather than later. 

Vengeance belongs to you, not us, Father.  Even as you are a God of mercy, you are also a God of justice.  We can trust you for both.  You do all things well, in your timing, for your glory, and for our good.  From Everyday Prayers

I probably don’t need to explain how this passage spoke to me – sadly.  Dreamed of their demise.  Yes, I’ve done that. Retaliatory anger.  Yes, I have felt it and even slung angry, ugly words.  [Insert big, regretful sigh here.]  I pray…arrest my heart, Lord.  Let me see the ways I become the very thing I hate.

Wherever you sit – whatever your pain – whatever is unfair  – however you feel left out or unloved by God’s people – whatever your betrayal, your sin – whatever you can’t control…God is near to you and to your situation.  He doesn’t leave or forsake.

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What We Know is True {Trusting Him Through Divorce}

How Great is Our God…I can hear his little voice singing along with mine.  He didn’t expect to find himself in a little church for Sunday evening service, but he’s come along willingly.

He sits quietly, taking it all in.  Strangers shaking his hand and rubbing his head.  What I promised would be one hour has turned into one and half, but he lays his head on my arm and rests – listening intently and waiting patiently.

We end with these lyrics…He loves us – Oh, how He loves us…transitioning to He loves me – Oh, how He loves me.

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Tears pool in my eyes as I listen to my son lift his voice in song.  More than anything, I want him to know that God loves him because God’s love is all we truly have in life – especially in those seasons in which our need for and dependence on Him is magnified through suffering or heartache.

This is one of those seasons for me – and for my children.

I am about to become a single mom, and my son got a taste of that last night when he had to come along with me instead of staying home as he normally would.  I felt guilty for making him leave his friend’s house and hop in the car  – in the middle of a storm – to come with me to what I thought would be boring for him.

Turns out the sweet little church tucked into the West Virginia mountains was not boring.  And I had totally underestimated my son and my God. Owen sang songs, asked questions about the Honduras presentation, and yes, played on his phone a few times.  But we were both glad he went and so was a small congregation of about 25 whose members told Owen he was welcome to come visit anytime.

And I wonder…

In this season of struggle as I sit and await divorce papers to be served to me today, why do I underestimate my Creator?  If I believe He loves me and my children, why am I so scared?  Why do I fear what my kiddos will become because they’re from a ‘broken’ home?

Why can’t I simply trust my children in the hands of the One I worship? 

Yes, I have read the statistics about children of divorce, and it’s certainly not what God ever intended.  EVER.   In fact, His Word says…

15 Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his.And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. 16 “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife. Malachi 2: 15-17

I know every passage in the Bible relating to marriage and divorce – almost by heart.  And, I know how God views divorce, but all I can do  – all my kiddos can do – is hold on to our Creator, knowing He loves us.

Holding on to anything else only causes more disappointment and heartache.  Listening to the world only creates more fear and anxiety.

Instead, we will cling to what we know is true…who we know is true…the One who will never leave us or forsake us.

We have been and will continue to pray about everything, asking God for our needs and thanking Him for all he has done and is doing.  Praying for peace and fixing our thoughts on all that is excellent and praiseworthy – because there is something excellent and praiseworthy in every, single day regardless of our icky circumstances.

I pray that regardless of what you’re walking in, through, or out of today, you’ll join me in praying, believing, and living out these verses…

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4: 8-9

I overheard my friend talking about these verses to Owen over the weekend as he worries about where he’ll go to school and where he’ll live.  Then they were part of my Jesus Calling devotional this morning, and I knew…this is where I shall rest.  For me.  For them.  For Him.

May the God of peace be with you.

Flinging Rocks {In Honduras for Revive}

One by one they come.  Smiling, hugging, and laughing. It’s like a joyous reunion of long-lost friends.  They fill out forms, pose for a picture, and settle into cabins.

They’ve come from throughout Honduras. Some drove, some flew, and some rode on a bus.  But, they’ve all come for one reason:  To sit at His feet for the next four days.

from the front Revive

I’m in Honduras with the Women of Purpose team for Revive:  a four-day retreat for English-speaking missionaries living and serving in Honduras.  Today, I have hugged sweet sisters  – those I’ve known for a year, those I’ve just met, and those with whom I’ve served on short-term trips to Honduras.

And they ask…

How are you?

And they tell me…

I have been praying for you.

And they remind me…

God is faithful, and He loves me deeply. 

Many have come bone tired and weary from looking poverty in the face day after day.  From taking care of families – biological and adopted.  From listening to gals as young as 12 tell them of beatings and rape.  From teaching at bilingual schools.  From ministry pressure that none can fathom.  From ministry politics no one wants to speak of.

