Gratitude Is A Powerful Weapon

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Floyd has seemed to be very weary in recent days - which is completely understandable!  I pray for daily grace for him.  

I have started a new treatment for my numb feet.  The numbness and pain has definitely gotten worse over the last months, although the doctor isn't sure why.  I am trusting for relief and improvement with this new medication.  

I read a devotional that spoke of patient perseverance.  As I read it, I wasn't sure the two words go together.  If you persevere, you just keep going in spite of everything.  If you are patient, you accept things "without being annoyed or anxious" according to the dictionary.  I definitely keep going......but I don't know if I'm always free of anxiety.  And the word "persevere" - it can actually put us off.  It sounds like a drudgery when you first hear it.

But when you're in the midst of a hard time, especially a season of suffering, there's really not much choice except to persevere!  The big issue for me has been HOW I would persevere.  I knew I didn't want to just grit my teeth and keep going.  I've chosen to take it one-day-at-a-time, to keep trusting the Lord, to have a heart of gratitude for the good things (that are always there), to daily receive His help and grace, and to walk in the joy of the Lord that is my strength.  Without those signposts in mind, I couldn't survive.  And I know I couldn't endure the journey without His help.

I read that the Latin root of the word persevere has 3 parts: per - se - vere.  Translated it means - by means of the truth.  I love that because I think it's only by means of the truth of who God is and how He helps us that we can fulfil that word.  Without God's daily grace, strength, and power I would not be still standing.  He has undergirded me in ways that only He can.

Along the road of perseverance, I've found that there is a time for  worship, a time for laughter, and a time for tears.  The occasional tears bring release, and wash the heaviness and sorrows from my heart.  Laughter brings healing to my soul (Proverbs 17:22).  And worship gets my focus on Jesus, realigning things the way they should be.  Laughter and tears come and go.  Worship should be a constant.  But all three are important for the journey.

I heard a song recently that I've been singing as worship and as a declaration to the Lord.  "Press On" by Selah.  I find the words are a cry of my heart - "When the valley is deep, When the mountain is steep, When the body is weary, When we stumble and fall, When the choices are hard, When we're battered and scarred, When we've spent our resources, When we've given our all - In Jesus name we press on!"  Amen, amen!!  He helps us keep going.  That's what patient perseverance is all about.

"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

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

"We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."  Romans 5:4

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

Someone asked me if I'm in a "holding pattern" in my life.  While it might feel like that sometimes, I actually think I'm in a massive "growing pattern."  In the midst of some of the hardest times in my life, I am learning so much as I try to patiently persevere and press on.  The closeness of fellowship with the Lord is a precious gift in the midst of it all.  I am so grateful!

I recently heard about someone that received a very generous gift, but the person complained about some of the aspects of the gift instead of being grateful.  I felt so sad when I heard this.  Complaining robs us of the joy of what we have received, and undermines our faith.

When I thought about this, I thought of the times when I've probably done the same thing through the years!  The Lord wonderfully provides for me, but maybe I'm not content with the details.  So I grumble.  I thought of the children of Israel who had daily "manna" in the desert, but they got tired of it and complained.  They began to say that it would be better for them to be back in slavery in Egypt where they had better things to eat.  We are most likely all guilty of doing something similar at one time or another.

This has all been a really good reminder for me to be grateful - always!  I know that I can "practice" gratefulness.  I can choose it.  God doesn't "give" gratefulness to us - we choose it.  It's not a feeling - it's a choice.  I can build a habit of gratefulness.  Paul said in Philippians that he had "learned" to be content!  We can "catch" ourselves when we begin to grumble, repent of the bad attitude, and start again with hearts of gratitude......learning, like Paul, to be content.

On hard days (which I seem to have a lot of on this unexpected journey), I have been training myself to not focus on the hard things but, instead, to thank Him for anything and everything I can think of to be grateful for.  I start with the basics.....having a home, having food and clothing, being able to pay all the bills, being surrounded with friends who love and help me, being able to look at the beauty of God's creation out my window.  I try to start the day with being grateful for at least one thing......and let it grow from there.  In seasons when I struggled with this, I kept a gratitude journal.  Every time I thought of something to be grateful for, I wrote it down.  It was amazing how quickly the pages filled up.

The last few days we've had the most beautiful full moon at night.  I've stood at the window looking at it and worshipped the Lord.  If I'm not careful, it's easy to miss the daily "small" things to thank Him for!  I don't want to do that.  We also have the most beautiful spring flowers this year.  I thank the Lord continually for them as I drive around.

Being grateful is not just good for our souls and our walk with the Lord, it's also good for our health!  I read an article that listed the benefits to our body of being grateful.  It reduces stress.  It helps us sleep better.  It improves our cardiovascular health.  It boosts our immunity.  These were just a few of the things that were mentioned. It makes sense that God would want to bless our physical health through the practice of thankfulness!

In a world that is filled with negativity, we can impact our own well-being and also the world around us by being grateful for God's goodness to us - in things both large and small!

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."  Philippians 4:12,13 

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

"Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him.  Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness."  Colossians 2:7

"Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  Ephesians 5:20

Having a grateful heart gets my focus off of myself and my problems - and back on the Lord.  Gratitude invites His presence into my day.  It brings fresh strength as I remind myself of His goodness, His grace, and His provision.  Gratitude sends the enemy fleeing because He doesn't like worship and praise.  Gratitude is a powerful spiritual weapon - and it's also a key to releasing God's provision into our day.  Thank you, Lord, that you provided this wonderful gift for us to choose and walk in.

Bloom Where You Are Planted

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Floyd has had a good week.  He had some special visits with friends who came for the All Nations Gathering last week.   One of his therapists said he was very energetic in his session with her too, more so than normal.  That's a good thing.  

The All Nations Gathering was a great week.  We had workers here from 33 of the 44 countries we work in.  So many said how much they appreciated the fellowship, and how sweet the Lord's presence was in the times together.  I told Floyd that he would have been so happy to see how special the time was.

