Isaiah 42:16

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths...I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them." Isaiah 42:16

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Two years ago...

This has been a reflective week. April 1st was our anniversary….my second year of remembering our anniversary without Pete beside me. Thankfully, it was full of family and busy-ness which helped a lot and made it a good day! Then April 2nd was the two year date of Pete’s first stroke. The memories of that day came flooding back into my mind and how things changed after that day. April 13th was his second stroke….so many thoughts…. Things were different between April 2nd and June 22nd….So much to be concerned about yet so much to be thankful for at the same time.

Today as I was spending time with God, I was reading in Ann Voskamp’s devotional book based on One Thousand Gifts. The March before Pete’s first stroke, I was a co-speaker at our church’s women’s retreat….and I shared some of her words in my talk. She talked about the word “eucharisteo”….which means “He gave thanks”. She reflected on the verse in Luke 22:19 at the Last Supper when Jesus “took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them.” Eucharisteo is in that verse.

She said the root of that word is charis, meaning grace. Jesus took that bread, saw it as a gift to His Father and gave thanks. He was giving Himself to His Father…for us.

Then she said that the derivative of charis (grace) is chara, meaning joy. I remember talking about how true joy can only be found at the point where we can give thanks in all things. I knew this to be true based on past life experiences but I had no idea that in a month, I was going to have to face it with the hardest lesson of my life!

One of Ann’s questions she raised over and over again in her book was “Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my Eucharisteo thanks?” That is a powerful question!

On the retreat, I shared one of my life verses with the ladies…my “nevertheless” verses in Habakkak 3:17-19 which essentially says that no matter what happens in life, I WILL rejoice in the Lord! I told the ladies that sometimes we may need to do it while we are crying or kicking and screaming… but we need to be determined to rejoice in Him.

These past two years have been the hardest years of my life….I went down to the deepest darkest part of a valley than I have ever been to before. My sorrow in losing Pete to share life with here on earth went to a depth I didn’t know existed….then saying goodbye to my mom one year later as I was climbing back out of the valley was like someone kicked me in the gut and pushed me back down the slope. Yes, I have cried many tears and fought the sadness that can encompass anyone who loses someone they love…and there were some days at the beginning when it was all I could do to get up in the morning, put one foot in front of the other and move through the day. Yet, I knew that I knew that I knew that Jesus was right there the whole time. It was like He was sitting in the room with me and waiting on me to ask Him to help. Once I did, He took my hand and I felt like He said, “I know this is so hard…and I am so sorry to see you sad. But Pete is with me and he is happy. I still have work for you to do down here so hold onto my hand and let’s go.”

The answer for me was to keep saying “Nevertheless…I will rejoice in the Lord.” The answer for me was to seek ways to exalt Christ in all things. That doesn’t mean it has been easy at all but it does mean that I have found that peace and joy in the midst of my sorrow that only He can give. He has opened doors for me to share Him in special ways and in incredible places. I am thankful!

Someone asked me recently, “Are you happy?” That made me pause….I had to take that one to the Lord, “Am I happy, Lord?” As I reflected with Him, I could honestly say that I am peaceful, that my joy in the Lord is as strong as it ever was and that I have “happy” times with family and friends. But I do miss the kind of joy and happiness that came from being loved so deeply, from sharing life, from being a helpmeet and serving the Lord with someone who loves Him, too. Yet  (nevertheless!) I know I can trust God with all things and believe that He is working all things in my life for His glory.

“Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks?”

I do realize that when I focus on all I have to be thankful for, it automatically brings a smile to my face and causes me to feel happy! So yes, I can say I agree with Ann’s question.  I do believe my joy depends on the depth of my thanks!

I have always been a planner which was a great trait for this teacher girl! I love to plan trips, ideas for fun activities, house projects….I love to plan! God has really taught me these past two years to hold my plans with an open hand. He seems to show me the next step to take and that is all. It is almost like He is checking my obedience level. After I say “ok” and take that step, He shows me the next one….and amazingly, I have been okay with that. I don’t have to know the future….I trust Him with my life so much that I know whatever the future holds, He will guide me there and help me walk through it. I know I can trust Him….I have been through the deepest, darkest valley I have ever walked through…and He has been there every step of the way! He is the One who is there when no one else is….and that can be true for all of us when we ask Him to be our Lord.

