Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd is struggling with chest congestion this week.  I feel so bad for him when he has this because it means they need to regularly suction his passageways in order for his breathing to be clear.  It is not a pleasant experience.  He has still managed some smiles though which warms my heart. 

We have had an unexpected tragedy in our community of friends here.  A dear friend passed away in his sleep.  He was fit and healthy, so it was a shock.  He and his wife worked with us in Amsterdam many years ago - and we have had lots of contact with them since we moved to South Africa.  He was part of the care team for Floyd in the early months of his illness.  No one could have imagined that he would go to be with Jesus before Floyd.  

Walking through this in the last few days has brought back lots of memories of the early days when Floyd took suddenly, and so seriously, ill.  I vividly remember the tears, the questions, the trying to find answers, the shock.  It was very traumatic, and very painful.  Watching my vibrant gentle giant be struck down in a matter of hours was beyond comprehension.

I know many of you reading this can identify with me - and with our friends grieving family.  It seems so incomprehensible when something like this happens.  How could this happen?  There were no warnings, no clues.  Everything seemed fine.  And, of course, we have to deal with the "why" questions.  I've prayed my way through all these things the last 29 months.

I love something Rick Warren said:  "I do not have to know why everything happens since I know God is good, He loves me, and life on earth is not the whole story."  

I think that sums up where my heart has landed.  We know God is good.  We know He loves us, and wants His will for our lives.  We know we can trust Him.  We know He will help us - that His grace is sufficient.  We know He is working for good in every situation.  We know He has a "future and a hope" for us. (Jeremiah 29:11) We know we can't survive things like this on our own, but God will be by our side, holding our hand, and walking with us through it.

In the midst of our pain and suffering, Jesus is right with us.  I have been encouraged by the fact that when Jesus saw the distress of Martha and Mary weeping over the death of their brother Lazarus, "Jesus wept" with them.  (John 11:35)  I believe He often weeps with us in our pain and distress.  His heart is broken with us when we walk through these deep waters.

A while back a friend sent me a song by Jonathan & Melissa Helser - "I Raise a Hallelujah - I'm gonna sing in the middle of the storm."  That's what I've tried to do on this journey.  I want to keep trusting, keep singing - "louder than the unbelief, my weapon is a melody......up from the ashes, hope will arise, death is defeated, the King is alive."

When fear, pain, confusion, questions, doubts - when any of those things try to raise their head on my journey......I have asked the Lord to give me strength to sing and praise Him in the middle of the storm.  He helps me each time.  He is faithful.  I raise a hallelujah to Him.

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world."  John 16:33

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

"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed."  2 Corinthians 4:8,9

" 'For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you."  Isaiah 54:10

"He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."  Colossians 1:17

"Fear not, 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; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."  Isaiah 43:1,2

When we go through the hard times of life - He will keep us.  He loves us.  He's not punishing us.  He doesn't enjoy watching us suffer.  He suffers with us.  He will help us.  He will bring us through the difficult time.  He won't let us fall apart.  He won't let it destroy us.  But we have to keep holding onto Him!  If we do that, He'll help us sing in the middle of the storm.  I'm so grateful for His help and faithfulness to me.

I've been so grateful for all the birthday greetings and messages that have been sent to Floyd over this past week.  We have read every single one to him.  Over 250 of them!  Floyd has listened carefully, and smiled a lot.  I think they have blessed and encouraged him.

It's made me think about how powerful encouragement is.  A simple word of encouragement can make a big difference in someone's life.  It can help them keep going rather than giving up.  It can leave an impact that lasts a lifetime.  It can bring hope in the midst of discouragement.

Thinking about this reminded me of something that happened when we lived in Holland.  I regularly went to a bank near to where we lived to cash checks of support that people sent us.  One of the bank tellers was a difficult lady.  She didn't like foreigners - particularly Americans.  She was grumpy, and often responded with negative comments.  I always hoped that someone else would be working when I went into the bank.

One day I needed to cash a check before I could buy groceries.  As I went to the bank, the grumpy lady's window was the only one open - and there was a long line.....with mostly tourists changing money.  She was not happy.  I had to get cash that day so there was no choice but to wait.  As I stood in the line, I felt the Lord speak something into my heart - "I want you to encourage her."  I thought surely I was hearing the Lord wrong, but the thought persisted.

To be honest, I wasn't sure what to say.  I couldn't think of anything nice or encouraging to say to her.  I could think of a few other things!  So I stood in the line and prayed for God to help me.  Actually, more like pleaded with Him to help me because I was dreading getting to the front of the line.

As my turn came, I smiled at her and said - "It looks like you're having a rough day.  I'm sorry for all of us who come in here and often don't understand the currency exchange.  It must make your job more difficult.  Thank you for helping us and serving us."  She didn't say anything for a few seconds.  Then she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said - "Thank you.  I needed that."  It was a short, simple verbal exchange - I got my cash - and I left.  I had no idea of the impact it had made.

From that day on until we left Holland, every time I went to the bank she opened up her window for just me.  We began to talk and get to know one another.  We developed a sweet relationship.  I was sad to leave her when we left Amsterdam.

In the midst of a hard time, pain, suffering, loss......or just the day to day hurts that come our way in life - encouragement is a powerful "balm" that God uses to bring strength, help, and comfort to our hearts.  We can never know what a few words of encouragement will do in someone's heart......like the lady at the bank.  A word of thanks, a caring smile, a warm handshake, a heartfelt expression of appreciation are all things that God can anoint and use in the lives of those around us.  Sweet words of encouragement have helped me get through many hard days on our unexpected journey.  I'm very grateful for the loving balm of encouragement.