Mary Ho, the international director who took over from Floyd, has done an awesome job of leading.  She has had a challenging task in taking over from Floyd so unexpectedly, but she has done so well. 

I wasn't able to be at the Gathering for the whole time because of my low energy levels, but it was special for me to be able to share a message the had given me on "The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength”.  In spite of not having a lot of energy, the Lord helped me. 

I have hard days with a lack of energy, numbness in my feet and several other things that are plaguing me as well.  On the rough days, I rest.  God is always faithful to restore me.

There have been some reports in the news recently about an object that has streaked across our skies that originates from outside our solar system.  There was great excitement over this.  It's only the 2nd time that an interstellar object has been observed that crossed into our solar system.  They have named it - they're studying it - and are watching it closely.  It will be closest to earth in early Dec. 

I was excited reading about it......and then the thought came to me that we are impacted daily by something outside our universe!!  God breaks into our lives every day with His goodness, His mercy, His grace, His strength, and His sweet words into our hearts.  It may become so "normal" that we forget what an awesome thing it is.  The Creator of the universe reaches down into our human existence and touches our lives.  He loves us, He meets our needs, and He works on our behalf in countless ways every day.  How wonderful He is!

I am keenly aware that I wouldn't have made it on our unexpected journey if the God of all creation hadn't helped me each step of the way.  He has directed each of those steps.  He has strengthened my faith in the uncertainty.  He has brought good into the midst of the hard times.  He has given me His "peace that passes understanding" in the turmoil of all that has happened.  He has worked in ways that only He can on this journey.  He has cleared away the fog and confusion when I've faced big decisions.  He has poured out His joy, which is my strength.  He has given me courage to persevere on the long journey.  He has met my every need.  He has been so, so good and faithful!

For all the scientists who are excited about this interstellar object, I wish I could share with them about how we are impacted from outside our solar system by the God of the universe every minute of every day.  It's so much more exciting than any object they are studying!

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.  "As the heavens are  higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:8,9

"Have you never heard?  Have you never understood?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of all the earth.  He never grows weak or weary.  No one can measure the depths of His understanding."  Isaiah 40:28

"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?"  Psalm 8:3,4 

My heart is full to overflowing in gratitude that God, the creator of the universe, continually breaks into my life with His goodness.  He is so awesome!

We have a small bottle brush tree in our back yard.  It's in full bloom right now.  In fact, it's in "over-the-top" bloom!  I looked at it a few days ago in amazement.  It has so many flowers in bloom that there are hardly any green leaves left......and I'm surprised it doesn't topple over with the weight.  It's really beautiful.  The picture at the top of this update is one just like it.

As I stood looking at it, I could sense the still small voice of the Lord speaking into my heart.  It's a small tree, but it is abundantly "fruitful" in its blossoms.  Its gnarly branches bear testimony to the fact that it has weathered the stormy Cape weather.  It doesn't seem like a very big, strong tree - but it has stood the test of time and is producing the most beautiful, vibrant flowers.

I sensed the Spirit saying that we may think ourselves small, weak even, but as we weather what comes our way, with the Lord's help - He will bring beauty and fruitfulness from our lives.  He will help us to "bloom."

Years ago I received a card that said "bloom where you are planted."  I took that phrase as a personal motto in my heart.  I determined I wanted to do that - wherever I was, in whatever situations I found myself.  I heard someone say once that even if you find yourself planted under concrete, look for the crack to find your way out.  In the hardest situations, there is always a way to "bloom."

I don't want to stop blooming when I find myself in a difficult situation.  I think a key to that is to always have a heart of gratitude towards the Lord regardless of our circumstances.  There are always things to be thankful for.....and as we worship Him, it gets our situation back in its proper perspective and allows us to bloom and grow.

I have been grateful that in the midst of my need and weakness of our unexpected journey, He has given me opportunities to still bloom, to still be fruitful.  I have been weak - but He is always strong!  And He doesn't "waste" anything we go through.  He helps us learn and grow!

"Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.  They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."  Jeremiah 17:7,8

"The godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon."  Psalm 92:12

"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives."  Proverbs 11:30

"Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."  John 15:4,5

"The name of the second he called Ephraim, 'For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.' " Genesis 41:52

There is beauty to be brought forth in whatever life throws at us - be it lemons, rocks, sickness, or unexpected journeys.  With God's help we can be fruitful in any season, in any situation......we can "bloom" where we are planted!

Praying the ABC's

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Floyd has had some sweet visits with friends in recent days.  Different ones have remarked about what a peace there is in Floyd's room.  With one group, he was so engaged in listening to the various reports - and he responded with tears to some things that were shared.  It has been very precious. 

My new treatment is going smoothly so far.  The side effects from the previous treatment are continuing, but no new ones even though the new treatment is stronger.

I so believe in the power of prayer!  It is a lifeline to me - from my heart to the Father.  But sometimes I just don't know what to pray.  After all these many months, I sometimes run out of words.  I've prayed every prayer I know of about Floyd's situation.  I've prayed everything I can possibly think of about my battle with cancer.  I've prayed all I know to pray about the various things family members are facing.  I have prayed and prayed and prayed!  Sometimes there just aren't any more words.

A friend sent me this quote:

A grandfather was walking through his yard when he heard his granddaughter repeating the alphabet in a tone of voice that sounded like prayer. He asked her what she was doing. The little girl explained_ %22I'm praying,.png

I loved that!  I know that little girl was right.  God sees our heart.  He knows what we're thinking.....He knows it before we can formulate the thought.  I may try praying the ABC's. :)  God can just translate.

There have been times, when I've been very weak, when all I could do was whisper short prayers - sometimes even just think them in my mind - and I'm sure God heard and understood those prayers too.  He is constantly reaching out to us.  He hears our faintest words lifted up to Him.

