Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd seemed a bit stronger this week - pulling himself up some and turning his head more.  I'm grateful for any improvement like this.  The therapists still diligently work with him each day. 

For a number of years Floyd and I led a one year leadership development training program.  It was a privilege to pour into the lives of young leaders things that we had learned over decades of service.  It was such a joy to do this.  Of all the "seasons" of our lives, I would say this is one that we found immensely fulfilling.  We loved doing this.

One of the learning tools we used was looking at principles we could use from each experience of life.  We would "debrief" things we walked through, and ask what are the principles in this situation that God has shown us for how to handle this.  We'd do the same thing with passages of scripture - seeking to learn the things God has taught us in the Word.

When our unexpected journey began, I immediately started thinking this way.  I'm facing things I've never faced before......so what has God shown me that are His ways, His principles for being able to victoriously walk through this?!

Some sprang immediately to mind.  

- I needed to trust Him no matter what happened.  

- I needed to keep my eyes on Him, not on the circumstances.  

- I needed to go to the Word and meditate on His promises for hard times.  

- I needed to take a stand against the enemy.  

- I needed to be honest with the Lord, and pour out my heart to Him continually.  

- I needed to admit my weakness so that I could receive His strength.  

- I needed to be open and vulnerable so that others would know how to pray for me.  

- I needed to lean into my friends to help me, because there's no way I could make it through this all alone.  

All of these things are simple and basic - and also incredibly powerful if we choose them.

I'm not saying these things were "easy" to do, to live out - far from it.  But I knew what the principles, the keys were to get through.  I knew what I needed to do.  I knew I needed to obey the things God has shown us in the Word for responding to trials and testings.  It came down to obedience.

I realized that obedience is simply gratitude.....thanking the Lord for how He helps us.  Whatever He asks, whatever He has shown us to do - we just give it back to Him as worship by obeying.  Obedience, in fact, is the highest form of worship.  Worship is expressing our love to God, and one of the first ways we can express our love is by obeying His commandments.  I know - all this is easier said than done, but so, so true.  

For me, trusting Him has been the foundation stone on this journey.  It's what the Word teaches us to do.  Whatever life throws our way, we trust Him, the one who is sovereign overall.  I make that choice of obedience to trust.  I lift it up as worship to Him because He is worthy of the trust.  I speak out that He is good, and kind, and merciful, and caring.  I declare, aloud, the truths of the Word of how trustworthy He is.  I tell the enemy that he's a liar if he tries to bring thoughts of God being anything but trustworthy.  I thank God in words and song for being my firm Rock on which I can stand.  Even if I'm nervous or fearful, He remains trustworthy.  I declare His trustworthiness through my tears because He is unchanging even though my life and circumstances often change minute by minute.  The only way I can get through the changing circumstances is to stand on the rock of His trustworthiness - and obey what He's shown me to do.

"But Samuel replied, 'What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to His voice?  Listen!  Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.' "  1 Samuel 15:22

"If you love me, obey my commandments."  John 14:15

"Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him."  Psalm 128:1

"Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people.  Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you."  Jeremiah 7:23

"Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.  My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."  John 14:23

"I will hurry, without delay, to obey your commands."  Psalm 119:60

I'm so grateful that I can respond with obedience being lifted up as worship when I'm faced with trials and suffering.  Searching for His principles, His keys for getting through a hard time......and then choosing to obey and walk in them has been God's provision for me over all these months.  

And His "grace has been sufficient"  (2 Corinthians 12:9) for each need, each situation, each choice.  

He has been my "strength in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:10).  

He has "held my right hand" (Isaiah 41:13).  

He has "carried" me (Psalm 68:19) when I stumbled.  How incredibly, wonderful, unfailingly faithful He is!

I recently wrote about there being no shortcuts to things God is teaching us.  Someone responded on the FaceBook prayer page that for some people God seems to use a "pressure cooker" and for others He uses a "crock pot."  I liked that description.

The purpose is the same - He wants our hearts to become tender.  There may be intense, short trials with the pressure cooker - or slow, steady ones with the crock pot.  God knows what is best for each of us, and which will produce the best fruit in our lives.

As I look back over the last 29 months, I think I've experienced some of both.  There have been short, very intense trials - and there's been a lot of slow, steady ones.  I've been learning through all of them.  And, even more importantly, God's grace, strength, help, and sufficiency has been with me in all of them.  He has never left me for even a moment.  He has held my hand, encouraged my heart, and spoken wisdom into each situation.  He has been so faithful.

I've been reading a novel for relaxation and a phrase in the book jumped off the page to me : "Tragedy doesn't necessarily change us. It just brings out more of who we are - or were - all along."  I guess especially when we're in the pressure cooker, what's inside comes out.  I'm asking the Lord to help my heart be filled with Him - so that that is what comes out.

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

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."  Psalm 51:10

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

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."  Psalm 34:18

"It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; He will not fail you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed."  Deuteronomy 31:8

"When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles."  Psalm 34:17

"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, though its water roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."  Psalm 46:1-3

He's with us in the pressure cooker and the crock pot.  He's with us in every intense moment.  What a wonderful, unfailing God He is.

God's creation continually blesses me!  We have lovely sunsets all year long, but the winter ones are especially stunning.  Day after day I feel like I'm watching a celestial artist create these masterpieces of beauty at sunset.  The colors - yellow, gold, peach, salmon, blue, green, lavender, purple, mauve, red - are all so vibrant.  

Especially on the hard days, the sunsets have been like a beautiful "dessert" at the end of the day - a special blessing for my soul.  I stand in awe of the beauty, the variety, the majesty.  God is alive and well and creating this heavenly art for our enjoyment.  He nourishes our souls with His loving presence through the beauty of nature.

Recently there was one sunset that was reflected into the ocean creating a beautiful cross.  I've placed it at the top of this post for you to see.  The photo was taken by a neighbor.  When I shared this one with Floyd, he actually teared up.  It is so striking and beautiful - and a poignant reminder of the cross and what it means to our lives.

The beauty of God's creation is one of the things that has gotten me through this long journey.  I just have to stop, slowdown, and let it feed my soul while He reveals His beauty, His glory, His power, His wisdom, His presence, and His loving care through His marvelous creation.  How awesome He is.  And He continually gives us these visual declarations of His goodness.