So what are my plans? I plan to hold onto His hand and go and do whatever He asks me to do…and to remember to give thanks to Him as I go!!

Nevertheless, my friends, Nevertheless!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Do not be afraid...


I have been thinking a lot about Joseph this month.  Some of the devotionals I have been reading have reminded me that he is sometimes the “forgotten one” in the Christmas story. Understandably, there is so much focus on Jesus and on Mary but Joseph was an important part of the story, too.

I am sure Joseph had big dreams and had been planning on a wonderful future and family with Mary. I wonder why God didn’t tell Joseph right away about His plan for them. Scripture tells us that Joseph didn’t know what was going on and was hurt when he found out that Mary was pregnant….I imagine he was broken hearted and confused about the future. All his dreams were destroyed…at least it seemed so at the time.

I can relate to that! How often we make plans for the future and then feel brokenhearted when we see that God has allowed our plans to be changed. But God! We could not handle the brokenness except for the grace and love of God! But God… A dear friend has used those two words a lot recently…But God! God saw the big picture….God knew the future better than Joseph did. God knew how Joseph could be used to bring glory to His name. God had a plan…and it was bigger than any plan Joseph could have imagined!

But he let Joseph feel the deepness of the valley first. I am not sure why he didn’t just tell Joseph the same night he told Mary. I think there must have been a lesson there for Joseph to learn. Was God teaching Joseph “When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart”? That he would need to continue to trust God throughout his life as Jesus’ earthly father when he didn’t understand what was going on?  

I can only imagine how hard the road was for Mary and Joseph as they sought to raise Jesus knowing He was God’s son and would face incredible persecution in the future. You know they wanted to protect Him….as parents, we don’t want anyone to mess with our children! Yet they had to trust God over and over again….I believe God handpicked Joseph just like He handpicked Mary for the job of being Jesus’ earthly parents. Even though we don’t read about Joseph later in the Bible and many wonder if he died before Jesus went out into the world, I believe he must have been a special husband and father. One who provided security and nurturing to his family, one who guided with love and humility, one who set a good earthly example of a father to Jesus, one who gave Mary arms to fold into when she was worried about Jesus. God wouldn’t have allowed just anyone to be the earthly father to His son. Joseph was special yet God still had to teach him much.

When God allowed Joseph to experience deep hurt, I think He taught Joseph to trust Him even when he didn’t understand the whys. He still does that today. God sees the big picture. We don’t. He is still saying to us over and over again, “Do not be afraid.”

I can tell God is at work in my life.  I don’t know what the future holds but He is constantly reminding me to trust Him and to “not be afraid”. Joseph got it right. Scripture tells us that after the angel appeared to him and told him to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife, he “immediately” did what the angel told him to do. Obedience.

But God.  Obedience.  Do not be afraid.

Big words, important words, words of faith, words of trust.

Do not be afraid. Afraid of what?  Has God been nudging you to do something and you have been trying to ignore it because it causes you discomfort? Is He asking you to do something out of your comfort zone? He is working on me….I am hearing those words, “Do not be afraid” in several areas of my life right now.

Lord, help us all be like Joseph.
Help us to not be afraid when you ask us to do something for You.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

When I came in from walking this morning, I had this leaf stuck to my shoe. I leaned over and pulled it off and had to smile at how He was once again teaching me Truth through His creation. I thought, “Lord, that is a good representation of me right now! The yellow reminds me that I still have ‘color’ (strength in You, purpose), the splotches of red reminds me of those times when I really allow you to use me and bring your message of love and joy to others, then I see those ugly brown dead looking spots. I don’t like seeing those because they remind me that I am still wounded and sometimes I allow those wounds to be the focus of my life instead of You….and that is not a pretty thing!” As I sat and looked at the leaf, I felt like He told me to remember that He was getting ready to show the world His majesty and glory as He changes leaves into beautiful colors and that the same Creator God of nature also created each of us for His majesty and glory….and He wasn’t through changing me yet so I needed get my feet back underneath me and hold onto the Truth that only He can give.

