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.

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has struggled with "chestiness" and phlegm this week.  We have seen improvement as we have prayed.  When I was with him a couple days ago, I could even hear his breathing improve while I was there praying with him.  Thank you Lord! 

Floyd has had some good visits with the carers this week.  One in particular had a very special prayer time with him.  Floyd seemed "engaged" in the prayer, and was smiling in agreement with what was being prayed.  We continue to pray for God's breakthrough for him.

This week I have had a number of medical appointments.  I am praying for good reports from them.

As I let hope be renewed in my heart, and as I start to pray afresh for a breakthrough - I've begun to think about faith.  I decided I wanted to lay aside everything I know about it, everything I think I understand or don't understand.......and just look at it with fresh eyes.

Our friend Mark Buckley in Phoenix writes a column every once in a while.  Shortly after I started thinking about faith, he shared this:  "Faith is not the absence of fear, or a clear understanding of how things will work out.  Faith is an inner assurance that God will give us grace that will lead to victory over the challenges we face."

When I read that, everything in me said "yes! that's how I see it."  Thank you Mark for stating it so clearly.

  • "Faith is not the absence of fear."  I have days when I am totally at peace, and days when fear could overwhelm me if I didn't take control over it.  When a new storm blows into our lives - and we've had a lot of storms through all these months - I have to battle to keep fear from taking over.
  • "Faith is not a clear understanding of how things will work out."  Oh how I wish I knew how things will work out!  I long for that many times.  But there is no certainty, no clear understanding of what's ahead.
  • "Faith is an inner assurance that God will give us grace."  If there wasn't that assurance, that deep conviction - then I'd not be able to make it.  I can't make it on my own!  But God gives daily, hourly, moment by moment grace to persevere.
  • "Faith will lead us to victory over the challenges we face" because of who God is.  God, our Rock, our Sustainer, our Savior, our Strength, the source of all we need......God will lead us to victory!  I'm not even sure what victory means in our situation......but I know He's leading me there.

He has helped me keep on the path of this journey because He has a plan, a purpose, a "victory" ahead for us.  It may simply be heaven!  But He's helping me, Floyd, and our family keep going towards His victory for us.

There are days when it feels like my heart is full of faith, and days when it feels less than a thimble full.  But it doesn't matter, if I simply keep my eyes on Him, trust Him, and hold tightly to His loving hand His faith is sufficient to get me through. 

"Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see."  Hebrews 11:1

"For we live by faith, not by sight."  2 Corinthians 5:7

"You know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."  James 1:3

"Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly see Him."  Hebrews 11:6

I'm not an expert on faith, and I'm certainly not a theologian.  But I've come to the conclusion that if I lack faith, I lack trust.  And the more I trust, the more my faith rises.  It's as simple and as complicated as that!

A few months ago I was meditating on the scripture in Isaiah 63:9  "In all their distress He too was distressed, and the angel of His presence saved them.  In His love and mercy He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old." 

It really impacted my heart.  Wow - in our distress, He is distressed......with us and for us.  

I don't know about you, but that really touches my heart to know that God is distressed by the things that hurt our hearts.  Other translations say He is "afflicted" with us, that He "suffers" with us.  God's heart is moved by what we go through.  He's not a stoic bystander......He's right in there hurting, crying, and feeling the pain with us.

And then it goes on to say that He carries us and saves us.  I know He has carried me through distress a number of times.  He has been so faithful.

I was doing some of my daily prayer walking on our deck this week.  It's lovely that we are in summer now, and I can do that.  I love being outside.  As I was praying and worshipping, I became overwhelmed thinking how powerful worship is.  I began to think of all the amazing gifts it brings into our life!

  1. Worship releases joy.  It's almost like God pushes a button, and it starts flowing into my heart as I praise Him.  Joy unspeakable floods my heart!
  2. Worship brings strength.  So many times when I've felt weary, and I start thanking and praising Him because He gives strength......then, before I know it, I sense renewed strength and energy to go about my day.
  3. Worship lifts off burdens.  As I prayerfully "cast" my burdens on Him and thank Him for carrying them for me, I can feel the weights being lifted off.  A new "lightness" comes into my spirit.  On the heaviest of my days, worship has definitely parted the clouds and allowed the sunshine of God's presence to shine through.
  4. Worship draws me close to the Father's heart.  As I speak and sing out praise to Him, often quoting what the Word says, I feel His heart of love, care, and tender mercy for me.  I know His heart is moved by what I'm going through, and that He cares for me.
  5. Worship helps keep my focus on Him, not on my problems.  If I focus on my problems, they get bigger and heavier.  As I focus on Him, I see His power and greatness, and know He can help me with every problem, every need, every care.  It changes everything when I keep my eyes on Him!
  6. And, of course, worship is warfare!  I think nothing sends the enemy running faster than us praising and glorifying the Lord!  He hates it.  One of the things I've learned on this long journey is that when I'm discouraged, when the enemy is trying to get me down.....the first thing I need to do is worship.  Granted, it's not always easy - but it's so important.  We "win" with thankfulness, gratitude and praise.  The enemy flees.

I often start by just thanking God for the good things in my life in the past few days.  Basic, simple, every day things - and then I move on to thanking God for who He is.  Discouragement has to flee in an atmosphere of praise.  Praise drives the enemy far away!

We can worship God in any way we want - praying, singing, dancing.  We can be creative!  God loves it all.

"Sing to God, everyone and everything!  Get out His salvation news every day!  Publish His glory among the godless nations, His wonders to all races and religions.  And why?  Because God is great - well worth praising!  No god or goddess comes close in honor.  All the popular gods are stuff and nonsense, but God made the cosmos!  Splendor and majesty flow out of Him, strength and joy fill His place.  Shout Bravo! to God, families of the peoples, in awe of the Glory, in awe of the Strength: Bravo!  Shout Bravo! to His famous Name, lift high an offering and enter His presence!  God is serious business, take Him seriously; He's put the earth in place and it's not moving.  So let heaven rejoice, let earth be jubilant, and pass the word among the nations, 'God reigns!' "  1 Chronicles 16:23-31

I'm so grateful for the gift of worship and the power that it has.  We're worshipping Him - but in the process He raises us up and ministers to our needs.  Only our awesome God can do that!

Our Unexpected Journey

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At the start of the week Floyd was rather solemn, but seemed more content and at peace when I was last with him.  He has had some very sweet visits with carers in recent days.  During one of them, the carer took a photo of Floyd and let him look at himself on the screen.  He smiled really big, and seemed to enjoy looking at himself.  Not sure what that means. :)  Hmmmmm!

The carer also told him what a blessing our son Matthew has been during this journey.  He moved here to help and support us in any way he could.  He has been a big help to me.  Floyd cried when being told about this.

Another carer shared some special scriptures, and had a lovely time of prayer with Floyd. 

I started with all my new treatment this week.  Trusting for it to bring further strength and healing to my body. 

In times of trials and suffering, it's so easy to only see the negatives, the hard things.  But if we will allow Him to, God will bring so many positives, so many good things into our lives.