I heard Pete Greig say in his video series on prayer that I shared with you "keep it simple, keep it real, keep it up."  I've often followed that guideline.  I pray the basics - I pray from my heart - and I just KEEP praying!  That's really all I think God asks of us.  I have little to no control over the distressing situations in my life, but I can pray!  I can give the situations to God, and trust Him to work on our behalf.

The Bible also says to "pray without ceasing." - 1 Thessalonians 5:17.  To me that means that I talk to the Lord all the time - while driving, while doing chores, while exercising, even quietly when I'm shopping.  I keep a running conversation going all the time with the Lord.  I share my thoughts, my desires, my concerns, my burdens, my needs - I tell Him everything.  It's a sweet friendship and fellowship with the Lord as I talk to Him continually.

And I don't think God minds if we repeat a prayer over and over.  I think of the persistent widow in the Bible who wouldn't give up asking for justice in Luke 18:1-8.  I'm sure she must have asked the same thing over and over.  It wasn't the wrong thing to do.  She did the 3 things I mentioned above that Pete shared......and her request was granted.

I've often wondered, too, if there is a wrong way to pray.  I'm not sure, but I doubt it.  I know for sure that we can't demand things!  But I think as long as we speak from our heart, God is always listening.  Over and over the Bible encourages us to ask.  "You have not because you ask not." - James 4:2.

I read an article about "prayer insecurity."  If only I'd prayed harder.  Maybe I'm not praying right.  Maybe my prayers aren't powerful enough.  I don't think God looks at it that way.  He looks at the intent of our hearts - and hears what we can't even verbalize.

I also think that sometimes our prayers are being answered and we're not aware of it.  I'm sure that is happening on our journey.  I know I can't see all that God is doing.  I know God hears all of our prayers, and that He's working on our behalf.  I can't see it, but I trust all that He is doing.

According to those who count these things, pray/prayer, etc. is mentioned a few hundred times in the Bible.  If that's the case, then it must be very important for us to do.  So I'm going to keep praying - even when I don't have all the words to pray!

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

"You will pray to Him, and He will hear you."  Job 22:27

"I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer."  Psalm 17:6

"He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; He will not despise their plea."  Psalm 102:17

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

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I love how in that last verse it says that our prayers should be bookended by worship!  That's a wonderful guideline.

I am confident that God has heard each and every prayer that has been lifted up.  

I am keenly aware of my weaknesses, my needs, my inadequacies, my lacking.  I continually face things that I know I can't do on my own.  I stare my weaknesses in the face every day - and ask God to be strong where I'm weak.  There is absolutely no way I could have survived on this long unexpected journey without God's faithful help and strength.  I'm so aware of that.

But recently I've felt my heart being challenged to thank the Lord for these needs and weaknesses - because they have caused me to press into Him in greater measure.  Now there's a challenge!  While I'm aware of my weakness.......and I'm grateful that I can press into the Lord for help......I don't think I'm actually thankful for those needs, those weaknesses, those inadequacies!

In fact, I'd probably go a step further and say I don't like being weak!  I've always been strong.  I've always been able to face big challenges and, with God's help, get them done.  Weakness makes me feel - well, weak!  It's not a comfortable feeling to me, but it's one that has driven me to my knees before the Lord asking Him to rescue me.  Without these weaknesses, I might not have discovered how very much I need Him - and how vast His resources are to help me.

On this journey, I have increasingly found myself in a position of weakness and need.  Even in recent days I have found myself in a place of such weakness that I knew I couldn't make it without His abundant undergirding strength!  He was faithful, and got me through the challenges I faced.

When we're weak, we need His power and strength.  God's power isn't perfected in us through prayer, through reading the Bible, through listening to great teaching, through going to church, through fasting.  The Word tells us that His power is made perfect in our weakness.  That's why I can be thankful for my weakness.  Weakness keeps me humble - running to Him every day, every hour, even every minute if I need Him.

I still need the Lord's help to wrap my head around all this.  I'm getting there!  I don't know if I'm all the way yet or not.  I am keenly aware that in my weakness, I have experienced levels of His grace and strength, His power, that I couldn't have otherwise.......and I am SO grateful for that!  Being aware of my weakness keeps me in a place of constant surrender to Him because I need Him so much!

While speaking recently, I made the statement that God is more concerned about our character than our comfort.  His goal is not to pamper us physically, but to perfect us spiritually.  He wants to make us more and more like Him.  And, yes, He'll use our weakness and neediness to do that!

I have experienced levels of God's goodness, grace, faithfulness, and strength while being so incredibly weak that I truly could not have walked through in my "stronger" days.  I'm grateful for that - and I am thankful that my weakness has opened the way for that.  My weaknesses have humbly driven me to the Father's heart as I've cried "help, I can't make it."  My "jar of clay" has had lots of cracks.  I've needed the Lord to fill in those cracks with His strength.

He never rebukes me for being weak!  In fact, I have the sense that He's pleased that I recognize my weakness and turn to Him.  His arms are always open for me to run into.  And when I'm so weak that I feel like I can't take another step, He picks me up and carries me with His sweet love and grace.  

The world tends to pity or make fun of weakness.  But God says let me use this weakness to make you more like me.  Let me use your weakness as an opportunity to manifest my power.  In the Bible the apostle Paul had a weakness - a "thorn in the flesh."  He begged the Lord three times for it to be removed, but God didn't answer that prayer.  Paul finally came to a place where he could "boast" of his weakness in order for God to be shown in His power.  Maybe I'll get to the place where I can fully join Paul in that.

"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

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  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 4:7-9

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."  Matthew 11:28,29

"I can do all all things through Him who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13

Being weak isn't an excuse for laziness, for sin, or for not doing what we know is right.  But when we are genuinely weak - God will use our weakness for His honour and glory.  He is my Rock in my weakness.  He never fails me.  He is always there, always available to meet my needs.  I am becoming increasingly thankful for my weakness that draws me closer and closer to Him. 

