Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had a hard week.  He has struggled with his breathing.  The doctor thinks it’s because he has a chest cold.  He's been on and off oxygen to help him.  He is still alert and attentive, but feeling miserable.  

He had a sweet visit from a dear friend from England that we've known since our Amsterdam days.  He was feeling so bad that it was hard for him to connect with her, but his eyes were still attentive.

In the midst of our unexpected journey there have been good days, not-so-good days, and hard days - even some very hard days.  But through it all, lying underneath every kind of day, there has been a deep, deep joy.  Sound strange?  I guess it is rather unusual.

I'm not talking about a happy-go-lucky kind of joy.  It's not light.  It's not casual.  It's not fleeting.  It's deep, profound, and eternal.  It's something that only the Lord can give.

"Joy to the world, the Lord has come" - the words of the well known Christmas song.  Those words are the reason there can be joy on the journey in spite of pain, sadness, suffering, and sorrow.  HE IS OUR JOY!  He brings joy.  He gives joy.  He ministers joy.  He pours joy into my hurting heart.  He gives joy that gives me strength to face another day.  He fills my heart with a sweet joy that reminds me I'm not alone.

Some mornings I wake up, and I don't want to get up.  For a moment, I dread facing another day of the sadness and stress.  And then I remember who walks beside me.......and I realize I can do it.  With His help.  It's hard to describe, but it's like a light bulb goes off and I know I can do it because He's with me.  He brings joy into my heart when I think I can't keep going.

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

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

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

"You fill me with joy in your presence."  Psalm 16:11

"A joyful heart is good medicine."  Proverbs 17:22

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

"You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound."  Psalm 4:7

"You shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace."  Isaiah 55:12

"Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!"  Psalm 126:5

"Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy."  Psalm 5:11

The Bible is filled with promises of His joy.  As we are approaching the season when we give thanks that He has come, we can let Him fill our hearts with fresh joy.  His joy will help us get through any kind of day we face.  He will give us joy on the journey.  Thank you, thank you, Lord, for JOY! 

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd was sitting in his chair when I was with him.  He looked quite good.  

Quite some time ago the question was asked on the FaceBook Prayer page - what single impact did God do in your life through Floyd?  I only recently saw this.  The answers were amazing, and so affirming/encouraging.  I decided to read them all to Floyd.  It took abut 45 minutes!

He was very attentive.  A few times he teared up - and a few times he seemed emotional, even pulling himself forward in his chair to express himself.  I was so glad to have such sweet, personal encouragement to share with him.  It really seemed to touch his heart.

The ongoing nature of our unexpected journey is quite exhausting.  I spoke before about the unending "drips" of trials.  They take a constant flow of energy.  I get tired and weary.

One of the things the Lord has shown me is the need for rest.....for taking care of myself.  I've always been a go-getter.  I work hard, even at things I don't like to do - because I want to get them "done."  On this journey, I've had to live with and accept things not being done!  And I've definitely had to learn new lessons about rest.

I've had to learn to be quiet.  I've needed to "listen" to my body and what it is telling me I need.  I've had to ignore my list of things to do while I simply spend time in His presence, letting Him restore, refresh, and heal me.  

My granddaughter has been a sweet encourager.  When I tell her something I've done to find refreshment (a nap, a massage, watching a Hallmark movie) - she'll say to me "well done, Granma, for taking care of yourself!"  :)  It always makes me smile.

The Lord has reminded me that He rested on the 7th day.....and Jesus withdrew from the crowds and found time to rest, to be with the Father, and to be restored.  I've heard the words echo in my mind "rest is my gift to you!"  I'm learning how to receive that gift and not feel guilty for the things I'm not getting done.

When I'm more rested, I find it not only easier to face the physical things I need to deal with - but I'm also stronger in facing the spiritual side of the trials I'm facing.  Rest helps me deal with disappointment and discouragement....with any doubts that pop up.....with any sense of defeat the enemy throws at me.  When I'm tired and weary I'm so much more vulnerable.  Rest helps me have a fresh perspective -  God opens my eyes to see more clearly from His point of view.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28

"Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him."  Psalm 62:1

"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety."  Psalm 4:8

"The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters."  Psalm 23:1,2

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."  Psalm 91:1

Someone recently wrote and told me about a scripture that ministers to him.  It's from the Phillips version of Romans 12 - "have a sane estimate of your capabilities."  I think that's a good guideline for all of us!

Another friend said he's learned that "rest is a weapon."  I guess it's one of the "tools" God has placed in our hands.

I love that God has given us the gift of rest!

Whatever season we're in, we need rest - His rest!  I'm learning that I simply can't be too "busy" to rest.  The rest He wants us to have is truly our lifeline.  As I care for Floyd, and as I continue to fight the cancer battle for myself - I need the "gift" He has given me of sweet rest.  I'm so grateful for it!

This Thanksgiving I have been so thankful for all the prayers that have covered us on this long, unexpected journey!  I don't know if we would have survived this journey without them.  My heart is so full of gratitude!

Living in Africa certainly provides me with some interesting moments - particularly in regard to wildlife.  We recently had a snake making its way down our driveway.  I definitely don't like those creatures!  And around the same time there was a large scorpion in the passage near our back door.  It was a boiling hot day so I think it was looking for a cool place.

The last couple weeks our neighborhood has been on "baboon alert."  I get messages that they're on the street below us - or one street over.....letting me know to be prepared.  We have to close doors and windows to keep them from getting in the house if they turn up in our garden.  They make terrible messes!

A few days ago I was awakened early one morning by the loud sound of a peacock call.  A large peacock was wandering around our small back garden and driveway.  I don't know where it came from or why it liked our garden, but it was a rather rude awakening.  Maybe it was looking for something - or maybe it was out for a morning stroll.....but it eventually flew very gracefully over the fence and continued on.

We have a constant parade of birds flying around every day - and an occasional mongoose explores our yard.  Sometimes I feel like I live in a zoo. :)  And I never get tired of seeing the awesome whales in our bay!  

When I look at all these creatures, and think of how each one has a plan and purpose in nature - it gives me a fresh appreciation for the world that God created.  He created "every living thing."  He designed our world in intricate detail in such a way that each creature has a role to play.....even the ones I don't like!

And it reminds me that God is at work in each detail of my life.  He has a plan and purpose for everything that's happening.  He is "working for good" in the daily events of my life - using them to help me in ways I don't always understand.  He hears my hurt and pain when I call out to Him.  He is there to wipe away my tears.  He is the One who whispers sweet words of encouragement into my heart.  And He is the One who carries the burdens that are too heavy for me to bear.  He is with me in each and every detail.

I am a "detailed" person.  It's a blessing - and sometimes a curse. :)  I can't escape it.  It's just the way my mind works.  But my sense of detail pales in comparison to God's.  His attention to every detail, every concern, every thing we think/feel/experience is beyond comparison.  He's not only up there in heaven, but He's down herewith us on earth, involved in everything we are going through.  There's nothing too big or too small for His care in our lives.  He's involved in those details because He loves us, He cares about us, and He longs to help us.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you."  Jeremiah 1:5

"The Lord directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives."  Psalm 37:23

"For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."  Colossians 1:16,17

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."  Genesis 1:1  ***He created EVERY detail of the world around us!!

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

"I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy."  Psalm 116:1

In the midst of the unexpected journey we've been on, I have been more grateful than ever before that God is a God of details.  I am so grateful that I can talk to Him about the details of Floyd's care......and the concerns of my health and care......and the questions I have about all the details of our life.......and I can ask His wisdom about our finances, our future, our home, our family.  Oh how grateful I am that He is concerned about the details of my life.  Thank you Lord!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had some sweet visits with members of the Care Team this week.  During one visit, he smiled a lot.  That particularly touched my heart because his smiles have been less frequent recently.  I trust our prayers for strength and for encouragement for his heart are being answered.  The Carers also commented that his eyes were very bright, and that his spirit is very much alive.  That's encouraging too.

One of the things I am so grateful for on our unexpected journey is how God continually brings good into my life in the midst of difficult circumstances.  He truly gives "beauty for ashes."  I think I see it pretty much on a daily basis in some way - both large and small.  I've learned to look for it because He has been so faithful in bringing good.

We recently had some fires near the town of George here in South Africa.  The fires were bad.  Several people were killed, homes were lost, and over 40,000 acres of land were destroyed.  Someone sent me a picture of these red flowers growing in one of the destroyed areas.   I have used it at the top of this post.

These beautiful red flower blooms, called "fire lilies," have sprouted up among the ashes.  They only grow where everything else has been burned down.  These ones sprouted up within just a few days of the devastating fire.  As soon as I saw this, I thought "this is what God does in our lives."