I'm also convinced that the words of love, gratitude, and appreciation sent to Floyd for his birthday have ministered grace and strength to his heart.  

"A word in due season, how good it is."  Proverbs 15:23

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver."  Proverbs 25:11

"Outdo one another in showing honor."  Romans 12:10

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up."  1 Thessalonians 5:11

"Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."  Proverbs 16:24

"If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love.....any affection and sympathy.....in humility count others more significant than yourselves."  Philippians 2:1-3

"Therefore encourage one another with these words."  1 Thessalonians 4:18

"The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain."  Proverbs 10:11

A friend once told me the story of a little girl who attended a church that had many stained glass windows.  One day someone asked her what a saint was.  She replied, "the people the light shines through."  You and I can be the people the light shines through with our words of encouragement!  

With all that has been going on these past weeks I have had really stressful days.  In fact yesterday was one of those days when it seemed like lots of things went wrong.  I was feeling the heaviness of everything.  I stopped several times and just lifted my cares, my situation to the Lord - pouring out my heart to Him.  I was reminded of the verse that "God is light, in Him there is no darkness at all."  1 John 1:5

I meditated on His light.  I rejected the feelings of darkness.  And then I remembered a picture someone sent me a while back.  Light has no shadow!! 

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When we walk in His light, there is no shadow of darkness.  I need to, I must, stay in His light on hard days.

As I worshipped Him, quoted scriptures about His light, and lifted my burdens to the Lord in prayer - the heaviness was dis-spelled.  He is so good and faithful!  I'm grateful I can follow Him, holding His hand, and walk in His light.

"For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory."  2 Corinthians 4:6

"Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, 'I am the light of the world.  If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.' " John 8:12

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  John 1:5

"The Lord is my light and my salvation - so why should I be afraid?  The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?"  Psalm 27:1

"The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand."  Psalm 119:130

"Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path."  Psalm 119:105

God is so faithful.  He shines His light and all darkness scatters.  He speaks peace and the turmoil quietens.  He brings love and hope is rekindled.  He gives counsel and difficult decisions are resolved.  He ministers comfort to the heavy heart.  He proclaims His power and fears are sent fleeing.  He brings strength to help carry the heavy load.  He reminds of His sovereignty and the future becomes safe in His hands.

He is sufficient to meet every need, every day, for everything!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Last Friday was Floyd's 73rd birthday!  He has spent most of the last 3 years in the hospital, so I keep thinking back to his 70th birthday when he was well and whole.  We would never have imagined what was ahead.

I took him a big red birthday balloon for his room.  He smiled real big when I gave it to him, and wished him happy birthday.  I read greetings from friends and family all over the world, showed him lots of family photos, sang to him, and prayed for him.  He smiled the whole time, so I think it was special for him.  We had a very sweet visit. 

During our recent drought, everyone lost so many plants in their gardens.  It was sad to see them shriveling up and dying.  There was one beautiful flowering plant that we had that became very damaged.  It was dry, barren, brittle - just a few twigs left.  I planned to dig it up and get rid of it, but hadn't gotten around to it yet.

Then the winter rains came in June.  I was shocked to look out the window one day, and see this "dead" plant beginning to turn green and flower!  I was in disbelief.  As far as I was concerned, that plant was dead and gone.  I've used the photo at the top for you to see what it looks like now.  When I look at it, it feels like a resurrection from the dead!

That plant that was "dead," and is now full of life and beauty has given me fresh hope to pray for Floyd!  Floyd's situation seems hopeless on so many levels.  The life as he once knew it - and that he celebrated 3 years ago - is gone.  And yet......if God were to send His "healing rain," everything could change in an instant.

I've mentioned in these updates over and over that I trust God - trust His sovereignty over Floyd's life and my life.  I don't know what He has in store for us.  I have told Him I trust Him for "healing or heaven."  I truly trust His plan.  And yet He never tells us not to ask - so I've been asking afresh since his birthday for a resurrection miracle.  A resurrection like the plant I've witnessed - going from dried twigs to beautiful flowers.  I'm asking again for resurrection life for Floyd.

Someone left a message on the FaceBook Prayer Page for Floyd.  It's from a blog post called "The Weekend Blessing" by Susie Larson.  "There's an appointed time for every God-given breakthrough.  Jesus knows when your accumulative prayers will make the most difference.  He knows when your long-awaited breakthrough will bear the most fruit.  He knows when your blessing will not be a burden.  May you trust Him in the meantime.  You've things to do in this season: rest, wait, trust, obey, give thanks, enjoy joy, and walk forward in faith.  Breakthrough is on the horizon."

I've done all those things.  And God has been so present, so faithful, so good over all these long months.  I keep thinking of the word the Lord gave Floyd shortly before he became ill.  It was his word for the year - "breakthrough."  I haven't understood it, so I keep lifting it up to the Lord.  I'm praying for breakthrough and resurrection as I pray for him for his birthday.  I hope you will join me.  I trust whatever the answer is from the Lord.......but I'm asking afresh. 

"Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you......Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."  John 16:23,24

"I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."  John 14:13,14

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks find; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."  Matthew 7:7,8

"If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you."  Matthew 18:19

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."  Philippians 4:6

I'm not anxious - and my heart is filled with thanksgiving to God for His goodness to us.....but I'm asking, seeking, knocking afresh - asking God for a resurrection miracle for Floyd.  Meanwhile, I trust His sovereignty.  He is good and faithful!

On Sunday I turned 70!  As I've approached this birthday, my heart has been full of so many things in thinking of God's goodness and faithfulness.  

