Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has very beautiful light blue eyes.  During this time that he's been sick, they seem to be an even more vivid blue - perhaps because we're seeing him without his glasses.  Many of the people who visit him comment on the fact that there is peace in his eyes - and a quiet authority in his eyes and in his spirit.  To me it's a testimony that God is present and ministering to him.

Our International Leadership Team for All Nations was in Cape Town this last week.  We visited Floyd together.  It was a teary, emotional visit.  As soon as I told Floyd they were here and coming in for a visit - he started crying.  He cried through most of the time as they shared testimonies, prayed for him, and encouraged him.  Such a precious time!

Two friends who visited Floyd recently shared Psalm 139:16 with me.  "Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."   The thought they had is that the blueprint of Floyd's life is still continuing.  The purposes God has for his life are ongoing.  Someday we'll be amazed at what God has done in this season.  We continue to pray for all of God's purposes to be accomplished.

My heart is continually filled with gratitude to the Lord for His goodness and mercy to me these past years on this unexpected journey.  Some days when I worship and thank Him all I can do is weep in thanks for His faithfulness.  He has been so, so good to me.  How anyone can make it through trials and suffering without the Lord I don't know.  I wouldn't have lasted a day without Him!

Four years ago when I first discovered I had ovarian cancer, I had no idea what the outcome would be.  Floyd and I had talks about the future.  I told him what I wanted at a memorial service if I passed away.  I made a list for him of the songs I wanted.  At the top of my list was the song "I Can Only Imagine" by Mercy Me.  I love that song because I personally can only imagine what it will be like to stand in God's presence in heaven someday!

The story of how the song came about has been made into a movie, so I went to go and see it.  There are some hard scenes in the movie because of the background of the man who wrote the song, but the overwhelming message is of redemption.  I loved it.  At the end I was so in awe of God's goodness that I couldn't help but raise my hands in worship.  I don't know if anyone noticed, but I didn't even care, I just had to worship God for His faithfulness.  

I look forward to the day when we stand in His presence.  I don't know if I'll dance (I hope so because I've never been a dancer here) - if I'll sing or be silent in awe - if I'll stand or fall to my knees in worship.  How awesome it will be to look into the eyes of our Redeemer.

I was thinking about all this the other day, and the thought struck me - I need to get ready!  I need to practice my worship now. :)  We truly can "only imagine" what it will be like to be in His presence someday - but we can worship Him with all our heart and mind now.  I'm getting ready!!

"There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God."  1 Samuel 2:2

"My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring Your splendor all day long."  Psalm 71:8

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever."  1 Chronicles 16:34

"Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name."  Psalm 103:1

"Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise Your name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done wonderful things, things planned long ago."  Isaiah 25:1

How wonderful it will be to worship Him someday face-to-face.  In the meantime, I'm practicing and getting ready.... He deserves our worship!

I saw a quote recently that spoke to my heart:

Surrender to what is.

Let go of what was.

Have faith in what will be.

It seemed like a dozen thoughts raced through my mind all at once as I read those 3 simple lines.  I think in many ways they sum up my long unexpected journey!

In the midst of a hard time - I'll never get through it if I don't "surrender" to the hard time that has come into my life.  If I fight it, resist it - it doesn't go away......it just becomes harder to survive it.  I have to embrace what God is allowing to come into my life.  The only way to navigate through "what is" is to give myself into God's loving care, and trust Him for the grace to make it through the trial.

I also have to "let go" of what was.....what used to be, if I'm to make it through the hard time I'm facing.  I can't hang on to the way things used to be.  I miss Floyd - his love, his warmth, his friendship, his leadership, his wisdom, his encouragement and support.  I need all those things in the midst of the trial I'm walking through!!!  But I have to let go of what was - and dig deeper into the resources God has for me to survive without those things I've relied on for over 50 years.  God has provision for me for everything I need right now - but I have to let go of what was in the past.

And I have to have faith in "what will be."  Jeremiah 29:11 says that God has "plans to prosper me and not harm me, plans to give me hope and a future."  I have to have faith in what God has in store/what will be in my life.  I can't see the future - I can't imagine what it might be without Floyd, without our previous way of ministering and doing things.  All I can do is have faith that God is in control and has a plan.  It will be different, but I can trust that God will give me fresh hope for what is ahead, what will be.

God is so very faithful!  I can follow the plan of these 3 simple lines because of who He is.  He will be holding my hand, keeping me in His grip, and guiding me step by step.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths."  Proverbs 3:5,6

"Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act."  Psalm 37:5

"It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man."  Psalm 118:8

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."  John 14:27

His promises are abundant to help me as I surrender to what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be.  He is exceedingly faithful!  I can trust Him without reservation.  How good He is!  

Our Unexpected Journey

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In recent weeks Floyd has not been very alert or responsive - in fact he's slept through some of the carer's visits.  So I wasn't sure what to expect for my time with him last weekend on our anniversary.

Much to my sweet surprise - I had the BEST time with him.  As soon as I wished him happy anniversary, he gave me such a HUGE smile.  It's one of the biggest smiles I've ever gotten from him.  And he kept smiling.  He was the most alert and responsive that he's been in months!  He smiled, cried, and gave me lots of blinks - all in response to what I had shared.  It was so precious.  I hated to leave him when I had to go.

Afterwards as we drove back - there was a huge, bright colored rainbow in the sky.  I received that as a special gift to my heart - a sweet "kiss" from the Lord!  I’ve used it as the picture for this post.  The visit and the rainbow were gifts to me for our anniversary.  God is so good, so faithful.  He knew what my heart needed, and what would be special and meaningful to me.

I was so thankful.  There are so many lessons I've learned on this journey, but thankfulness has to be right close to the top.  There is so much power in expressing thankfulness and gratitude.  I know I've shared about it before, but I keep learning more and more about what a wonderful gift thankfulness is to us.

Sarah Young says in one of her devotionals - "Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity."  What an awesome statement, and so very true.  I have seen that, lived that on this unexpected journey.  However hard the day - however much "sting" there is in the circumstances.....when I turn my heart to thankfulness (which includes worship and praise), it changes the painful situation.

I started making a list of some of the "fruit" of thankfulness, some of the things I've learned.

-  Thankfulness releases hope.  The gloomiest situation looks different and brighter when we are thankful in the midst of it.  And there are always, always, always things to be thankful for!  Ask God to help you see them.  You'll be amazed.

- Thankfulness is not dependent on how I feel or on the circumstances in my life.  Thankfulness is something I can choose to do at my weakest moment, when I'm tired, when I'm discouraged, when I'm overwhelmed. I can choose to be thankful - even for a few things......and suddenly the focus changes.

-  Thankfulness may, as I mentioned above, be hard in some situations.  But God helps us because He loves for us to have thankful hearts.  When our hearts are filled with gratitude, it opens things up for us to see from His perspective.

- Thankfulness produces joy!  I love this one.  In the midst of some of the hardest days, I have felt deep joy by choosing to thank the Lord for His goodness in the hardness.  And the joy of the Lord is our strength to get through the hard days.  He never gets tired of our giving thanks.  There's no such thing as "too much" thankfulness.  The more we thank Him, the lighter the burdens become.

- If I focus on thankfulness, my problems look smaller.  If I focus on the problems, they grow.  When I'm thankful - my focus becomes on God and His goodness.  I can acknowledge who He is in my problems.  By being thankful my eyes are opened to see the good that was right there in front of me.

-  Thankfulness may be a "sacrifice of praise" as it talks about in Hebrews 13:15.  But that sacrifice helps us overcome any trial that comes our way.  I've learned that if I can't make declarations of thankfulness.....I can start with "whispers."  Thank you Lord for my family.  Thank you Lord for my home.  Thank you Lord for food to eat.  Thank you Lord for the beauty of your creation that I'm looking at.  Thank you Lord for clothes to wear.  Those whispered sacrifices of praise on a hard day begin to build us up and change our perspective.  Then we can go on to thank Him for who He is in our hard situation.  He's faithful.  He gives us grace to keep going.  He's our Rock.  He holds our hand.  We're in His grip.  The list is endless!

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!  His faithful love endures forever."  1 Chronicles 16:34

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.  Therefore my heart rejoices, and I will thank Him with my song."  Psalm 28:7

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done."  Philippians 4:6

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  1 Thessalonians 5:18

I am convinced that thankfulness is one of the greatest "tools" that God has put into our hands for overcoming the trials of life.  It has become my lifeline for survival.  When the "sting" of adversity comes my way, I've learned that I need to immediately focus on Him with thankfulness.  Thank you Lord for this gift you've given us to make it through the rough spots!

There are promises in the Word that have become so special to me on this unexpected journey.  Deuteronomy 33:25 is a verse that makes me feel especially secure.  It says "as your days, so shall your strength be."

I don't know about you, but many days I feel like David with a slingshot compared to the Goliath of my day.  I feel I lack strength, wisdom, and even ability to face the tasks before me.  And yet that promise from Deuteronomy is clear.  I often find myself grabbing hold of it in my heart as I face what the day has in store.

Just as thankfulness takes the "sting" out of adversity, so declaring the promise of that verse in Deuteronomy brings strength.  I have had a number of "stings" to deal with recently.  Some are ongoing ones, others are new - all of them have great impact on my days.  I find myself declaring Deuteronomy 33:25 in faith.  He will give me the strength I need for the day!!  Thank you Lord.

I think all of us will face suffering at one time or another in our lives.  I read how one person described this.  "There are three things that can happen to us in life:  Things that we bring upon ourselves.  Things that others do to us.  And meteorites that hit us from afar."  I have felt blasted by some meteorites the last couple years!

And yet, there has been the strength that I've needed for each day.  There has been the joy of the Lord in the midst of the pain.  There has been abundant grace for each need.  There has been wisdom for making impossible decisions.  There has been comfort for my hurting heart.  I've not been left alone to pick up the pieces from the meteorite.  God has held my hand, and kept me firmly in His grip!

Ecclesiastes 7:3 says "sorrow is better than laugher, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad."  At first reading, that verse seems like a contradiction.  And yet, I've found I have learned such profound lessons in the midst of sorrow - perhaps more than I learned in laughter.  It's easy to "coast" when things are going well.  In sorrow I've had to dig deep into the resources of our wonderful God.

Suffering, trials, and pain soften the heart.  We become oh so aware that we can't make it on our own.  They bring humility into our lives in ways that nothing else can.  Looking at life with tears in our eyes gives new perspective.  

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.  My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him."  Psalm 28:7

"The Sovereign Lord is my strength!  He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights."  Habakkuk 3:19

"He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength."  Isaiah 40:29

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you.  Don't be discouraged, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."  Isaiah 41:10

I have felt humbled in my weakness over all these long months - and yet I have found unimagined strength for my days as I've called out to Him.  I can genuinely thank the Lord for what He has brought into my life through this season of suffering.

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd was in good spirits, and at peace when I was with him this week.

Last week I mentioned watching the royal wedding.  One of the highlights of the wedding was the sermon by Rev. Michael Curry, an Episcopalian bishop from the US.  He didn't just deliver a message, he preached!  If you didn't watch the wedding, you may want to google his sermon.  It's well worth watching.  I showed it to Floyd.  He smiled, teared up, smiled some more - and was glued to watching it on my phone.  I knew he would love it!

I'm sure there's never been a royal wedding with a sermon like his.  For 13 minutes (not that long, but long for royal weddings) he spoke about Christ's love.  I kept thinking - this is being heard by millions around the world.  How awesome!  

He referred to a song - "There is a Balm in Gilead."  It's an African American spiritual sang by the slaves in the antebellum south in the midst of their captivity.  It's taken from Jeremiah 8:22.  "Is there no balm in Gilead?  Is there no physician there?  Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?"  The slaves sang the song in reference to the saving power of Jesus - the one true ointment that heals our spiritual wounds.