I recently saw this quote - "spiritual blessings come wrapped in trials."  I've been pondering all the blessings God has brought into my life on the unexpected journey we've been on.  As we begin this new year, I've been reflecting on all He has done in the previous year.  He's been so faithful.  I got so excited when I started thinking of all the good and wonderful things that God has brought into my life......blessings wrapped in trials.  I just have to share them with you!

  • The trials have "pressed" me deeper in my walk with Him in order to survive.
  • Through that has come a precious intimacy with the Lord.
  • And along with it has come unexplainable joy in the midst of the trials.  "In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer in all kinds of trials."  1 Peter 1:6
  • God's Word, His promises have taken on new depth and such personal meaning to my heart.
  • There has been a clear sense of God carrying me through the hard times and holding my hand.  "I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:10
  • In the midst of the storms, there has been a "peace that passes understanding."  Philippians 4:7
  • There has been a release of sweet, deep personal worship.
  • I continually hear Him speaking encouragement into my heart and mind.
  • I can't talk with Floyd, so I talk with the Lord.  He has become my constant counsellor.  "I will counsel you with my loving eye on you."  Psalm 32:8
  • In my "aloneness" my friendship with the Lord has grown so much deeper.
  • I have experienced new, greater, deeper levels of His powerful sustaining grace.
  • He has given me sufficient strength on my weakest of days.  "God's power is made perfect in our weakness."  2 Corinthians 12:9 
  • He has healed my heart on days when my heart could only weep.
  • He has collected my tears in a bottle.  "You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book."  Psalm 56:8
  • He has renewed my strength and energy after I had gone so, so low.
  • He continually lifts my head when it droops from weariness.  "But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head."  Psalm 3:3
  • He carries my burdens that at times seem too heavy to bear. 
  • He relieves my anxieties if my mind wanders into fields of worry.  "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you."  I Peter 5:7 
  • I've experienced new depths of trust.  I never knew it was possible to trust so deeply and intensely.
  • I knew He was faithful, but He has exceeded all my expectations.
  • He has helped me have patience when mine was all used up.
  • He has renewed my hope when my hope dimmed.  The wick of hope may flicker, but it won't be quenched if we keep our focus on Him.
  • He has given me sweet "gifts" to warm my heart - whales, rainbows, beautiful sunsets, and even a huge owl flying right by my window.
  • I've been carried by the prayers of others in ways I never dreamed possible.
  • Friends (both hear and far) have loved and supported me at new depths.  Friendships have become one of my sweetest treasures.
  • Friends, and even complete strangers, have helped provide for us.  Early on God spoke to my heart that He would take care of us in our old age.  "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you."  Isaiah 46:4

I better stop because I think my list could just go on and on and on!  And there are so many verses of promise in the Word that He'll do these things for us in the midst of trials.  I've only quoted a few.  

I keep thinking of more and more good things that have come into my life in the midst of the painful journey.  The blessings that have come wrapped in trials have been amazing - and abundant.

I don't know what's ahead.  My life could end tomorrow.  But, if so, it would be with my heart full of gratitude for God's faithfulness and goodness.  He has poured a multitude of blessings into my life on this unexpected journey.

And, yet again, I must quote Jeremiah 29:11:  " 'For I know the plans I have for you,"  declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "

There is a prayer ringing in my heart that each of us will find blessing in the trials that come into our lives this year.  I know God wants to pour out those blessings into our hearts.

While God has been refreshing and renewing hope in my heart, I've been asking Him how I'm to pray in this new year.  I've felt clearly led to go back to the prayer of "breakthrough."  The breakthrough I'm praying for Floyd is healing or heaven.  I trust in the sovereignty of God and what He knows is best for Floyd.  I'm praying for that breakthrough to come this year. 

I'm praying for breakthrough for me too - a healing breakthrough.  I'm praying for the cancer to be fully cleansed from my body, and I'm also praying for healing from the still-lingering side effects from the chemo that are weighing my body down.

A friend recently sent me a video clip by the speaker Louie Giglio.  He shares about a protein molecule in our bodies called "laminin."  I had never heard of it before.  I've watched the video clip several times and have ended up crying and worshipping the Lord each time.  You have to take a few minutes to find it on Youtube and watch it!  I guarantee you will be blessed.

We are truly "fearfully and wonderfully" made.  Psalm 139:14  And the God who made us with laminin knows every cell in our bodies that needs His healing breakthrough touch!

"Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for You are the One I praise."  Jeremiah 17:14

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

"Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me."  Psalm 30:2

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."  Psalm 73:26

There is, of course, no magic button to push for God to heal us, but I do believe He loves it when we ask.  I always ask by telling Him that I trust whatever outcome He brings.  I know He has plans "to give us a hope and a future."

Our Unexpected Journey

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I had a sweet time with Floyd this last weekend - thanking the Lord for His goodness and faithfulness this past year, and committing the year ahead to Him.  I recounted all the ways the Lord has sustained us on this unexpected journey, and worshipped Him for His help and grace.  We both cried a bit, but mostly it was lovely just to thank the Lord for all He's done!

As I think about the year that has just ended and the aspects of Christmas that we have celebrated, the trurh of "Immanuel - God with us" has blessed my heart.

"The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means God with us."  Matthew 1:23

I am so grateful that in all that I have walked through, God has been with me!  I could never have made it on my own.  

Ending one year and beginning a new one can be kind of unsettling and daunting.  It's a bit unsettling because things you hoped and dreamed for may not have happened.......and it can be daunting because you have things you hope and dream for in this new beginning.  It's starting all over again, and you realize the same thing could happen again with expectations not being fulfilled.

So why do we hope and dream?  Because that's how God made us.  We need to hope for the good, for making a difference, for succeeding, for having victory in life's circumstances.  God has made us to dream for changing the world.  Without hopes and dreams, life would be pretty miserable.

And when those things don't happen?  That's where we trust the Lord.  But we don't stop hoping and dreaming!  When difficult things come our way, God hasn't lost control.  He hasn't forgotten us.  He hasn't stopped being with us!  In even the most difficult of circumstances, God is at work.  He will somehow bring good out of it into our lives.

God doesn't always take us on a detour around troubles.  Sometimes He allows us to walk right into the fire, into the middle of dark, difficult times.  But  He's always with us!  He's our help, our refuge, our strength.  I could not have survived the last 22 months if He had not been with me.

"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  Joshua 1:9

"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

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you."  Deuteronomy 31:6

I am so grateful that "Immanuel" has been with me this year - and I know He'll continue to be with me in the days ahead.  I'm glad we can face a new year with that confidence. 

As the new year is getting under way I'm starting with my medical appointments and I can't go to Floyd as often because of them.  I've found I have to entrust Floyd to God's care (and the angels He sends to be with him!) when I can't be there as much.  And I'm so grateful for the wonderful nursing staff who talk and sing to him. 

I am praying for the Lord to give me wisdom and direction as I go to all my medical appointments to finalize my ongoing care.  I have a clear sense that He's been directing my path.  I'm so grateful for that.  I couldn't make all these decisions without His wonderful counsel.

At the beginning of last year, someone sent me a verse from "The Passion Translation" of the Bible.  "Here's what I've learned through it all - don't give up; don't be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous and never lose hope.  Yes, keep on waiting - for He will never disappoint you!"  Psalm 27:14

I felt it was my theme for the year.  Being one with the Lord, keeping hope alive, and waiting to see what God had in store for us.  That was a good plan for the year.  I read the verse frequently, proclaimed my trust in the Lord, and tried to be patient.