Then a few days ago a friend reminded me of a video.  If you would like to watch it, I have included the link at the bottom.  It captures what's in my heart better than anything I can think of.  I have cried my way through it a few times.  It reveals the "Father's" heart in such a poignant way.

This father, Dick Hoyt, had a disabled son.  He had been born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck.  He was severely handicapped.  The doctors encouraged the parents to put him in an institution.  Instead, they tried to do as many normal things with him as possible.  They were able to develop a machine that helped him communicate with his eyes and a movement of his head.

One day he told his dad he wanted to run in a race.  The father trained and ran the race with his disabled son.  Then they did a marathon, then triathlons, then a 3770 mile cross country trek - pushing, pulling, and carrying his son.  Rick, the son, said when they ran, he didn't feel handicapped.  Their journey continued for many years.  As of 2 years ago, they had competed in over 1100 races.

I could so identify with this story.  It's such an example God's grace.  God has carried me, pushed me, pulled me day after day during these 29+ months of this unexpected journey we've been on.  He has gotten me through so many "races" that I could have never managed on my own.  Challenges, challenging circumstances, that seemed utterly impossible to me - He has helped me make it through them.  I stand in awe of His goodness to me.  I bow my heart in worship and gratitude.

I have been so grateful to be celebrating this birthday.  Just a year ago I almost didn't survive, and now I'm celebrating my 70th birthday.  It's more than a birthday, it's a celebration of life!  It's a time to rejoice in all that God has brought me through.  His grace has carried me, has carried both of us.

Billy Graham said "the will of God will not take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us."  We have walked minute by minute through His will for us in this season thanks to His sustaining grace.  He has been so faithful.

I was sharing verses that have helped me during this season with some friends recently.  I had a list of about 50 of them, and was still going.  There are so many promises in His word of how He will help us in hard times, in suffering.  He gave us these promises to hold onto when it's tough.  And every one of them are so true!  He's with us each day, each hour, each minute, each second.  He never leaves our side.  He continually holds our hand.

"Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you.  He will not permit the Godly to slip and fall."  Psalm 55:22

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

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  2 Corinthians 12:9

"The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who take refuge in Him."  Nahum 1:7

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."  Philippians 4:13

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  Lamentations 3:22,23

"Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most."  Hebrews 4:16

He gives grace to endure in the absence of healing.  He gives grace to endure sickness and pain.  He gives grace to endure any hardship, anything we may be facing.  He will help us!

I'm grateful for my 70 years.  The future is unwritten for Floyd and me.  It's a new year in our lives.  I don't know what's ahead, but I know who's holding my hand as I step into the year ahead.  He has proven Himself so faithful already!  I can so easily trust Him for the unknown.

Team Hoyt Video

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.

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has been having a good week.  We've had some sunny, warm days which make his room especially pleasant.  He's been cheerful, and has really enjoyed the visits of the carers.

I've been going through some old photos lately.  I shared a bunch of them with Floyd.  He smiled at some.  Teared up at others.  But overall seemed very enthralled as he looked at them.  We've had lots of adventures through the years - and been blessed with wonderful people in our lives.  Truly the people God has brought into our lives have been the greatest treasure we've had.  I'm so thankful for each and every person!

In recent weeks a number of people have sent me words of encouragement about Floyd.  The theme of all of them is that even though he is laying quietly in a hospital bed, his life is still producing fruit.  He is still ministering to people through his books and sermons.  Even though he cannot physically speak at the moment, his "voice" is not silent.

These words have rung true in my heart as they are what I have felt from the Lord as well.  In a way that only God can orchestrate in His unique ways - Floyd is being used by the Lord to "speak" around the world.

So when I received a photo from 2 friends that seemed to be a visual expression of this - my heart leapt!  I thought immediately "that is what is happening with Floyd."  The photo is above.  It was a visual "amen" to what I had been feeling in my heart.  My gentle giant (like the giant tree) is fallen, but I believe there is still wonderful life flowing from Him by God's goodness and grace.

I love how God can take us in our "fallen" condition, and bring life.  Not just life - but vibrant, thriving, rich, growing life!!  He uses us in our weakness and brokenness.  He doesn't give up on us.  He doesn't say it's over - He finds a way to still help us grow and produce fruit.

I find this visual very encouraging to my heart for me too!  I have felt weak, broken, fallen in many ways.  So much has changed in my life the last few years.  My "new normal" looks nothing like the past.  And yet I find God speaking to me that He has life, growth, and fruit for me too.  I can identify both with the fallen tree......and with the rich, green branches.  God is so good.

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

"Let the weak say, 'I am strong!' "  Joel 3:10

"The Spirit helps us in our weakness."  Romans 8:26

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

"My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever."  Psalm 73:26 NLT

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet He did not sin.  Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  Hebrews 4:15,16

The Bible is full to overflowing with verses that assure us God will meet us in our weakness, and use us in spite of it!  Hudson Taylor, the great missionary, said:  "All God's giants were weak people."

Thank you, Lord, that you don't give up on us when we fall.  You help us and bring new life!

Floyd made a statement in one of his messages that I listened to recently that I have been pondering over for weeks now.  "If we can't grieve well, we can't grow well."  We have to be able to grieve the losses in our lives in order to keep growing.  Without doing that, our souls won't be "well," and we will carry pain around with us.

Being able to grieve well means we have to be honest with ourselves and with the Lord about things we have lost.  Floyd is still alive, but I have losses on this journey.  I've lost my fellowship and friendship with Floyd.  I mourn losing his leadership.  I grieve that everything happened so quickly and unexpectedly without a chance to say goodbye.  I am sad that I couldn't ask him a few more questions about things.  I grieved having to walk through last year's cancer battle without him.  The list could go on and on - much has been lost.