Our God - The Infinite Fixer Upper

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Through the years as we pioneered a number of ministry centres, I have had the opportunity to oversee the restoring and renovating of various properties.  If you think of old buildings that are in need of a lot of love and help, you'll get the idea.  I also needed to fix up the various places that we called "home" through the years.

This isn't something I knew how to do, but it was something that needed to be done - and it often fell into my area of responsibility.  I read, studied, asked people who knew about these things, and learned a lot.  It was a challenge, an adventure, and an opportunity to stretch my faith in asking for God's help, guidance, and provision.  I loved it!  There were wonderful staff and volunteers who helped in accomplishing all this.  It was fun to work with them in seeing God help us change the old to something new, lovely, and functional.

To this day, I enjoy reading magazines on renovation and decorating.  I like the various television programs about this too.  One of my favourites is "Fixer Upper."  It's about a couple in Waco, Texas (Chip & Joanna Gaines) who take what they call "the worst house in the best neighbourhood" and turn what often looks like a disaster into something beautiful.  The transformation is often nothing short of miraculous.  The buildings I helped in fixing up never looked quite like that!!

When I have a few minutes of down time, I enjoy watching one of these episodes.  They are so much fun and inspiring too! When I was watching one of them recently, it hit me - this is what God does with us.  He takes whatever mess we have made of our lives and fixes us up!  He tears out the old, the run down things, the things that are broken, the things that are a disaster - and He builds in the new.  He completely renovates us into a reflection of Himself.  It doesn't happen as quickly as things do on the television show.  It may take years and years, a life time even.  But He keeps working on us to make us a beautiful, unique creation of His design.

I feel like He's been doing a lot of work on me on this unexpected journey!  He's been renovating every aspect of my heart and mind to help me learn and grow.  It never stops.  On this journey He's been "renovating" my heart to trust Him more deeply, to dig deeper foundations of hope, and to find beautiful treasures when things seem lacking.  I'm so grateful for His designer's touch.  He is continually creating in our lives.  Knowing that gives me courage and confidence on hard days.

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

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."  Isaiah 43:18,19

"Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."  2 Corinthians 4:16,17

"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 portion; therefore I will wait for Him.' "  Lamentations 3:22-24

"He has made everything beautiful in its time."  Ecclesiastes 3:11

"I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh."  Ezekiel 11:19

Sometimes with all the aches and pains and things falling apart in my body, it can feel like my "house" is falling apart.  But God, the infinite "fixer upper" comes along and restores my inner being in wonderful ways that enable me to keep going.  I couldn't make it without Him.  He is an "ever-present help" at my side.

Jesus - Our Faithful Compass!

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Floyd was having a good day when I was with him this week.  He was sitting in his wheelchair, and looked really good.  I spoke with the doctor, and we agreed that he goes up and down all the time.  Nothing is changing - it's just the nature of his current condition.  I was glad to be there at a "good" time.  As soon as I walked in and started talking to him, telling him how much I loved him, he gave me a sweet smile.  I loved it!  It warmed my heart. :)

Later I was asking him if he loved Jesus.  I reminded him that when he would speak he would often begin with - "I love Jesus!  Do you love Jesus?"  He was known for that.  He smiled real big when I reminded him of that.

I have started my new treatment.  I’m praying that it will be effective, and that the impact on my body will not be negative with difficult side effects.

I wrote recently about the guinea fowl we have roaming around - the ones with the tiny brains.  We have another creature in our neighbourhood too - a mongoose.  He roams from house to house.  He's nice to have around as he eats field mice, insects, and is known to kill snakes too.  It's fun to watch him run around the yard looking for creatures. 

Recently I observed the guinea fowl and the mongoose come together.  I don't think they knew what to think of each other.  They looked at one another, and then began to run in circles chasing each other......round and round they went.  They ran off, and then came back and did it again.  I'm not sure if there's a lesson here - except that maybe it's not very productive to run in circles - but it was fun to watch them.  I am so entertained by God's creatures!!

In spite of loving God's creatures, I am not an out-in-nature kind of person.  I get confused using a compass.  :)  I know, I know - it's simple, but I haven't found it that way.  But I've always had a good sense of direction.  Through the years with all our travels, if I went somewhere one time......I could usually find my way back there again - sometimes even years later.  Floyd was always amazed at this.  I had a built in compass!

But I have to tell you that I've not always had clear direction at things I've faced the last few years......even the last few weeks.  I often find myself not knowing what way to go.  Some things I've faced before, but the path seems different this time.  I've had so many decisions to make, about so many things.  It has felt daunting, confusing at times.

Thankfully God knows the way!  I've tried to stay tucked in close to Him so that I don't have to worry about getting lost.  I find myself calling out to Him frequently, asking Him to guide me step by step so that I don't fall or lose my way.  I know He has a perfect, unfailing sense of direction.

I must confess that I've had some times recently when I didn't "feel" Him leading me, guiding me.  In these times I find it important to go to the Word and trust His promises even if I'm not feeling them.  His Word, His promises are unwavering, unchanging.  I can count on them.  I can't trust my feelings, but I can trust Him.

Lots of people these days use GPS to direct them to where they're going as they drive.  One of the things I like about them is that even if you take a wrong turn - it keeps directing you back to where you said you wanted to go.  It never gives up!  The Lord is like that.  He will keep directing us until we get to where we need to go.  Even if we make mistakes, He keeps drawing us back to the right path.

I've faced this kind of season before.  I've probably shared about it.  But it doesn't mean it won't happen again.  I've been through lots of daunting days.  God has gotten me through them.  But when they come again - it's like I've never faced one before.  I have to look to Him to help me find my way all over again.

The assurance of God being my guide has enabled me to put one foot in front of another during difficult, hard days.  As always, He has been so faithful.  He's the only compass I need!