Recently, I heard these words on a podcast by Nancy DeMoss – “When you experience intense grief, you must learn how to live between divine sovereignty that is beyond comprehension and pain that is beyond belief.” I remember thinking that is so true. I have been reminded over and over during the past 16 months that my joy comes when I concentrate on His Truths that I find in His Word and in my heart when I am yielded to Him. Sometimes I do that well...and sometimes I have to fight to remember that Truth...fight for that joy…fight for that peace that passes understanding…fight to remember to seek to glorify Him rather than wallow in my sadness in missing Pete. On the days I don’t do that well, I find that God is right there when I crawl back, confess that my emotions got the best of me and ask for His grace and help to do better ‘tomorrow’. I feel Him smile as if to say, “I understand, Dear One, I’ve got you…I am not going anywhere. Come on, get up, dust yourself off again, hold My hand and let’s concentrate on what I need you to do now for Me.”

I have been re-reading Kay Warren’s book, Choose Joy. I admire her strength and honesty as she shares how she has sought to choose joy in the midst of hard trials. Though this book was written several years ago, it is obvious that she is still clinging to the Truth of our Father as she walks through this new valley in her life. Today, I went back and read these words in her book...

“Colossians 4:2 says, ‘Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.’ Joy is rooted in gratitude. You cannot have a joyful heart without having a grateful heart. You cannot be a grateful person and not experience joy. Those who can praise God will experience joy and those who are joyful will thank God. Joy and gratitude always go together.”

This time of the year, we are reminded to focus on what we have to be thankful for in America! I have so much to be thankful for….and even on those days when I allow myself to wallow in my sadness in missing Pete and his love and companionship, I can still usually muster up words of thankfulness to the Lord in the midst of tears. I do have so much to be thankful for in the past and in the future…we all do. Remember with me…

The heavens are yours, the world, everything – for You created them all. Blessed are those who hear the joyful blast of the trumpet, for they shall walk in the light of Your Presence. They rejoice all day long in Your wonderful reputation and in Your perfect righteousness.
                                            You are their strength. What glory!
                       You are my Father, my God and the Rock of my salvation!”
                                                     Psalms 89:11, 15-17, 26

As I watch our Creator God paint the trees with their beautiful colors this fall, I am going to concentrate on His glory and majesty and love! Most of all, I am going to focus on the incredible gift He gave us in Jesus and ask how He can use me to share Him with others!

And I am going to be watching for a beautiful completely red leaf!! That’s what I want my life to look like….

“The heavens are Yours, the world, everything –
                                                     for You created them all!”
                                               Thank you, Lord, for Who You are!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A city on a hill, precious new friends, another Pete(r) and a Israel!!!

“You are the world’s light, a city on the hill, glowing in the night for all to see.”

 These were Jesus’ words to His followers…and I understand them even better now. I just returned from having the privilege of living in Nazareth for two weeks! To live where Jesus grew up was very humbling and kept me reflecting on His life there the whole time. Nazareth is truly a city of hills! We stayed at the top of one of those hills and we could just picture Jesus walking from hilltop to hilltop!

The Sea of Galilee where He delivered this message is also surrounded by hills…no wonder He used this as an illustration. Everywhere you go, you would be able to look up and see light in the hills. In today’s modern world, the lights are very obvious, but I can even understand how firelight and candles would reflect the light throughout the hills in Jesus’ day. The light on the hills would provide a guide, a direction for those who were seeking their way….exactly like we should be doing for those who do not know their way to Jesus!