Without fully understanding the process - or even the need for it - I think the Lord has helped me to grieve.  I have been able to speak out every thing that has been lost to Him.  I've poured out my sadness.  I have confessed how hard some things have been.  I've been completely honest with God about my heart.  God designed us to grieve when we lose things that are precious to us.  Whatever the loss is in our lives, we need to take time to grieve.  And He helps us in that grieving process.

The Holy Spirit in us loves truth.  When we are honest with God, the Holy Spirit is honored and responds by encouraging us, comforting us, and giving us grace and help with our pain.

If we don't mourn what is lost, we can easily become angry, bitter, and resentful.  We can blame God.  We can slowly close off our hearts to Him - the One we need to heal and grow.  And we will eventually close off our hearts to people around us too.  We build walls around our hearts and retreat from the pain and hard places.  Grieving protects our heart, keeps our heart open, and helps us survive the loss.

Grieving doesn't mean we get answers - or miracles.  It just means we keep our hearts receptive and tender to His love and intimacy.  It means we can receive His "help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

Fear can hold us back from facing our loss and grieving.  None of us like the feeling of being "exposed" - of having our hearts revealed.  It feels so very vulnerable when we express our grief.  There are times when I've written in these updates about things I'm facing, things I'm processing - and I feel raw afterwards.  I feel lonely.  I feel so very tender.

And yet being known - being open, is actually a protection to us.  It keeps us from being isolated.  It allows us to receive prayer, support, encouragement, and love from our "family."  Being open and facing our loss and grief is so worth the momentary discomfort.

No one has grieved more than God Himself.  His heart has been broken over mankind.  "The Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart."  Genesis 6:6  

Jesus himself "wept" when His friend Lazarus died.  When He sees our suffering, He grieves with us just as He did with Mary and Martha.

But God always has a plan to bring life out of pain, goodness out of suffering.  He redeems what is lost.  He doesn't "waste" any of our sorrows.  I am trusting and believing for that on our journey.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."  Matthew 5:4

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

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

"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

"I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry."  Psalm 40:1

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

"The God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles."  2 Corinthians 1:3,4

This unexpected journey we're on has been painful.  There has been, and continues to be, loss.  There is suffering.  I want to learn the lesson of grieving well so I can grow well.  I don't want this journey to be a setback.  I want it to be a time of pressing into the Lord and growing.  Thankfully I don't have to do that alone.  As the verses above state so clearly, He helps us!  He is so faithful!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had a good week.  He has been giving huge smiles!  He looks so good!  He has been very alert and responsive.  The only time he cried was when I shared about gifts we have received from friends to help pay for his hospital care.  I actually tell him about that often, but this time it really seemed to touch his heart and he cried.

Several of the staff told me this week, how they are continually amazed that he is doing so well.  The fact that he has no bedsores is "miraculous."  And even with some congestion, his chest and breathing are in good shape.  I thanked them for their good care that helps Floyd - and also told them I thought his condition is an answer to prayer.  They agreed!

My mom and Floyd's parents always prayed for our family to "go to the nations."  In recent days our family has been scattered in 5 countries for a variety of reasons.  I was thinking of how pleased they would be.  Those prayers are invested in our lives.  So precious!  I was telling Floyd about it this week, and spent time praying with him and thanking the Lord.

Some years ago Floyd bought me a cute, rustic wheelbarrow to put in our garden.  We had flowers planted in it.  I loved the wheelbarrow, and got lots of compliments on it.

Because it's out in the wind and weather, it was starting to fall apart.  I hated to lose it.  I've never seen another one like it in all our years here.  I don't think it would have survived this winter in the condition it was in.

I talked with a handyman friend, and he said he could build me another one.  He took the old one so he could use pieces of it.  There were parts that were salvageable.  A couple weeks later, he showed up with my new "rustic" wheelbarrow.  It's lovely, stronger, and will now last for many more years.  I love it!

Often as I do my prayer walking on our deck, I look at that wheelbarrow.  I think I'm a lot like it.  With all that I've "weathered" I have days when I feel like I'm falling apart.  I wonder if I'll survive another storm, another winter.  God, the wonderful "handyman," in His goodness and faithfulness, takes the "pieces" of my heart and life and rebuilds them.  He patches, repairs, and adds new things.  He strengthens what's weak, and supports where I'm coming apart.  

That little wheelbarrow has been a good visual reminder of what God does in our lives.  He doesn't throw us out when we're falling apart.  He doesn't throw up His hands and say it's hopeless.  No, He takes us by the hand and says "let's do some repair work here."  And He rebuilds us.  How wonderful He is.  I'm hoping I'll last for many more years too. :)

"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished."  Philippians 1:6

"We are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works." Ephesians 2:10

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."  Psalm 139:14
 

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here!"  2 Corinthians 5:17

"I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you.  I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart."  Ezekiel 36:26

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

I'm so grateful He can take our brokenness, and restore it - make it new.  He is constantly at work within us to make us more like Him.  How faithful He is.

Over the years we've lived in various places where there's lots of traffic - especially at certain times of the day.  One of the things I enjoyed doing was finding shortcuts to get where I was going.  It was a fun adventure - often taking me along streets I'd never driven before or into neighborhoods where I'd never been.  I loved exploring and finding the shortcuts.

I've also liked to find shortcuts to household chores too.  Anything that could help me save time and energy was great.  I would look for articles that gave me tips, and find products that allowed me to work more quickly and efficiently.

And I've always been a bargain hunter.  I love finding ways to save money - sales, coupons, 2 for 1 offers, etc.  One year I even kept track of all the money I was able to save.  Floyd was quite surprised!  "Shortcuts" to spending was a challenging adventure for me.