And they ask…How are you?

And they tell me…You are loved.

And they remind me…God is creating a sisterhood here.  Sisters from the States linking arms with sisters serving in Honduras – loving and supporting one another.

We are ALL changed by loving one another. 

Last night each of us placed a rock at the foot of the cross, forming an altar.  The altar will serve as a reminder throughout the weekend that we have laid down our stones instead of “flinging” them at another person or ministry through the words we use and actions we choose.

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Laying down my rock was tough.  There are LOTS of stones I’d like to throw today…at those who have hurt me, continue to hurt me.  But, I ask myself – and I encourage you to ask yourself – for what purpose will I fling the stone?  At those who have hurt you, at those who you feel are more gifted, at those who feel threatened by you, at those who seem to have it all or at those who seem to have nothing.

Why fling words?

Instead, I choose to be hidden in Him, preaching the gospel to myself every single day.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rockand my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Reminded of His Faithfulness In Honduras {When My Life is Upside Down}

My little boy is sleeping soundly, but my sweet daughter wakes up to say goodbye with a tight hug and an I love you.  I zip my suitcases and drag them to the van.

I glance down and see this text from my friend…are you ok?

Yep, I am ok.  Just sad.

I have no idea if flying to Honduras is the “right” choice.  My life is upside down.

I have endured the same heartache four times, and I’m simply not willing to endure it again.  I’ve messed up plenty too.  But, ruminating on my failures or the shortcomings of others seems pointless right now.

So, I pray…Lord, do I go?  Stay home? 

My friend tells me again…if you can’t do this, it’s ok.  I am ok with whatever you and God decide.

I have asked each of my kids…should mom go?  I have asked my sister and friends too.

I have prayed and prayed.  And, I have listened.  To Him and to those around me.

Deep in my heart I have been hearing and continue to hear…GO.

Friday afternoon I landed in Honduras, feeling as if it was the biggest step of faith that I’ve taken in a long time. I know that I am empty.  I know I have nothing left to give anyone.  And, I hate it.  I hate that I am not ready and willing and excited to share my Jesus with everyone I meet.  I hate that I am not the girl with a soft heart who sees Jesus everywhere.  I hate that I’ve let another human being alter who I am.

So my prayer as I landed in the country that I LOVE so much was simply this…Lord, be strong where I am weak.  I am empty and angry and hopeless.  I can do nothing apart from you.  I am asking you to show me you’re here; show me that I am supposed to be here.

Friday I spent the afternoon with some sweet Honduran boys. One of them prayed over our meal at KFC, thanking God for the food, the hands that prepared it, the generosity of those who help him and his brothers, and the opportunity to be educated.  It was the most humble, beautiful prayer that I have heard in many years. The earnest cry from a heart that is genuinely thankful for God’s provision.

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As we have explored Honduras over the past few days, my heart has taken note of two things:  Poverty and perspective. Poverty abounds. It’s everywhere.  People that I just want to jump out of the truck and hug.  But, I can see that their perspective is so different from my current “poor me” perspective.  As we sat in traffic, I saw a group gathering, cooking, and laughing.  A momma hugging her child.  A older lady rotating corn over an open flame.  Yes, there’s hardship and hurt and brokenness.  It’s throughout the world.

But, I see joy too…

We visited a deaf school yesterday, and I listened to a mom (through an interpreter) tell us that she is thankful for her daughter’s deafness.  And her little girl signed to us, telling us that thanks to the New Life Deaf School she can be anything she wants to be when she grows up – and she’s thankful to Jesus for all He’s provided.

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I am not a young gal who’s never heard a sound living in a third-world country. I am not a mother struggling to feed my children.  I am not a little boy who wants more than anything to be safe and educated.

I am hurt and scared, but I can feed my children and have many who will if I ever can’t.  I have been educated beyond most, and I live a safe life. (Which has me asking myself…Sarah, what is your problem?)

Most of all, I am His.  Just like the little gal who can’t hear.  The mom and her child.  The little boy.  We are ALL His children, and He loves each of us immeasurably.

Being in this country is humbling.  It’s a continual kick in my butt, reminding me to stop feeling like a victim – stop feeling sorry for myself – and to lean heavily into the One who made me for His glory.

My life is changing quickly and uncontrollably.  My future looks difficult – even impossible. But, God has used these few days in Honduras to remind me again and again that He is the Lord Almighty.

He was, and is, and is to come.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,”says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.” Revelation 1:8