A small group of 5 from our church went to work alongside members of Nazareth Baptist School as they held their “camp” for two weeks for K – 3rd graders. As hard as it was to leave so soon after my Mom’s death, I knew I was supposed to go…My mission minded Mom would not have wanted me to miss this opportunity to go and share Him in Israel! Our children’s minister had written material incorporating science experiments, crafts and games to reinforce the Bible Story which was shared every day by a dear new Arab sister in Christ. Working with 80 Christian and Muslim children, we found ourselves relying on Him even more as our boxes of supplies were held up through governmental red tape! But He did not let us down…we scrounged and figured out ways to do things despite not having supplies! We were determined to be sure that light was going to shine! Our kind new friends from the church and some of the teenager counselors interpreted for us as we taught and mingled with the children. We were reminded of two things - how much you can communicate without words and that children are the same all over the world!  We had the quiet, shy ones, the loud, rambunctious ones, the ones who really wanted to learn and the ones who pretended like they didn’t care…but we knew they did! It was so much fun being a part of their lives for two weeks! They were precious!

Nazareth is an Arab town and so you can imagine, we stood out as we walked throughout the town and rode the buses. Everyone we met was very gracious and welcoming! When children from the camp would see us around town, they would run to get their parents or friends and bring them over to meet us. Of course, if we were without an interpreter, we couldn’t talk to them but it didn’t matter….our smiles and hugs paved the path of friendship!

Another part of our joy was meeting and spending time with members of the church who meet in Nazareth Baptist School. We were blessed by their spirit of joy in Jesus! In church, we sang familiar songs in English alongside them as they sang in their beautiful Arab language. We had interpretation for most of the service but when we didn’t, it didn’t matter. What I love most about worshipping overseas is the feeling in my Spirit when I know that the person praying is praying to my God…even when I don’t know a word they are saying!

Our International Mission Board began Nazareth Baptist School in the 1930s. I was proud to see the words “Southern Baptist” written over the doorframe! When the board restructured, they turned over the control of the school to the local Baptists and they are doing a great job continuing the mission of excellent education combined with the witness of Bible classes and chapel each week. The reputation of the school draws children from Muslim backgrounds as well as Christian backgrounds. The parents have to agree that their child will attend chapel and Bible classes in order to go to the school. What a light this school is in a dark place! Some of our new friends in the church also work with the school. Arabs have such a spirit of hospitality and are so gracious and unhurried as they enjoy spending time together. Strong believers are definitely the minority in this place…and we felt so privileged to be there to get to know them, encourage them and help them. They are truly lights in a dark world…and as Christians in America, it has been even more obvious to us that we need to be so supportive in helping those who are there as they seek to open the door to Christ to so many lost people.

I have always said that I love God’s sense of humor!! Imagine my surprise when during a “coffee break” one morning at camp, I looked up to see a young American guy walking into the school with a Gamecock shirt on! I looked at him and said, “Gamecocks!!!???” He was from Charleston and was working with a group from YWAM (Youth with a Mission). They were traveling around the world and joining in to help at different ministry spots. They were there with us that day to help with sports activities! We had a fun few minutes enjoying our love for the Gamecocks…all the way across the world in Israel! 

If you follow this blog, you know how the Lord has been so sweet to send me “Petes” all over the world! Well, he did it again! There was a precious boy named Peter at the camp…a big 3rd grader who was “all boy” but who had such a gentle heart! I fell in love with him….and so loved that the Lord gave me another Pete to pray for …this time in Israel! I was missing Pete a lot while I was there. Israel has always been our favorite place on earth…because it was our Lord’s home. I miss Pete every day…but even more so while I was in Israel! He would have LOVED being in Nazareth! The school has some construction projects going on and he would have just jumped right in to help them!

Ramadan began while we were there. We could hear firecrackers every night when they broke their fast for the day. Hearing their firecrackers and calls to prayer kept us on our knees for their hearts and minds. We would look out over that city of hills each night and see the flickering lights they would put in their windows as they celebrated Ramadan. Little did they know that those flickering lights were signs to us to pray specifically for that home…that they would come to know the real Light!