The balm of Gilead was a rare perfume used medicinally.  It's named for the region of Gilead where it was produced - a mountainous region east of the Jordan river.  Miracles were attributed to this rare ointment.  It was prized for its healing power.  It was taken on trade caravans all over the known world.

Here are the words to the song…

Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work's in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.

If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus and say, "He died for all."
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.

Don’t ever feel discouraged, for Jesus is your friend;
And if you lack for knowledge, He’ll never refuse to lend.
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.

Since hearing the sermon, I find myself humming and singing the song.  And then I find myself praying for that balm in my life.  There are days when I need His healing balm to take pain away.  And other times I need His balm to pour strength into my life.  I often need His balm to lift sorrow from my heart.  Recently I've needed His balm to help me carry the stress that has been continually present.  His "balm" is a rich, healing gift to us.

As I've sang the song, I've pictured Him pouring His sweet smelling oil into my life, into my needs.  He "revives my soul again."  He heals my wounds.  And He meets me when I'm discouraged.  Jesus is the balm in Gilead.  He's the One who makes us whole.

There are so many difficulties, problems, needs that I've walked through on this unexpected journey.  I couldn't have managed without His balm being poured into my life over and over again.

I've learned that Jesus is the "balm" for every need I have.  I can call out to Him any time, day or night, and He is there to meet me.  His Word is a "balm" to my heart.  The promises, encouragements, and instruction of the Word minister into every situation that I face.  Worship is a "balm" to my soul.  As I choose to honor and praise Him in the midst of my trials, it releases healing into my needs.

"He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds."  Psalm 147:3

" 'I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,' declares the Lord."  Jeremiah 30:17

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."  Isaiah 40:29

"They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress."  Psalm 107:19

"The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help.  He rescues them from all their troubles."  Psalm 34:17

" 'Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be my helper.'  You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness."  Psalm 30:10,11

Oh how sweet His balm is that floods into our souls in our times of need!  I'm grateful that there is a "balm in Gilead."  Jesus is our balm of healing, hope, and strength.

I have a friend in England who always signs his letters and emails "In His Grip."  From the first time I saw that, it impacted me.  And during this unexpected journey when he has written words of encouragement, that salutation has been such a reminder to me that God "has me" - He won't let go!

When the storms of life blow through our lives - we're "in His grip."

When it seems our whole world is turned upside down with unexpected events - we're "in His grip."

When one difficult thing after another keeps bombarding us - we're "in His grip."

When we're so weak that just getting out of bed in the morning seems to take more energy than we have - we're "in His grip."

When we face decisions that seem like they're impossible to make - we're "in His grip."

When the responsibilities seem so much greater than we can cope with or know how to handle - we're "in His grip."

When the stress is so great that our bodies cry out for it to stop - we're "in His grip."

When sickness takes us so low that we don't know if we'll survive - we're "in His grip."

When weariness is so great that we're afraid we can't hang on - we're "in His grip."

When it feels like we're all alone, we're not - we're "in His grip."

He never, ever lets us go!  He holds on firmly to us even if our grip is slipping.  He is strong!  He doesn't grow weary.  He's not overwhelmed. He stays right by our side through whatever comes our way.  We're "in His grip!"

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:38,39

"For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.' "  Isaiah 41:13

"The Lord will hold your hand, and if you stumble, you still won't fall."  Psalm 37:24

"Your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."  Psalm 139:10

"You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me."  Psalm 18:35

I'm so grateful that I'm "in His grip."  I'm a strong person, but I daily need Him to take my hand and tell me that everything is going to be alright.  The nail scarred hands that once bled are now holding my hand through my trials.  Thank you Jesus!

Our Unexpected Journey

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This week on Wednesday was another mile marker on our unexpected journey.  It's 27 months since Floyd first became ill.  It seems like we've been on this journey for ages - and yet it's so vivid that it also feels like it just happened a few days ago.  Time is a strange thing.

Floyd has had more chest congestion so we continue to pray for relief for him.  Other than his chest there have been no big ups and downs.  He's been quietly content.  He smiled his biggest smile for me when I showed him some family photos.  I shared a few memories that had been on my mind, and he shed a few tears.  He was very tender when I prayed for us too.  

Along with some two billion plus people around the world - I watched the royal wedding last weekend.  I love events like that, and was particularly intrigued since the bride is an American marrying into the royal family.  I find it fun to watch all the festivities.  My doctor has been actively encouraging me to have fun!  I try - not always easy, but it was great fun to watch the wedding with a friend.  I even wore a hat to celebrate. :)

As I watched the ceremony when the couple took their vows, it reminded me of the vows that Floyd and I made to each other before the Lord many years ago.  They've actually been on my mind a lot recently.  We made those commitments - "in sickness and in health, for better or for worse."  On the joyous wedding day, all you think about is the good times.  But in recent years we've been walking through the "sickness" and the "worse" parts.

Our anniversary is coming around soon.  It'll be our 3rd one since Floyd got sick.  What we're going through seems somehow more profound on the "special" days.  The emotions seem more vivid.  I think that's why I've been thinking of our vows.

We all know that there are hard times in life.  There's sickness and difficulties.  But when something like this "unexpected journey" comes along, I realize how unprepared I am for the tremendous impact into our lives.  Everything is turned totally upside down.  I am so, so, so aware that I couldn't make it without God's help.

Thankfully, we made those vows before God - and He comes through to help us when we go through the hard parts.  That's when His "grace becomes sufficient,"  when "His power is made perfect in our weakness."  That's when He continually holds our hand.  He never leaves us for a second.  He helps us with each and every thing we face.

Whatever tragedy, whatever hard thing we face - God is with us in the midst of it.  He never leaves us.  He never gives up.  He never says "this is too much."  He never takes a vacation because He's tired.  He never takes a day off......or even a second off.  He never runs away from the pain and sorrow.  He's not exhausted when I become weary.

He is faithful, faithful, faithful!  He is with us always.  He is closer than the air we breathe.  He continually holds our hand.  He comforts us.  He sustains us.  He gives wisdom to every decision we have to make.  He pours His healing balm into each pain we face.  He gives strength when the tiredness is overwhelming.  He gives abundant grace to help us endure.  He is continually by our side.

"Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures every circumstance."  1 Corinthians 13:7  My love for Floyd has grown through the years.  We've endured a lot of things together.  And now, in this season, God is helping me endure these current circumstances - and fulfill my commitment to Floyd.

"He answered me, "My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness."  So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I'm weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.  So I'm not defeated by my weakness.....when I feel my weakness.....when I'm surrounded with troubles on every side.....I am made yet stronger.  For my weakness becomes a portal to God's power."  2 Corinthians 12:9,10

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."  Deuteronomy 33:27

As I walk through this hard season in my life with Floyd, I'm so grateful that I don't have to walk alone.  God helps me fulfill those vows made decades ago on our wedding day.  The joy of our wedding celebration is undergirded with His wonderful grace when we live out those vows.  How awesome He is!

Someone recently sent me a photo that was posted on a friend's blog.  I've included the photo as the head of this post.  The words with the photo were "growing out of the fallen."  It immediately spoke to my heart.

In many ways I could see Floyd like that giant fallen tree.  My "gentle giant" was struck down by some rare, unusual infection that we still don't completely understand.  Just as it's kind of sad that the giant tree is fallen - so it continues to be heart breaking to see what has happened to Floyd.

And yet - if I stand back and look at it from another perspective, I see good things that God, in His unique way, has brought out of it.  There has been the most unusual wave of prayer that has come out of Floyd's illness.  It amazes me each day that the prayers continue.  Life is busy and many things call out for our time and attention.  But many, many are still praying.  It's so wonderful, and so profound.  I can't help but wonder what God is up to with all this.  I know He is moving on people's hearts to pray.  I know those prayers aren't wasted.  Something is happening that we can't see or understand.  One friend recently said "only heaven will reveal all that God has been up to these past couple of years."  Like the tree growing out of the fallen tree......God is bringing life and growth through this wave of prayer after Floyd was struck down in illness.  How amazing He is!

And I'm not a giant like that tree - but in many ways I too was struck down by the cancer that attacked my body.  I faced death, and I "felt" like death for many months.  I'm doing well at the moment for which I'm very grateful, but I have no idea what is ahead.

If I stand back and look at my life - I, too, can see growth.  God has brought richness of fellowship, intimacy with Him, a deeper walk of faith, an ability to trust Him in new ways, and so much more into my relationship with Him.  I have grown! There is definitely life that has come from the fall l experienced.  I am so, so grateful for the beauty of fresh life that He has brought through the very low time that I walked through - and continue to walk through.

One of the things I have always loved about God is that He creates new beginnings for us.  He is constantly picking up the pieces in our lives, and creating something new, fresh, and beautiful.  He didn't stop creating after the 7 days when He created the world.  He is the ultimate, continual Creator.  He creates every day in wonderful ways in each of our lives.

He brings "beauty out of ashes."  He takes what has been destroyed and breathes fresh life into it.  He doesn't accept failure or defeat.  He doesn't say "sorry, you blew it."  He doesn't condemn us or give up on us.  He doesn't write us off because we've sinned or disappointed Him one too many times.  He doesn't say that we should have done more and then it would have been okay.  

No!  He restores.  He renews.  He heals.  He forgives.  He redeems.  He creates a new plan.  He recovers what has been lost.  He rescues us from disasters we've created.  He clears the record of our transgressions.  He pardons fully and completely.  He mends what has been broken.  He rebuilds what has been destroyed.  He reconciles in broken relationships.  He saves us from ourselves.  He never, ever stops working in our lives.

He brings life and growth from the fallen!  Wow - don't you just love Him?!

"We do not lose heart......For God said, 'Let light shine out of darkness'.......We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."  2 Corinthians 4:1,6,8,9

"Provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor."  Isaiah 61:3

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."  Genesis 50:20

"I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten."  Joel 2:25

"When troubles comes your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy."  James 1:2

"I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.  Return to me, for I have redeemed you."  Isaiah 44:22

God, our wonderful, wonderful God brings life and growth from the fallen.  I take such comfort in that.  I don't know what's ahead for us, but I know whatever happens in our lives, God will keep creating good!  He will bring beauty for ashes.  He is so faithful!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd’s week started well with him being peacefull and content.  One of the therapists mentioned that he's even seemed to enjoy his therapy times - which is not always the case.  

But in the last few days he has appeared to be feeling unwell.  It's always so hard when he can't communicate!  His chest seems a bit congested, and he just seems to be rather miserable.  

I'm always so grateful for the good days.  I continually pray for the spirit of peace to be with him.  

When I've asked the Lord for a breakthrough for Floyd - and said to the Lord it can be "healing or heaven" - I've also asked the Lord to please keep him from suffering any further.  If God chooses to take him home, I'm trusting it will be a gentle passing.  I never know from day to day what is ahead.  I continually tell the Lord that Floyd is in His hands.

I have shared a number of times on this long unexpected journey things that the Lord has been teaching me about trust.  I often think I'm learning the lessons and doing what God is showing me......and then the message of learning about trust cycles back around.  I've come to realize that the journey of trust is never-ending!  God keeps taking me to deeper levels of trust.  It seems there is always something new and different that I need to trust Him about!

There have been things, situations, people in my life that I've thought I could depend on - and it turned out differently.  The only thing I can absolutely, 100% trust in is Jesus!!  He is my Rock, my strong tower, my strength, my security, my friend, my counselor, my provider, my healer, my source of comfort and grace, and so much more!  He is by my side continually.  He is holding my hand.  He is closer than the air I breathe.  He never, ever leaves me alone - never leaves my side.

As we go through life, we put our time and energy into so many things - our work, our ministry, our family, our friendships, travel, fun, sports, entertainment.  On this journey I've realized that first and foremost I need to put all my energy into trusting the Lord.  Everything else will flow out of that.  And, as I said, He just keeps taking me deeper and deeper into that trust.  Some of that trust has had me walking through "the valley of the shadow of death," but He has been with me each step of the way.