We think everything is destroyed.  We feel the "ashes" in our lives because of the trials and suffering that we go through.  We can struggle with feelings of hopelessness.  And then God brings beauty into our lives that can only come in the midst of the ashes.  Wow!  So amazing.  Such an awesome God.

"To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.  In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory."  Isaiah 61:3

"We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him."  Romans 8:28

"So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."  Isaiah 55:11

The unexpected journey we're on has had lots of "ashes."  But it's also been filled with the goodness, mercy, grace, and strength of the Lord.  He has brought beauty into the pain and suffering - as only He can do!  I'm so grateful for the "fire lilies" He has brought into our journey.

I have been having some busy and intense days.  Without Floyd, I must handle everything in our lives.  There have been so many decisions, pressures, and stresses recently.  I think the Lord must have been keeping some of them away from me for awhile, but suddenly they are all showing up.

I've been calling out to Him for extra strength, extra wisdom, extra grace, extra help - well, extra everything!  I've felt my need of Him on every level.  I've been singing the song "Your Love Defends Me" by Matt Maher.  It has been ministering to my heart, and reminding me of His goodness.

On hard days, I encourage myself in the Lord by speaking out His promises.  I speak out who He is to me - my strength, my helper, my refuge, my deliverer, my counselor, my provider, my healer, my source of wisdom, my daily grace.....the list is endless, but He truly is the One who meets my every need!  I guess I'm learning that I can make it without Floyd, but I sure can't make it without the Lord!!

I was thinking - if Floyd were home and he heard me walking around speaking all this out loud......he would join in with me in worshipping the Lord for who He is and say "amen!"  I wonder if there are angels around who are echoing my proclamations of God's goodness and sufficiency!  That's kinda exciting to think about.

Every once in a while, I get nervous about these things I face that seem so BIG.  But when I speak out who God is, it brings things back into perspective.  He is so much BIGGER.  I'm so, so grateful for His faithfulness to me.

"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

"I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me."  Psalm 13:5,6

"The Lord your God is with you.  He is mighty to save."  Zephaniah 3:17

"The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer.  He enables me to go on the heights."  Habakkuk 3:19

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you."  Psalm 32:8

"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 speaks so clearly in the Word to our needs - to the things we will face.  He is WITH us in each hard situation, each stress, each problem, each weight that we are carrying on our hearts.  He's the well we're drawing from.  Where else could we go but to Him?  He is the strength of our soul!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has been feeling rather miserable this week - from the pressure sores on his feet and from conjunctivitis in his eyes.  Even though his eyes were bad, he was "communicating" to me with "blinks" when I was with him. 

I'm still praying for encouragement for his heart.  I was thinking today that I have friends who encourage me.  I read the Word to glean strength.  I get emails that express love.  Floyd is just laying silently in his bed.  I pray for grace that only God can give him in this situation - for sweet communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And angels to keep him company around the clock.

A friend from Germany visited him this week too.  It was a sweet time together.  I think it's always an encouragement to his heart when he gets these special visits.

Waiting is hard.  For all of us.  In so many different types of situations.  But I think it's especially hard when there is some type of pain or suffering, and you're waiting for relief.  You're waiting for something to change - hoping that the change will be positive.

I spoke with someone who works in a refugee camp.  She said that the unending journey of waiting to see what the future holds is the hardest thing the refugees face.  They've left everything.  They don't know what's ahead.  All they can do is wait.

I also read about someone who works with persecuted Christians.  The hardest thing they face is not the intensity of the suffering, but the unknown duration.  It's easier to face things when you know a conclusion is coming.  But when things go on and on - with no end in sight, that is almost unbearable.

I have found the "waiting" to see what's going to happen on our unexpected journey has become a weight at times.  Any conclusion would almost be better than the endless waiting.  The waiting becomes a big part of the suffering.

When this begins to weigh on my heart - I find I have to be careful.  I remind myself that God doesn't "waste" any of our sorrows.  The waiting isn't wasted time.  God is working.  He has plans and purposes that we often don't see or understand.  IF only we could see from His perspective.

I often want to get this resolved and move on!  But I have had to time and time again slow my heart, my thoughts, and my emotions down and relax in God's plan.  For me - this is where trust comes in!  Do I really trust that God is at work?  Do I really believe that He knows best?  Am I really confident that He's hearing our prayers - or even that our prayers are important?  Yes, yes, and YES!

But I have to be willing to wait.  And waiting is often hard work.  Waiting changes us, prepares us for what's ahead.  God is usually not in a hurry.  He has a timetable that's different from ours.  He uses the waiting in ways we can't see.

-  He purifies our hearts in the waiting season.

-  He teaches us patience.

-  He builds our faith for what's ahead, so that we are expectant.

-  He uses the time to build character and foundations in our life.

-  He draws us close to Him so that we are utterly dependent on Him.

As we wait, we can trust Him at deeper and deeper levels.  We can look for the good in the waiting - His gifts to us.  They are always there!

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning."  Psalm 130:5,6

"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

"In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly."  Psalm 5:3

"But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation.  My God will hear me."  Micah 7:7

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord."  Psalm 27:14

"Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way."  Psalm 37:7

So many of the Bible characters had long waits until what God had spoken was fulfilled - Noah (120 years), Abraham (25 years), Moses (40 years), Jacob (20 years), Joseph (13 years), David (12 years), Jesus (30 years).  Mary & Martha waited until they thought it was too late......and then Jesus did the unthinkable by raising Lazarus from the dead.

"No one who waits for you will ever be put to shame."  Psalm 25:3

The best is always yet to come with Him!  Even though it's sometimes hard, the waiting is always worth it when we trust in His love and goodness.  I'm trying to wait patiently, with a heart of trust and expectation, for all of His plans and purposes to be fulfilled on this journey.  

As I've meditated and pondered on the process of waiting, it's made me aware again of how important my attitude is while I'm waiting.  

Our attitude impacts everything we say and do.  It becomes even more important when we're walking through hard times.  In fact, I think our attitude can turn the tide from difficulties, trials, and suffering into gifts and blessings.  So much depends on how we look at things as we walk through life.

The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7 - "As a man thinketh, so is he."  Our thoughts and attitude effect everything.  What happens is important, but even more important is how we react to what happens in our life.

Author and speaker Charles Swindoll summed it up this way:  "The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.  Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.  It is more important than success, than what other people think or say or do.  It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.  It will make or break a company....a church....a home.  The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past....we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.

On this unexpected journey, I pray and ask for God's intervention.  I "cast my burdens" on Him.  I can't make it alone.  I need His help.  But the one thing I'm responsible for is my attitude.  I've come to realize that there are 2 very important attitudes I must have.  There are actually lots of attitudes, but 2 are especially crucial.

The first is a heart of trust in God.  That is a foundational attitude that impacts everything else on the journey.  If I don't trust in God's goodness, faithfulness, mercy, grace, and sovereignty - then I'm going to be in big trouble.  I'm looking to God to meet me in my weakness, to carry me when I can't keep going, to counsel me, to be my refuge - and so many other things.  But I have to trust Him and trust that He'll come through for me.

I find it important to speak out, to declare that trust.  I say aloud, "I trust you Lord.  I trust you Lord."  I say it, I pray it, I sing it, I tell the enemy - I let that trust build and grow in my heart.  I let it consume my heart. 

"Commit everything you do to the Lord.  Trust Him, and He will help you."  Psalm 37:5

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

"He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord."  Psalm 112:7

The second attitude that's so important is thankfulness.  Sarah Young says that "a thankful attitude opens windows of heaven through which spiritual blessings fall freely."  A thankful, worshipping heart and attitude changes our perspective from what's happening to who God is in the midst of the trial.  It immediately helps lift the weight off our spirit as we are thankful in the midst of whatever comes our way.

When the day is hard, when the weights are so heavy that I feel I might buckle under the load - I make sure my attitude of thankfulness gets activated.  It changes my perspective.  My focus is on Him in the midst of the hardship rather than the hardship itself.  It immediately lightens the load.

Thankfulness in the midst of suffering and trials requires a deep well of trust.  The combination of trust and thankfulness is powerful!  They can help turn the hardest, darkest day into glorious sunshine.  As I trust Him and lift up my heart in thankfulness, I find fresh energy to face the difficulty through His enabling grace.

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

"Let (the redeemed of the Lord) sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy."  Psalm 107:22

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.  My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song."  Psalm 28:7

When we plant "seeds" of trust and thankfulness in our hearts in hard times - something wonderful and beautiful will grow in our hearts!  

Ou Unexpected Journey

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I had a good time of prayer with Floyd this week.  He was looking good, but was very quiet and solemn.  I felt I touched something in his heart as I prayed.  We continue to pray for encouragement for him.