As the new year of 2018 rolled around, I wondered what God would say for this year.  As I was getting my agenda ready for the year (I'm very old fashioned in that I still love a paper agenda!), I was praying over the month of January and I felt the Lord put into my heart that He wanted to renew and refresh hope in my heart!  I even had a little sticker that said "hope" that I felt I was to put on the page for the month.

It's easy to lose hope - or to have it grow dim when the journey is long and setbacks come.  Having cancer return to my body this past year was definitely a setback!  As all this came to me, I realized that I needed a refreshment of hope in my heart.......so I opened my heart to receive that from the Lord as my word for the year.  Once I did that, it swelled in my heart - trusting anew in the God of hope!!

Imagine my sweet surprise when I had an email the next morning from a friend who said she'd been feeling to pray for fresh hope for me and that God wanted to give hopeful fresh beginnings, great surprises, and unexpected joy to me.  It was such a sweet exclamation point to what God had been saying to me.  I love it when that happens!

Then my daily reading said that God can "weave miracles into the most mundane day" if we keep our focus on Him.  I'm continuing to trust Him, with renewed hope, and watching for the surprises, joy, and miracles that He has in store - even in ordinary days. 

Just a few days ago, on a very ordinary day, I was glancing out the window early in the morning, and a huge owl flew by with "breakfast" in its talons.  The wing span of the owl was at least a meter and a half (yard and a half).  It was magnificent and beautiful!  It flew by so fast, but so close - I just stood there in awe.  God knows how I love to see the beauty of His creation and creatures.  It was such a special gift.  A few seconds later, and I'd have missed it.

So, in this new year - I wait.....to see what little things and big things He has in store for me and for our family.  I'm praying God will let hope grow in all our hearts.

" 'For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' " Jeremiah 29:11.  I never get tired of this verse.  Every time I read it something rises in my heart!  God's plans for good for us never end!

"The hope of the righteous brings joy."  Proverbs 10:28

"That is why I wait expectantly, trusting God to help, for He has promised."  Psalm 130:5

Hope is being refreshed in my heart as I spend time with Him.  I can have hope in this new year because our story isn't finished yet.  God is still at work!

In this new year may the Lord bless you and keep you, make His face to shine upon you, and give you peace......as the beautiful blessing from Numbers 6:24-26 says.

Our Unexpected Journey

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Over this Christmas time we have tried to surround Floyd with love, Christmas carols, and special readings to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  I’ve had some sweet times with him.

Some friends drove to Cape Town this week to visit Floyd.  The husband had been with us in Colorado many years ago.  We hadn't seen them for 9 years, but Floyd smiled real big when they walked in the door.  We had a precious, tear-filled visit - and a very emotional time of prayer.  I think Floyd's heart was touched as he heard how they have loved and prayed for him from afar.

I'm so grateful for the good, on-going care Floyd gets at the hospital he is in.  It relieves my heart.  Christmas was a sweet time for me, but also a very tender time.  

During this second Christmas season of Floyd being in the hospital, I am focusing on God's goodness, the blessings in our lives, family, and friends.  I have so much to be thankful for!

When I ponder the Christmas story each year, I always relate to Mary - on so many different levels.  This year I've been thinking about the "load" she had to carry.  She was being chosen for the greatest honor a woman could have - being the mother of the promised Savior.  And yet it wasn't easy:

- her friends didn't understand

- she was faced with accusations of promiscuity

- she could have lost her betrothed, Joseph

- she had to deal with loss of reputation

- what was happening brought shame to her family

- and then when the baby came, there was no place for her to give birth

And, just think - this was all part of God's will for her life!!  It wasn't bad consequences of something she had done wrong.  It wasn't an "attack of the enemy."  Nothing had gone wrong.  She was being given an awesome privilege.

Mary's response was to say "for with God nothing is impossible - be it unto me according to your word."  (Luke 1:37,38)  One of my friends said - "placing faith in God's Word is the only way to settle our hearts when God's purposes are beyond what we can know."

Mary's difficult, hard circumstances were part of God's magnificent design and plan.  He had foretold of it long before - "unto us a child is born, to us a son is given......and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."  (Isaiah 9:6,7)

The things you and I walk through in life - our joys and our sorrows - may well be part of the plan God has for us.  My heart's desire is to trust Him like Mary!  I want to magnify the Lord like she did.

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant.....For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.  And His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation.  He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty."  Luke 1:46-53

God graciously walked with Mary during this season in her life.  I am so very thankful for how He has walked with me, with our family, in the season we are in.  How wonderful and faithful He is!

Another thing that has ‘jumped’ out at me as I ponder over the Christmas story is the word joy.  "Joy to the world, the Lord is come."  What a different world it would be if He hadn't come!  How different our lives would be if He didn't bring and give joy.  I am so grateful for His joy.

It's only because our Savior came, and what He has done for us, that we can have real joy.  Sam Storms, who we worked with for a season in Kansas City, said "Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God."

I, and our family, have gone through a long season of suffering on a number of levels.  It has been hard.  There have been times when I've wondered if I would survive this season.  And yet, beneath all the suffering and difficulties, there has been a joy in the midst of the suffering because of the presence of God.  It's hard to even describe it, but it's there.  It's way down deep.  It's rooted in Him.  It's strong, and it gives strength.

It's not a happy "feeling."  It's not a giddy laughter.  It's not magical.  It comes from crying out to Him from the depths of our being, and telling Him we need Him.  And somehow, inexplicably, joy wells up from within us by His Spirit.  The weakness we feel in our suffering becomes strength as He pours His joy into our hearts.

This joy, that I find so indescribable, begins to carry us in moments of weakness.  It brings healing, comfort, grace to persevere, and courage to face the next day.  We can't push a button and get it.  All we can do is cry out to Him and let Him release it into our hearts.  I am so grateful that He comes and fills our hearts with a joy that seems in such contrast to what we are walking through.

"I bring you good new of great joy.....a Savior has been born."  Luke 2:10,11

"When they saw the star they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.....and then they saw the child."  Matthew 2:10,11

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

It's only because Christ came, and because of what He has done for us, that we can have real joy.  As the song "It's about the Cross"  by Go Fish says - "It's not just about the manger, the angels, the shepherds, the wise men.....it's about the cross."  He came as a babe so He could die on the cross for us.  Because of that, there is joy!  Thank you, Lord, for your joy.

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had a good week.  He's at peace, attentive with the carers, smiling - everything is just holding steady.  No big ups or downs.  He seems a bit quieter these days, but he's not upset in any way.  This week when I went to see him, I took him a small wooden tree that they make here locally with colorful ribbons tied on it.  We can't take plants or flowers.  I wanted him to have something festive for Christmas.  He smiled real big when he saw it.  Christmas was always a special family holiday season for us.  I miss him more profoundly during these weeks.

I feel so blessed that the nurses told one of the carers this week that they are making plans for Christmas.  They will sing to him and read from the Bible.  I plan to visit him on Christmas too. 

Some days for us are hard.  Oh how I wish they weren't, but they are.  Floyd still faces all the "big" conditions in his life - he can't speak, he can't swallow fully, one side of his body is immobilized, his awareness isn't one hundred percent......and as time goes by, other complications arise.