"Sovereign Lord, you are God!  Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised good things to your servant."  2 Samuel 7:28

"I trust in your unfailing love."  Psalm 13:5

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."  Psalm 20:7

"Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you."  Psalm 9:10

"Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe."  Proverbs 29:25

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you."  Psalm 56:3

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight."  Proverbs 3:5,6

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  Romans 15:13

A friend recently sent me Romans 8:17 - "And since we are His children, we are His heirs.  In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory.  But if we are to share in His glory, we must also share in His sufferings."

The commentary my friend read said that our inheritance in Christ includes both His glory and His suffering.  Our suffering now is proof that we will also share in Christ's glory.  That gives us strength to endure.

I'm not a fan of the suffering part!  But this gave me fresh hope, encouragement, and perspective.  I'm so grateful we don't have to go through the hard times, the trials, and the suffering alone.  Jesus is right by our side helping us to make it through them!

"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."  2 Corinthians 4:17

Our time on this earth is just a "blip" in comparison to the eternity we will have with Him.  The things He is working in our lives now are preparing us for that eternity with Him.  I'm grateful for His help during this preparation time!

I've had a couple situations recently that have been very draining.  I was explaining this to the Lord in my quiet time.  I had a picture in my mind of a jug that was dry - bone dry.  There was nothing left in the jug to pour out.

As I waited in His presence in worship, I felt the Lord saying that He was refilling the jug.  I saw Him pouring clean, cool, refreshing water into the jug - filling it up to the brim.  I'm so grateful that I can come to Him in my emptiness.  He doesn't turn me away.  He doesn't rebuke me for being empty.  He just gently says "I'll refill you."  What a good God He is.  He "restores my soul."

And He faithfully helps me get through each trial.  I could have never survived all these months without His help, His grace, His strength.  How awesome He is!

Again and again I'm reminded that the best response to trials, to losses, to suffering, and to thwarted hopes is to worship and praise Him.  It gets my focus turned in the right direction.  I need to let go of things and look to Him - but never let go of His hand!  As I worship Him, things get back into balance.

This past Sunday on Mother's Day I had a few sad moments.  I was missing Floyd.  He always made the day so special for me.  As I lifted my sadness to the Lord in worship, the weight lifted and refreshing joy flooded my soul.  Worship is so very powerful!  I know it's a "tool" God has given us.  We lift up His name in worship - and He, in turn, ministers so deeply to our hearts.  Only God could do that!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had a good week.  He's been calm and contented - and cooperative with the therapists. 

He had a visit from special friends from the US.  They shared testimonies, read scriptures, and prayed for him.  It was a sweet visit.  I'm always grateful for the friends who have come to see him during this long journey.  It means a lot to me, and I'm sure it must be so special to Floyd.

I had a sweet time of prayer and worship with him.  At one point I asked him if he loved Jesus (which he is known for asking when he speaks).  I got a very big smile in response to that!

Before he became ill, he had given permission for "The Father Heart of God" to be translated into Farsi, which is spoken in Afghanistan and Iran.  I was able to give him the news this week that the translation is finished, and the book is being distributed.  That brought a big smile too.

I had my quarterly cancer check up this week.  Things seem to be going well.  I'm doing everything I can to keep the cancer away, and praying for full healing!  It's always encouraging to "pass" a check up!

I've watched news reports recently about heads of state visiting the White House in Washington, D.C.  It's interesting to read of all the red tape and protocol that goes into those visits.  So much work - so many details!  It seems overwhelming.

There have also been reports of the commonwealth leaders meeting in London.  As they meet with the Queen, there are lots of standards and protocols that must be followed - what you say, what you do, how you bow/curtsy/shake hands.  I'd be so nervous that I'd be worried I'd forget things!

In various cultures around the world, there are also guidelines of how you greet people.  Things in one culture that may be very innocent, can be horribly offensive in other cultures.  It's so important to be aware of cultural protocol.

As I thought about this, and as I watched the news reports - I found myself being so thankful that God doesn't require a long list of things to come into His presence.  I don't have a list of rules and regulations to obey.  I can go straight to Him.  I can say I need you!  I can cry out in difficult moments - and He's right there.

The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Almighty One is available to us 24/7.  He's "closer than the air we breathe."  He welcomes us with open arms anytime we call.  We can call upon Him from our sickbed, from our car, from our office, from school, from an airplane, from anywhere we are.  Many rulers and dignitaries have "layers" of security to keep people from getting through to them.  Jesus says simply "come."

Our Lord and Savior is totally and completely accessible to us.  He never leaves us.  He never forsakes us.  Nothing and no one can separate us from Him.  He is with us continually.  We can cry out to Him in a loud voice, or we can whisper "Jesus I need you" - and He'll be right there to help us.  I don't have to pray a formal prayer.  I don't need to go through a list of procedures.  I can simply call upon His name!  Thank you Lord!

I can call upon Him any time of the day or night - 365 days of the year.  He doesn't keep office hours.  He doesn't take holidays.  He doesn't go away on vacation.  He is always, always, always available to us.

This gives me such comfort and assurance.  I'm alone right now - but I'm never alone!  Jesus never leaves my side.  I am so grateful that He is constantly available to me.  What a gift that is.

"This is my command - be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."  Joshua 1:9

"The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth."  Psalm 145:18

"Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this:  I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  Matthew 28:20

"The Lord your God is with you; His power gives you victory.  The Lord will take delight in you, and in His love He will give you new life.  He will sing and be joyful over you."  Zephaniah 3:17

Thank you, Lord, for being available and accessible to us.  Thank you that we can freely enter into your presence.  Thank you that you welcome us, and receive us with tenderness and love.  Thank you that no one is turned away.  Thank you that you hear my cry and warmly receive me.  I couldn't make it without you!

When I'm praying for things - especially over a long period of time, it really helps build my faith to hear answers to prayers!  We know God hears, but just finding out about a few answers really helps motivate me to keep pressing in.

A couple months ago there was a call to prayer for Cape Town - "It's Time" - that was led by Angus Buchan.  I have heared some testimonies from the days following that meeting that have blessed my heart! 

One of the prayers was for rain for Cape Town.  That's still an ongoing prayer!  But in April we had a "normal" year's amount of rain.  That is amazing as the last few years April has been dry.  And we've already started off with several rainy days in May.  May is usually a dry month.  The dams that hold our drinking water are still very low, but this rain is making a difference.  God is answering prayer!

Angus shared a report that happened right after the day of prayer.  One of the major gangs went to a church.  The spirit of the Lord moved on them, and they came forward during the service.  They laid their guns on the altar, started to weep, and repented.

Someone heard about it, and sent word to the opposing gang.  They reported that the gang at the church was now unarmed and vulnerable.  The 2nd gang came to the church with the idea of shooting them all.  I'm sure many innocent bystanders would have been killed too.

The 2nd gang walked into the church, and the same thing happened.  The spirit of the Lord moved on them.  They walked to the front, laid their guns on the altar, started to weep, and repented.  Then the 2 gangs embraced each other.  It was a modern day "book of Acts" miracle!  Thank you Jesus for your saving grace.  One of the gang leaders now wants to go to Bible college.

Angus also shared about 2 men whose "profession" is to steal cell phones and sell them.  They heard about the "It's Time" prayer gathering with 160,000 people in the crowd.  They thought this would be a prime target!  When they walked onto the field, their feet started burning like fire.  They couldn't stand still, and had to run off the field.

They tried it twice, and realized they were standing on holy ground.  The third time they broke down and wept, and repented before the Lord.  Their feet were fine this time.

There is power in prayer!!!  

"If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will heal their land."  2 Chronicles 7:14

"The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results."  James 5:16

"Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."  Matthew 9:37,38

"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary."  Galatians 6:9

"Do not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest.' Behold I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.  Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together."  John 4:35,36

Be encouraged!  God is at work.  Prayers are being answered on so many levels.  We must keep pressing in to Him in the place of prayer - for healings, for miracles, for our friends and family to come to know Him.  God is answering prayers!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has been sleeping much more than normal.  We don't know if his body is wearing down, if it's the change of seasons, or if he isn't feeling well.  Sleep is healing.  So when we're with him, we just pray over him as he sleeps.  

We're in the midst of a severe drought in Cape Town.  It's, apparently, the worst in over 100 years.  We're on very restricted water rationing.  Cape Town looks very different from previous years.  It's always been so green and lush.  Now there's lots of brown foliage.  Green lawns are dry, brown, and sandy.  Many, many plants have died from the lack of water.  Even some of the plants I've planted that are supposed to be okay without water have withered up and died.

However whenever I look out my windows there is one plant that is thriving and beautiful with abundant bright colored flowers - our bougainvillea.  It's amazing!  It apparently is drought tolerant.  It flowers all year round.  I've been amazed in previous years that it has survived the blustery winter rain and wind storms.  The bougainvillea are tough!  They withstand those gale force winds that come in off the ocean.

The bougainvillea flowers are "paper like" but very strong!  The vibrancy of their beautiful flowers is such an encouraging sight in the midst of the drought when just about everything else has shriveled up and died.  These plants just seem to thrive despite the adverse circumstances.

I have been so impressed by them, and have thought a number of times that they have lessons to teach me.  They must be deeply rooted in the ground to survive the Cape winds.  Their branches start off thin, and grow to be thick and strong - if you want to cut them, you have to saw through them.  As they grow, they "cling" to the surfaces they are growing on.

While walking through some of our adverse circumstances, I've known that I have to let my roots in the Lord grow deeper and deeper.  I need to let my times of communion with Him grow strong.  I need to continually cling to His Word to feed me and nourish me.  My strength at times feels "paper like," but the Lord comes through with His grace, His power, and His might to get me through the tough times.  I want to thrive in spite of hard times!

These beautiful flowers speak to me daily of God's goodness and faithfulness.  They remind me that He is mindful of me.  The God who created these flowers to withstand hard conditions will, even more, help me get through anything I face on this unexpected journey.  Thank you Lord!

"They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.  Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do."  Psalm 1:3

"Thirsty deserts will be glad; barren lands will celebrate and blossom with flowers."  Isaiah 35:1

"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands."  Isaiah 55:12

"I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."  John 15:5

"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new had come."  2 Corinthians 5:17

I am so grateful that my Father, the gardener, watches over my life and helps me weather hard seasons.  He is so good and faithful!

There's a song that I frequently listen to in my quiet time - "My Redeemer Lives" by Nicole C. Mullen.  I've been thinking about the opening lyrics:

"Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning?

And who taught the ocean you can only come this far?

And who showed the moon where to hide till evening?

Whose words alone can catch a falling star?

I know my Redeemer lives - all of creation testifies."

I've often walked along the ocean's edge and watched the waves coming in, wondering why the waves stop......why don't they keep going?  I know there are things like the shape of the planet, gravitational pull, the impact of the sun and the moon, etc. that control them.

But basically, the bottom line, is because this is how God planned and ordered it.  HE won't let the waves keep going.  He stops them at a certain point so that they don't envelop the earth.  He planned the beauty and majesty of the oceans, but He keeps them in control through the laws in nature that He created.  He won't let them overrule the earth.  He won't let the waters overtake the land.

So, of course, this got me thinking.  This same God won't let the "waves" of our trials be too much!  He won't let us be overtaken and consumed by the battles we go through.  He won't let us be washed away.  He won't let the flood tides of hardship drown us.  He remembers that we're dust.  He won't let the waves of pain, sickness, needs, and difficulty inundate us.  

There have been times, even in recent days, when the things I'm facing have seemed so overwhelming.  The "waves" have come in multiples - one would be a lot, but numerous ones all at once seem like they're too much.  But God won't allow "too much" to come my way.  He protects me from being washed away in the battle.

Just when I'm thinking I might drown, He turns the tide and holds back the pressure of the waves.  When I cry out "help me," He hears and tells the "waves of trial" that they can't come any further in my life!  He speaks and situations change in my day.  He is God.  He can bring change.  I can't endure, but He can come to my rescue.  He is so faithful!