I heard from a friend of ours who has only been in the hospital for a short while, but is already suffering from bed sores.  They can be so painful!  It made me realize again what a gift it is that Floyd has not had any all this time.  The nurses themselves  actually call it a miracle.  I'm so grateful.  

Then right after I was just thanking the Lord that Floyd hasn't had any bed sores, he now is developing a pressure sore on his foot.  I am very sad about this.  We are really praying for it to be healed!

On this long, unexpected journey I'm on, I've faced a myriad of emotions.  I guess that's true of life in general, but especially so when you're going through hard times.  There has been shock, pain, loneliness, grief, anxiety, sadness, insecurity, fear, worry, disappointment.  It seems like the emotions have been all over the place at different times and on different days.

I was surprised when I even faced some feelings of rejection.  I didn't expect that on this journey.  Some months ago, a friend sent me a paper Floyd had written a few years ago on rejection.  I thought it was good, but didn't give it a lot of thought.  Then one day I faced that emotion - and I was so grateful to have Floyd's "help" in walking through it from his teaching.  I'll post his teaching on his page so that you can read it, it’s called ‘The Gift of Rejection’.  I feel I am to pass it on.  It has meant a lot to me that even in his "silence" he ministered to my heart through the paper he had written.

One of the comforts to my heart is knowing that Jesus understands every emotion we face.  He has faced many of the same things, and is ready to comfort us in whatever we are going through.  We don't have to face the roller coaster of emotions alone.  He is holding our right hand, and staying right beside us.

"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."  Hebrews 4:15

In the midst of my emotions, I haven't asked a lot of "why" questions.  But there is no sin in asking “why.”  Even Jesus did that.  "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  Matthew 27:46  It may not have been a question as much as a statement of agony......but He asked.  I've heard some people refer condemningly to anyone who asks God "why?"  I don't think God is upset if we question Him.  He understands our own agony, sometimes bewilderment, at things that happen to us.

We can't hide our emotions or our thoughts.  God created us with those emotions and feelings.  The important thing is to bring them to Him......to bring our questions to Him.  We can't stay in the barren wilderness of our feelings.  We'll die if we stay there.  But we can bring them to Him, and receive His grace, strength, help, and comfort.

One thing I am absolutely confident in is that the Lord is with me every moment, in every emotion, in every hard situation that I face.  He longs to help me, not condemn me or rebuke me.  He understands, and He wants to meet me and support me.  I am grateful beyond words for His help.  I am "still standing" because He has helped me with everything I've faced.

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

"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."  Hebrews 4:16

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

"Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us."  Psalm 62:8

"He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."  Isaiah 53:3

I remember one weekend during the first year of this journey when things had impacted me so severely - and my heart was hurting so badly, that I was physically shaking.  I couldn't stop.  Some friends came over to pray for me.  As they prayed, God's love invaded my heart and peace came.  It was amazing.  I've remembered that with each emotion I've faced.  God is there to help me.  He will meet each need, each emotion, each pain with His love and care.  I am so, so grateful!

The other emotion that I didn't know I would encounter so wonderfully - and the one that I didn't even fully understand what it would mean to me - is "the joy of the Lord."  I've shared about it before, but it seems I keep understanding and experiencing it at deeper levels.

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

I know the Bible promises that joy.  It sounds simple.  We can even take it for granted that it'll be there.  But I've been pondering what it actually means in a tangible, every day experience and walk of life in all that we face.  What does it look like?  How do I get it?  One thing I know for sure is that it can only come from Him.  Nothing the world has to offer can give us the joy that is our strength in the midst of suffering and trials.

For me, the joy of the Lord is:

-  a peace when turmoil rages all around me.

- a calm in the middle of a raging storm of pain and hardship.

- a deep comfort in facing grief and loss.

- a contentment that is totally unexplainable except for His grace.

- a happiness when everything is still very sad.

- a "rest" in my spirit even though tears are rolling down my cheeks.

- an ability to enjoy life in spite of tragic and difficult circumstances.

It's not a happy-go-lucky feeling.  It goes so much deeper than anything I can feel.  His joy is a bottomless well that I can draw on.  There is an abundant supply, and the well will never go dry.  No drought will dry up the well of His joy.  

His joy is a gift that we need to receive.  We can choose it.  We need to take hold of it.  We even need to practice it.  On some of my hardest days, I speak out obtaining His joy in these ways.  It's there, but I can't be passive about it.

I think one of the ways we can be active in receiving His joy is by believing that He truly loves us - that He delights in us.  I know from experience that the enemy loves to whisper lies in my ears that I'm not doing enough.  That I'm failing God.  That He's disappointed in me.  When that happens, I love to proclaim the truth of this verse:

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing."  Zephaniah 3:17

We can also be active in receiving His joy by spending time in His word and meditating on His promises.  We can enter into His comfort and joy by worshipping Him - even when we don't feel like it.  It's so important to remember who He is, to reflect on all He's done, and to proclaim His truth and promises.  It's hard not to have the joy that He gives when we're doing these things!

Happiness is a response we can have to our circumstances, but joy is the sweet gift that comes straight from the throne of grace.  In fact, the Greek word for joy and grace are almost identical.  They come from the same root word.  Joy (His grace) doesn't disappoint us in hard times.  It is our wonderful strength from the Father.  Nothing and no one can take it away!

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

"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

"Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy."  John 16:22

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

"I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow."  Jeremiah 31:13

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

"Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord Himself, is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation.  With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation."  Isaiah 12:2,3

As my journey continues and at time feels more intense than I can manage I'm putting all the things I've just written about into daily practice in my own life.  I'm grateful for His joy that is my strength.  It carries me through the hard days.

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd was very solemn and serious when I visited him this week.  I couldn't get even a little smile from him - or actually any response or reaction.  He was very attentive, but no response.  It was an unusual visit with him.  My intuition tells me that he's sad - possibly even feeling hopeless - on this long journey.  I shared news, played worship music, loved and encouraged him, showed him some photos, and prayed for him.  We continue to pray for encouragement, strength, and hope for his heart.

I was thinking recently about something I shared on my first cancer journey 4 years ago.  I learned about "kintsukuroi" (also known as kintsugi) from Japan.  It's the art of repairing broken pottery with gold.  The piece becomes more beautiful and valuable because of the repair work that has been done.  I've used the photo at the top of this post.

I have to admit that I feel scarred and broken from the journey we've been on.  I have physical scars from the various surgeries and treatments I've had.  I have lots of lines and wrinkles that have been added during this time!  The journey has definitely "aged" me.  I don't think my hair will ever be the same after losing all of it twice.  I don't have the same strength and stamina that I used to have after all I've been through.

There are invisible scars too - the ones on my heart, my mind, my emotions.  No one can seem them, but they are definitely there.

So, yes - I feel broken.  When I remembered about this pottery and how it is repaired......I felt the Lord speaking sweetly to my heart that what I can't see is the beauty He has brought into my life through His loving repairs!  God is the master artist of kintsukuroi.  He doesn't reject us or throw us away in our brokenness.  He creates something new and beautiful!

I think about the sweet intimacy with Him that I've experienced.  I think about the abundance of grace that He has poured out into my life.  I think about the miracles we've seen during this time.  I think about the Lord's strength that has helped me get through day by day.

I think about all the little "joys" that I have been blessed with - whales, rainbows, flowers, ocean beauty, sunsets.

I also think about the friends who have loved, supported, encouraged, and cared for me.  I think about all of those who have prayed for us.  I think about the financial gifts that have helped provide for Floyd's care.

When I think about all these things - I see in my mind's eye the broken places in my life being filled in with beautiful, shiny, rich gold.  I start to feel "whole" again.  And I know that in spite of the brokenness I will come through it all more beautiful than ever because of God's goodness.  I am so grateful!  I have nothing to complain about - only goodness to be thankful for.

"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."  Isaiah 61:3

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

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

"The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces."  Isaiah 25:8

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

"God, pick up the pieces.  Put me back together again.  You are my praise!"  Jeremiah 17:14  (The Message)

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."  Romans 8:18

"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

We don't have to hide our brokenness.  God pours the "gold" of His healing power into our lives and brings restoration.  We can become strong in the broken places.  How amazing and awesome He is!

We went from chilly spring days to boiling hot temperatures literally overnight.  It's very hot! 

Tomorrow marks 12 years that we have been in South Africa.  The years have flown by.  We're very grateful that God brought us to live here.  It's truly home to us.  We love this land and its people!  This Sat. is the 3rd "It's Time!" prayer gathering.  Wonderful things have happened in response to the previous 2 gatherings, so we're asking God for more of His work in our land.

When Floyd suddenly became ill, one of the most impactful things that happened to me was missing his daily presence in my life.  Our conversations, the fun we had together, his sweet hugs and warm smile, our lovely fellowship in journeying life together - it was all suddenly gone.  Even when he traveled, which he did frequently, we stayed in daily communication.