"The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.  He guides me along the right paths."  Psalm 23:1-3

"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."  Philippians 4:6,7

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.' "  Isaiah 30:21 

"You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.  Whom have I in heaven but you?  I desire you more than anything on earth."  Psalm 73:24,25 

"The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."  Isaiah 58:11

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

Holding on to the Lord's hand - He will help me not to stumble when I'm daunted by all I'm facing......even if I run in circles like the mongoose and guinea fowl!

As I've been praying about God being our guide, our wonderful "compass" to help us find direction when we need it,  He put this outline on my heart:

G - He goes before us to prepare the way.

U - He is unwavering in His desire to help us.

I  - He gives instruction that we need.

D - He directs our every step.

E - There is no end to His help. 

I have been in some tour groups before where the guide wasn't very helpful.  I am so glad that God is the perfect guide.  He will never fail us, never leave us on our own.

I have been blessed with friends and family to walk with me on this long journey we've been on.  I am so grateful for them.  I couldn't have made it without their love, care, and support.  And yet sometimes I feel very alone.  I've realized that it's because no one else is walking in my shoes.  As much as they walk with me and love me - they are not experiencing the same things that I am. 

But Jesus understands!  The Bible tells us that He has walked in our shoes.  He has faced the things we face.  He has borne the pain we bear.  He was separated from the Father and understands the loss we feel from loved ones that can't be by our side.  His disciples fell asleep when He needed them the most, so he understands our loneliness.  He took our sins upon Himself, so He understands our weakness and failure.  He bore the stripes on His back for our sickness, so He understands our physical pain and illness.  He experienced hunger in the wilderness, so He understands our need for daily bread and sustenance.  He can relate to us at every level, and He promises to never leave us nor forsake us.  I am truly never alone.

Whether I need a guide - or if I need someone to hold my hand and walk in my shoes with me - Jesus is there!  In recent days I've needed both.  He has met me each step of the way.  He is so faithful!

"Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because He was tempted in every way that we are.  But He did not sin!  So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God.  There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help."  Hebrews 4:15,16  CEV

"You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book."  Psalm 56:8

"You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.  You know everything I do."  Psalm 139:3

"Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."  Hebrews 12:2,3

"Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."  Matthew 11:28-30

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

Jesus doesn't stand at a distance when we go through a hard time.  He comes close.  He is right with us.  He "wept" when His friend Lazarus died.  He will weep with us in our needs.  He'll whisper comfort to us.  He'll protect us.  And He'll faithfully guide us along the journey to make sure we find our way.

There is Power in Our Speech

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Many years ago when we lived and worked in Holland, there was a principle that Floyd would remind our staff about.  We lived in one of the roughest parts of the city and were regularly faced with crime.  Almost every time we stepped outside the building where we lived, we encountered drug deals taking place.  It was not uncommon for a "junkie" (a person on drugs) to rob one of our workers.

Floyd taught on Proverbs 15:1 - "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."   He encouraged us to be kind regardless of how upsetting a situation might be.  It's easy to think that's a good idea - a little more challenging when you find yourself in a difficult situation.

I remember when one of our young men was held up at knife point by a junkie who wanted his money.  The YWAM worker didn't have any money!  He didn't get upset or angry at the robber, he just "gently" explained that he lived in the city because he wanted to help the street people, the junkies, the prostitutes - and that he lived on very little and had no money with him.  He showed the junkie his empty pockets.  Amazingly, instead of the junkie getting angry that his victim had no money, he ended up consoling him that he was poor and broke!!  Our worker was able to explain his love for Jesus and why he was there doing what he did.  His experience was a good lesson for all of us.

I've never forgotten it.  Through the years when I've been in a difficult or frustrating or upsetting situation, I've tried to remember that principle.  I need to respond with a soft answer in the midst of a hard situation.  I've probably not always succeeded, but the testimony of our worker certainly marked my life.

Recently I was in a very frustrating situation here.  I didn't stop to think of the principle, but I did respond kindly and graciously - several times.  Amazingly, an answer opened up and the frustrating situation was resolved.  It was only later that I thought of the principle learned years ago.

We live in a world that seems to be filled with ugly words, unkindness, and meanness.  It seems like every time I read or see a news report, there is at least one news item of someone speaking in harsh, unkind words to another person.  I find it grievous.  I wish I could pour a soothing balm over the situation.

Since my recent situation, I have become more aware of my words.  I try when interacting with a clerk, a business person, or a service person to say something warm and kind.  I love watching their faces light up with a smile.  It makes my heart smile too.  It lightens whatever heaviness I am carrying that day.  A little bit of love and kindness goes a long ways.

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

"Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees."  Job 4:4

"She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."  Proverbs 31:26

"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad."  Proverbs 12:25

"To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!"  Proverbs 15:23

"A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit."  Proverbs 15:4

"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear."  Ephesians 4:29

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits."  Proverbs 18:21

I'm thankful for the recent reminder of this powerful lesson about our speech. And I'm so grateful that God is loving, patient, and kind to me when I frustrate Him! He always responds with grace towards me. He always encourages me, forgives me, and gives me a new beginning.

He Speaks - We Worship

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I'm always blessed when I'm with Floyd and he seems to be doing well.  It lightens the heaviness on my heart for him.  But the reality is that he seems to have good days, and not so good days continually!  It's like a pendulum swinging back and forth!  

He tends to lie still most of the time, but the other day one of the therapists said he was quite "animated."  Translation - he didn't like the therapy, so he tried to elbow her. :)  I was glad to see he had some spunk!  As always, I commit him into God's loving care and His plans for him.

Over the last few years as we've gone through all the various trials, I have read through the book of Job on a number of occasions.  Job faced losses and trials in a way that few ever have - and yet his heart remained turned fully to God.  I've wanted to learn from his example.  I've hoped to find keys to help me get through the things I'm facing as I've read through his situation.  In recent days, one verse in particular has stood out to me afresh. 