But when it comes to the trials of life, the sufferings that God allows to come our way - there are no shortcuts!  God doesn't take us on an easy path.  He takes us on the best, most effective path!  He'll often take us on a circuitous journey to get us to our destination in order to prepare us for what we'll face when we get there.  He doesn't waste one second of the journey!

Lessons that take months in my life I would love to learn in days or weeks.  I often wish I could speed up the process.  I don't want to go through the wilderness!  I want to hurry up.  But God's view of time and our view is so different.  He looks at it from the view of eternity - preparing us to spend forever with Him.  

We live in a culture of instant gratification.  We want painless, short, easy lessons to the goals we're reaching for.  God's ways are different.  He wants to see us develop spiritual maturity along the way - not just succeed at our dreams and goals.  The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who had to be patient to see things fulfilled in their lives.

If we ignore what He's teaching us or move on too quickly - in His goodness and faithfulness He'll bring the lesson back around.  He doesn't allow us to ignore or escape from what He's teaching us.  He wants to produce character in our lives.  He wants us to become more like Him.  So He'll keep working in our lives until we learn what He's saying to us.  I am grateful for His persistence.  He's never given up on me.  He's always been patient with me when I struggle to learn a lesson He has for me.

So when I'm wishing there was a shortcut to trials, to the lessons He is allowing me to walk through - I remember that I need to just keep going one-day-at-a-time.  I need to not worry about the future.  I need to keep holding His hand, and keep my eyes on Him.  I need to receive His grace to persevere.  I need to keep my heart trusting Him, even speaking out that trust.  I need to worship Him for His love and mercy to me.

"Don't look for shortcuts to God.  The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time.  Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do.  The way to life - to God! - is vigorous and requires total attention."  Matthew 7:13,14  The Message

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

"O God, You have taught me from my earliest childhood."  Psalm 71:17

"Joyful are those you discipline, Lord, those You teach with Your instructions."  Psalm 94:12

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you."  Psalm 32:8

"Show me Your ways, Lord, and teach me Your paths.  Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long."  Psalm 25:4,5

I have wished many, many times for a shortcut on this long, unexpected journey we're on.  I have no idea how much longer it will be.  I don't know what "bumps" are on the road in front of me.  Yes, I'd love some shortcuts.  But my heart wants to learn whatever He has for me on this journey.  He is completely trustworthy, so I know He has good lessons in store for me.

Our Unexpected Journey

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This week Floyd had a visit from a friend from our days in Holland who had flown in to see him.   It was a sweet, tender, and emotional time.  Many memories shared.  It's always such a blessing to remember how good God has been to us through the years.

I had a sweet visit with Floyd too.  He woke up as I stood praying by his bed.  I was greeted with a big smile - which always warms my heart.  

I often sense the Lord's presence in Floyd's room.  A few times I've had the sense of being on "holy ground."  I was thinking of that when I read a quote that a friend sent me this week.  It's by David E. Fitch from "Faithful Presence."  

"The hospital room is a sacred space where God in Christ becomes present.  They lie there open to everything and anything God would do in and around them and are often ready to submit everything to God.  This makes them closer to God and His kingdom then even those that visit them.  The best thing we can do is be present.  Tend to what God is doing.  Tend to the presence of our Lord in this place."

Floyd lies there unable to move - but I know his heart is open to God.  I often wonder what God is up to.  And there are so many times when I don't know what to do - except to be there with him......looking to God for His sovereign will to be done.  I love how David Fitch expressed it.

A young couple that we have mentored who are very dear to us are leaving to work in another country.  They went to say goodbye to Floyd this week.  There were many tears all around.  They thanked him for his input into their lives, and asked him to pray for them in this new step.  I know his heart would have been blessed to see them stepping out into new challenges.  The "fruit" of his life and ministry continues on while he lies there.

We've had quite a bit of rain recently - and also some very cold temperatures.  There has been snow on the mountains all across South Africa.  We sometimes get snow on the mountains in winter, but this has been an unusual amount.  Someone sent me this photo of the cross and snow.  

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As soon as I saw it, it spoke to me.

It was a vivid picture of how the cross does battle for us in the storm - how it protects us from whatever is being thrown at us.  Thank you, Jesus, for the cross, and for your protection!

"O Lord, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty!  Help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You alone."  2 Chronicles 14:11

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

"Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy!  I look to you for protection....until the danger passes by."  Psalm 57:1

I'm so grateful for His protection and help in the "storms" that have come our way.  He has been so faithful!

A couple nights ago I was awake during the night praying.  I started thinking about the power of prayer, and how grateful I am that we can communicate with God through prayer.  What a precious gift it is!

And the wonder of it all is that He hears our prayers, each and every one of them.  And He answers!  Sometimes He says "yes."  Sometimes He says "no."  Other times He says "later."  And it's not unusual for Him to let us know He has another way, another plan.  But He is wonderfully attentive to our prayers.

I started thinking back through the years of some sweet answers to prayer that we've experienced.  I remember my very first overseas outreach as a young 16 year old.  I knew God had spoken to me to go, but it was a huge challenge to my faith to trust Him for the finances.  I was nervous, and wondered if it would all work out.  I prayed like crazy!!  It came down to the wire - 6 hours before the plane took off!  But I made it.  And I learned a valuable lesson that has helped me all my life.  Where God guides, He provides......and when He speaks, He comes through to help us!  It was a foundational lesson for the life I would share with Floyd all these years.  I'm so grateful for how He answered, and all that He taught me.