I've read articles debating this point that say God does allow "too much" to come our way in order to show us our need of Him......and to allow Him to be God in our lives.  I'm not a theologian.  I'm not debating the semantics.  I just know that He is there when I need Him.  He keeps me from being drowned by the waves of trial, and He comes to my rescue time and time again when I call.  I'm so grateful.  I can't handle things on my own.......and He always answers when I cry out to Him.  How awesome He is!

"When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble.  I will rescue and honor them."  Psalm 91:15

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."  Psalm 46:1

"We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet He did not sin.  Let us then approach God's 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

"For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust."  Psalm 103:14

"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."  1 Corinthians 10:13

"But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9,10

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed."  Psalm 34:18

I'm grateful that God is so close ("closer than the air I breath") that He can hear my faintest whisper when I cry out for help......and He comes to meet me, to help me, to rescue me.  He keeps the waves from overpowering me, from coming too far.  What an amazing and awesome God we serve!

Our Unexpected Journey

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We have prayed for peace for Floyd, and God has answered those prayers.  There were a few weeks when Floyd seemed restless and agitated.  We couldn't see any physical thing to explain it, so we figured he must be discouraged over his situation.  All we could do was love him, encourage him, and pray.  The last couple weeks there is a noticeable change.  He is at rest and at peace.  I think God has been ministering to him.  

One of the therapists this week said that he's been very co-operative.  That has not always been the case. :)  

We have some good friends from the US visiting right now.  We've known them for a long time - Floyd, in fact, married them years ago.  We went to see Floyd together.  He seemed to not know whether to laugh or cry.  He did both.  He cried and cried - and then he smiled and smiled.  It was a very sweet time with him.

Security is a big issue here in South Africa.  Unfortunately there is a lot of crime.  It's fueled by poverty, drugs, gangs, and greed.  Burglar bars on the windows, security fences, neighborhood patrols, WhatsApp security messages, and alarm systems are all part of our life.  We have alarms on the inside of our house - and also "sensors" on the outside to detect movement on the perimeter.

Floyd was very security conscious - especially when thinking of me being here frequently alone when he travelled.  So I feel he took care of me even before he got sick.  I also have very lovely neighbors who help to watch out for me.

In recent weeks, our alarm has gone off 3 times in the middle of the night.  As you can imagine, it's "alarming."  Being rudely awakened and rushing to see what's happening is not the way you want to wake up.  The adrenalin rush makes further sleep almost impossible.

In one of the events, a neighbor's cat had set off an outside sensor.  The sensors are programed to try and prevent this from happening, but the cat must have walked right in front of the beam.  We have a small storage shed, and the other 2 times a small lizard crawled over the sensor and set the alarm off. :(  

As is often the case in my life, the Lord began using these life events to speak into my heart.  What came to me is that we are "on guard" against the "big" issues that can trip us up in our hearts.  Those internal alarms work good for the most part!  But what I really need to be on guard for is the small things.  My thoughts, my speech, my attitudes, my responses - these smaller things are just as alarming and destructive in my walk with the Lord if I'm not careful.

As we've been walking along this unending, unexpected journey, I have been careful to guard my heart in not "blaming" God for anything.  I have chosen trust repeatedly when facing things that I don't understand.

I've relied on His grace to cope with things that are beyond my control.  I have called upon His mercy to have strength to endure.  He has been faithful on every level!

But I do get weary......and I don't want to let my guard down in the midst of weariness.  These little creatures that have set off our security alarms have been a good reminder to me to be careful not to let "little" things in any way impact my walk with the Lord and my trust in Him.  I have my alarm sensors on fresh alert!!

"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong."  1 Corinthians 16:13

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."  Proverbs 4:23

"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."  Matthew 26:41

"Watching what you say can save you a lot of trouble."  Proverbs 21:23

"Stay alert!  Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.  He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour."  1 Peter 5:8

"The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.  And God is faithful.  He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.  When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure."  1 Corinthians 10:13

God has been so gracious in caring for me, protecting me, and helping me on this unexpected journey.  But I must do my part to guard my heart.  The alarms of recent nights have been a good warning to not let down my guard in any area.  Even that reminder is part of God's faithfulness!!

As I began my week, I was looking forward to a quiet one.  There were only a few appointments, and nothing "big" was on the horizon for the next few days.  It was a relief, actually, as I've had some intense weeks recently.

Then suddenly, out of seeming nowhere, came 7 "big" things that I had to deal with.  I felt like I'd been hit by a big truck.  Bam!  In just a couple hours my whole week was changed.  It was such a jolt.

My first thoughts were of feeling overwhelmed.  I'm tired.  I didn't want to deal with all these things.  I really was looking forward to the peace and quiet.  It was frustrating and disappointing.

Then my second thoughts were "thank goodness God will help me!  I can't do all this alone."  My heart turned right away to asking for His help.  In fact I thought in the midst of things that change, there are two "unchangables" about God that I am so grateful for - His sovereignty and His faithfulness.

God doesn't get confused.  He doesn't get frustrated when things change.  He isn't helpless.  He isn't at a loss.  He is without equal.  He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He is infinite.  He is in control.  He has a plan and a way to help us navigate every situation.  I am so grateful for His sovereignty.

And no matter what I ask - how many things I ask, He always comes through and helps me.  His grace is sufficient.  His power is unlimited.  His strength is made perfect in my weakness.  He has an answer to my every question.  He has a solution to every problem.  He doesn't grow weary when I'm tired.  He never throws up His hands and quits.  I am so grateful for His faithfulness.

God takes my hardest situation, my deepest sorrow, my most painful event, my every question and confusion - and He weaves it all into an amazing and beautiful pattern for good in my life.  The tapestry He is weaving of my life is an awesome work of art.  I wish I could see it from His perspective.

In the midst of all I'm going through, He speaks continually to my heart.  His voice comes through sights and sounds, through my thoughts, through impressions into my heart, through the counsel of friends, through His word.  He speaks!  

If we listen, He speaks very loud and clear.  My part is to listen, to be alert and aware of His messages, to be attentive to His word to me.  I know in His sovereignty over my life, and in His loving care and faithfulness He wants to speak to me, to help me, and to guide me.  I'm so, so grateful for these unchangable aspects of who He is!!

"Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  Jeremiah 29:12,13

"A person's steps are directed by the Lord."  Proverbs 20:24

"Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."  Proverbs 19:21

"If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you.  He will not rebuke you for asking."  James 1:5

"For You are my rock and my fortress; You lead me and guide me for Your name's sake."  Psalm 31:3

There are many wonderful unchangables about God - but this week I'm rejoicing in His sovereignty and His faithfulness.  I'm so grateful for who He is!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has been content, at peace, and full of smiles.  I'm always grateful for all those things.  I don't take them for granted.  I pray all the time for God to comfort him and give him peace.

One of the carers took Floyd for a wheelchair ride outside this week.  He's such an "outdoorsy" guy.  I know he would have loved the sunshine and fresh air.  She then wheeled him around the hospital, greeting the nurses.  He smiled at each of them.  We will try to do more of this when the weather allows.

When we go through hard times, the “storms” of life, one of the first things to disappear can often be our joy.  It seems to get sucked up in the storm, much like a tornado sucks up everything in its path.

I’ve been in the midst of a number of storms all at once recently, and I’ve been thinking that I don’t want to lose my joy!  One of the storms involves physical pain.  Physical pain can especially rob us of joy because so much of our energy goes into battling the pain.  I’ve been reflecting each day on maintaining my joy in these stormy times.

One of the things I realized is that joy is a choice.  The Bible says “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)  But to receive that joy from Him, we have to choose to turn to Him, to stay tucked in close to Him.  He doesn’t force Himself on us.  We must choose to draw close to Him in order to receive the joy that brings strength.

Staying close to the Lord in the midst of the storm keeps us close to His springs of joy.  Those springs are unlimited, and they flow freely from His loving hand and His throne of grace.  He longs to baptize us in His joy - especially during stormy times.

I remember when I was 15 years old.  I was in the hospital with a serious illness.  It was also at an important juncture in my walk with the Lord.  I cried out to the Lord laying in that hospital bed, and had the most wonderful experience.  I felt the Lord say He wanted me to experience His joy.  He wanted me to know what was in store for me in walking with Him.  I could almost physically feel a fountain of joy being turned on inside of me.  Joy bubbled up uncontrollably.  

I started to giggle and laugh because my heart was so overwhelmed with His joy.  At the same time I felt His love, His closeness, His peace.  All the things I was worried about just evaporated in the midst of His abundant joy.  I felt cocooned in a bubble of His joy.  It was the most awesome experience.  I've never forgotten it.  And the next morning the doctors came in and said they couldn't find any trace of the illness.  They released me and sent me home.

Many times through the years when I've been in "storms," I've remembered that joy!  I don't want to miss out on it in the midst of the storm.  His wonderful, abundant, incredible joy is independent of the circumstances in our lives.  We need to wait in His presence and ask Him to fill us with His joy!  I've been doing that in the midst of my present storms - and His joy has been flowing into my heart.  Thank you, Lord, for your joy!

"Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning."  Psalm 30:5

"You have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy."  John 16:22

"I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him."  Romans 15:13

"When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy."  Psalm 94:19

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior."  Habakkuk 3:17-18

"Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete."  John 16:24

I'm so grateful for the gift of joy that He pours into our hearts!

A few days ago I looked out to the ocean and saw something unusual.  I couldn't quite make out what it was so I went to look in my telescope.  (A few years ago, Floyd used some loyalty club points/coupons to buy me my telescope.  He knows that I love to watch what's happening on the ocean - the big ships, the fishing boats, the surfers, the whales and dolphins, all the constant activity going on.  He saved up his points and got a good telescope for me. I use it all the time.)

As I looked through the telescope, I saw a large catamaran sailboat with what looked like a damaged sail.  It was being towed into the harbor by 2 very small boats.  It was such an unusual sight that I just watched it for a few minutes.

As I watched it, the thought came to me - we all need help at some time.  Even the biggest and most powerful of us sometimes can't manage, and we need help.  Here was this beautiful sailboat that couldn't make it back to the safety of the harbor.  It had broken down, and needed 2 small, simple boats to pull it to safety.  The 2 boats were so small that I actually wondered if they would manage to pull it all the way into the harbor - but they slowly towed it in.

During our unexpected journey, I've been keenly aware that I've needed the Lord's help!  But I've also needed help from those around me.  I couldn't have made it through the months of surgeries and chemo without sweet friends who stayed with me, encouraged me, and cared for me.  I couldn't have made it without my son and others who have driven me to appointments, and have done my grocery shopping and other errands.

And I certainly couldn't have made it without all the prayer support!!  I’m so grateful to each one for every prayer they’ve prayed - long or short.  Those entreaties lifted to the throne have sustained me.  They've carried me through the roller coaster events that have come our way.  They've helped cushion all the ups and downs.  I'm so, so grateful for every whispered prayer.

God intends for our lives to be interwoven together.  Some of those praying for us I don't even know, but, through those prayers on our behalf, our lives have become linked together for eternity.  

Floyd was always so strong and healthy.  We talked at times that he would probably outlive me.  He was a "giant" in some ways physically because of his stature, and he was also a giant spiritually.  I could always lean on him.  In my times of weakness, I knew he was there to support me.  But, like that big beautiful sailboat, he became disabled......and I have needed help and support to keep going.

As I watched the event on the ocean - my heart was filled with gratitude that my family, my friends, and all of those praying for us have helped keep me afloat .  I've prayed for God to bless each dear one.

"Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble."  Isaiah 35:3

"God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts.  Use them well to serve one another."  1 Peter 4:10

"Moses' arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up.  So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on.  Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands.  So his hands held steady until sunset."  Exodus 17:12

"Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ."  Galatians 6:2

"And do not neglect to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."  Hebrews 13:16

"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."  Philippians 2:4

I know God has sent many of His "angels" to help me on this unexpected journey.  I'm so grateful!  We need one another.  I thank the Lord for linking our lives together in such special and wonderful ways.  