Then - it was gone.  He was in a hospital bed - laying in a world of silence to not speak again.  I felt the "aloneness" intensely.  I have many friends here, and they have been so helpful and supportive. They have helped fill the gap to some degree, but no one could replace my gentle giant.

On the one hand it's lovely that I haven't lost him completely - but on the other hand I feel like I lose him all over again each time I go to see him and come home to the empty house.  My husband is still alive, and yet I feel like I've been a widow for 2 1/2 years already.

The aloneness is a weight - and a gaping hole in my life.  But over the months, the Lord started ministering to my heart.  The encouragement of the Spirit, and the Lord's constant presence in my life began to lift the weight from my heart and mind.  Then one day revelation struck - "aloneness" is an illusion that the enemy tries to burden us with.  We are never truly alone - the Lord is always, constantly with us.  Even when we "feel" alone, it's a lie.  Feelings come and go, but God's presence is a steady, constant truth.  We aren't alone - He is with us, carrying us, holding our hand, ministering to us. 

As I began to take hold of this truth, I have walked in a new level of comfort from the Lord.  It didn't happen immediately.  The house still feels empty.  I still miss Floyd being here.  But I was able to press into a new level of fellowship with the Lord that helped lift the burden of being alone.

It's kind of hard to explain, so I hope my attempt to communicate this is coming through clearly.  It's very personal, but I wanted to share it because I think many of us struggle with different types of "aloneness."  Whatever it is that we feel we've lost that leaves us alone - it is an allusion because God is always, always, always with us.  We are never alone!  I take great strength and comfort in that.

"The Lord your God is with you wherever you go."  Joshua 1:9

"The Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you."  Deuteronomy 31:6

"I will be with you always, even until the end of the world."  Matthew 28:20

"Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me."  Psalm 23:4

"God has said, 'I will never fail you.  I will never abandon you.' " Hebrews 13:5

God is WITH me.  I am never alone.  Every moment of my life is good and meaningful because of that.  How grateful I am for His continual presence.  Because He's with me, I don't have to fear anything that is ahead of me.  He's so faithful!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd is feeling better, but also still sleeping a lot.  On Sat. he had a sweet visit with a friend from overseas.  They had ministered together in the middle east to refugees before Floyd became sick.  He spent time sharing reports from around the world with him.  I know that would have blessed Floyd's heart.

This week 4 friends had a sweet, precious time with him.  They said the presence of the Lord was so strong in the room.  At the end, he gave them a big smile.

I wish I had kept a record of everyone that has visited Floyd.  It's really been quite remarkable!  So many friends from around-the-world have been here.  The outpouring of love and affection has been so special.  And, of course, the dear ones on the Care Team who go regularly is a blessing of immense proportions.

When I pray and ask the Lord for healing or heaven for Floyd, I ask the Lord if it's heaven to please take him gently without a lot more suffering.  It's so agonizing to see him suffer intensely, and not be able to do anything to relieve it.  I'm so grateful that he has improved.

On this "unexpected" journey that we're on, I find that sadness and grief impact my heart at "unexpected" times too.  I had a good example of that this week.  A church here in Cape Town and All Nations are co-hosting a conference this week on reaching the cities.  Floyd has such a heart for the cities of the world, and would have loved to be part of this gathering.  He smiled when I told him about it, and I've prayed with him for the conference.

I had the privilege of sharing for a few minutes in the opening session on behalf of Floyd.  In the midst of that, my heart was suddenly impacted with grief.  The thought raced through my mind that Floyd should be there - he should be speaking.  As soon as I finished, I went outside with tears streaming down my face.

I had no idea this would happen.  It was so unexpected.  But I've been learning that sadness and grief can strike at any time.  I'm choosing to let the tears come, to let the sadness surface as I know it has a healing and cleansing benefit.

For all of us - whatever the sadness and grief is that we might be walking through - it's so important to not bottle it up.....to let it surface and be expressed.  I think that's how God ministers His healing grace to us......in little doses over time.  He keeps cleansing the "wound" of sadness until it's fully healed.  It may take years.  God knows the timetable that is best for each of us.

Jesus can empathize with our sorrow.  He has walked through suffering.  He is able to help carry our grief, and pour His love into our pain.  He wipes away the tears we cry with His love and grace.  He never leaves us alone to cope with the sorrow.

Shortly after all this happened, someone asked to pray for me.  Their prayer was for "unexpected" joy.  I love that, because I've experienced it!  In the midst of all the loss and sadness......there has also been rich joy.  At first when I experienced it I felt guilty for being joyful.  But I've come to realize that it's, once again, the way God in His lovingkindness balances out the "scales" in our lives.  Too much grief and sadness would destroy us - so He compensates with special joys along the way.

The joys come in an amazing variety of ways.  A big smile from Floyd.  A hug from a friend.  A word of encouragement from a friend or even a stranger.  Beautiful flowers.  A stunning sunset.  The majestic beauty of the ocean.  Seeing whales in our bay - which I saw this week.  (It's late in the season, so it was truly an unexpected joy.  God knows how much it would mean to me.)  A song of worship.  A scripture passage that seems to speak right to my heart.  The tweeting of birds out my window.  The list goes on and on.  God knows what ministers joy to my heart, and is continually bringing those joys to me.  Many, perhaps most, of the joys are small.  It would be easy to miss them if we're not looking.

It's been an unexpected journey.  Unexpected events - unexpected sorrow - and unexpected joy.....all held together in the Lord's loving and faithful care.  He is so good and faithful.  He never gives more than we can bear.  He is with us continually.  And He gives sufficient strength and grace to help me keep moving forward.

"God blesses those people who grieve.  They will find comfort."  Matthew 5:4

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

"He was...a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief."  Isaiah 53:3

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

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

"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."  Psalm 118:24  Even if it's a sad day - I can rejoice in His goodness and faithfulness!

On the days when the grief is there, I know that joy will also come.  It's easy to feel that I'll always be sad because of the weight of things.  But that's not true.  The sad times, the times of grief, are hard, but our loving Father will walk with us through them.  He'll bring good - joy!! - into our lives in ways that only He can.  How grateful l am for His lovingkindness!

We are in spring here in South Africa.  I think it's my favorite season of the year.  I love the variety of greens of new growth on the trees and plants and in the fields.  After our severe drought - and then the "answer to prayer" rains of winter - we have an abundance of spring flowers this year.  The fields, sidewalks, and gardens are full of gorgeous blooms.  It is so pretty!

Everything had been so brown and dead - and now it's green and blooming.  The new life is amazing!  It's a wonderful visual example of the new life God can bring into our lives in His own unique way - especially after seasons of dryness.  I usually pray, sing, and chat to the Lord when I'm driving - and with this spring beauty all around us, I thank Him for His goodness and new life.

I grew up singing Gospel music.  In fact I sang in a girls trio for a number of years.  I love a lot of the songs from that genre.  I've recently been singing one that takes me back to my "roots."  When I played it for Floyd and told him it would take him back to his roots too, he smiled as he listened to it.

The words express what my heart is feeling and singing as I thank the Lord for His goodness and new life.

"That's a hallelujah, that's a praise Him,

That's a glory be and blessed be His name.

Has He been faithful?  Don't it make you grateful?

Every time the Lord has been good to ya, that's a hallelujah.

Every day you wake up God is up to something new,

So go ahead and thank Him for what He's yet to do."

I have SO much to thank Him for.  He is so good, so faithful, and so at work in my life at every level.  It's definitely something to praise Him for and to sing hallelujah for!

"Let them....tell of His works with songs of joy."  Psalm 107:22

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

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

"Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for the spiritual blessings that Christ has brought us from heaven."  Ephesians 1:3 CEV

There is so much to thank Him for - to sing a hallelujah for, to praise Him for, to be grateful for, and to thank Him for what He's yet to do.  He has been so exceedingly faithful to me and to our family.  I can't help but rejoice and sing His praises......even on hard days!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has not been doing well this past week.  It breaks my heart to see him suffer so.  His condition reminds me of some of the early days on this journey.  He's sleeping a lot, his blood pressure is low, the congestion is there, and he's definitely been miserable.  

Thankfully, the last two days have been a bit better.  I continue to pray for relief - asking God again for healing or heaven.

On my last visit, I played a song - "we are not alone, God is with us" - for Floyd.  I reminded him that he's never, ever alone.  I prayed this for him, and rebuked any lies of the enemy that would make him think differently.  This seemed to be meaningful to him and I’m praying for this truth to be ministered to his heart continually.