I also don't know what's ahead for me in my battle with ovarian cancer.  At the moment I'm feeling good, I'm regaining strength, and I'm initiating ongoing treatments.  But those nasty cancer critters may be growing even as I'm typing this.  We'll know more with tests we'll be doing in the new year.

The thoughts of all these things are often in my mind.  I was committing them to the Lord recently when I read this verse:  "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Matthew 6:34

How very true that is!  Some days the "trouble" of that day feels like too much.  And if you add in possible future trouble, it really gets overwhelming!

I am learning, and relearning, and learning yet again - that I must fully keep my focus on HIM......not the troubles.  He is sufficient for the troubles, but I must stay in the present and keep my eyes on His goodness, His grace, and His sufficiency.  I can't allow my mind to wander into the "what ifs" of the days to come.

It seems so simple, and yet I find it a challenging, daily battle in the mind.  Thankfully God is patient, and He brings me back again and again to what I'm dealing with today.  He helps me get through one-day-at-a-time!  He's so faithful.

He also graciously adds in special "gifts" that warm my heart and remind me of His love for me in knowing what I enjoy.  Things like the beautiful rainbow I shared about last week.  And a few days ago there was a whole pod of whales in our bay.  It was hard to count them as they went up and down enjoying their tasty meal - but there must have been 20-30 of them.  I marveled at their magnificent beauty and graceful movements.  It's late in the season for whales, so that made it even more special.

As I give my "troubles," my cares to Him - He carries them for me......and He gives me little joys that bring a smile and help lighten the load.  How can you not love a God like that and be in sweet awe of Him?  He is so good!

"When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul."  Psalm 94:19

"Praise be to the Lord.....who daily bears our burdens."  Psalm 68:19

"Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken."  Psalm 55:22

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

Faithful, faithful God that He is.......He carries our heavy loads.  Thank you Lord!

I have gotten lots of information about possible ongoing treatment for me over these past weeks.  I will be praying and seeking the Lord about all this over the next couple of weeks.  I'm so grateful for all the prayer the Lord has surrounded me with from many around the world as I make these descisions.  

When the angel came to Mary, to Joseph, and to the shepherds - the common theme was "do not fear, do not be afraid."  It's a good thing they said that because, well.....angels!  You might be a little nervous!  I'm so glad that God knew they would need to hear those simple words - "do not fear."  

In fact "do not fear, do not be afraid" are instructions mentioned more than any other command in the Bible.  One study I looked at said it's mentioned over 365 times in the Word.  God knew we'd need to be reminded of this simple instruction over and over, even daily, as we face situations in our lives.

On this unexpected journey we've been on, I've heard God whisper it to my heart many times.  And I remind myself repeatedly that I don't need to be afraid.  With God holding my right hand, walking with me, carrying me - I don't need to fear anything that comes our way.

But sometimes it's easier said than done.  I have had to face so many HUGE issues on this journey.  I can say I don't need to fear, but it's much harder to get rid of very normal, human fears that pop up.  A key for me has been bringing my fear into the light, into the truth of God's word.  Fear tends to thrive in the dark and in the mind.  By speaking out my fear, the Lord can help me in both areas.

When I speak my fear to the Lord, it allows Him to lift it from my mind and my heart.  He can then carry the "burden" of that fear.  He is able to pour His peace into my soul.  He is able to shed truth and revelation into the fear so that it loses its power.

I'm so grateful for God's clear instruction to us to "fear not."

"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

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."  Psalm 23:4

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you."  Deuteronomy 31:6

"The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.....The Lord is with me; He is my helper."  Psalm 118:6,7

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

God isn't saying there's nothing to be afraid of.  Life is scary - there are frightening things that come.  But He's saying we don't need to fear - because of who HE is in the scary things of life!  And often when He gives the command to not fear (it's a command, not a suggestion!) - it's followed by His action, His response, His help.

Like Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds in the Christmas story - we don't need to fear!  God is with us!  As you reflect on our Savior over this Christmas time may you be blessed with joy! 

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had a quiet week.  One of the carers said she had the most responsive time with him ever.  And the next carer said he slept through the whole time. :)  You just never know how he'll be!  I'm so grateful that he is well and healthy.  Several friends have had bad "warm weather" colds.  I'm praying that none of those germs get to Floyd.

This week I was reading about Noah.  I was struck afresh by his faithfulness to God in the midst of a people who weren't serving God.  And his obedience - oh my!  Can you imagine being told to build an ark no where near water?  And to gather a pair of every animal on earth?  And then to go into the ark and stay there when everyone was ridiculing you?  Noah had a level of hearing the voice of God and obeying Him that I think I'm still working towards.

I get terribly seasick on boats, so I can't imagine being shut into that ark for about a year.  And I can't even begin to imagine the smell!  And then finally when they could be on dry land again - God sent the rainbow, His promise to them that the earth would never again be destroyed by a flood.  God "sealed" His promise with that rainbow.

I've always loved rainbows.  God has spoken to me through them on several occasions - including once on this unexpected journey when a rainbow was with us all the way home from the hospital as we drove home on what had been a very hard day!  God spoke to me so clearly that day that He's with us, with me.

As I’ve been thinking about this over a few days, one morning this week I looked out the window - and there was a beautiful rainbow spanning the sky.  I've made it the picture for this post.  It only lasted a few minutes, so it's quite amazing that I even saw it.  It immediately resonated in my heart of God's goodness, His faithfulness, and His continuing care for me, for Floyd, and for our family during this long season.  I was so blessed.  A little spark that leapt inside me when I saw it has stayed in my heart.

There was a phrase I read in my devotional this week that said to look for how God speaks to us as we go about our day.  God certainly "spoke" to me through this beautiful rainbow.  I'm grateful for the symbol of His promises and faithfulness.

"I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind."  Genesis 9:13-15

"Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations."  Deuteronomy 7:9

"The Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one."  2 Thessalonians 3:3

"The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."  Lamentations 3:22-23

I've had an intense week.  I've been dealing with big issues of Floyd's care, and of my care.  I found myself quite weary after all this, and feeling the aloneness of carrying all these things without Floyd's help!  It was so special, so meaningful to me to see that rainbow.  I love how God knows just how to speak His goodness and faithfulness to our hearts.

Once we enter Dec., I love thinking and meditating on the Christmas story of Jesus's birth.  I usually think through the whole story, and every year something "pops" out that I haven't thought much about before.  That's what happened this year.

I love how the angel spoke to Mary and to Joseph about Mary being the mother of Jesus.  I'm continually amazed that a young woman (in many ways still a young girl), could so willingly obey such an unusual request. The "load" she had to bear was huge.....not the baby - but the questions, scorn, shame, etc.  And what Joseph had to deal with was almost as big.  I'm sure his friends were telling him to put her aside and marry a "good" girl.  I would imagine a key point was the angel coming and speaking so personally and clearly to each of them.

So what impacted me this year is the fact that both sets of parents also carried a heavy load in all this.  I'm sure they had lots of questions!  An angel came and talked to their daughter???  That might be hard to believe.  And there was shame, embarrassment, confusion, and loss of reputation with her pregnancy.  Why didn't an angel come and speak to them too?  It sure would have made sense to me for that to happen.