In the first chapter, Job receives one messenger after another telling him that everything he had is lost - his 7000 sheep, his 3000 camels, his 500 yokes of oxen, his 500 donkeys, his 10 children, and even his servants.....except for the few who survived to come tell him of each loss.  From the narrative, it seems that it all happened in one day as one servant would be speaking.....and another would come to tell of more bad news.  It was quite a massive blow!  He may have been the richest man on the face of the earth at that time - and suddenly it was all gone.

We know that calamities come into our lives - although not usually of this scale and scope all in one day.  But what happens next is almost unbelievable.  "At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head.  Then he fell to the ground in worship."  Job 1:20

This is the verse that has been impressed on my heart over and over again.  I haven't torn my clothes!  But I did lose all my hair with cancer treatment. :)  What I'm challenged by is that in the face of such tremendous loss.....Job worshipped!  Wow!  It's not what you think of in terms of circumstances for a good worship time.

I've found that it's easy to worship when there are answers to prayer......when the sun is shining and it's not too cold.....when the bills are all paid.....when the medical treatment is having good results.....when all the appliances keep working.....when no alarms are going off in the middle of the night.....when the rest of our family is well and healthy.....when life is going fairly smoothly.  But - turn all those things and many others along with them upside down - and worship isn't usually the first thing that comes to mind!

This is one of the "disciplines" that I've been working on learning these last few years.  I've found that it's a key to persevering and surviving.  Worship doesn't always come easily when I'm staring something terrible in the face - but it does help lift the weight and heaviness off of what I'm facing when I choose to worship!

Worship, thankfulness, and gratitude helps turn the darkest moment around.  The situation doesn't disappear - how I wish it would!  But there's something about getting my eyes on Jesus and worshipping Him in the difficulty that lifts the weight of what I'm facing from my shoulders and onto the Lord's.  Being able to proclaim in statements of worship who God is and that He never changes, and being able to "cast my burden" on Him helps give me fresh strength to keep going.

I've tried to walk in this on this unexpected journey - and God has been reminding me of it again as I face new challenges with my health, my energy, and my treatment.  I don't like these things I'm facing, but I'm choosing with Job to worship in response to them!

"Go to the Lord for help, and worship Him continually."  1 Chronicles 16:11

"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 Saviour."  Habakkuk 3:17,18

"Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.  Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all."  1 Chronicles 29:11

"Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God."  Psalm 42:11 

"Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker."  Psalm 95:6 

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

He is so worthy of our worship and praise - in every situation in our lives!  I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating - there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for, to worship Him for.  On the hardest day, in the most difficult situation, in every trial that comes our way - HE IS WORTHY of our praise.  "He is God and He changes not."

There are so many things that I love about the Lord!  If I made a list, it would be endless.  He is so good, so faithful, so amazing.  One of the things that would be at the top of that list is that HE SPEAKS to us.  What an incredible, precious gift that is.  The Creator of the universe speaks into our human hearts - it's hard to even believe it's possible, and yet it's so very true.

I first heard the Lord speaking into my heart as a young girl when I was about three years old - kneeling by my bed, saying my prayers, and I heard God speak into my heart.  It was an incredible treasure that I held close to me.  That began a wonderful communication that has continued over the decades.

I've heard Him speak with clarity of direction when I've sought wisdom.  I've heard Him speak words of correction when I've failed Him.  I've heard Him speak assurance when I've hesitantly stepped out in obedience to something He's said to do.  I've heard Him speak love and acceptance in moments of insecurity.  I've heard Him speak courage when my human strength has been gone.  I've heard Him speak tender words of love when my heart has been broken by something.  The list could go on and on and on of how He has spoken - the key thing is that HE SPEAKS!!  In fact, I think He longs to speak to us - but sometimes we miss His voice.

I've had people tell me they can't imagine that this is true.  I've heard sermons about this being something for olden times, but it doesn't happen now.  I've read articles by scholars who very intellectually explain why this can't happen.  But my heart knows it does.  I don't think I could have survived the last few years if it hadn't been for God wonderfully speaking love, strength, direction, and courage into my heart.  I am so very grateful that HE SPEAKS.

God speaks and out of darkness brought light.  He speaks and a 100 billion galaxies are born.  He speaks and a 100 billion failures disappear.  We see His heart in everything He says.  Oh how incredibly wonderful that HE SPEAKS!!

As I have meditated on this, I don't know how to convey the joy that has welled up in my heart in thankfulness that HE SPEAKS.  I find tears rolling down my cheeks as I tell Him how awesome it is that He speaks to my simple heart.  As the song “So Will I” by Hillsong says, "If the stars were made to worship, so will I.  If the oceans roar with greatness, so will I.  If creation sings your praises, so will I."  I see those stars at night - I hear the ocean's roar - I join with creation in thanking Him for speaking. 

"A voice came from heaven: 'You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.' "  Mark 1:11

"The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the most high resounded."  2 Samuel 22:14

"After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper."  1 Kings 19:12

"The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.  The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.  The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.  He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.  The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.  The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.  The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.  And in His temple all cry, 'Glory!' "  Psalm 29:3-9

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

I thank God for speaking to me through the years of my life - and especially for speaking so wonderfully during these last few difficult years.   God often speaks to me through His creation.  The song says "every painted sky a canvas of your grace."  I will definitely think of that as I watch our beautiful sunsets.  I am so grateful that HE SPEAKS!

Asking For the Fruit of Patience

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Patience.  It's a word that's been on my mind a lot lately......because I've seemed to need to have a lot of it!  I've been facing some new challenges, needing answers to things that don't come quickly......and all I can do is be patient and walk through each challenge.  It's a simple word with 7 letters.  Seven is one of my favourite numbers.  But I'm not so fond of this thing that is 7 because I'm continually challenged by it!