I thought of another overseas outreach.  I was leading a small girls team working in rural villages.  We slept on the floor in school rooms and small huts.  Half way through the outreach, my air mattress sprang a leak.  I tried and tried to fix it to no avail.  In desperation for my poor aching back, I asked my team one night to pray with me - for God to "heal" my air mattress.  There were a few giggles, but they all prayed with me.......and my air mattress never leaked again!

Floyd and I were working in a small village in Kenya when I got very sick.  There was no medical care, and very limited transportation.  My condition deteriorated rapidly, and we realized I might not make it.  We prayed desperate prayers!  Amazingly Floyd found someone with a car who could take us to a hospital a couple hours away.  The doctor said I was just a few hours from death.  He was amazed I survived.

Months later we were visiting my mother in Texas.  Very casually one day she asked what was happening on a certain day, at a certain time.  When we compared notes, we found out that God had woken her in the middle of the night to pray for me.  God spoke to her heart that it was a matter of life or death.  It was at the exact time that Floyd was searching for a way to get me to the hospital.

At Christmas in Amsterdam, we would serve a big meal on Christmas day to people off the streets.  We'd go out and find people wandering around who had no where to go - and bring them to our coffee shop to serve them a lovely meal with songs, decorations, and lots of joy.  It was always a very special day, and we usually fed hundreds of people.

One year we had worked hard cooking the meal, put it in the refrigerator, and got up Christmas morning ready to serve the feast.....only to find out that the fridge had gone off and all the food was spoiled.  No grocery stores were open.  We didn't know what to do.  We called around to all our staff and asked them to bring whatever food they had to help......and we started putting together meals.  We knew we'd have to cut off the serving very early because we just didn't have enough food.  But we prayed - and asked God to multiply our meager rations.

We served one of our biggest crowds that day - and at the end of the day had more food left than we started with.  Sound familiar?  Ours weren't loaves and fishes, but God gave us a similar miracle.  I'll never forget that Christmas day!  He answered our prayers big time.

I could go on and on.  My mind raced through the years thinking of so many answered prayers.  How grateful I am that He hears our prayers, and answers them.

"Tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer."  James 5:16

"You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you."  Jeremiah 29:12

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

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

I am so grateful for all the prayers being prayed for us during this long unexpected journey!  God has heard them.  Each prayer has helped carry us and sustain us.  I, and our whole family, are so very grateful to all those around the world that have lifted us to the "throne of grace where we have received help in our time of need."  Hebrews 4:16

May each one be blessed!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd's condition has been going up and down.  I was with him one day and he looked the best I've seen him in ages.  His color was good, his breathing was good, he seemed at peace and content.  Then two days later I was with him and he looked the worst I've seen him in ages.  Everything was the opposite.  He seemed utterly miserable.

I find this very emotional, and it breaks my heart to not be able to help him.  All I can do is love him, encourage him, pray for him, and trust for God's grace to be sufficient for him.  

There are a number of the carers recently that have felt stirred to pray afresh for healing.  We continue to trust in God's sovereignty - be that healing or heaven, but we're also asking for miracles.

I had a checkup with one of my doctors this week.  There is small, but continued improvement in my recovery.  I'm grateful to be headed in the right direction!  

I've been asked frequently "what are the keys, the things you have found helpful in making it through the long, unexpected journey you've been on?"  I think I've shared each of them on more than one occasion, but maybe it would be helpful to share them here all together.  I'm sure the list isn't complete - I'm still learning.

TRUST is probably the foundation stone of this journey for me.  From day one I've said to the Lord that I don't understand all that has happened, but I trust Him.  I know He's good.  I know He loves us.  I know He cares.  And I know I can trust Him.  He is absolutely, 100% trustworthy.  Trusting Him as we go through a hard time is so important as it helps release the grace we need to make it through.  The enemy wants us to blame God for the trials that come our way, but that's his lie.  The longer we wait for answers to our prayers, the more we must choose to trust Him.  I continually tell the Lord "I trust You."

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

-  WORSHIP, GRATITUDE, THANKFULNESS are also foundation stones.  I don't even know how to convey how valuable they are.  In the heaviest, hardest moments when I tell the Lord I love Him and I thank Him for His goodness.....the load is immediately lightened.  And the more I worship Him, the lighter the load becomes.  Worship is a powerful tool that God has placed in our hands.  I don't think we'll ever completely understand what a mighty weapon God has given us for getting through our battles here on earth.

"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

-  PRAYER is vital!  And by this, I mean talking to Him.  Pouring out my heart to Him.  Having conversations with Him.  Listening to Him speak back into my heart.  I've been alone for countless hours on this journey.  I talk to God like He's sitting in the room with me.  I tell Him my burdens.  I share my thoughts.  I let Him know my fears.  I know I can't bottle things up inside me, so I let it all pour out to my wonderful Father.  It lifts the weights off my heart as I share with Him.  He hears, He knows what I'm going through, and He cares.

"Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge."  Psalm 62:8

When I can't find words to express what's in my heart, I often pray in the Spirit, allowing Him to pray through me.

"The Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."  Romans 8:26-27

"Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."  Ephesians 6:18

-  HOPE must be kept alive.  If we lose hope, we shrivel up and die.  I can't fake it, I can't pretend - so even in this I need God to help me.  When I call upon Him, He rekindles the dying wick of hope in my heart and helps it burn bright again.

"Why am I discouraged?  Why is my heart so sad?  I will put my hope in God!  I will praise Him again - my Savior and my God!"  Psalm 42:11

"'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

"We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.  In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.  May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you."  Psalm 33:20-22

-  FAITH is needed too.  My faith isn't always strong, but I ask Him to strengthen and increase my faith.  I've continually felt a freedom from Him to have faith for and believe for miracles.  I feel His encouragement to ask.  My faith, thankfully, is not based on me but on Him.

"Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."  Hebrews 11:1

-  His WORD - spending time reading the Bible is vital.  The promises in His Word help build trust, faith, hope, and thankfulness in our hearts.  I've had a close relationship with the Lord since I was a child.  But I have pressed into Him at new levels, and dug deeper into His Word daily during this long journey.  I couldn't have made it without meditating on His words to us and applying them to my life.  Sometimes His Word seems to speak in whispers - other times it seems to be shouting.....but it definitely speaks to us!

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.  2 Timothy 3:16

-  GRACE is vital!  I couldn't, absolutely couldn't, make it without His sustaining grace!  I can't work it up.  I can't pretend it's there.  I can't fake it.  I have to lean into Him day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute and receive His sustaining grace.  He freely gives it.

"But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."  2 Corinthians 12:9

-  JOY unspeakable.  Something He, inexplicably, gives in the midst of the trials and suffering.  It sounds contradictory, but it's there.  It's not a bubbly, happy-go-lucky joy.  It's a deep rooted, profound, intense joy that comes straight from His heart to mine.  It feeds the very depths of my soul with His strength and goodness in a way that words can't describe.

"Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."  Nehemiah 8:10

-  CONTENTMENT is possible in the midst of trials and suffering.  I know - it sounds crazy!  But it's true.  It's not being content in the circumstances, but finding contentment in Him in the circumstances.  That's what makes the difference.  Would I like the circumstances to change?  Certainly!  But I'm so glad He is unchanging whatever our circumstances.  Because of Him we can be content in any situation.

"For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through Him who gives me strength."  Philippians 4:11-13

-  PEACE that passes understanding.  The kind of peace that we can't explain that the Lord gives takes the contentment to the depth of my soul.  It's a peace that helps me keep going.  It's a peace that calms my spirit when the storms are raging all around me.  It's a peace that allows me to sleep at night when things in my world seem out of control.  His wonderful, sweet peace.  How grateful I am for it!

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:7

I've probably forgotten something - but then His provision is unending!  He will never leave us alone when we're going through trials, testings, and suffering.  He is always by our side - even carrying us if we can't keep going on our own.  How unbelievably, wonderfully, incredibly faithful He is!

I heard someone share recently that when we break our arm and it heals - it's actually stronger than it was before.  I'm convinced that one of the purposes for suffering in our lives is that we'll come out stronger on the other side because of all that God has done in our lives during the time of suffering.  Only God can do that!  I'm believing for that in my life and in the lives of our family.  We've been through a long journey of suffering, but God can bring us out stronger on the other side of it!  

"We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. -  In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:28, 37-39

All I can add to that is "amen!"

As I sometimes write about God speaking to me about things,  I've also been asked what the ways are that He has spoken to me.  While going through hard times and suffering, I have found it vital to hear from Him in personal ways.  All of these ways of Him speaking to me come from the place of prayer.  We must spend time in His presence in order to hear His voice.

-  He often speaks to me as I read the Word.  It seems like a verse will almost jump off the page to me.  Sometimes a verse I'm reading is a specific answer to something I've been asking the Lord about.  The Bible is the inspired Word of God so it's not unusual that He would speak to us through it.  This is probably the primary way He speaks to us.  He's given us lots of understanding and direction through His Word.

"All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."  2 Timothy 3:16

-  The Lord often speaks into my thoughts.  As I pray and meditate on the Word, I find Him guiding my thoughts to answers and solutions I need.  Obviously not every thought is from Him, so we must test our thoughts against His Word and His character - and seek confirmation that our thoughts are from Him.

"Commit your works unto the Lord, and your thoughts shall be established."  Proverbs 16:3

"The Lord is the one who shaped mountains, stirs up the winds, and reveals His thoughts to mankind."  Amos 4:13

-  A similar, but slightly different way He speaks is through a still, small voice into my heart.  Having Him speak into my mind, my thoughts is different than hearing the still, small voice of the Spirit speaking into my heart.  It is almost audible, but not quite.....and it's usually clear that it's His voice and not my own.  It's hard to describe, but I sense it's Him speaking.  It requires being still and listening.  And, again, it should be tested against His Word and His character.

"After the earthquakes a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice."  1 Kings 19:12

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

-  He speaks to me through the counsel of others - friends, co-workers, family.  If I'm making important decisions, I often ask people to pray for me.  God uses them to confirm what I'm sensing, or to bring correction.

"Where no counsel is, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety."  Proverbs 11:14

-  God often speaks to me through His creation - rainbows, whales, birds, flowers, trees, etc.  I have to be still and listen, but I find He often uses creation to speak His ways to my heart.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.  They have no speech they use no words; no sound is heard from them.  Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."  Psalm 19:1-4

-  God speaks to me through music and worship.  Worship often brings my heart "to attention."  It captures my thoughts and emotions and directs my heart to Him.  I'm sure that's why David poured out His heart in worship.

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name."  Psalm 100:4

-  On a few occasions (I wish it were more!), God has spoken to me through a dream.  Usually it has been a confirmation or encouragement of something that has been on my heart.  I rarely remember my dreams, but when one is from the Lord I will wake up with it vividly in my mind.

"I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams."  Acts 2:17

-  God always speaks with His peace!  He can speak to me in all the other ways, but if I don't have peace - then I know to be very careful.  As a young woman I remember hearing teaching that we can have angels, visions, handwriting on the wall - all kinds of dramatic things, but if we don't have peace then we shouldn't move forward in anything.  The peace He gives is our complete confirmation of hearing His voice!

