Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had a good week.  One of our All Nations ladies put together a digital photo frame for him to look at.  He really seemed to enjoy looking at all the photos of family and friends.

His oxygen saturation levels have been fluctuating.  He has needed to be on oxygen some days.  We are praying that this stabilizes and that the winter weather doesn’t impact him.

It's been quite cold this week, and we've had a good amount of rain again.  It's made me grateful that Floyd is in a cozy, warm place.  I'm so thankful for the Lord guiding us to such a good hospital/care facility for him.  It's a wonderful provision.  We continue to pray blessing for all those who take care of him!

Several have asked how I am doing.  I am gaining in strength, and I feel good.  I do my best to "pace" myself, and to do everything I can for my health, while I continue to pray for full healing.  

Another All Nations staff lady recently did a painting that spoke to my heart as soon as I saw it.  It will soon be hanging in our home!  I've used it as the picture for this post.  The painting is of a turbulent storm raging on the ocean - big, foamy waves and dark, stormy skies.  But in the midst of the dark sky - there are gaps of light blue sky with the sun shining through.  There truly couldn't be a more perfect depiction of what I've been walking through.  It captures my journey!

I am so abundantly grateful that in the midst of the storm, His light of grace and strength always shines through.  Yes, the storms have been raging - powerful, mighty hurricane type storms.......but He is there like the "eye" of the storm with His provision for me to survive.  He shines through with love - reminding me that He's with me in the storm.  I'm not alone.  Oh how faithful He is!

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness."  Lamentations 3:22, 23

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

"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 fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you."  Isaiah 43:1,2

"He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together.  He will hold you together.  He will keep you.  Jesus loves you.  He is not punishing you.  He is not pleased by watching you suffer.  When you suffer He suffers.  He will keep you.  He will pull you through.  He won't allow you to fall apart."  Colossians 1:17 ESV

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea."  Psalm 46:1,2

God is with us in the storms of life.  He will hear us when we call to Him and ask for help.  He will protect us, hold our hand, keep us in His grip, and never leave us.  In the Word it tells us that we will have trouble, but it also says that God is there to help us.  I am so grateful that He has been with me in the storms of the last 28 months.  I couldn't make it without Him.  He is faithful!

One of the things I've seen through the years is that often "practical" things have "spiritual" lessons to teach us.  I've been thinking about this in regard to the drought we're walking through.  It's the worst drought in 100 years in this area.  We've lived in dry, arid regions before, but I've never faced a water crisis like this.  We are on strict water rationing with rules about what we can and can't use water for.  Even though the rains have been coming, we still have the threat of "day zero" (when the taps would be turned off) hanging over us.  I don't think this will happen in the next few months, but we're being told it could still happen in the new year.

-  It seems like forecasters saw this coming, and yet little was done to prepare for it.  I guess human nature is that we often wear blinders and hope for the best.  But both large scale, and on personal levels probably more could have been done ahead of time.  A few years ago Floyd felt like we should put in rain collection storage tanks.  I was so glad to have that already done when the crisis hit.

It's made me think about how to prepare for times of trial and suffering.  I think the Lord warns us in the Word to be ready for hard times.  "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows."  John 16:33  Quite a few people have asked me if I think we should prepare for hard times, for trials and suffering.  I guess my answer is yes!  We need to prepare our hearts ahead of time.  We shouldn't wait until something slams us in the face to get ready.  We shouldn't be surprised that hard times will come because we've been warned in the Word about them.  So, if they're coming, we need to prepare our hearts for responding to them.

-  Even when it was becoming obvious that the drought was reaching a crisis point, and that we needed to adjust our use of water - many didn't take it seriously.  The water dams were drying up, but not everyone was paying attention.  The warnings weren't heeded.

I wonder how many times I've read Luke 9:23 without thinking of what it meant for me personally.  "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."   I think this is a "warning" of sorts, an explanation of how we need to prepare spiritually for facing trials and testings.....but I don't know that I've always heeded that warning.

-  In the midst of the water shortage, it's become clear that we have to be careful with what we have.  We have to be good stewards of our resources.  We have to take care of what God has given us.

There's certainly a spiritual lesson there too.  God has given us "tools" to use in our lives to prepare us for hard times - worship, spending time in His word, pressing into Him for maturing in our walk with Him, learning His ways, growing in listening to His voice - there are so many disciplines that we can develop to prepare us.  

We don't have to do it on our own.  He helps us!  When I look back over my life, over many years - I can see how God was helping me, preparing me for this season I'm in now.  He was helping me be a steward of lessons He brought into my life.  I can now see with hindsight of how faithful He's been to help me prepare for what I'm walking through.

-  In the midst of a crisis, we can't just think about ourselves and our needs.  I've been amazed that there have been fights that broke out in the grocery store over a bottle of water......and our taps hadn't even gone dry yet!  People were pushing and shoving to get the limited supply.

Even when we're walking through the hardest of days, the darkest of nights......when we don't know if we can survive another day - God wants us to reach out and help one another.  It's part of our lives being woven together in His Body.  "No man is an island" - even when that island is going through a hurricane of suffering and trial.  We need to encourage one another - to come alongside and help.  That's what you've done in praying for Floyd and me.  I'm so grateful!  We haven't had to walk alone.

There are so many verses that warn us, instruct us, prepare us for suffering and hard times.  I believe that God wants us to prepare our hearts for the hard times that may come our way so that we won't blame Him or doubt Him when they come.  When we go through the fire - we need to trust Him!  It's trusting Him that releases the grace to make it through.  

But the enemy will be whispering in our ear that it's God's fault.  He'll want us to blame God and withdraw from Him.  The biggest temptation I see people face when they hit hard times is to blame God or question His goodness.  We can't do that.  We have to tuck ourselves in close to His heart, and receive His strength to weather the storm.

"We glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."  Romans 5:3-4

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."  2 Corinthians 4:8-9

"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

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what  is seen, but on what is unseen."  2 Corinthians 4:17-18

"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."  Philippians 3:10

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all."  Psalm 34:19

Did you notice in these verses that it says hard times will come - but.....!  There's always a "good thing - a blessing" in the suffering.  It's part of how God balances things out in our lives.  The blessing of this season of suffering for me has been that it has drawn me closer to the Lord than I've ever been.  I have had to dig deep into His goodness and faithfulness in order to survive - and there has been an awesome richness of fellowship in doing that.  I'm so grateful for the good He's brought into my life through this hard, unexpected journey.

God says a lot in His Word about suffering.  I haven't even scratched the surface.  He prepares us so that we know where to look when the trials come.  It's part of His faithfulness to us to warn us and prepare us.  And then when the hard times come - He neverever leaves us to face them alone.  He's right beside us, holding our hand, keeping us firmly in His grip.  How good He is!