“You are the world’s light – a city on a hill, glowing in the night for all to see.
 Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all;
let your good deeds glow for all to see,
so that they will praise your heavenly Father.”
 Matthew 5:14-16
Lord, may we be true lights for you…no matter where you have us on this earth!
 May we be that guide to You!
Use us to bring glory and honor and praise to You and You alone!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Trees and rainbows!!

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and has made the Lord his hope and confidence. He is like a tree planted along a riverbank, with its roots reaching deep into the water…a tree not bothered by the heat nor worried by long months of drought. Its leaves stay green and it goes right on producing all its luscious fruit.” Jeremiah 17: 7-8

 I want to be a tree!

Many years ago, Pete and I decided when each grandchild reached the age of 15, we would take that grandchild on a special trip with us. It has been one of the highlights of our time with our grandchildren! Our fourth grandchild, Noah, turned 15 this year so he and I headed out west last month to do some traveling and exploring together. We missed his Papa greatly but delighted in sharing some of the fantastic sights in Arizona and New Mexico and in spending time together! As we drove through miles and miles of dry, flat and brown sandy land, we both agreed that we missed seeing the green trees and grass of good ole South Carolina!

I have been thinking about that since we returned…even as I mourned the anniversary of Pete’s death and the going home of my Mom. They sought to be trees with strong roots…and the fruit they produced was good.

I was having a conversation with the Lord about this and told Him I really wanted to be a healthy tree! I didn’t just want Him to help me water my roots, I wanted Him to saturate them with His water! I desire to be so full of Him that He just overflows out of “my tree”! I know that comes from seeking Him through His Word, through conversation with Him, through listening to Him, through taking those daily steps of faith, through challenges from Him, through wise counsel and instruction from others who seek Him...I need to seek strength daily.
 We have had a lot of rain here these last few days. I was walking with my Dad a couple of days after my Mom went home to Heaven. He is exactly where I was this time last year…barely putting one foot in front of the other, wondering how in the world he is going to take the next step without Mom, grieving down to the depths of his soul. As we walked, we looked up and saw an absolutely beautiful rainbow stretched from end to end in the sky above us! We stood there in awe and I said, “Daddy, that is a hug from God to you! Think about what a rainbow means…it is a sign of God’s promises, a sign of new beginnings!” I know God meant for Daddy to see His rainbow…it didn’t last long…if we had come out earlier or later, we would have missed it. I love it when He shows us His Father love…

“I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you.” Genesis 9:13

Not long after Pete died, a dear friend said to me, “Don’t just look for rainbows, seek to be the rainbow!”

I want my roots to grow deep and His light to shine like a rainbow through me to others! I have lots to do….Pete, my mom and my grandmom would all be busy doing His work if they were still here…I have lots of fruit to bear and colors to shine in their place!! Lord, use me!

Thank you, Lord, for trees, roots and rainbows! May You receive all the glory!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Broken Shells

Soon after Pete died, one of my precious sisters-in-law gave me a book, My Beautiful Broken Shell, by Carol Hamblet Adams. I have often thought about the words in this book this year….and today in particular, they come back to mind. I want to share some of those words today…

“I walk by a broken shell and leave it to search for more perfect ones…But then I stop, go back, and pick up the broken shell. I realize that this shell is me with my broken heart….this shell has had to fight so hard to keep from being totally crushed by the pounding surf…just as I have had to. Yet this shell is still out on the beautiful sandy shore,
just as I am.”

One year ago today, God called my Pete home. It has been a hard year, a long year. A year filled with sweet rememberings. Lots of hugs from family and friends. Many, many tears yet many smiles, too. A year of trying to figure out life without Pete, a life that seeks to go on and serve the Lord without the man I loved beside me, a life that is lonely in many ways yet filled as I still trust God as my loving Father. One year ago, our family was surrounding Pete with our love and prayers as he slipped into God’s presence.