Our Unexpected Journey

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I hope you had a lovely Easter.  HE IS RISEN!  Hallelujah!  I am so grateful that He is risen, that He is victorious over sin and death.  I have been worshipping Him for His goodness and His victory.  

This has been the 3rd Easter since Floyd became sick.  Two of the carers went to be with him on Sunday and had communion with him.  They let him smell the elements since he couldn't partake of them.  And then they rejoiced in worship with him that "Jesus is Alive!"

I've recently been walking through several new "storms."  I have to be honest and say that I'm tired of the storms.  But, they do keep coming so I need God's help in dealing with them.  A dear neighbor sent me a short video clip about eagles and how they escape storms that come.  

Eagles have a way of rising above the storms.  I've never known this until I saw the video clip.  It's amazing.  I think sometimes God does that for us too.  The storm comes, and God graciously lifts us out of it - to soar above the storm as it rages.

But many times, maybe most times, He allows us to walk through the storm.  BUT He always walks with us, holding our hand, leading the way, even carrying us if we can't manage on our own.  He is so loving, caring, and faithful.  I could have never made it without Him.  So, even though I'm tired of the storms, I can rest because I know He'll go through them with me - helping me each step of the way!

"But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint."  Isaiah 40:31

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."  Psalm 46:1

"They cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress."  Psalm 107:28

"The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe."  Proverbs 18:10

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you.  Don't be discouraged, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."  Isaiah 41:10

"The Lord is my strength and my song; He has given me victory."  Exodus 15:2

"The Lord is.....a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you."  Psalm 9:9-10

"You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance."  Psalm 32:7

"The eternal God is your refuge, and His everlasting arms are under you."  Deuteronomy 33:27

"This I declare about the Lord:  He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust Him."  Psalm 91:2

I have to stop!  I could go on and on and on about God helping us through life's storms.  The Word is packed full to the rafters of verses about His helping us in difficult times.  He is ALWAYS with us!  He never, ever leaves us alone.  He never fails us.  He is always available to be right by our side when we need Him.  What a reassuring confidence that is!  Thank you Lord.

He is risen, He's alive - and He's with us!

I love when God speaks to me through His creation.  It happens fairly often, and I find it so special.  I had a very unusual example of this recently.

My son and I were sitting on my front deck talking.  It was a lovely afternoon, and we were enjoying the pretty weather.  I looked off down the street and saw a mist/fog/something moving very rapidly towards us. By the time I noticed it, it was in front of my next door neighbor's house - but I didn't know what it was.

I suddenly realized as it got closer and closer that it was a humongous swarm of bees - probably hundreds of thousands of them.  Our deck is covered, but it's open - so we were very vulnerable.  It all happened so fast.  By the time I had the thought that maybe we needed to run inside the house - they were right in front of us.

Amazingly, they just moved along in front of the covered deck and never came under the roof.  In just a matter of seconds, less than a minute, they had passed by and were moving on down the street.  I have no idea where they were headed.  One of my neighbors seemed to think that they were moving their whole hive from one place to another.

As I sat in somewhat stunned silence at what had just happened - realizing if they had come under the roof that we could have been stung unbearably - I sensed the still, small voice of the Lord speaking into my heart.

"Just as this danger passed right by you without any harm - there are so many times that I have protected you and you weren't aware of it.  I'm with you.  I'm watching out for you.  You are in my safe hands."

There have been a number of "small" things that have happened to me recently that I think had left me feeling a bit vulnerable.  I received this event as a sweet gift to my heart from the Father reminding me of His watch care over me.  And it was an amazing sight to see too!

I wonder how many times He protects you and me, and we have no idea about it.  Someday maybe He'll show us.  We would probably be so amazed.

"Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge.  I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed."  Psalm 57:1

"The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all."  Psalm 34:19

"God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble."  Psalm 46:1

"Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge."  Psalm 16:1

"The Lord will keep you from all harm - He will watch over your life."  Psalm 121:7

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."  Surely He will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."  Psalm 91:1-4

"You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble."  Psalm 32:7

I'm so grateful that I am in His safe hands - the best place to be!  

Our Unexpected Journey

I've been thinking all day, on this Good Friday, about the cross.  By going to the cross, Jesus chose humility, submission, and dying to self.  He set the example for us of how to walk through our trials.  If I have the same attitude, He can help me walk through whatever comes my way.  He can give me "grace to suffer" just as the Father gave to Him.

I shared worship with Floyd today - thanking Jesus for the cross.  He had "blinks" of agreement and tears of gratitude as we worshipped.  At the cross, all our wounds of sin are forgiven.  Our emotional needs of guilt, anger, hurt, pain, and discouragement are healed at the cross.  There is comfort through what Christ suffered for us for our tragedies, our suffering.  He will meet our every need at the foot of the cross!  There is nothing we face that can't be met by Jesus at the cross.  Thank you, dear Lord, for the cross.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son....."  John 3:16

"He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.  By His wounds you are healed."  1 Peter 2:24

"He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.  He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed."  Isaiah 53:5

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?' "  Matthew 27:24-26

"Jesus said, "It is finished."  With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."  John 19:30

"Christ suffered for our sins once for all time.  He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God."  1 Peter 3:18

I could never thank Jesus enough for His death on the cross - but I can live my life for Him as an offering of worship to Him for what He's done.  I'm so very, very grateful for the cross.

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has been tired, sleeping a lot - but seemingly content and at peace.  It's been a long journey.  I understand his tiredness and we pray for continued grace and courage for him.

My strength is gradually, but progressively increasing.  I'm still needing to pace myself - usually only one "event" per day before my energy is gone.  But my energy levels are improving.  I’m grateful for that.

Many people have asked about our water situation.  We still need rain!  People are conserving water in admirable ways.  We are on very strict water rationing.  "Day Zero" when the taps run dry has been moved back.  There is even hope that we can escape it for this year.  But if our winter rains (May - Sept.) don't come, we'll be in even worse shape.  The dams where we get our water are almost completely dry.

The "good" side of all this is that many, many prayers are being lifted up!  There are regular prayer meetings - both large and small.  That is wonderful. 

Last year Angus Buchan (of "Faith like Potatoes" book and movie) brought together a prayer gathering called "It's Time."  It was held in the central area of South Africa.  Over a million people attended.  Now he has called one to be held in Cape Town on Sat., March 24.  "It's Time Cape Town" will be held in a field in the Mitchell's Plain area of the city.  Prayers will be lifted up for rain to come for our water crisis, and also for spiritual "rain" for our land.

There is a prophetic word that has been spoken over Cape Town for over 100 years......that God will bring a move of His Spirit starting in Cape Town and spread over the whole continent of Africa.  "From Cape Town to Cairo."  This word has been prayed into for over a century.  We are asking God to bring it about.

People will be coming from all over South Africa for this gathering - not just from Cape Town.  We are trusting that many from around the world will join us on Saturday with their prayers.  We're asking God to "open the floodgates of heaven" and let it rain on our land and in our hearts.

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."  Proverbs 22:6

I've heard that verse all my life, and have certainly believed the truth of it.  We often thought of that verse as we raised our 2 children.  But lately I've been reflecting on how much it means for.....ME!

There are so many truths, so many principles that I live by that I learned from early childhood.  The things instilled in me as a child have been part of my whole life!

Someone left a comment on the FaceBook prayer page that the updates I write aren't just from lessons learned on this unexpected journey, but they're also from things God has been teaching me all my life.  That's certainly true!  There are lessons, "ways of God," that I have learned over many years that are being put into deep practice in these difficult days.

The things we learned as children, the things we teach our children, are so very important.  The things I learned as a child - every principle, every concept - are the foundation stones for the lessons I'm learning now on our unexpected journey.  The "roots" of each lesson go back to the early days of my life.  I'm so grateful for the things that were imparted to me in my early years.

My mother, my Aunt Lillian, and several other Godly ladies in my home church taught me so much by their lives and example as I was growing up.  Pastor Sam O'Toole encouraged me to step out into missions as a young 16 year old into Youth With A Mission.

Floyd's mom mentored me in being a "preacher's wife."  I must have asked her a million questions which she patiently answered, and she continually encouraged me.

Darlene Cunningham in YWAM taught me about being a wife in missions - about trusting God for finances, being flexible, hearing His voice, hospitality.  I still have a letter she wrote me shortly before Floyd and I were married where she gave me practical, helpful advice on the life we were embarking on.

I read everything I could get my hands on from Ruth Bell Graham about being married to a man who traveled a lot.  Billy Graham was gone from home more than Floyd, but Ruth learned and shared so many lessons from her life that I found helpful in my life.  I've often said that she "mentored" me from afar by her life.

Edith Schaeffer taught me so much about reflecting God in our home in simple beauty and creativity - and about welcoming everyone into our lives and community.  We only spent a short time at L'Abri in Switzerland, but I learned lessons that impacted my whole life during that time.

Each lesson God brings into our life - the things He teaches us in every season - they all have lasting, eternal impact.  Some of the simplest lessons from my young, early years have laid foundations for the big things I'm walking through now.  I've said that God doesn't waste any of our sorrows.......I'd like to add that He doesn't waste any lesson He brings to us either!  They're all part of who He's forming us to be.

And He's always faithful to teach us and prepare us for what's ahead.  He doesn't take us through any season that He hasn't faithfully prepared us for in a previous season.  I can look back over my years and see how He graciously prepared me for this unexpected journey - starting from when I was a young child of 4 years old when He would speak things into my heart in the middle of the night.  I loved laying in bed and talking with Him.

I'm so grateful for His "training" me in the way I should go.

"Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord."  Psalm 34:11

"My child, never forget the things I have taught you.  Store my commands in your heart."  Proverbs 3:1

"These words that I am commanding you today....repeat them again and again to your children.  Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up."  Deuteronomy 6:6,7

There have been some things weighing heavily on my heart recently.  The weight of them seems to have grown increasingly heavy.  A few days ago when yet another thing came up that weighed on my heart - I realized that the load was just too heavy.  I did what I should have done much sooner.

I spent time with the Lord, and actively, one-by-one, gave each of the weights to the Lord.  I "cast" my burdens onto His strong shoulders.  I explained my concerns, my heartache, and I gave it all to the Lord.  It was a very special and precious time of prayer.  I could actually feel the heaviness lifting from my spirit.

I've continued to give these burdens daily to the Lord.  The result has been some wonderful "quiet times" with Him.  I'm so grateful that He is my burden bearer.  He is fully able to lift the weights from my heart and carry them for me.

I saw a quote recently - "God is everything or He is nothing."  I'm so grateful that He is everything!!  He can meet our every need.  He can carry the heaviest burden.  He can minister to the deepest longings of our hearts.  He can speak words of wisdom and counsel into our minds.  He can carry us through the hardest day.  He meets us with grace and strength when we're weak.  He surrounds us with comfort when we're hurting.  He breaks through with joy on the gloomiest of days.  How wonderful and faithful He is!

"Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved."  Psalm 55:22

"Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you."  1 Peter 5:7

"The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles."  Psalm 34:17

I’m so grateful for the prayers of dear ones all over the world that are helping to bear our burdens in the place of prayer.  What a wonderful gift and support to me and our family.

Our Unexpected Journey

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This week Floyd has been content and at peace.  Still quiet, but I think he's okay.  He had a sweet visit with our overseas friends on Saturday.

I'm continuing to heal and recover from my recent surgery - slowly, with a few setbacks, but steadily.  It's so nice to be improving.  I continue to pray for renewed strength and energy.

I've been reading a book about "unshakeable faith in unthinkable circumstances."  It's been encouraging because many of the things that are shared in the book are things I've been learning on our own unexpected, "unthinkable" journey.  It's actually been a sweet affirmation of all the Lord has done in our lives, and all the things He has been teaching me.  He has been so good and so faithful on this journey.