The sadness of the week increased for me as Floyd's dog, Sossy, went to doggy heaven.  She's had a long life - over 15 years, but it all happened quite quickly and suddenly.  I'm not the "dog person" in our family, but I'm finding it very emotional that she is gone.  I think because she was Floyd's dog - it's a link that is gone.  For being a smallish dog, she cast a big presence in the house.  I miss her a lot.

I’ve been praying and talking to the Lord about some things that are heavy on my heart.  The Lord's help and grace is there for me each day, but some things weigh on my spirit - like seeing Floyd suffer.  As I was praying, the Lord reminded me of the gift He's given to His children of being able to "cast their burdens" on Him.

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

God never intended for us to carry the weight of our burdens around with us all the time.  He provided for us, made a way for us, to be able to give them to Him so that we aren't weighed down with the cares of life.  I am so very grateful for that - I need it.

Many years ago I was walking in relationship with someone.  We were very different from each other.  We had some tensions and misunderstandings.  Occasionally some things were said that were hurtful.  Rather than dealing with them, my response was to put those hurts in an invisible sack that I carried around with me.  I thought I could just deal with it myself.

Well one day the load from that invisible sack just got too heavy, and the bag burst open in a conversation we were having.  Everything came rushing out all at once.  I should have never been carrying all that hurt around.  I should have been dealing with it each time something happened.  We sorted things out, but it wasn't easy.

The Lord doesn't want us to carry our burdens around with us in some invisible sack.  He wants us to "cast" them onto His capable shoulders to carry.  If I had done what I did earlier in my life with the burdens of this journey I'm on - I think I would be destroyed by now.  I'm so thankful that I can give the burdens of this journey to Him.  He is able to deal with them for me.

During another season in my life I was "casting" some burdens on the Lord - but it seemed like during the day I kept taking them back.  One morning during my quiet time I took a throw pillow and threw it across the room.  I said to the Lord "I'm giving you this burden.....I'm throwing it onto your shoulders, and I'm not taking it back."  That physical symbolism of throwing the pillow was a constant reminder to me then, when I was tempted to take the burden back, that I had given it to the Lord.

I'm giving these current burdens to the Lord......and I'm going to try my best to leave them at the foot of the cross where they belong.  I haven't thrown a pillow yet, but I will if I need to. :)

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

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:6,7

"Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?"  Isaiah 58:6

"I lifted the burden from your shoulder."  Psalm 81:6

"Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"  Matthew 6:27

I thank the Lord for carrying my burdens on this journey.  One by one, each day, I've been able to give the weights and burdens to Him.  I'm doing it again today.  He has been so faithful to me!

I've also been reflecting for a while now on how many of God's promises and prophetic words to us begin with an "if."  There often seems to be a role we have to play in the things we are praying for.  We're waiting on God - but perhaps He is waiting on us.

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

Peter had to "get out of the boat" before he experienced the miracle of walking on the water with Jesus.

The disciples had to start feeding the multitude with the few loaves and fishes after Jesus blessed them before they saw the multiplication of the food.

The servants had to obey and fill the jars with water before they saw the miracle of Jesus turning the water into wine.

There often seems to be steps we have to take before we see the full provision of God's power and answers to our prayers.  I think I would have been so frightened if I'd been in Peter's shoes!  But he had to get out of that boat.

"If" is a small - but very powerful and big word in the Bible.  It has to do with our response to God.  Jesus used "if" a lot.  It's used 574 times in the New Testament, with over half of those being in the Gospels.  Jesus always spoke of  "if" on man's side and of "never" on God's side.  He understood the roles we had to play - and how God would help us.

The "ifs," our responsibility, can seem daunting until you realize that God also promises that His "grace will be sufficient."  He wants us to obey, to choose, but He undergirds us with His strength to help us.  

In all the prayers I'm lifting to the Lord, I'm asking Him to help me fulfill the "ifs" of my part - with His grace, strength, help, and wisdom.  And I'm trusting Him to do what only HE can do!

"All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God."  Deuteronomy 28:2

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  Galatians 6:9

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."  Romans 10:9

"Now listen to me if you are wise.  Pay attention to what I say."  Job 34:16

"If you have ears, pay attention!"  Mark 4:23  CEV

"If you hear His voice today, don't be stubborn!"  Hebrews 4:7  CEV

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  1 John 1:9

"If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples."  John 8:31

I continually ask God to help me be faithful on this unexpected journey we're on.  I'm so grateful for His daily grace and strength that helps me as I try to fulfill the "ifs."  

Our Unexpected Journey

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I was with some friends praying for Floyd in his hospital room last weekend.  It was a precious time of prayer.  The Lord's presence was close and sweet.  I almost expected to see angels hovering over us.  Maybe they were. :)  

Floyd was particularly alert - joining in our prayers with "blinks" and smiles.  I think he was praying with us in his heart.

A friend reminded me recently of a quote from a teaching Floyd gave in April 2011 to our school here in Cape Town.  He wrote down Floyd's words verbatim in his notes:

"A gospel of prosperity will not bring transformation to the world.  Rather, a theology of suffering and sacrifice will.  It wasn't prosperity that drove Paul to the nations.  It was suffering.  It wasn't prosperity that led Jesus to Calvary.  It was suffering and sacrifice."

The friend said these words seemed to flow right from Floyd's heart.  I've reflected on them a number of times in recent days.  Perhaps they were prophetic.  I can't say, but I know Floyd believed them.

Suffering and hard times are a "gift" that isn't appreciated.  I can't say that I'm a fan.  And yet I see the beauty, the good things that come out of suffering that can't come any other way.  There has been beauty on this long unexpected journey.  I'm grateful for it even though it has been hard.

And now, after fresh prayers last weekend - we wait to see if God will release Floyd from this suffering.  We wait in His presence with expectant hearts.  Perhaps the answer will be grace to continue to persevere rather than release.  All I can do is keep trusting our good Father!

"Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer."  Romans 12:12 AMP

"Be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord."  Psalm 31:24

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

"Consider it all joy....when you encounter various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance."  James 1:2,3

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

"Jesus looked at them and said to them, 'With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.' " Matthew 19:26 

We often pray for the "mountain" of difficulty in our lives to be moved.  We've struggled with a problem, a conflict, a trial, a suffering.  It feels like a huge mountain in our life.  I've learned that God usually doesn't change or remove the mountain - He changes us.  I've been changed by this journey we've been on.  I'm grateful for the changes He's brought in my life.  

On this long unexpected journey that we've been on with it's roller coaster dynamics, there have been so many emotions.  There have been good days.  There have been hard days.  There have been times when it seems like the sun is shining brightly.  And there have been times when it feels like the darkest of nights.

I was having one of those down days recently when it seemed like so many things were weighing on my heart - and my body was struggling with some of the treatments I'm walking through.  I was choosing to worship and praise the Lord in the midst of the hard day, but I could feel the heaviness of things.

I found myself meditating on Psalm 139.  It's such a beautiful, powerful psalm.  There are words of encouragement all the way through it!  But I was particularly struck by this passage in verses 7 - 12:

"Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,'  even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."

Verse 12 stood out to me like it was printed in bold type!  When we feel we're going through darkness, through hard days - God's light is continually shining in all it's might and brightness into our souls because darkness and light are the same to Him.  His presence, His power, His strength, His help, His grace is the same 24/7.  There is no "dark" time of the day in His provision.  The "night shines like day" with our wonderful God.

Last year when I was so weak and frail from my treatment, and I wasn't sure I was going to make it - there were times in the lonely hours of the night when I  would lay awake.  I would think of the light of His presence shining into my room, warming me, keeping me company, holding my hand, and helping me get through the night.

It doesn't matter how hard, how dark our trial seems to be.....the light of His presence is always shining because "darkness is as light" to Him.  What a comfort and strength that is on the hard days!  I am so grateful that His "right hand holds me fast!"  We can't "get away" from His presence.  He is with us continually!!  How faithful He is. 

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd's days have been a bit up and down.  Two friends that he hasn't seen in quite a while were with him for a sweet visit.  He was very responsive, and seemed to enjoy their time with him.  On another day, he seemed weak and lethargic.  Then the following day he was feisty. There's no way to know what is happening in his heart and mind.  All we can do is take "clues" from what happens.  I have felt to pray afresh for peace, comfort, courage, and grace for him.  

In a recent time with our All Nations staff, we had a teaching and time of discussion on the testings that come into our lives.  It's something I have been reflecting on personally too.

I don't think God causes the trials and testings that come our way.  We live in a fallen world, so we'll have lots of things thrown at us without God having to cause them!  But God, in His goodness and faithfulness, uses those trials for good.  He teaches us through them.  He brings growth into our lives.  He develops our character.  He "redeems" the testings in ways that only He can.