“Broken shells mean lots of tears, lots of pain…lots of struggle…but they are also valuable for teaching faith, courage, and strength. Broken shells inspire others and demonstrate the will to go on in a way that no perfect shell could ever do. Broken shells are shells that have been tested…and tried…and hurt…
                                           yet they don’t quit. They continue to be…”

Today, as I am so full of a heart already raw with my emotions from my memories of this time last year, I am sitting at the bedside of my precious Mom whom the Lord may call home on this very same day! She has reached the end of her life here on earth…she will slip up to Heaven anytime now. I told her the other day that I knew Jesus would be the first One to hug her and welcome her home…and then right behind Jesus would be a huge group of people who would be so excited to see her…a group that would include her mother and father and lots of relatives and friends who have gone before us….and that I knew Pete would be right there in the midst of them all with his big smile, ready to wrap his arms around her and give her a hug! When we realized a few days ago that this time was probably going to happen sometime this week, I couldn’t help but cry out to God, “Why now? Why this week, Father? Why when this particular week is already so full of raw memories and emotions?” Almost immediately, I felt Him say, “Are you going to trust Me? You do not have to know why…you just have to know that I know and that is enough.” There it is again…the lesson of yielding to His Sovereignty that I have had to learn over and over again this year! But oh, how I realize what I have lost (am losing) in one year…two of the people who loved me unconditionally as well as two of my biggest prayer warriors! As I thanked Mom again the other day for praying for me so faithfully through all these years, I told her I didn’t expect that to stop…in fact, she would now have an even more direct link to Jesus so I was expecting her to be even more fervent in her prayers for me!

“I watch the rolling surf toss new shells onto the shore, and I am reminded of the many times that I, too, have been tossed by the storms of life and worn down by the sands of time, just like my beautiful broken shell. But I am reminded that broken shells don’t stand alone. Thank you, Lord, for being with me to share my life…Thank you for the precious gift of faith that keeps me strong when I am weak…that keeps me going when it would be easier to quit. Thank you, Lord, for hope in times of despair…for light in times of darkness…for patience in times of suffering…for assuring me that with You all things are possible.”

I have been thinking about those two sand dollars with the holes in the middle of them that God helped me find last year right after Pete died. I have them framed in my kitchen and look at them often. I am still the sand dollar with the big hole in the middle of it…but I can look at the one with the smaller hole and believe that I will eventually get there. As I talk to my grieving Dad this week and hear him say that he cannot imagine life without his partner of almost 60 years, I find myself sharing with him many words that I heard from the Lord and others this time last year…I smile inside as I hear me say those words to him and think of how I was encouraged by so many during this past year as my sorrow was so pressing, so real, so deep. This year has not been easy…but I have felt the love of many as I sought to take the next steps in life for Him. My Dad will be fine…but he will also have to walk through that valley of the shadow of death, as he learns to live without my Mom. I know family and caring friends will be right beside him each step of the way helping to hold his arms up during this hard journey as they have been for me.

 “A wave crashes, sending tiny sand crabs scurrying for safety…and I am reminded that even the smallest creatures depend on each other. Especially in our brokenness, we need the Lord…and we need one another. Thank you, Lord, for filling my life with people who care. Thank you for my family…for my friends…for those who are always there for me….As I look once more at the broken shell in my hand, I am reminded of all the beautiful shells God has placed around me. Lord, may I truly value every moment spent with my loved ones while this life is so briefly mine…May I cherish and appreciate my shell collection each and every day…for I know not when the tide will come and wash my treasures away.”

I recently heard Tony Evans say, “A valley is a mountain waiting to happen!” I love that…I am looking forward to climbing back up on a mountain again. In the meantime, as I continue to walk through this valley of missing Pete and now missing my Mom alongside my Dad, I will just keep holding on tight to the hand of the One who has not let go of me. He is the only One who can really help us get from that valley back up to that mountain top.

“May I always take the time to watch a kite dance in the sky…to sing…to pick daisies…to love…to take risks…to believe in my dreams…Let me not destroy the beauty of today by grieving over yesterday…or worrying about tomorrow.”

                                   "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted..." Psalms 34:18a

Mom, God is going to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
                    You have done well and been such a light for Him here on earth!

Give Pete a big hug for me when you get there!
                                           Tell him how much I love and miss him!  

Dad and I will see you both one day when God calls us home, too!