There's a quote in the book from Walter Elliot:  "Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other."  That rang so true in my heart.  There have been days when I wondered if I could make it through the day.  In fact, many times I've wondered if I would make it from one minute to the next!  The moments and the days have passed, and now we're past the 2 year mark.  I can't help but wonder all the time what is still ahead.

God's grace, goodness, strength, and faithfulness have helped me to survive all the "short races."  I'm somewhat amazed when I think back over all that has happened.  I know I couldn't have made it in my own strength, but He has been abundantly sufficient.

I guess I've never thought about perseverance too much.  I've had a few occasions in our lives when I've needed it - and God has always helped me.  But the idea of persevering being making it through lots of small things seemed so right.  If I had looked at 2 years on this journey back when it started, I'm not sure how I could have faced that.  But, thankfully, all I had to do was face a moment, a few moments, a day, a few days.....at a time!  I'm glad God broke it up in bite-size challenges for me.

Just the other day when I had my medical check-up, I was talking with the doctor about the previous year.  I've had 4 surgeries and 2 types of chemo treatment.  Thank goodness I didn't know about all that beforehand - but, with God's help, I survived.  Thank you Lord!

One day this week, I woke up feeling like a wet noodle without any energy and with lots of post surgery soreness.  It's certainly a "little" race, but I knew I couldn't even make it through the day without His help.  It gave me such confidence to know I could call on Him for grace to persevere through that low day.

I encourage all you dear ones that whatever you are facing, God will help you get through all the "short races."  He is involved in every detail of our lives, and He will help us through them all.

"Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that it cannot hear."  Isaiah 59:1

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."  James 1:2-4

"We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope."  Romans 5:3-4

"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him."  James 1:12

I was talking with a friend recently about things happening in our valley - crime, vandalism, drugs, traffic congestion, and, of course, our water crisis.  She said that she finds herself feeling vulnerable and often fearful.  Then she asked me if I felt that way.

I paused for a moment to think, and then I told her that I prayed a lot, that I had good neighbors, that I had burglar alarms, and that I had a worker that lived on our property several nights a week (that will soon be changing and I'll be alone).  We went on to talk about other things.

But the conversation has stuck with me.  I've reflected on it quite a bit.  I realized that I've definitely had times of feeling very vulnerable, and I've had times of being fearful.  But, thankfully, God has met me when I've felt that way!  If I had to live with feeling vulnerable and fearful, I don't know if I could survive.

A few months after Floyd became ill, we had a break in at our home.  God protected us.  The robbers were scared away, no one was hurt, and there was just some damage to repair.  But it did make me feel vulnerable!  The same thing could have happened, of course, even if Floyd were home.....but I wouldn't have felt as alone.

Each time I've felt vulnerable or fearful, I've turned to the Lord.  He has been so faithful to minister peace to my heart.  He has given me courage, and has reminded me that He has angels watching over me.  He calms my anxiety, and He brings to mind the verses that tell me He's holding my hand.

As I've been thinking about all this, I found myself singing an old song that I sang in church when I was growing up - "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." 

“What have I to dread, what have I to fear,

Leaning on the everlasting arms?

I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,

On the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning,

Safe and secure from all alarms;

Leaning, leaning,

Leaning on the everlasting arms.”

I have no need to fear any "alarms."  He is holding me in His arms!  That song was written in 1887, but the words are just as true today as they were then.  I'm so grateful that I can give any fear, any feeling of being vulnerable to Him - and receive His peace.  I can face any difficulties in His strength.

"Don't be afraid.  Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today."  Exodus 14:13

"The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes.  He is close to those who trust in Him."  Nahum 1:7

"The Lord will keep you from all harm - He will watch over your life." Psalm 121:7

"But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one."  2 Thessalonians 3:3

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."  Psalm 46:1

"I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by."  Psalm 57:1

We live in a fallen world.  We will face times of feeling vulnerable and fearful because of circumstances around us.  But we can bring those feelings to Him, and rest in His wonderful, safe, and secure arms.  He will minister grace, peace, and courage to our hearts.  Thank you Jesus!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd seems to be content and at peace this week.  During a visit with some friends this week, he smiled and cried - and listened attentively to everything they said.  They thanked him and encouraged him about his impact in their lives.  I'm sure this must have blessed him.

My recovery this week has been a bit bumpy, but I think I'm making slow, steady progress.  I’m grateful for all the prayers being lifted up for me.

I have felt a bit brain dead this week as I've battled pain, nausea, and a few other post surgery issues.  My energy level has been pretty low.  I've tried to do some reading, but have found it challenging to concentrate - although I've kept trying.

In one book I was reading there was a quote from Eric Liddell, the Olympian runner.  "Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God's plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins."

This quote has been going round and round in my heart and mind.  The unexpected journey we've been on has certainly changed a lot of the plans we had.  But God has been anything but helpless!  He has been all present and powerful.  He has been by my side and with our family continually.  He has been faithful.  He has met our every need.  His grace has been sufficient each day.  He has given physical strength, and emotional comfort.  He has been WITH us!  Thank you Lord.

"God's loyal love couldn't have run out, His merciful love couldn't have dried up.  They're created new every morning.  How great is your faithfulness!"  Lamentations 3:22,23

I imagine that some of you have followed, like I have, the events of the passing of Billy Graham.  I have known of his ministry all my life.  As a young girl I listened to him on the radio.  I watched some of his crusades on TV through the years, and attended one in person.  I don't know if any other one person has impacted so many people in our lifetime for the Lord.

His was a life well lived.  He was faithful to the calling on his life.  And he "finished well."  In our early years in ministry when we were in YWAM (Youth With A Mission), we heard teachings about the importance of "it's how you finish that counts."  I'll never forget those teachings.  They have stuck with me all my life.  I often pray "Lord help me to finish well for you."  As I watched Billy Graham's funeral, that was what came through loud and clear......he finished well.  And now He's with Jesus!

At the funeral, all 5 of his children spoke.  It was so moving.  Each one shared from their family life - all different perspectives, but all warm and personal.  For being such a large event, the tone of the funeral was warm, personal, and family oriented.  His son, Ned, said that his dad was FAT - faithful, available, teachable.  What an awesome tribute! 

One of the songs sung at the funeral was "Because He Lives."  I love that song - I've actually sung it in my quiet times during this long unexpected journey we're on.  "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow!  Because He lives, all fear is gone.....and I know He holds the future....life is worth the living just because He lives."  When I was a teenager, I sang with a girls trio in my church.  We sang that song.  It meant a lot to me then too.  I'm so grateful He lives!!

I have no idea what is ahead in our lives.  I long ago gave up trying to figure out what this unexpected journey is about.  I'm just trying to faithfully walk it through.  And, whatever is ahead, I pray continually that I may "finish well."  I guess that's the longing of all our hearts.

"I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me."  Acts 20:24

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful."  2 Timothy 4:7

"I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."  Philippians 3:14

"Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit."  Ecclesiastes 7:8

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."  Hebrews 12:1

My prayer for each of us is that we will finish well!  Someday we'll bow before Him in heaven.  I hope He can say "well done, good and faithful servant!"

Our Unexpected Journey

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During this past week of recovering from surgery Floyd has been on his own a lot.  Some of the faithful Care Team are away right now.  We have been praying for the sweet comfort of angels for Floyd during this time.  One carer that was with him this week asked him if he prays a lot when he's on his own.  He gave a very firm "yes" blink in response.  I'm praying for mighty times of prayer for him!

Leading up to my surgery last Friday, I was so blessed by the messages of love & support that I received from all over the world.  It was humbling.  It seemed like there were prayers being lifted up in just about every time zone.  So grateful for that!

And those prayers were answered!  I had a sweet miracle.  There was NO tumor.  What had appeared to be one was scar tissue & adhesions.  They had clumped together in a tumor-like mass.  That was removed, and they had a good look around.  There was NO malignancy.  When I got the news post surgery, all I could do was thank the Lord.  It was a TRUE “all clear” and I am so so grateful.

When I checked into the hospital the night before surgery, I had a surprise too.  Of all the possible rooms in this fairly large hospital - I was placed in the room Floyd had been in 2 years ago after he was released from the 6 weeks in ICU.  It was an uncanny deja vu moment.  I lay in bed praying that night, thinking about the 2 year anniversary of Floyd becoming ill.  I realized that this could all be sad/hard - or I could use it as an opportunity to thank the Lord for His goodness & faithfulness in all that has transpired since Floyd was in the same room.  I chose the latter.  As I did so, a glorious peace flooded my soul.  It carried through with me into the surgery the next morning.  In fact the surgeon and surgery nurse commented on how calm I was.  I knew it was the peace of the Lord.

I’m still rejoicing in the good news!

The verse “my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19) has been echoing through my mind.  He has been so faithful in doing that.  My heart is full of worship for His goodness!

I learned an important lesson during the time of my surgery that I thought I'd share with you.  All my life I've been taught that our walk with the Lord is a relationship.  In that relationship, we talk with Him and He talks with us.  He speaks to us in our mind and our heart.  He speaks to us through the Word.  He speaks to us through people around us.  I find He often speaks to me through His creation.  But the beauty is - He speaks to us!  

When my surgeon first examined me and said "there's a spot here," it was such a shock after being given the "all clear" from the PET scan.  It was, indeed, like a whiplash.  As soon as I had a few minutes alone, I went to the Lord in prayer.  I asked Him to help me understand, to give me His perspective.  I felt very clearly that He spoke into my heart - "it's nothing.  You're fine.  It's okay."

That was encouraging until a couple days later when I did the CT scan and got the results that there was a tumor there.  I immediately thought that my thinking the Lord had spoken to me must have just been wishful thinking on my part.

My response to all this was to give it all to the Lord, and affirm that I trust Him.  Whatever was ahead, I knew He would help me.  I spoke to Him through each and every day.......and many times in the night......"I trust you, Lord!  I keep my eyes on you."

Fast forward to after the surgery, and the surgeon comes to tell me that "there was nothing there - just scar tissue and adhesions.  You're fine.  It's okay."  You can imagine my response.  As soon as I finished thanking the Lord......I realized I HAD heard Him speak into my heart these words!  I just "assumed" I had heard wrong and that it was wishful thinking.

Well God and I had a long talk!  I told Him I was sorry that I hadn't held onto what I felt He had said to me.  Could I have been wrong?  Yes, of course!  But what I realized is that I shouldn't so quickly abandon what I felt He'd said.  I should have simply told Him that I thought He said that to me, but that I would trust Him whatever the outcome.

It's been an important lesson for me to learn......and a good reminder of some of the principles of hearing the voice of God.  Hearing God speak into our hearts is not some magic formula.  As I said, it comes out of our walk with Him, our relationship with Him.  I've heard Him speak into my heart since I was a young girl.  My earliest memories of that are from when I was 4 or 5 years old.  I've loved hearing His voice all my life.  His voice is precious.  I couldn't have made it for my 69 years of life without hearing His voice of love, affirmation, correction, direction - how wonderful it has been to hear Him speak into my heart.

I won't be so quick to discard what I think He's said in the future - regardless of what circumstances are saying.  There are some other things that I think He's spoken to my heart.  I'm going to hold on to them until He shows otherwise.

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."  John 10:27

"Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known."  Jeremiah 33:3

"So is my word that goes out from my mouth.  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."  Isaiah 55:11

"Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock."  Matthew 7:24

The Bible is filled with verses about God speaking to us.  I'm so grateful for His wonderful voice.  It is more precious than gold.

P.S.  During this time I've been picturing myself in His care just like the picture I have used for this blog depicts.  I'm staying tucked in close to "Aslan."

Our Unexpected Journey

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These last few days brought unexpected news on our journey again.  It seemed like the "roller coaster" was continuing, but my daughter said it felt more like whiplash!