In the last 2 1/2 years it seems like almost every area of my life has gone through some kind of trial and testing.  It's been hard - beyond belief hard!  But it's also been good.  God has used these trials in so many positive ways in my life.  The most precious has been that it's drawn me so much closer to Him.  I've grown deeper in my walk with Him and trust in Him.

In the midst of our trials and testings, God's love is bestowed upon us in special ways.  He has compassion on us.  He understands that we are weak, that we grow weary, and that we often lack understanding.  He brings good out of all of this through His great love for us.  His love and care for us in the midst of the trials in unending and unfailing.

Too often we blame God when a hard time comes.  We distance ourselves from Him because of anger - and by doing so we can miss the very things we need......His grace, His strength, His care, His wisdom, His protection, His tender mercies.  He's not upset or displeased with us.  He's right with us!  I'm not a fan of trials and testings, but I am so grateful for His provision to me when I'm walking through them.

I've been listening to a song by Wintley Phipps.  He gave a short testimony before he sang.  A statement he made has impacted my heart.  "It is in the quiet crucible of your personal, private sufferings that your noblest dreams are born - and God's greatest gifts are given in compensation for what you've been through."

I wrote before in one of my early updates that God brings compensations into our lives.  It's His way of balancing the scales, so to speak.  "The Lord is just in all His ways."  Psalm 145:17.  He doesn't take something away or require something of us without replacing it, compensating us with something of equal, or usually greater, importance, value, and significance.  I've seen it time and time again in my life.  If we open our "eyes" to see it, it's there.

God is the Master of balancing the scales in our lives.  I trust Him to bring gifts that only He can give from the trials and testings of our lives.  He is abundantly faithful to do that!  

"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

"Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."  2 Corinthians 4:17

"Consider it all joy....when you encounter various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance."  James 1:2,3

"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

"Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job.  Instead, be glad that you are in the thick of what Christ experienced.  This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner."  1 Peter 4:12,13  The Message

As long as we are on this earth, we'll face trials and testings.  How we respond to them is more important than the test itself - because the response of our heart carries our eternal values.  The test will eventually come to an end, but the impact of it will last with us for eternity.  On this long, unexpected journey with all the trials and testings we've encountered, I've asked God to help me respond in a right way.  I believe He is using this season for good in my life!  I'm so grateful to Him.

This week we had a national holiday in South Africa - Heritage Day.  I woke up thanking the Lord for the wonderful heritage we have in our family.  My mother and Floyd's parents were such Godly examples to us in their walk with God.  And they were powerful intercessors!  They modeled for us how to pray - how to trust God for answers to our prayers.  I'm so grateful for their impact in my life.

Recently I've had conversations with some people about the delay in seeing answers to some of our prayers.  It can be frustrating, disappointing, and can cause us to give up hope when we don't see answers to the prayers we are lifting up to Him.  

When we petition God for things, He may say "yes."  He may say "no."  Or He may say "wait."  I think the answer we find the hardest to deal with is the waiting!  We live in a time when everything is instantaneous.  We're not used to waiting - and we often don't do it very well.  

We have been faithful in asking God for some things, for healings, for miracles.  Many have prayed!  We haven't given up.  So why aren't we seeing more of the answers we're asking God for?  I certainly don't have all the answers.  But there are a few things that have helped my heart in looking at this.

I think one reason is we don't see things from God's perspective!  We see things through our "finite" eyes.  God sees the "big" picture.  He may already be answering our prayers, but we just can't see it yet.  The delays aren't because God doesn't care, and they're not because He can't answer.  The delays are for our good - even if we can't see or understand the delay.

His timing is often different from ours too.  There may be some important reasons why our prayers have not been answered yet.  God may be doing things in the interim.  He may be preparing for the answers.  He may even be planning to answer in a different way.

It's so important that we don't allow our trust in God to be undermined through delay in the answers to our prayers.  The enemy would love that!  God is good and faithful!  He loves us, He cares, He suffers with us.  The circumstances don't change who He is.

I find it important to thank Him for things He IS doing!  I'm surrounded by them.  I need to thank Him for those things while I wait for the answers to prayers that I'm still lifting up to Him.

I hope someday that God can explain some of the delays to us......but I'm convinced that one of the things He is teaching me, and all of us, is perseverance.  In this day and age of everything being "instant" - we can forget what it means to persevere.  Perseverance is one of the ways of God that are found all through the Word.  It's an important character trait for us to have in our walk with the Lord.  Being willing to persevere in prayer, and in other ways, is often a test for us 

I've been listening to a song by Elevation Worship called "Won't Stop Now."

"I give you glory through all you've brought me through

And now I'm ready for whatever you wanna do.

In every season your grace has been enough.

I'm believing the best is yet to come.

I know breakthrough is coming."

I'd love to see the miracle answers that we're praying for.  I'd love that encouragement for everyone who is praying.  But the delay is where our faith comes in.  I don't understand the delays, but I trust our wonderful Lord.  He's faithful.  He's brought me though.  I'm ready for whatever He's going to do.  I won't stop praying now!

"Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up."  Luke 18:1-8  The parable of the persistent widow in these verses is a powerful example to us of persevering in prayer.

"Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer."  Romans 12:12

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

"Pray without ceasing."  1 Thessalonians 5:17

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

God is not going to get upset with us for praying - for continuing to ask Him for answers to our prayers.  He's given us an open door to come to Him with our petitions.  He loves for us to ask.  He wants us to persevere.  And He has answers in store for us - in His perfect way and in His perfect time.

Our Unexpected Journey

Floyd is a bit better from the congestion that he struggles with.  We are grateful for answered prayer!  

This week I got the results of my biopsy.  I'm not sure if it's good news or bad news.  The results were "inconclusive."  I'm relieved that I didn't receive a verdict of the cancer returning - but we still aren't sure what is going on.  I need to wait now for the inflammation from the biopsy to heal, and then I'll be doing a PET scan.

In the meantime, I'll continue all the things I've been doing for taking care of myself - and keep praying for healing.  

The last few days I've felt like I've been on that roller coaster again.  It's exhausting!  Sarah Young says that when we come to the Lord's table of His goodness, we need "to be sure to bring our fork of trust and our spoon of thankfulness."  That's what I've been doing.

I continually speak out my trust in God's goodness and sovereignty, and I thank Him for who He is and all that He's doing.  Choosing to do this keeps me from worrying about the future and what's ahead.  A day before my results, I had a phone call that seemed ominous about the report.  It immediately brought fear.  

I was surprised at how quickly that emotion could pop its head up.  I needed to stop it immediately before it took root in my heart.  Trust and thankfulness were my protection.  It was like putting on armor to keep the darts of fear from penetrating.  I'm so grateful for these weapons of warfare!

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

"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

"I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation."  Psalm 13:5

"Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His deeds in songs of joy!"  Psalm 107:22

I saw someone this week that I haven't seen for a while.  They encouraged me that I look really well - healthy.  I'm receiving that as encouragement that my inner body is healthy too!

Someone sent me a photo of the beautiful spring tulips pressing their way out of the frozen, snow covered ground.  I love it!  I identify with those tulips.  I have used the picture at the top of this post for you to see.

It sometimes feels like I've been walking through a barren, frozen, snow covered path all these months.  Much in our lives feels "suspended" in time.  Life is on hold.  Things can't move forward.  We deal with what's happening, but we're staying in the same place.....no movement.  One of our family said:  "Life moves on all around us, but this life for us doesn't move......at least that which we see with our finite eyes.  We're in an emotional and spiritual "suspension."  

This feeling of suspension is a strange one.  Sometimes I look at everyone around me - it seems like life is full and active for them - while I feel like I'm in the same place, never moving.

But in the midst of this - God holds us together.  I/we couldn't make it otherwise.  I feel like those yellow and red tulips.....reaching for the sun, ready to come into the world.  They've had the strength to press through the frozen ground and live!  That's what I'm trying, choosing to do.

There is no frozen ground, no hardness, no pain, no suffering, no trial that we can't "break through" with His grace, help, and strength!  Be it a "little" situation - or an earth shattering one, God will be with us and help us survive and blossom into fresh life and hope.  He created us this way.

I heard someone say that when the dream, the word, the thing we're praying for seems the furthest away, it's the closest to us.  We've been praying for breakthroughs, for healing, for change - and I don't know if it's close or far.  But the one thing I'm assured of is that God is close to us in the midst of all this.  Closer than the air we breathe.  I rest in His closeness.  And I press through the frozen ground towards the sun!

"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul."  Psalm 143:8

"Those who hope in me will not be disappointed."  Isaiah 49:23b

"God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."  Revelation 21:4

"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.  Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow."  Isaiah 55:12,13

"For you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.  And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall."  Malachi 4:2

"For nothing is impossible with God."  Luke 1:37

How wonderful that our faithful God is with us in every season - helping us to reach for the sun! 