As I was thinking about all this, I began to apply it to my life.  I would love for God to give me some clarity on this journey we're on.  Yeah - an angel would be great!  A few answers to nagging questions would be so helpful.  And yet God doesn't work by our pushing a button expecting answers.  He knows who to send the angel to.......and who needs to walk a trust journey of resting in His sovereignty.  It looks like I'm in the second category.

I'm sure you can identify with me wanting more clarity, more answers.  You probably have your own questions you've brought to the Lord about things in your life.  God could easily send an angel to help us understand our situations!  And yet He rarely does.

I'm convinced that one of the purposes of this journey that we're on is what God is doing in my heart, what He's teaching me.  Everything I've ever known about Him, everything in my walk with Him - has all been taken deeper and deeper as the months have ticked by.  It's hard sometimes (lots of times!), but I'm so, so grateful for all the lessons.  I'm so thankful for the increased intimacy with Him.  And I'm so grateful for how He's carried me, held my hand, and sustained me when I didn't think I could survive another hour.  He has been so faithful!

I'm not quite to the place where I can say I'd willingly walk through all this again because of what He's done and what He's taught me - but I hope I'll get to that place.  I certainly don't begrudge any of the precious lessons He's brought my way.  They are worth more than silver and gold!

"O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still declare Your wondrous deeds."  Psalm 71:17

"I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, for You Yourself have taught me."  Psalm 119:102

"And many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.' " Isaiah 2:3

"Who is the man who fears the Lord?  He will instruct him in the way He should choose."  Psalm 25:12

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you."  Psalm 32:8

"Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; teach me the way in which I should walk; for to You I lift up my soul."  Psalm 143:8

I love the personal-ness of a God who loves His children enough to teach them valuable life lessons.  I'm so very grateful for what He has been speaking to me and teaching me on this journey.  

Our Unexpected Journey

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I had a meeting this week with the hospital staff regarding Floyd's care.  It was a helpful report and there have been some good improvements.  There are, of course, also areas of concern as time goes on.  Floyd still needs miracles and breakthroughs to fully recover.  All we can do is commit him to the Lord's care, and to His sovereignty.

They all expressed such love and warmth for Floyd.  I can't tell you how much that means.  God so obviously led us to the right place for Floyd’s care.  He is not their "normal" rehab patient and they don’t usually have patients there for such long periods of time.  I appreciate their expanding their guidelines to allow him long term care there.

Acts 17:26 says that God knows the exact places where we should live.  I'm so grateful that He chose the right place for Floyd!

There have been so many things on this unexpected journey that I have had to trust God for.  Big things - and little things......but all things that I needed His help and His wisdom for.  I thought I had always trusted God, but He has taken me to new depths, new understandings of "trust."

I've learned that the deeper my trust goes, the greater my thankfulness is!  It's amazing how the two are so closely linked.  And the more I'm thankful - the more my heart overflows with joy......which is my strength from Him.  I love how God planned this all out.  Trust = thankfulness = joy!  A wonderful equation.

"The joy of the Lord is your strength."  Nehemiah 8:10

"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

"Love......always trusts."  1 Corinthians 13:6, 7

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

"Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you."  Psalm 84:12

"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

As I've endeavored to trust God at new levels - His joy, not a worldly joy, has helped me persevere and survive.  I'm so grateful for that.  

In the prayer updates that I write I have recently shared on what the Lord is teaching me about love being patient - and what I'm learning about being patient with the things in my life.  In response to that update, someone sent me this prayer of St. Theresa:

"Let nothing disturb you, nothing distress you.

While all things fade away, God is unchanging.

Be patient, for with God in your heart, nothing is lacking.

God is enough."

I love that - nothing is lacking when God is with us.  God is enough!  Amen!

I had a sweet time with Floyd this week.  After giving him a nice shave and face massage, I shared some encouraging emails with him.  He seems quieter in recent days, but perks up when encouraged.  I try to continually remind him that God is still using him even though he's quiet and still right now.

Every time I'm with Floyd, I come home with a tender heart.  As time goes by, it seems to get harder to see him suffering.  And there's the continual question of wondering what is ahead.  I give that question to the Lord, but I guess it never goes away completely.  It pops up again after my visits with Floyd.

After my last visit with Floyd I came home, once again, with a tender heart.  I was taking with the Lord, lifting this all to Him - and I was suddenly struck by the beauty He surrounds us with.  The blues of the ocean, the puffy white clouds floating by, the warm sunshine, the strong mountains, the colourful birds flying outside, the greens of the trees, the hearty flowers that bloom in spite of a lack of water, the succulent plants that flourish in dry surroundings - the list goes on and on.  Each thing I noticed seemed to remind me of God's goodness and greatness!

I was given some lovely roses by a friend.  Amazingly they lasted over 3 weeks in a vase in my living room.  Every time I saw them, I was struck by the beauty of God's creation.  Just in the realm of flowers there are so many expressions of God's creation.

Two things came to my heart as all this went through my mind.  The first is simply that God created all these things to touch our hearts.  He could have created a much simpler, less beautiful world.  But He gave us all these "touches of beauty" to feed our souls.  He knew we'd need that.  I certainly have!  On some of my lowest days I've been ministered to and touched by the beauty of God's creation all around me.

And I also thought of the fact that the God who created all these many, many "touches of beauty" is also aware of the detailed needs in our lives.  He's mindful of each need, each care, each sorrow, each burden, each question - and He's ministering into them in His own loving way each day.  I'm not alone when I come home from visiting Floyd with a tender heart.  God is pouring His ointment into my heart - even by pointing out the beautiful creation all around me that testifies to His greatness.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands."  Psalm 19:1

"And why are you worried about clothing?  Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these."  Matthew 6:28-29

"Thus says God the Lord, He that created the heavens, and stretched them out; He that spread forth the earth, and that which comes out of it; He that gives breath unto the people upon it, and the spirit to them that walk therein.......I will hold you by the hand and watch over you."  Isaiah 42:5, 6

"Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God's wonders.  Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes His lightning flash?  Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of Him who has perfect knowledge?"  Job 37:14-16

Just as God spoke to Job long ago, He reminds us of His power and might in creation!

Our Unexpected Journey

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I had an unexpected "gift" from the Lord this week that I'm thankful for.  One of the side effects from chemo - that goes back to my first time of battling cancer 3 years ago - is peripheral neuropathy in my feet.  This is a condition where the nerves are damaged resulting in pain and numbness.  It has gotten worse with the chemo this year.  My feet are now quite numb, often painful, and I must move very purposely in order to keep my balance.

As a result of this, some of my activities, including driving, have been more limited.  I have been trying some treatments, and have seen some small improvements.

Through some unexpected things happening, I found myself in the situation of needing to get to an appointment with no one to drive me.  I prayed and felt I should give it a try!  So off I went to my appointment, and to do a few errands.  I went slowly, praying continually - and managed it all.  I arrived back safely!  I had to do the same thing the next day, and it went even better.

I can't quite describe to you how wonderful this was - freedom, a sense of "normalcy," and it felt like "me" again.  I truly felt like I'd been given a wonderful gift.  It was one more step in the forward direction of rebuilding health and strength.  I am so, so thankful!