Actually, I've felt I've learned a lot about patience the last few years.  But I guess it's one of those things that is a never ending area of learning.  I will think that I've learned a lot, and that I'm ready to move on......and then a whole new level of learning comes along - and I find I need more patience.

When you have to remain calm and at peace while waiting a long time for something - or when you have to deal with difficult problems that aren't solved quickly - you find out very quickly how truly patient you are - or aren't!  I've definitely seen that I have areas where I need to learn and grow more.

I've heard people say that we shouldn't pray for patience because we don't know what we're asking for.  They say that the prayer will probably be met with lots of huge challenges, maybe suffering, maybe trials.  Maybe, maybe not.  But I think it's definitely something we should ask God for as it's listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit - and we definitely want those in our lives.

I've been learning on our unexpected journey that suffering, while hard, can be a gift.  We grow through suffering in our lives in ways that we can't in any other way.  Suffering causes us to press into the Lord in deep and powerful ways.  There is a level of intimacy with Him that we walk into through suffering that is precious and beautiful.

And trials - I don't think they're optional.  They're part of the territory in the fallen world we live in.  But we're not alone in going through them.  He is right beside us, holding our hand, guiding us, helping us, and getting us safely through them.

So back to patience.  I'm still learning, but I'm choosing to focus on Him as I walk through the new challenges and learn more about that 7 letter word.  "Love is patient."  And God is pouring out His love to me as I learn about patience.

"Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud."  1 Corinthians 13:4

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

"But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."  Romans 8:24,25

"Whoever is patient has great understanding."  Proverbs 14:29

"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him."  Psalm 37:7

"Therefore, as God's chosen people holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."  Colossians 3:12

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness."  Galatians 5:22

There's no magic formula in walking through hard times.  I wish there was.  But choosing to walk in patience is a big help in navigating the difficult path.  I'm so grateful that God helps us grow in our patience - being patient with us as we grow!

Holy Spirit - Our Guide On the Roller Coaster Of Life!

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Floyd is doing good at the moment.  Some warm spring days have appeared this past week.  That makes us all feel better!  We continue to pray for ministering angels to keep him company too!

I will start the new cancer treatment in a few days.  I’m praying that my body can tolerate it easily, that there will be no side effects, and that it will be effective.

I've mentioned a number of times that our unexpected journey has felt like a roller coaster ride much of the time - regular ups and downs.  Recently, the battle over my energy levels has definitely been part of that.  Recovering from the winter bugs I had, and a side effect of the treatment I'm on have kept my energy levels low for quite some time now.  It's rather frustrating for me.  I've always been such a go-getter, accomplishing long lists of things each day.  I don't like being slowed down!  My family does remind me that I'm getting older too. :)

The neuropathy (numbness) in my feet, that came from my first time of chemo, is also still a battle.  It seems to be getting worse these days.  As I was moving slowly through my chores, and being careful to make sure my steps were secure from my numb feet - I was talking to the Lord about all this.  I'm still following the one-day-at-a-time guideline in trying to persevere on this unexpected journey, so I was asking Him how to make it through the day ahead.

When I sat down to have a quiet time, I came upon a verse that I've not noticed before.  "You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way."  Psalm 18:36  One person said "so that my ankles do not turn."  Another version says "so that my feet did not slip."

I began to ponder that.  I think it particularly caught my attention because I worry about slipping/falling because of my numb feet.  I've had one or two close calls.  As I thought about this verse I was overwhelmed with how God would speak to such a specific thing in His word - and how meaningful and personal it would be to me in this season.  I was so encouraged and strengthened.

I also thought of how God has kept me from slipping in so many other ways on this journey.  There are too many to mention, but a few came to mind.  He has comforted my heart on hard and lonely days - through His presence, and also through the dear friends He has placed around me.......and through the Care Team who love and support Floyd.  I am so grateful for each one that loves and cares for us.

He has reminded me on days when I'm almost too weary to pray, that He has given me dear ones around the world who are lifting up my weak arms in prayer.  It helps me relax when I can't pray as much as I'd like.

He has provided for our needs during this unusual season.  I have not had even one moment of feeling "in want" in any way.  I tell Floyd each time I see him of how good God has been to us.  I tell him not to worry about me - that everything is okay.

God has spoken love, strength, and encouragement to me is so many ways through His creation.  Oh how I love that!  It's happened so often that now I look for it with fresh eyes to see and ears to hear Him.

He has drawn me close to His heart, and taught me so many precious things that I know can only come through walking through "the valley of the shadow of death."  There is no question that it's worth going through the hard times because of the treasures that come out of those trials.  I've learned that there is a sweetness of His tender love that can only come in the hard moments.  It's in the dark moments that the light of His presence suddenly pierces through the clouds of trials.

"He makes my feet like the feet of a deer and stations me upon the heights."  Psalm 18:33

"When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; when you run, you will not stumble."  Proverbs 4:12

"My steps have clung to your paths; my feet have not slipped."  Psalm 17:5

"He preserves our lives and keeps our feet from slipping."  Psalm 66:9

"He will not let your foot slip - He who watches over you will not slumber."  Psalm 121:3

"I cried out, 'I am slipping!' but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me."  Psalm 94:18

In one way or another, trials and hardships come our way.  But God can lovingly, wonderfully keep our ankles from giving way as we walk through these trials.  I am so grateful for that.

Some days with all that I'm facing, I just need a little fun and lightness in my life.  I had an unusual fun thing happen this week.  Here is South Africa we have birds called guinea fowl.  They are strange birds.  They have big bodies, tiny, tiny heads, and even tinier brains!  See the birds in the picture above.  They are not the smartest creatures that God made!  :)

I had one on my front deck this week.  It had managed to get there, but it couldn't figure out how to get back to where it came from.  It would go over to one possible exit, look at it, and run away.  Then it would go to another possible way to return to where it came from, and look puzzled.  It ran back and forth.  It ran in circles.  It ran around so much I thought it might die of exhaustion.  I finally took pity on it - after watching and laughing for a while - and went out to chase it the right way.  Then away it happily went, probably very relieved.