After being so very grateful that my PET scan came back "all clear" a few weeks ago, my gynecologist/surgeon, very unexpectedly, found a small tumor.  I am disappointed, but grateful that this was found very early on and my surgery is booked to have it removed. 

My first emotions were of feeling "deflated" - like all the air had been let out of my balloon.  Then I felt the "whiplash" - like I was going in one direction and was suddenly jerked back to head a different way.  Now I have "settled" into a peace with remembering that this wasn't a surprise to God.  He is sovereign.  He is right by my side.  And He will help me with this new unexpected development.

I'm choosing to focus on the Lord, not on the difficulties ahead.  I know He will continue to be faithful to help me get through this, and I'm trusting that He will somehow bring good from it.

I shared all this with Floyd this week.  He was very alert and attentive - and very emotional.  Some tears, and lots of blinks of assurance as I asked him to be praying for me. 

"And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?  My only hope is in you."  Psalm 39:7

A friend sent me this verse.  As I read it, my heart said a hearty "amen!"  God is my only "sure" thing!  I couldn't make it without Him, and my hope is truly in Him.

On Floyd’s side he has been quiet and peaceful.  I'm so grateful for the peace that the Lord gives him.  I can't imagine all that goes through Floyd's mind - maybe questions, maybe anxiety, most likely frustration.......so I often, very often, pray for peace in his spirit.  I'm so grateful to sense the answer to those prayers when we walk into his room.  There is a spirit of peace.  Thank you, Lord!

Two big things are happening today.  It's the 2 year anniversary of when Floyd first became ill.  I'll never forget that day.  Everything leading up to it had been so normal, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, came the terrible pain in his left leg that started all that has happened. I would have never dreamed that day of what was to come.  What a 2 year unexpected journey it has been!!

And today is when I'll have the unexpected surgery. 

I've spent time this week preparing my heart for all this!  God has been so incredibly faithful these past 2 years, so I have no doubt that He will be anything less than that in the days ahead.  I will continue to hold tight to His hand, and let Him "carry" me if I'm too weak.

Several things have been illuminated in my heart in the last few days.  I love how God doesn't "waste" any situation in our lives.  He uses each one to teach us and grow us.  It constantly amazes me that He does that.

The first thought that has been coming through loud and clear is that I need to focus on what we have, not on what is lacking.  It's so easy when something unexpected pops up to focus on that.....on the new, hard thing that is ahead.  As soon as I change gears and focus on all the good things in my life, on all the blessings God has brought - wow!  It changes the whole perspective.  It's actually hard to be worried about what is ahead because I see how much God has brought me through and how faithful He's been.  When any anxiety pops up, I try to change my focus to thanking Him for all I have.  It lifts any heaviness that has entered in.

I've also felt encouraged by the Lord that "the best way to handle any unwanted situation is to thank Him" for the situation.  I confess that's easier said than done!  I'm trying my best to thank Him for the upcoming surgery.  What I think I've been able to thank Him for is that the surgeon was so thorough in finding this tumor......and that he can do the surgery quickly.....and that I have friends around who are loving and supporting me.  Again, it lifts the dread and heaviness when I look at what I can thank Him for in the unexpected/unwanted situation!

I've also found that it's important not to let the current circumstances rob me of my faith and hope of what's ahead for all eternity.  This trial, this unexpected journey, will come to a conclusion one day.......but I have eternity to rejoice in His presence.  He's teaching me lessons to make me more like Him and prepare me for standing before Him someday.  That thought certainly changes my perspective too!

How good, and awesome, and faithful He is.  Yes, I'm still learning lessons - and I'm grateful I can share my heart with you. 

"So we're not giving up.  How could we!  Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside where God is making new life, not a day goes by without His unfolding grace.  These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us.  There's far more here than meets the eye.  The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow.  But the things we can't see now will last forever."  2 Corinthians 4:16-18 The Message

All I can say is "amen!"

Our Unexpected Journey

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This week when I was with Floyd, I shared lots of news and reports of things from people.  He was alert, attentive - smiled a lot.  Then I played a beautiful a cappella rendition of "Amazing Grace" and he cried during the whole song.  We then had a time of prayer.

One of the faithful intercessors here was praying for Floyd this week.  She felt impressed with some special thoughts from the Lord:  I have not forgotten my son.  I still have him in the palm of my hand.  The two of us have conversations together.  He talks to me, and I talk to him.  My angels are with him constantly.  I have had similar impressions in prayer, so I found this very encouraging.

We are praying for courage and grace for Floyd to persevere.  The doctors had told us that Floyd would not live this long.  God has chosen not to take him home to heaven, so I think there are still things happening here on earth that are important.  He needs the Lord’s sustaining grace.

One of the biggest surprises for me on this unexpected journey we've been on is that there has been joy on the journey.  Joy is not dependent on the circumstances we're in!  On the hardest of days.......and there have been lots of hard days - physically, emotionally, and spiritually hard......but there has always been joy.

It sounds kind of crazy!  If someone heard me talking this way, they might think the pressure has gotten to me.  But what I've learned is that you can't press into God without finding joy!  Even in our pain, if we're pressing into Him, He brings joy.  The joy of the Lord, the "joy unspeakable" that the song talks about, is greater than the pain.

There have been times, both in Floyd's illness and in my battle with cancer, when I have felt like I was daily walking through the "valley of the shadow of death."  But while that "shadow" was very real, very close, and very strong, my heart's goal was to keep pressing into the Lord.  I knew that as long as I stayed close to Him, He would help me get through.

I didn't feel like I had to win the battle.  It was Jesus in me that would win.  All I had to do was keep my eyes on Him, my hand in His, and let Him carry me.  And that's where the surprise of joy came.  As I did those things, He amazingly brought joy into my heart.  Even now I find it hard to explain it and give words to it.  But it's been so very real.

The Bible says that the "joy of the Lord is our strength."  Nehemiah 8:10

That kind of joy comes from Him.  We can't work it up.  We can't fake it.  We can't make it happen.  It comes from pressing into Him in the midst of our trials.  What a precious gift it is!

The joy that He gives becomes part of the ability to live above our circumstances.  His joy carries us.

I've been meditating on all this, and someone sent me a video clip a few days ago.  It was a young couple sharing.  The husband has brain cancer.  Without a miracle, he has 1 year - 2 at the most, to live.  They shared so movingly about the things God has taught them.  And one of the things was how they have been surprised at the joy they've had in the midst of such a hard time.  They hadn't expected that.

In the midst of hard seasons, difficult trials, none of us expect to find joy.  But I want to assure you that it's there if we simply press into Him in the midst of our pain.  He surprises us with a gift that only He can give - joy.

Joy/rejoice/joyful are mentioned in the Word 430 times. Happy and happiness are mentioned 10 times.  I think that God is not as interested in making us happy as He is in filling our hearts with joy.  Joy is true satisfaction!  It satisfies the heart in a special and unique way.  

Joy is lasting.  Sorrow, suffering, the trials we walk through will pass, but joy continues in spite of hardships.  Joy is God's gift to us!

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."  James 1:2,3

"But let all who take refuge in you rejoice."  Psalm 5:11

"In your presence there is fullness of joy."  Psalm 16:11

Wednesday was Valentine's - the day of love.  I've been thinking a lot about "the love of my life," my dear husband.  We married so young that it seems like we've been together all our lives. :)  I'm so grateful for my "gentle giant," and so thankful for all the years God has given us together.

I never expected to be "alone" so early in our lives.  Floyd has always been incredibly healthy, so his sudden, extreme illness was most unusual.  It still seems a bit surreal when I think of all that has happened.  I miss my dear love.

But I also am so thankful for all the love that I've been surrounded with on this journey.  Our family has been awesome.  Our friends here locally have loved and helped me - on so many different levels.  

The dear "Care Team" that spends time faithfully with Floyd.  What a blessing they have all been.  

And all of our wonderful friends (and even complete strangers) around the world who have loved us, encouraged us, prayed for us, given to us - wow, wow, wow!!  The "family" of the body of Christ has taken on new meaning as they have rallied around us.  I am so grateful for all of our "family" who have been with us on this journey.

"I thank my God every time I remember you."  Philippians 1:3

"We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers."  1 Thessalonians 1:2

"A friend loves at all times."  Proverbs 17:17

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law."  Romans 13:8

"And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love."  1 Corinthians 13:13

Our greatest love, however, is the Lord Himself!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had a number of visits from Care Team members this week.  He's watched rugby and cricket.  He was quite emotional during a prayer time, and waved his left arm around.  He responded with lots of smiles to a friend's visit as she shared testimonies.  He seemed happy to get news of various situations.  I'm so grateful for the Care Team's love and care for Floyd.  Their kindness and service in spending time with Floyd is such a gift.

This week as I was reflecting on worrying, I had the picture come into my mind of a worm.  I've never liked worms.  They're all wiggly and squishy - and dirty!  

I think worrying can "worm" it's way into our minds.  One little thought of worry can dig its way into our thoughts.  Before we know it, we have a whole worm farm!

I've found it interesting that when I was so very weak, it was easier not to worry.  I didn't have the strength to worry.  As strength and energy have returned, it's easier to worry.  I have to make it a daily, conscious choice not to worry.....because there will always be things to worry about.

I grew up around someone who worried all the time.  That person worried about things that never happened.  It was a bit consuming!  I always said that I never wanted to be like that.  And yet those little worms can wiggle their way into my thoughts when I least expect it.

Worry is useless.  It doesn't get us anywhere in the situations we are facing, but it can greatly impact us.  It can bring stress to our mind and body.  Doctors warn that worry can affect us mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

Worry tends to happen when we take on a job that God didn't intend for us to have.  God wants us to cast our burdens on Him, and to let Him direct our paths.  Worry can affect our decisions and our judgements.  Instead of turning to God and seeking His counsel and wisdom, we can try to work things out on our own.

I've learned, I'm still learning, that when a "worry worm" pops up - I need to turn the worries into prayers.  God is always available to listen and help us.  Worry simply reflects our lack of faith or our lack of trust in Him to help us.

"So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries."  Matthew 6:34

"Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you."  1 Peter 5:7

"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."  Philippians 4:6,7

"Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you."  Psalm 55:22

"Worry weighs a person down."  Proverbs 12:25

There are so many verses about not being anxious, not worrying, not being fearful.  He is Sovereign.  We can trust Him with every burden, every concern, every worry!

I think the response to worry that we need to have is found in this passage from Habakkuk 3:17-18:

"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even thought the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord!  I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!"

There is nothing - no worry, no care, no concern, no problem, no sickness, no disaster, no calamity - that should draw us away from trusting in our Mighty God!  We can always, always, always be joyful in Him and in His goodness.

There's another area of survival that I've been learning over these many months.  Choosing to trust and not worry helps us in learning to "live above our circumstances."  The only way to get through a long, hard trial is "one day at a time."  And to do that, to survive day by day, we have to learn to live above our circumstances.  

It sounds simple, but it takes consciously, continually trusting the Lord.  Without that, we get mired down in our trials.  We get discouraged, and ultimately we become defeated.  The enemy can have a heyday in our minds when this happens.

When Job was in the midst of his trials, he didn't lose his trust in God.  "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised."  Job 1:21

He goes on later to say "though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."  Job 13:15

Job went through some pretty rough trials, yet I think He learned to live above his circumstances because He understood who God was and he trusted Him completely.  His friends didn't!  But he did.

When we're going through a hard trial, understanding will fail us and let us down, but trust will keep us close to Him.  I would say that I rarely "understand" fully what the trial is all about.  In fact, I have a few questions I'd really like to ask the Lord someday!  But what helps me keep going is trusting Him, which in turn keeps me close to His heart.

When we face hard things and trials surround us we are tempted to find someone or something to blame.  We often complain.  We immediately try to find answers and solutions.  We can become angry that God "allowed" the trial.  We can start asking all the "why" questions.  None of these paths will actually help us.  They will only complicate the hard situation.