Even though I’m gaining strength my body is still adjusting, and recently my sleep has been unsettled.  I've been waking up a lot.  A couple nights ago I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep.  I laid in bed wanting to pray, but was having a hard time working up the strength to do that.  I felt the Lord speak into my heart to just "whisper" a prayer - that He's always in "whispering distance."  So I began to whisper my prayers to Him.

I found that so comforting!  I didn't need to perform.  I didn't need to have an energetic performance of prayer.  All I needed to do was "whisper" to Him.  He was already right there with me!

I remembered a chorus we sang in my church when I was growing up.  

"Whisper a prayer in the morning.

Whisper a prayer at noon.

Whisper a prayer in the evening -

To keep your heart in tune."

We can whisper to Him all day long.  As I went about my errands on my own this week, I kept whispering prayers to Him - asking Him for strength, for His help in doing things on my own, for His safety and protection, and for His continued rebuilding of my health.  I loved that I could whisper to Him wherever I was!

"Lord, they went to You in their distress; they poured out whispered prayers."  Isaiah 26:16

And sometimes God speaks back to us in whispers too.

" 'Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.'  And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.  And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire the sound of a low whisper."  1 Kings 19:11-12

Our whispered prayers are just as powerful as any of our strong, loud entreaties to Him.  Maybe they are even more powerful because God knows that in our quiet, whispering state of coming to Him - we need Him so much!  He's always faithful to meet us.  He always hears!

Floyd has had a quiet week.  He's been on his own a lot, but has been content and peaceful.  The journey we're on isn't over, so I'm trusting the Lord to help Floyd in his situation.

On my recent visit with Floyd, I sang some songs to him.  I lifted my hands in worship as I sang - and Floyd slowly lifted his arm with me.  He hasn't done that in a while.  I was moved to see his effort to join me in worship.  Our worship was simple, but I couldn't help but think that God would be blessed to receive our simplicity of worship as it flowed from our hearts.  We both cried as we thanked God for His goodness and faithfulness to us.

It's always hard to leave Floyd.  I hate that he's on his own so much.  I know it must be so hard for him in his "silent" world.  I stay as long as my strength allows.

It was rather emotional for me when I came home - thinking about all this.  God tenderly ministered to my heart as I poured out my cares to Him.  I repeatedly spoke out my trust, and my need of Him.  I felt He kept reassuring me that He is at work in our lives and in this situation, even if I can't see it or understand it.  I just need to keep my hand in His as I walk this journey.

Shortly afterwards I got an email from a friend.  He told me how Floyd had ministered to him shortly before he became ill.  The "fruit" of that time continues on in some wonderful ways.  It was a sweet encouragement to my heart.

Someone shared this quote with our prayer group a couple days ago:  "Thanksgiving is our response to His actions, praise is our response to His character, and worship is our response to His presence."  - Kris Vallotton

I loved that description of the prayers we lift to the Lord!  It helped me be more purposeful in what I'm speaking out to Him.  I'm thankful for how He has sustained me on this journey.  I praise Him for His faithfulness.  And I worship Him for ministering so sweetly to my heart.  God is so very good!

"Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.  For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods."  Psalm 95:2-3

"Great is the Lord, and  highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable."  Psalm 145:3

"All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.  For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God."  Psalm 86:9-10

Whether it's thanksgiving, praise, or worship - He is so worthy! 

Our Unexpected Journey

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I had a sweet, tender visit with Floyd this week.  I told him about sharing at our GLS and "passing the baton/commissioning" our new international leader, Mary Ho.  I showed him photos, and played a short video clip of me speaking.  He gently cried.  I'm sure it was hard for him to not be part of all that.

I read him several messages from people which touched his heart too.  And then he was tired and wanted to rest.

As our long unexpected journey continues, I find I'm facing 2 things on a daily basis.  As my strength is slowly building and returning, it seems that lots is happening.  "Life" has ramped up!  Things in our home need repairing/replacing.  Medical appointments are ongoing.  Details of Floyd's care need attention and sorting out.  It just seems suddenly very busy.  I am so, so aware that I can't make it in my own strength and ability.  I need God's help and strength.

The second thing is that I feel like the enemy tries to bombard my mind on a daily basis with anxiety about my future.  I resist him, direct my thoughts in trust towards God - but something will trigger anxiety again, and I have to start all over.  I particularly feel vulnerable in regard to Floyd's care if something happens to me.

I've always thought that each of us has an inner "stress quotient" - the ability built in us in how God has made us to withstand pressure and stress.  I've had times when I've asked the Lord to increase that ability within me, and He has!  I feel I'm in a season right now where that ability has been depleted by all that we've walked through - particularly as I've battled cancer this year.  I'm rebuilding from the bottom to get my stress quotient up and running.  I don't seem to have enough quite yet to face the stresses coming my way.

I know I can't make it through all these things on my own.  In fact, if I try to do that I think it disappoints the Lord - maybe even grieves Him if I try to do that.  He's created us to need Him, to work with Him.  And I know very clearly that I need Him!!

I find myself talking to the Lord continually through the day - over big things and the smallest of things.  I'm aware that I need Him for every detail.  He comes with His grace, His strength, and His wisdom to carry me through the day.

I'm equally aware that His unfailing love completely surrounds me.  He upholds me.  He fights the enemy for me.  He carries me.  His right hand loves, protects, guides, and sustains me.  Sometimes I feel like He's holding me in His arms, and carrying me close to His loving heart.

The season seems to be changing in various ways, but I know God is faithful in every season!  I'm sure He has new lessons for me to learn in this season as He carries me through it.  I don't think we ever get to a place where we've learned a lesson completely, and it's over.  I think God circles back around, and takes lessons deeper and deeper into our heart.  I have a feeling that's what's happening to me right now.  I've faced these lessons before, but God is applying them in a new and deeper way in my walk with Him.  How faithful He is!

"He will not allow your foot to slip.  He who keeps you will not slumber."  Psalm 121:3

"He tends His flock like a shepherd.  He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart."  Isaiah 40:11

"The very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows."  Luke 12:7

"You have given me your shield of victory.  Your right hand supports me; your help has made me great."  Psalm 18:35

"In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one."  Ephesians 6:16

God has been faithful to meet me each day.  But I shared in my update to our praying friends what I'm walking through because I feel the need for their prayers.  Their prayers have helped carry me on this journey, and I still need them. 

Prayer is such a wonderfully awesome thing!  After I shared I had so many sweet messages of encouragement that people are still praying for us.  I felt the impact of those prayers.  I have felt the love, care, and support.  I’m so grateful.  It's so special.

A few days ago I received an email from a friend in Asia.  He told me that he, his wife, and his children pray every night at bedtime for Floyd and me.  He said if he forgets, his children remind him.  My heart was warmed in thinking of being carried by their faithful prayers all these months.

I've felt the Lord reminding me in recent days that not one single one of these prayers are wasted.  He hears every one.  He is working in ways that we may not see or understand, but God is mindful of every prayer being lifted to the throne.  Someday He'll let us see what has been accomplished through all the prayers on this unexpected journey.  I have a feeling that so much has been accomplished that it may take a few years in eternity for us to see it all, but we'll have plenty of time! 

"Pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."  James 5:16

The Lord "hears the prayer of the righteous."  Proverbs 15:29

A few days ago Floyd had a visit from 3 wonderful men.  Two of them were visiting here for the All Nations gathering.  They had a special time of prayer with Floyd.  While they were praying, they felt to do a "foot washing" - and did so with sanitizer!  Floyd smiled the whole time.  I thought that could be the first time that's ever happened anywhere.  Maybe Floyd is still part of "pioneering."  :)

The prayer time must have been impactful for Floyd because he slept soundly when the next carer arrived shortly afterwards.  He never woke up the whole time.  He sometimes sleeps when we're there, but usually wakes up after a few minutes.

Being from the US I thought about the Thanksgiving celebrations yesterday.  We don't celebrate it here, but my heart is so full of love and gratitude for each one whos love, encouragement, support, prayers, and "joining hands" with us on this journey has carried me.  I am eternally grateful!

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

"I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers."  Philemon 1:4

My heart is filled with "thanksgiving" for our friends and family aroung the world!

Our Unexpected Journey

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This past Sunday was a special day for our All Nations family.  As part of the Global Leadership Gathering I was able to go to the meeting and share a few things.  The special thing though, was being able to "pass the baton" on behalf of Floyd to the new International Director, Mary Ho.  It was a sweet morning, but very emotional for me.  I never dreamed I'd be doing this without Floyd.  

I heard something this week that I didn't know.  It happened the day that Floyd got sick in February 2016.  He had woken up at 2 a.m. with severe pain in his left leg.  He was to speak that morning in our training program (CPx), so he took some pain medication and went to the meeting.  The pain got worse and worse until eventually he called me to pick him up and take him to the doctor.

While he was speaking to the students, he made this statement: "If I can't continue, will you finish the race?"  Little did he know that the next day he'd be in ICU!  It was a prophetic "call" without him knowing it!  It was his very last time to speak/preach.

I only learned of this a few days ago.  He didn't know what was ahead.  He didn't know that in a short time he would lose his voice.  But out of his heart came that "call."  I was so moved when I heard this.

Our Cape Town leader, Neil Hart, told me that "what Floyd said that morning is a clarion call for us now.  It must have been the Spirit of the Lord."

We are praying that God will speak clearly to All Nations - His plans, His strategy for reaching those who have never heard of Jesus.

One of the things I shared on Sunday with our All Nations family - when hard times come, we shouldn't waste time asking God all the "why?" questions!  I've found that God rarely answers those.  I frequently get emails from people telling me they're asking God "why??"

What I think we need to do instead is to declare in prayer who God is in accordance with His Word.  We need to "lean into" the truth of who God is.  We need to choose to trust Him - repeatedly, continually.  And we need to let Him hold our right hand and carry us through the hard time.

We can ask God some other questions - what is He wanting to say to us?  What does He want to do in the hard season?  What is He wanting to teach us?  I've found He'll readily answer these questions!  He longs to draw us closer to Him in the hard times.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord. "For 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

" 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "  Jeremiah 29:11

I'm so grateful for how God has spoken to me, how He's carried me, and I continue to trust Him for all that's still ahead.  

Floyd has been enjoying some visits this week from our All Nations family that are here for the international gathering.  Floyd has known many of these friends for quite a few years......and he's such a "people person."  I'm sure his heart has been warmed by seeing them.

I got an email this week from a young man who was telling me his story of how God rescued him using one of Floyd’s books.  It was a beautiful story of God’s miraculous intervention and faithfulness.  Floyd cried when I told him the story.  I reminded him that he can't speak, but his voice isn't silent.  And I also talked with Floyd about how much God loves us.  He never abandons us.  He is constantly pursuing us in our various situations and circumstances.  How loving, merciful, and persistent He is!

God loves us in spite of our sin, our failures, our weaknesses, even in spite of our anger towards Him when we feel He's let us down.  He never lets us go.  He never forgets what we're going through.  He never just leaves us in hard times.  He reaches out to us and pursues us.

I was deeply touched by that young man’s story.  It reminded me that for Floyd and me, for each of us - God is with us, looking for ways to speak to us and help us.  He never, ever gives up!  He never stops reaching into our situations to help us.

"Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; If I make my bed in the depths, you are there."  Psalm 139:7,8

"The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."  Deuteronomy 31:8

"As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you."  Joshua 1:5

"Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."  Philippians 1:6

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd's week has been steady - which is a good thing.  No big ups or downs.  He has been peaceful and smiley. 

Our All Nations ILT (International Leadership Team) is in Cape Town at the moment for the All Nations Global Leadership Summit which happens every two years.

The whole team had a sweet visit with Floyd this week.  I went in early to have my own visit with him, and as soon as I told him they were coming - he started tearing up.  So you can imagine the tears when we were actually all there together.  They shared news and encouragement from around the world, sang quite a few songs, and had a very special time of prayer.  I'm trusting that was a blessing to his heart.

I saw a friend this week that I haven't seen in a few weeks.  She commented on how much stronger I looked.  I can't tell you how good that was to hear!  I'm thanking the Lord for helping me to rebuild strength.  It is slowly, but steadily, coming! 

But…I do get a bit of a shock every time I look in the mirror!  I think "who is that?"  I'm getting hair again (thankfully!), but it's curly and a different color from what my hair has always been.  I don't really have much in the way of eyebrows or eyelashes - I lost those when I lost my hair.  And I've lost a lot of weight.  It somehow doesn't seem like "Sally" when I look in the mirror.

In the midst of that ‘shock’ I had a thought.  Thank goodness God still recognizes me!  I don't look different to Him.  The Bible tells us that God looks at the heart, so thankfully my heart hasn't gone through drastic changes from chemo.

I was thinking about that as I had my quiet time, and I realized that actually my heart has changed.  I've loved the Lord since I was a little girl, but through this hard unexpected journey - I've come to love Him more.  His faithfulness, His care, His love, His grace, His holding my hand each step of the way, His carrying me when I've been so weak - how can you not love Him more and more and more?!

Someone was recently asking me a lot of questions about this journey, and as I answered I kept talking about how good God has been.  Then, without thinking, I said "I have nothing to complain about."  It just came out spontaneously - and in that instant I realized how true it is.  

Has it been hard? Yes!  Do I wish some things were different? Absolutely!  But in the midst of all the hard things, God has been more than I could have asked for in meeting me, in meeting my needs.  If I look back over my shoulder at the storms I've walked through, what I see is Jesus carrying me through them.  He has helped me each step of the way!

The journey isn't over.  I don't know what's still ahead.  I'm still walking through some really difficult things.  But I know God will continue to be right by my side.  I don't have to fear what's ahead.  I have anxious moments sometimes, but then I remember how faithful God has been - and He never changes!  He'll help me with whatever is ahead.

"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height.....The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.' "  1 Samuel 16:7

When we think of Biblical characters and all they accomplished for the Lord, I think we tend to look at them through "rose colored glasses."  We think of them as rugged/handsome/beautiful/powerful.  They can take on mythical proportions in our minds.  But, in reality, I think they were ordinary, every-day people like you and me.  They had their weaknesses, their failings, but God saw their hearts and their potential.  He saw in them who He had created them to be.  And He used them for His glory!