Our Unexpected Journey

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This week I received news that a good friend, who has been suffering with a severe illness for 11 years, was miraculously healed.  She is well!!  I, along with many others, have often prayed for her.  I am rejoicing with her!  And I'm encouraged to keep praying for more miracles.  God is alive and well and at work!

I keep praying for God's sovereign will for Floyd - be that healing or heaven.  I keep asking for miracles - and I keep telling the Lord I trust Him.  It's a good place to be - in the hands of God!  

The chest congestion that Floyd often struggles with has returned with a vengeance.  He has been quite miserable this week.  A friend who is visiting went to him yesterday, but Floyd was feeling so bad that he really didn't connect with the friend and the carer.  He usually loves these visits.  I hate to see Floyd suffer like this, so we continue to pray for the congestion to be cleared up.

Apart from the horrible congenstion Floyd is at peace.  You can sense it when you're with him.  In my recent visit with him, I prayed again for God's will in our lives.

I recently wrote about the adversities that we go through - and how God helps us through them.  Since then my mind has been pondering on how we can be joyful, happy even, in the midst of adversity.  We can be in the midst of sadness and sorrow - and still be joyful.  I know - it sounds contradictory, but it's not.

For me it comes down to what I focus on.  I can focus on the trials, the pain, the sadness, the things I've lost - or I can focus on who God is, on His goodness and faithfulness in the middle of the trial.  It's something I need to choose.  A friend sent me this picture.

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I love that picture.  We can be happy even if we don't "win."  Not because of the results - but because of how we choose to look at them.  I have found it so important in the midst of hard days to say "thank you Jesus" for the good things in the hard day.  We can be joyful because of our walk with the Lord, because of the hope He gives us, and because of His faithfulness to us on the journey.

There's an old hymn that I've been singing - "Count Your Blessings."  The words say - "count your blessings, name them one by one; count your blessings see what God has done, count your many blessings.....and it may surprise you what the Lord has done."

I have practiced counting my blessings - making a list of them.  It never ceases to amaze me how many blessings I have.....even in the midst of hard times on this long, unexpected journey!  I am still "rich" with blessings.

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."  Romans 12:12

"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.  Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow."  Isaiah 55: 12,13

"For the despondent, every day brings trouble: for the happy heart, life is a continual feast."  Proverbs 15:15

"Always be full of joy in the Lord.  I say it again, rejoice!"  Philippians 4:4

"This is the day the Lord has made.  We will rejoice and be glad in it."  Psalm 118:24

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

"A joyful heart is good medicine."  Proverbs 17:22

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  Philippians 4:8

I'm grateful for God's joy and happiness in the midst of hard times.  What a precious gift that is to my heart.  I'm choosing to think on His goodness.

As I've been preparing for my biopsy surgery, I have been at peace - until just a couple days ago.  Then I woke up one morning feeling very anxious.  It kinda caught me off guard.  I was on my way to our weekly All Nations staff gathering where they gathered around to pray for me.  It was just what I needed.  I'm so very grateful to be surrounded by prayer.  

The Lord has also been preparing my heart with a verse from Psalm 139:5 - "You go before me and follow me.  You place your hand of blessing on my head."  Another version says "you hem me in.” 

It gives me such sweet confidence to know the Lord goes before me and follows me - He hems me in.  I'm not alone.  He has prepared the way before me, and He comes along behind me.  I'm surrounded.

I sometimes pray for the Lord to put a hedge of protection around me.  I picture in my mind big tall bushes, a hedge, all around me as I go through the day - trusting that God is keeping things from getting through to me.

On Wednesday as I went for the biopsy surgery, I carried this image with me.  I felt the Lord's presence "hemming me in."  The biopsy turned out to be quite painful, but it didn't take long.  I'm sore now, quite exhausted from all that happened - but I'm at peace.  Now I wait for the results.  I'm praying and trusting for "good" ones.

I felt carried through the day.  I kept looking for angels, but didn't see any - but I had some sweet nurses, doctors, and orderlies taking care of me.

"Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side?  You have blessed the work of his hands."  Job 1:10

"Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever.  Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy."  Psalm 5:11

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

"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by."  Psalm 57:1

"I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot slip - He who watches over you will not slumber.....The Lord will keep you from all harm - He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."  Psalm 121

The Lord's presence went before me, followed me, and I felt His peace and blessing with me.  I'm especially grateful for that on days like that when I miss Floyd being with me.  I’m also so thankful for all the prayers that were covering me too.  I'm so grateful!

Our Unexpected Journey

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I have always been amazed that God can, and does, use me.  In my eyes, I see all my needs and weaknesses.  But God, in His love and grace, finds ways to take my humble offering and bring good from it.  It never, ever ceases to surprise me.

On this unexpected journey we've been on, I have felt incredibly weak.  I am so grateful for all of the prayers that are being prayed for me.  I have felt supported and carried by them.

In the updates that I write I've shared things that the Lord is saying to me, teaching me.  I marvel at His sweet lessons.  I love that God can take the pain and suffering, and bring such wonderful lessons of His goodness from this season.  

And I always marvel, too, when people write and tell me how helped and blessed they are by what I'm learning.  Only God can put all that together!  It reminds me of the verse in Genesis 41:52:  "It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering."  

God takes our weakness and frailty - speaks into it - and uses it to help and bless others.  He takes our lemons and makes lemonade. :)

I saw a one minute video clip that says this better than I can.  I am sharing it below.  Please take time to watch it.  It will make you smile - and will bless you with the powerful message at the end.

"Dear friends, 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

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."  2 Corinthians 1:3,4

"We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."  Romans 8:28

"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."  Psalm 119:71

I'm grateful that even in our weakness, God can use us.  He's not dependent on us - "His power is made perfect in our weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)  God takes our simple offerings - and uses them for His honor and glory - bringing good out of pain, strength out of weakness, and joy out of sorrow.  How awesome He is!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had a good week.  A pastor friend visited him this week.  He and one of the carers had a special time with Floyd of recounting God's goodness through the years, and worshipping God together.  

I was finally over the flu, and able to visit Floyd.  He greeted me with a big smile.  A friend who loves surfing visited him, and told Floyd lots of stories - including rescuing a man in the ocean.  Floyd seemed to enjoy all the tales.

If you're like me, you probably don't like waiting.  I feel like I'm losing time - like there's something that should be happening, something I should be doing, something I want to move on to......instead of waiting.  Just hearing the word - waiting - I sometimes feel an emotional reaction to the word.

Waiting can be hard.  It can seem long.  It can seem like a waste.  It can feel like we're spinning our wheels, but not going anywhere.  I can be good at getting in a hurry.  I like to get things done.  I like to check things off my list.  And I can get tired, and weary in the waiting!

The enemy will try to discourage us in the waiting process.  He will whisper lies in our ear.  He will tell us that God isn't listening - that He's not going to answer our prayers - that we're not worthy - that He doesn't care.  The enemy has an endless supply of accusations against God.

But one of the lessons I've been learning on this journey is that something happens in the waiting.  In fact, there are hidden treasures to be found in the waiting.  The more difficult the situation, the more things we are lifting up to the Lord in prayer - the more treasure there is to be found.

Waiting and trusting go hand in hand.  If we wait without trust - we probably wait in vain.  There's no foundation for the waiting.  We, in fact, are able to wait because of our trust in a God who is at work, and we wait to see His answers to our prayers.  We can entrust our unanswered prayers into His safe keeping - knowing that His ways and His timing are perfect.

In the waiting time, God draws us close to His heart.  He teaches us lessons.  He grows our character.  He purifies us.  He shows us His ways.  He brings revelation and understanding of the Word.  He speaks His encouragement into our heart, and gives us strength and grace to endure.  He never leaves us in the waiting.  He continually holds our hand, and leads us into what He is doing in our lives as we wait.  And He prepares us for the answers to the prayers.

There are a number of prayers I've lifted to the Lord that I'm waiting for.  I've seen answers to many of them - but there are others that I feel like I've been waiting for forever.  Some predate this current unexpected journey!  And yet, I've seen the "hidden treasures" in the waiting.  If God had answered all my prayers immediately, I would have missed out on these treasures.

I've been contemplating all this - pondering it......looking at some of the treasures I've found while waiting......and asking God what He's doing in my life while I wait.  I daily speak out my trust in Him.  I keep my hand in His while I wait.  And I'm expectant to see what answers are ahead.

In this process - I came across a short video clip about the Chinese bamboo tree.  I'm including it below.  It's a tree that must be watered and fertilized in the ground for 5 years before it starts to grow - and then it reaches 90 feet tall in 5 weeks.  Utterly amazing!

I think some of my prayers are in that process.  I'm watering and fertilizing them - and waiting!