"The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:7

There are many, many other ways that God can speak - miracles, supernatural manifestations, through circumstances, through visions, through angels - the list is endless.  My list is just a small sample of how He speaks.

The incredibly wonderful thing is that He does speak to us!  In fact, He longs to speak to us.  The important thing is for us to quieten our hearts and listen.  Then He can choose how He wants to speak to each of us.  He'll speak to each of us differently because we're all different!  He knows how best to capture our attention so that we hear His voice.

I am so, so grateful that He speaks.  How much harder the journey would be if He didn't!  He's so good.

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!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had a quiet, but good week.  I spent time with him on Father's Day.  I encouraged him that he has been a wonderful father to our children - and a spiritual father to many.  I reminded him that his message about the "Father Heart of God" is still ministering to people around the world.  I tried to minister to his heart that his "voice" is still being heard even though he is silent.

He was very attentive, but somewhat less responsive.  I wondered if he was reflecting on what I was saying.  It was a sweet, quiet time with him.

I've been very tired this week, so I've been more quiet too.  I've rested in His presence, and thanked Him for getting me through some very busy weeks.

We're in the winter season of long nights/short days.  It's my least favorite time of the year.  I'm counting down the days until the sun "turns" - it's coming fairly soon!

In the summer when the sun comes up, I'm usually still sleeping.  But with these long nights, I'm often awake before the "crack" of dawn.  Because of that, I've noticed something.  Just as the very first rays of dawn are breaking, there are some little birds that come outside my bedroom window and sing.  I recognize their "song" now.  It's so sweet and lovely.  Very short - but it's like they are announcing the dawn.  It's a precious gift to me that they sing right by my bedroom.

I listen to them and imagine what they might be singing.  "Here it comes!  A new day.  God is giving us another day in which to praise and worship Him.  Hallelujah - here's the sun!"

I find myself waiting for their song each morning, and I join them with my own song of thanking the Lord for a new day.  It's become a sweet way to start the day.  I'm so grateful for each day!  Just a few months ago it looked like my days could be ending when I was so weak and frail.  I'm grateful to be alive and have a fresh day in front of me.

"Awake, O my soul, with the music of His splendor.  Arise, my soul, and sing His praises!  I will awaken the dawn with my worship, greeting the daybreak with my songs of light."  Psalm 108:2

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."  Psalm 30:5  

There may be some long, dark nights in our lives - but morning is coming.....with joy!  I have found it important to sing in worship in the "darkness" for it releases the dawn of victory.  Our worship awakens the dawn.  It brings His presence into the hard situation.  Worship welcomes Him to come into our darkness, our hardship, and to bring His ministry release for our needs.  He has been so faithful to meet me in the darkness of this unexpected journey.

Morning is significant in the Bible.  Jesus rose in the morning.  He conquered death.  "On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away."  Luke 24:1,2

In the Word, the morning often brings freedom, victory, help, and compassion.  

"God is within her; she will not be moved.  God will help her when morning dawns."  Psalm 46:5

"I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning."  Psalm 130:6

"The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn."  Proverbs 4:18

"Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard."  Isaiah 58:8

I'm grateful for the dawn of each new day!  I'm grateful for the victories He brings in the morning.  I'm grateful that His light dis-spells the darkness.  He is so faithful!  

Someone sent me a sweet drawing.  In the drawing, as Aslan the lion is looking on, a blond headed little girl (me) is enfolded in the wings and feathers of His presence.

"He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."  Psalm 91:4

On the same day, another friend sent me a song "Under His Wings."  It's an old hymn with powerful words.  The lyrics are by William Cushing from 1896.

"Under His wings I am safely abiding.
Tho' the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.

Refrain:
Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

Under His wings - what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort and there I am blessed.

Under His wings - O what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life's trials are o'er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,
Resting in Jesus, I'm safe evermore."

The drawing and the words to the hymn have so ministered to my heart.  God has been abundantly faithful to me on this long unexpected journey!  But even after all this time when you think I would be "used" to things - I find I have days when I wonder if I'll make it through the day.  I guess that's partly because new trials come along to add to what has been ongoing for quite some time.  Sometimes the load feels very heavy.  The unending nature of what I'm walking through - not knowing when things will change - becomes a heavy weight in itself.

When all this happens - I find it so helpful to tuck myself "under His wings" in my mind's eye.  As I'm wrapped secure in His shelter, the storms can blow by me......while I'm safe and secure in His care.  I know I'm safe, and I can trust Him.  There's no other "balm" on earth except His comfort and protection......the wonderful balm of Gilead that "makes the wounded whole."

While I'm secure in His embrace, I find release from the burdens as I bring them one by one to Him.  I pour out my heart to Him because He is my refuge.  My vision clears as I share my heart with Him.  The light of His goodness, His presence, His glory overshadows the weights I'm carrying.  How awesome and so very faithful He is!

"Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day.  Darkness and light are alike to You."  Psalm 139:12

"Hide me in the shadow of Your wings."  Psalm 17:8

"Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me.  For my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by."  Psalm 57:1

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

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

My heart is grateful that I can be under His wings!  There is no fortress on earth as safe as being in the tender covering of His feathers, His wings.  Thank you Lord!

Our Unexpected Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I saw a quote recently that spoke to my heart:

Surrender to what is.

Let go of what was.

Have faith in what will be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Unexpected Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Unexpected Journey

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the words to the song…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Unexpected Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Unexpected Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Unexpected Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is power in prayer!!!  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Unexpected Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And who showed the moon where to hide till evening?

Whose words alone can catch a falling star?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet He did not sin.  Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  Hebrews 4:15,16

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

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

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

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

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

Our Unexpected Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Unexpected Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Unexpected Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Unexpected Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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