That's what I want for Floyd and me.  I hope we can bring Him glory in some way on this journey.  I don't know if I'll ever look like "me" again, but I hope my heart will continue falling in love with Him!  He's so good.

I have been reflecting on James 1:4 - "Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

I realize as I continue walking on this journey we've been on, that I need to persevere, to be patient, and to be careful not to miss the things God still has for me on this journey.  It's so easy to want to speed things up!  But when the journey comes to its conclusion, I want the work to be "mature and complete."  I want all the lessons God has for me.

Sometimes my mind wanders to things in the past.  I miss many of those things.  And sometimes my mind wanders to what the future might look like.  When either of these things happen, I feel the Spirit gently reminding me to be careful.  I can't let my mind wander or move on prematurely.  I need to stay in what God has for me right now, today.  He will give me grace for today!

I'm asking Him, trusting Him, to help me persevere.

"Being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience."  Colossians 1:11

"We know that suffering produces perseverance."  Romans 5:3

"You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised."  Hebrews 10:36

"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial."  James 1:12

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand."  Ephesians 6:11

As I’ve continued to read in James 1, verse 19 has captured my attention.  "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry."

We read that verse and think immediately of our friendships and relationships.  It's great advice - well worth heeding!  If we listen carefully to what people say, and pause before responding, we can often save ourselves a lot of trouble!

But as I've been reading this passage, some different thoughts came to me.  I thought of my conversations with the Lord!  I'm usually pouring out my heart to Him - my thoughts, my needs, my cries for help, my prayer requests.  He listens very patiently to me!  And He answers me.

But I felt a nudge of the Spirit that I need to listen more in my conversations with God.  I do listen, don't get me wrong - but I often have such a full heart that I talk a lot in my time with Him!  I felt Him saying that He has more things to say to me, and I need to listen.  

Quieting my heart from the tumult of all that is going on is challenging!  I'm usually very anxious to share my heart.  But "being quick to listen" kinda changes the whole equation!!  If I listen more, God may alleviate the tumult before I even share it with Him.

God loves to speak to us, His children.  He speaks into our minds.  He speaks in that "still small voice" in our inner being.  He speaks through verses we read.  But we can miss what He wants to say if we're in a hurry, or if we do all the talking and we don't listen.

Listening is an art, a skill.  And because it's a skill, it's something we can learn to do.  After all, we have 2 ears and 1 mouth - so we should be able to listen more than we talk. :)  But it requires practice.

I'm going to adjust my quiet times with the Lord, and start listening more.  He has been so very faithful to teach me so many lessons on this long journey.  I can't wait to hear what more He has to say.  Stay tuned, and I'll share those lessons with you.  I'm sure He has much to say to you, too, as you listen to His voice.  Join me in "being quick to listen."

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

"And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left." Isaiah 30:21

"My sheep hear my voice.....and they follow me."  John 10:27

"And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!"  And Samuel said, 'Speak, for your servant hears.' "  1 Samuel 3:10

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you."  Psalm 32:9

I could never have survived and navigated this unexpected journey we've been on if the Lord hadn't spoken into my heart so faithfully.  He has truly counseled me and helped me.  I'm looking forward to all that He still has to say.

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had a good week.  During the "40 Days of Worship," we have been endeavoring to have at least one person with him each day worshipping in his room.  There have been some sweet and special times.  On Saturday when I was with him, he slept through most of my visit - but I still sang and prayed over him.  Then he woke up with a smile!

During the chemo I've gone through this year, I've had many unpleasant side effects!  I'm still battling a couple of them.  The very term "side effect" conjures up painful memories for me.

But I was reading recently about another kind of "side effect".  I read that thankfulness has the wonderful side effect of increasing our joy!  I like that one.  I can live with that side effect.

One of the things I've learned on this unexpected journey we're on is that thankfulness is a choice.  It doesn't just happen.  It flows from our thoughts.  Proverbs 23:7 tells us that "as a man thinketh, so is he."  I know I've shared about thankfulness before on my journey, but I just can't get away from it.  God keeps bringing my focus to it over and over.  It is such a key to walking in victory through hard seasons.

We may not always have control over our situation and circumstances in life, but we do have control over our thoughts.  It's so important to think in accordance with the truth of God's word.  Our thoughts will impact our emotions.  Our emotions then influence our behavior - and, consequently, our response to life's circumstances.

I've found if I don't take control over my thoughts, they bounce all over the place.......and my emotions bounce with them.  I have to focus my thoughts on God's goodness, faithfulness, sovereignty, grace, and sufficiency.  When I think on those wonderful attributes of God, thankfulness fills my heart!!  And joy then bubbles up.

I've also found in the hard, difficult circumstances of life that I need to constantly look for God breaking into those situations with His goodness and mercy.  I can miss how He's helping me if I'm too focused on the circumstances, and not actively looking for God at work in them.  God is always at work in our lives.  He never takes time off!

"Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind."  Psalm 107:8

"I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds."  Psalm 9:1

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

"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

"Give thanks in all circumstances."  1 Thessalonians 5:18

I hope one of these days to be finished with the chemo side effects.

But I don't want to lose the side effect of joy that comes from a thankful heart.  I'm asking God to help me continually have a heart of thankfulness. 

There are several dear friends going through hard times right now.  Everything in me wants to "do" something to help, but truthfully all I can do is pray.  What I call "valley times" are hard!  I keep thinking of a teaching Floyd's mom gave on the valleys in our lives.  I may have mentioned it last year.  She said we have to go through the valleys of difficulty, trial, and preparation in order to reach the mountaintops of release, fulfillment, and provision.  In between the mountaintop of God's promise, and the mountaintop of God's provision - there is the valley of preparation.

The valleys are often where things are planted and cultivated in our lives.  We have to till the ground of our hearts.  It sometimes means digging very deep into our lives.  But it can be fruitful in the valley, too, as we wait for the mountaintops that God has for us.  God uses this time to grow us, and to teach us important life lessons.

There's no denying the valley times, but it's not meant to be the focus.  God is the focus!  He holds our hand as we go through the valley.  He doesn't plan for us to live in it forever.  He wants us to grow, to even live above the circumstances as we cling to Him.

"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me."  Psalm 23:4

It feels like I've been walking through a valley for a long time now.  I'm thinking that surely it's time to move on to the mountaintop!  As I look back I realize that as I've been going through the valley, God has been carrying me on His shoulders.  I haven't been alone - or even had to do most of the walking.  God has truly "carried" me!  And He knows when the right time is to move on to the mountaintop.

There's a song by Michael W. Smith that says "even in the valley He is faithful - He's working for our good."  So true!  He's doing beautiful things in our lives while we walk through some of the hard valley experiences.  When I look back over the journey, I see God's hand at work in so many ways.  He has been very faithful!  I can't thank Him enough.

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid......for the Lord your God goes with you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you."  Deuteronomy 31:6

"For everything there is a season, a time for everything under heaven."  Ecclesiastes 3:1

"The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him."  Nahum 1:7

Sometimes as I'm walking through the valley, the vegetation and trees are so thick that I can't even see the mountaintop God is guiding me towards.  I don't know what's ahead, but I can trust His direction.