"In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly."  Psalm 5:3

"The Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.  For the Lord is a God of justice.  Blessed are all who wait for Him!"  Isaiah 30:18

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."  Psalm 27:14

"If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."  Romans 8:25

"As for me, I look to the Lord for help.  I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me."  Micah 7:7

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope."  Psalm 130:5

"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.  I say to myself, 'The Lord is my potion; therefore I will wait for Him.' "  Lamentations 3:22-24

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

The Word is jam-packed, filled with verses about waiting on Him.  It's one of the ways He helps us grow.  

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had a good week.  He has been peaceful - but alert and responsive with the carers.  The chest congestion has been mostly good, but continues to go up and down.  We continue to pray for this.

A friend made a statement in a recent letter that caught my attention.  "The circumstances don't alter the calling."  I've meditated on that in relation to the circumstances of our 30 month unexpected journey.  It's been quite a roller coaster ride - so many ups and downs, so many challenging circumstances.

Floyd and I have had a calling on our lives to reach the unreached and to train others to do that - but mostly our calling is to love the Lord, to trust Him, and to follow His direction for our lives.  That certainly hasn't changed regardless of what we are going through.  In fact, that calling has taken on new depth of trust and a new intimacy of love and devotion.  We're walking a path I wouldn't have chosen, but one that He has allowed into our lives.  I'm so grateful for His help with each step of this journey.

I've known, in fact I've taught, that how we respond to trials and tests (the circumstances) in our lives is more important than the test itself.  The responses in our heart have eternal value.  They "stick" with us.

Amy Carmichael has said "The eternal essence of a thing is not in the thing itself but in one's reaction to it.  The distressing situation will pass, but one's reaction toward it will leave a moral and spiritual deposit in his character that is eternal."  I first read that statement decades ago, but it has always remained vivid in my mind. 

We'll always have hard times.  Trials are part of life.  Tests come when we least expect them.  And suffering - most of us face it at some point in our lives.  We can't escape these things here on earth.  The key is how we respond to them.  Do we set our heart towards trust in God?  Do we choose not to become angry or bitter?  Do we cling to His hand in faith as we walk the difficult path?  Do we persevere no matter what?  These responses are the real test!!

I've wanted to respond the right way to the sufferings we've been walking through - but I'm keenly aware I can't do it in my own strength.  I've had to call upon His grace, His help, His strength.  He has been faithful to come alongside and help me walk through our circumstances, helping me respond with eternity in mind.

I've listened to a song by Shane & Shane - "Though You Slay Me."  There's a powerful passage in the middle of the song from John Piper.  He talks about our trials and suffering being meaningful.  That God is doing something through them that we don't see or understand.  That God uses these hard times to prepare us for "an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."

I don't want the circumstances to alter my calling, and I want to respond in the right way to every trial that comes along.  I'm trusting God to help me with this.

"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."  2 Corinthians 4:17,18

"The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and He knows them that trust in Him."  Nahum 1:7

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

"The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, 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

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

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

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

"If we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."  Romans 8:17,18

These verses have all been so special to me.  With every bump in the road, with every challenging circumstance - I want to hold tightly to His hand in trust.  I want to persevere in our calling.

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had a quiet week.  His chest congestion was a bit better when I was with him, but he wasn't looking very well.  I'm sure the up and down nature of this congestion must be wearing on him.  He was alert, responsive, and very tender about things I shared with him.

One thing I shared was a testimony of how his book "The Father Heart of God" is being used to minister to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.  I received a very encouraging message from a therapist who uses Floyd's book in ministering the Father's love.  Floyd was very touched by this.

Last weekend Floyd had a special visitor.  It was a friend from our Heidebeek days in Holland.  That goes back a lot of years - to the 1970s!  There were smiles and tears as the friend told stories from those days, and thanked Floyd for the input into His life.  I'm so thankful for the dear people God has brought into our lives over the years!

I attended the memorial service of our dear friend this week.  It was a special time to honor him, and celebrate his life.  His family and friends have been grieving his sudden death.  He will be greatly missed.

Nothing can prepare us for the loss of a loved one.  And nothing can prepare us for the grief that follows.  Grief is part of the healing process that we need, but it's also very painful to walk through.  There's no set timetable for it.  We each have to walk through it in the way that we need.  It's the method God uses to cleanse our heart from the anguish, and bring us back to a place of wholeness.  It's part of the journey we embark on when we lose a loved one, or lose something precious to us.

I went back and read one of my prayer updates when I shared that we have to "grieve well to grow well."  I had pondered those words from a sermon of Floyd's.  I've been pondering them again.  There's such a powerful truth there. 

As I've grieved this week, I've been listening to Matt Redman's song "One Day" - his rendition of the classic song "When We All Get to Heaven."  I sang this song in my church growing up.  I think I know most of the words by heart.  It's an old song, but the words from this new rendition have taken on a fresh, deep meaning in facing the loss of our friend.  

"One day He'll make everything new.

One day He will bind every wound.

One day He'll make sense of it all.

One day every question will be resolved.

There'll be no more tears - no more fears - no more pain.

One day we'll be free!

When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be.  When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory."

We grieve those who have left us - seemingly much too soon.  But someday we'll bow at the Savior's feet and worship Him together.  In the meantime we must look to Him for comfort and healing of our broken hearts.

"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

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

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away."  Revelation 21:4

Walking through these days after the loss of our friend has touched on the tender places in my heart from Floyd's sudden illness - which brought the loss of our life together and our fellowship.  And I have no idea what's ahead.  God could heal him.  God could take him home.  Or He may allow this journey to continue on.  There's no way of knowing what's ahead.  The only certainty I have is that God will be with me.  That is what has comforted my heart during these days - and it's what gives me grace and strength to continue on our journey.

All my life I've heard and been taught that there is power in the name of Jesus.  I've experienced that when I've called out to Him.  When we pray in His name we tap in to His heart, His love, His strength, and His power to meet our every need.  The enemy hates the name of Jesus and trembles when he hears it.  Jesus has conquered death, hell, and the grave......and He can come to our rescue in times of need.

I know all this, but I've learned it and experienced it at new levels on this unexpected journey we've been on.  I've been in situations that I've never walked through before.  I've faced stress and pressures beyond anything I've had to cope with before.  I've needed counsel and wisdom for big decisions - bigger than any I've had to face before.  I've needed grace in greater measure.  I've needed much more strength to keep going on this journey - beyond anything I've needed before.  And I've needed this without my partner, my helpmate by my side.

In fact, it seems like at every level of my life - in every facet and category of my existence, I've needed Him so very much!  Sometimes I don't even know how to speak out my request, but I know I need Him so desperately.  I often just say "Help me Jesus!  I need you."  His name is the strong tower that I run to in my need.  (Proverbs 18:10)

The Bible says that "at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth - and every tongue will confess that He is Lord."  Philippians 2:10,11

By simply calling on His name, even whispering it if we're frail and weak, "Jesus" can change our situation.  Saying His name acknowledges my need of Him.  And He responds by coming near to me with His help for every need.

When I bow my heart before Him and speak out my trust and confidence in Him - I tap into the power and might of His help and provision for me.  I, a simple 70 year old lady in South Africa, can call upon the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to come rescue and help me.

On my weakest, lowest days I have spoken out the name of Jesus and asked for His power to come.  He always, always, always meets me!  Not always in the way I might expect!   It's not a magic formula with a certain result, but He always comes through.  There is power in His name!  How very grateful I am for that.

This it what the Lord has been putting on my heart in recent days.  And then on Monday I got the report from my recent scan.  The news was not very good - certainly not the report I was hoping for.  There is a small mass in the pelvic area.  I will be doing a radiology guided biopsy in about 3 weeks to get more information on the mass.

I came home and communicated with our family......and then I reflected on what I've written above.  It is so true.  There is power in the name of Jesus.  I am going to tap into that power afresh - for grace for new trials, for strength to keep going, for courage to persevere, and yes, for healing!  I know He will meet me as I call on the power of His name.

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  Acts 2:21

"What kind of man is this?  Even the winds and the waves obey Him!"  Matthew 8:27

"Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  Philippians 2:9-11

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world."  John 16:33

"No one is like you, Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power."  Jeremiah 10:6

As I contemplate all this, I am already calling on His name.  I need Him in my new challenges.  I can't make it on my own.  I thought about the points below as I bowed my heart before Him.

We can call upon the power of His name:

- by admitting our need of Him

- by asking for needs to be met in His authority, the one who's name is above every name

- by bowing our hearts before Him, submitting to Him

- by running to Him as our refuge

- by waiting expectantly for His answers and provision.  He is there 24/7.  He never takes time off!

I love and trust Him.  I am so grateful for His help in my times of need!  

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!! 

Light has no shadow%22God is light, in Him there is no darkness at all.%221 John 1_5.png

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!