But there are a few "keys" that I've found to be helpful.  I'm sure there are actually many more, but these are ones that have been beneficial to me:

·      We need to immediately cast our burdens and cares on Him.  There is no benefit to be gained by holding on to them ourselves and trying to find our own solutions.  "Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you."  1 Peter 5:7

·      We need to recognize (declare!!) that God is able to take care of us in the circumstances, in the trial, that we are walking through.  He is bigger than ANY problem we are facing.  Pray that out to Him.  Thank Him for His greatness, His power, and His love for you.  

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:8,9

I love that verse!  It puts everything into perspective.

·      We need to seek His counsel.  It's wonderful to talk to friends.  It's helpful to get the input of others.  But most important is to go to God and seek His counsel for the trial we're walking through.  Sometimes the more we talk about a situation, the worse it becomes.  We need to spend time with God and seek His perspective, His heart, and His counsel.  

"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

·      Remember that circumstances, situations may change, but God doesn't!  He is the same yesterday, today, forever.  He is the Rock we can stand on.  He is our refuge in the stormy trials.  He is our place of safety and security.  

"For I am the Lord, I do not change, but remain faithful to My covenant with you."  Malachi 3:6

·      We need to trust, trust, TRUST!!!  Don't let anything shake our trust in Him.  We must trust Him with our whole heart.  We must stand against the lies of the enemy that would in any way make us think He's not trustworthy - or that it's God's fault that we are in the trial we're facing.

"Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you."  Psalm 9:10

·      We must keep worshipping and praising Him in the midst of the hard times.  Worship lifts the weight of heaviness that grips our hearts in the trial.  Worship helps keep our focus on Him.  Worship allows Him to pour truth, grace, peace, and strength into our hearts. 

"In every situation, no matter what the circumstances, be thankful and continually give thanks to God."  1 Thessalonians 5:18

There are so many wonderful, powerful verses that help us to live above the circumstances!  I can't share them all, but there are a few more that I must include:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:6,7

"Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever.  They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.  Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look up in triumph on their foes."  Psalm 112:6-8

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."  John 14:27

"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you."  Isaiah 26:3

"When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on!"   We can hang on to Jesus - He'll help us in living above our circumstances.  He won't let us fall.  He wants to help us.  He wants us to live victoriously in any and every circumstance.  

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd had a sweet visit with a dear South African friend this week.  He hadn't seen him in several years, but when he saw him he "lit" up.  He smiled, listened intently as the friend shared, cried a bit, and even seemed like he was trying to talk.  When the friend played some worship, Floyd lifted his arm in worship - he doesn't do that very much these days.  It was a very special time - a sweet gift.  I loved that Floyd got that lovely treat.

I am continuing to thank the Lord for the good report I received from my scan.  It has been such a hard year.  I keep thanking the Lord for carrying me through.

As I look back on the long months of our journey, I realize how God has helped me "navigate" this season.  I truly couldn't have made it without Him.  So much has happened, and so many things have been "thrown" into the mix.  In lots of ways it feels like I've been walking through a giant maze with continuous twists and turns.  (Like the one I have used for this blog.)

I could never have muddled through on my own!  I would have been hopelessly lost in that maze.  But God has held my hand, and directed my steps day by day.

I'm grateful for sweet friends who have helped me survive - especially this last year when I was battling cancer.  I could not have made it without these friends!  I didn't have Floyd, but I had wonderful friends.  I've needed to embrace a new level of humility to be weak and receive help.  I've always been very capable, very organized.  Needing help for the most basic of my daily needs has been a new experience, but my friends have helped me through.

It has often seemed like I would just get through one thing - then there's a new twist and a new difficulty immediately ahead.  The battles don't stop!  But God has been there with each twist and turn, helping with each new battle.  His grace and been abundant.

C.S. Lewis said "God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain, but without stain."  There's so much truth in  that!  We will have battles, and some of them will be painful - but God will bring us through the fire of battle with no smell of smoke on us.  How faithful He is!

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."  Isaiah 43:2

"The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe."  Proverbs 18:10

"The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."  Psalm 34:17-18

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:10

"Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed."  1 Peter 4:12-13

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight."  Proverbs 3:5-6

He has straightened my paths in the maze, faithfully holding my hand, and guiding me through each twist and turn of pain and trial.  I am so grateful. 

We seem to live in some kind of bird paradise.  There are so many birds in our area, and so many different kinds.  Large ones, small ones and everything in between.  Very plain ones and incredibly colorful, beautiful ones.  I'm not particularly a bird lover, but you can't help but notice them and be impressed.

One morning I was looking out the window, and on the tree branch were 5 different kinds of birds.  It made me wonder how many kinds we have in our area.  I tried to research it, but couldn't get a specific number.  But it's lots!

The thought immediately went through my mind that God knows all these birds!  He not only created them, but he's aware of them on a daily basis.  His creation is valuable to Him.

"What is the price of two sparrows - one copper coin?  But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it."  Matthew 10:29

If God is aware of each bird that falls to the ground, then He certainly knows what you and I are facing today!!  He loves us.  He knows every struggle we are dealing with.  He knows every hope, every dream, every pain, every sorrow, every decision.  He is holding our right hand, and walking with us through each of these things.  And He isn't going to let us fall.  He'll catch us if we stumble!

As I watch these winged creatures fluttering around, it reminds me of the Father's care for me.  The concerns of my heart today for Floyd, for me, for our family, for our future - God is mindful of all of them.  He's continuing to help me navigate the maze, and lead me safely through it.

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?"  Matthew 6:26

"I know every bird in the mountains."  Psalm 50:11

"So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows."  Matthew 10:31

I don't need to worry.  I don't need to be heavy hearted.  I don't need to agonize over what is ahead.  My God is aware of every need, and is actively working on my behalf - just as He is watching over every one of the birds I see flying around.

I grew up listening to a song penned by Civilla D. Martin in 1905.  The words are powerful:

"Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come, why should my heart be lonely and long for Heaven and home, when Jesus is my portion?  My constant Friend is He: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me....

"Let not your heart be troubled," His tender word I hear, and resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears; though by the path He leadeth but one step I may see: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me....

"Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise, when songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies, I draw the closer to Him; from care He sets me free; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me....."

He is watching over me!!  What sweet assurance.

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had some peaceful days this week.  He’s had two "big events".   He’s had a haircut!  He was starting to look like a hippie again. :)  We have a couple dear friends who go to the hospital and cut his hair every so often when needed.  I'm very thankful for their loving care.  He's looking very spiffy now!

And, he’s been moved to a new, larger room.  It's lovely to have more space, and it'll be a help to the therapists working on him too.  It's a sunny room, and he can look outside. 

I have had some wonderful news this week.  I had my PET scan.  We've been very anxious to get an update on what is happening internally with the cancer.  I'm happy to report that the scan results said I'm "all clear."  There's no cancer head to toe!  I was very relieved.  Thank you Lord!  Now I will do everything I can to keep it away.  God has been rebuilding my strength, health, and energy.  I'm so grateful.

There's been a verse ringing in my mind in recent days.  "Be still and know that I am God."  Psalm 46:10.  I've been in a season of "being still" for 23 months now.  I went very abruptly from our normal life - to the trauma of Floyd's sudden illness - to these long months of "aloneness."  It was quite a dramatic shift.

There have been times in this long stillness when I've wanted more activity.  And yet I've felt that God has ordained this season.  I've come to realize that the "stillness" is what has helped me to survive!  I've needed the peace and quiet to be with the Lord, to "recharge" my inner batteries, and to rest and get new energy.

I wonder if our modern world has gotten so busy that it's sometimes hard for us to "turn off" and be still with Him.  It requires a simplicity that I've had to learn to walk in.  The Lord has sweetly taught me to rest in Him, and find my fulfillment in Him not in what I'm doing for Him.  There are some precious benefits that I've been learning about being still.

·      There is a sweet peace that comes in the stillness.  It's powerful!  In some ways it's like a flood over my spirit, but it's so gentle that it doesn't feel in any way overwhelming.  It's a "peace that passes understanding" (Philippians 4:7), and has enabled me to keep going in the midst of constant turmoil from all that has transpired on this journey.

·      Being still has allowed me to fully focus on Him, not on the problems.  I'm able to "cast my burdens on Him" (1 Peter 5:7), and then direct my heart fully towards Him.  It becomes a precious time of fellowship with my loving Father.

·      Being still allows times of prayer, worship, and reading the Word.  I don't divide them up - they just seem to flow from one to the other, and interweave back and forth.  I have come to be grateful for each one in new ways.

·      All this allows me to hear His voice in the stillness without all the competing "noise" of my normal busyness.  Hearing His voice speak into my heart and mind has become a precious treasure.

·      Being still has brought a wonderful "gift" of allowing me time and quiet to process this journey, to reflect on what I'm learning and what God is saying.  That's what I eventually share in my updates.  Without this gift, I don't know if I could have survived this journey.  God knew I would need this!  He has given me the aloneness and stillness to help me.

·      Being still also gives room for a re-energizing to replace all that has been drained away by the stress of the ups and downs of the journey.  The ups and downs seemed daily at the beginning of this journey.  It was so intense and hard on my emotions.  The stillness allowed for refreshment and healing to come.

On a very practical level, I've learned to sit and take deep breaths.  It's amazing how much that simple exercise helps!  It helps to reduce stress, and bring calm to your body.

I realize that most of you will never go on a journey like mine.  But I have a sense that God may want to bring some of the same benefits into your life by some times of being still in the midst of what you're walking through.  The blessings of the stillness are so beautiful.

"Be silent, every living thing, in the presence of the Lord."  Zechariah 2:13

"Truly my soul finds rest in God."  Psalm 62:1

"They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."  Isaiah 40:31

"Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him."  Psalm 62:5

"Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God's wonders."  Job 37:14

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."  Exodus 14:14

I've thought of how many things have been done for the Lord from sickbeds and prison cells.......times of being still.  Many of our classic devotionals have been written by saints going through these trials.  I'm grateful for the blessings God has brought into my life during these months of stillness.  How faithful He is!

"He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings.  His faithfulness will be a protective shield."  Psalm 91:4

I have read this verse so many times over the journey we've been on.  I've pictured myself "tucked" under His wings and being covered with His feathers.  I have thanked the Lord that His faithfulness has protected me, helped me, and carried me.

A few days ago one of our All Nations staff shared an amazing photo of a mother bird with 2 of her little chicks tucked under her wings.  I've used it as the picture for this blog.  I wish I knew what she was protecting them from.  Whatever it was, she was on full "guard" duty.  I love having a photo that captures what I've been praying for and thanking the Lord for.  I imagine God's wings are huge!  Lots of us can tuck in under them.

Tucked under His wings close to His heart, we can feel His heartbeat.  God's heart beats with love and care for us.  He wants to keep us from harm.  In His "holy overshadowing" He wants to protect us. 

All we have to do under His wings is rest while God is watching out for danger and protecting us.  For the danger to get to us, it has to go through Him.  The threat couldn't get to those baby chicks without first attacking the mother.  

Under His wings, we're safe.  Nothing can harm us.  His wings are gentle in holding us, but they are strong in protecting us.

I read that when a mother bird senses danger, she doesn't swoop down and cover her chicks.  She perches herself in a safe place, and calls them to her.  They go running to her, and tuck under her wings.  What a visual - that's what we need to do in hard times.  Go running to our wonderful Lord!

It helps me to picture staying tucked in close to Him.  I'm looking to Him to help see me through.

"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him."  Psalm 34:8

"Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings."  Psalm 17:8

"How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!  The children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings."  Psalm 36:7

"Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in You I take refuge.  I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed."  Psalm 57:1

"Let me dwell in Your tent forever!  Let me take refuge under the shelter of Your wings!"  Psalm 61:4

"For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy."  Psalm 63:7

When the hard times come, when danger is threatening us in any way - I want to remember those little chicks, and go running to tuck myself under the Father's wings where we find shelter and refuge.