I was still chuckling from the whole episode when I thought of the lesson that was coming from it for my life.  I'm sure I've been like that guinea fowl at times.  I've gotten myself into a predicament, and I don't know how to get out.  I try one thing, and it's not right.  I try another, and it doesn't work......until finally the Holy Spirit comes along and guides me the right way.  I know I'm very relieved when that happens to me.  And I was grateful for the "fun" event in my day with the guinea fowl.

But my mind kept coming back to the lesson!  It started a flow of remembrance in my heart of how good and faithful the Lord has been the last few years to guide me the right way.  I have faced so, so, so many situations where I truly had no idea which way to go or what to do.  I've shared very openly, but I've probably only shared about a third of the things I've walked through.  I honestly can't believe all that has happened in our lives on this unexpected journey.

The biggest decisions I've faced have been about treatment and care for both Floyd and myself.  Those have been huge!  But I've also faced decisions about finances - about home maintenance and upkeep - about ministry situations - about the best use of my limited energy - about legal questions that have huge implications - and so, so many more things.  Normally Floyd would be the one I'd process with.  I've missed him immensely.

But the truly beautiful thing is that God has guided me question by question, step by step, decision by decision.  I have earnestly cried out to Him asking for help and direction.  My family and friends have been a great support.  I'm so grateful for them!  But many times they didn't have the answers either.  God has graciously intervened and given me the wisdom I've needed time and time again - and confirmed those decisions with a sweet "peace that passes understanding."

I've said it before and I'll say it a thousand times more - I can't conceive of how anyone can make it through trials like this without the Lord.  He has been my guide.....counselling and directing me each step of the way.  He has been my strength in every moment of weakness.  He has been my sufficiency when I didn't think I could keep going.  He has been my comfort in lonely, tear-filled moments.

He has given me practical wisdom in dealing with things that I have no experience with.  He has been enough - more than enough!  He has never failed me, always been on time, and has lovingly encouraged me that I'll make it through every twist and turn and every rise and fall of the dreaded roller coaster on this long journey.  How immeasurably faithful He has been!

Thomas Jefferson once said, "Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom."  As we humbly, honestly ask God for help and wisdom - He comes in with the fullness of who He is to meet us as we cry out for His help.  

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."  James 1:5

"Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding." Proverbs 3:13 

"The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere."  James 3:17

"The Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding."  Proverbs 2:6

I don't think I'm quite as dumb as that guinea fowl (at least I hope not!), but I've certainly needed a lot of help.  God has wonderfully directed me where I've needed to go each time I've called upon Him.  He has been kind and generous with His wisdom.  We are never alone!  He is always available to hear us and to meet us in our need for His grace and wisdom.  How awesome He is!

His Amazing Joy!

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Someone commented to me recently that they were surprised that I don't get depressed with all that has happened in these last few years.  I guess I've never thought of it that way.  Thankfully, by God's grace, that hasn't been the case.  I guess what I've experienced is that when it's hard, and often seems to get harder, and I know I can't make it - I just have to press in closer to the Lord.  He always helps me, and gives me greater and greater depths of His joy....which is our strength.

I know that may sound a little crazy.  But especially as I thank Him, worship Him, and speak out my trust in Him - it somehow expands my capacity for His joy which I desperately need.  And that powerful joy that He ministers to my heart protects me from being depressed.  That's the only way I know to explain it.

That doesn't mean I haven't had some low days.....some heavy days.....many, many hard days.  I definitely have!  As I've written these updates, I've tried to be as open and vulnerable with you as I know how, so I've shared the good and the hard times.  But the low times don't "stick" because of the love, grace, and joy that He has ministered to my heart.  It's not the natural law of things, but I think it is the spiritual way that God has provided for us.

We live in a painful world.  There are so many tragic things happening.  There is so much sickness.  There seems to be increasing numbers of natural disasters.  There are unanswered prayers that we can't understand.  There are difficult things that all of us face day by day by day.  But we are not helpless in these events!  God is with us.  He is faithful.  And I believe He has deeper and deeper pathways for us to walk into in our relationship with Him.  He will never leave us alone, in the hard situations.  He is right beside us, each moment of each day.  He holds our hand and is closer than the air we breathe. 

I know that depression is very real.  For those who battle it - my heart breaks for them.  I went through a season of depression after the birth of one of our children.  It was extremely difficult.  And we can't ignore it or pretend it's not there.  I just feel grateful that He has protected my heart from it on this long unexpected journey.

I think He's been teaching me is that when I reach "my end" it's not THE end.  He has greater and greater provision available of all that I need.  And He has invited me to join Him on a special journey of pouring that provision into my heart and life.  I can't thank Him enough.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, 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

"But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high."  Psalm 3:3

"Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God."  Psalm 42:11

"I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  John 16:33

"The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand."  Psalm 37:23,24

"I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God."  Psalm 40:1-3

"A bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench."  Isaiah 42:3

He has kept me from being broken on this journey!  My heart is full of His goodness.  He is so very faithful!

Speed Bumps

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Floyd has been quiet, serious, peaceful, tired.  I understand the tiredness.  I, too, would be so tired after all he has gone through.  

Throughout this week I've had 2 prayers echoing on my heart to pray for Floyd.  I've prayed that he won't feel abandoned in the long hours when we're not there.  Floyd is such a "people person."  I know the long hours alone would be hard for him.  We have a "Care Team" that spends time with him, but we can't be there all the time.  The doctors, nurses, and therapists love him and are very warm and caring with him too.

I've also felt to pray protection for him from any lies of the enemy that would bombard his heart and mind.  I don't want the enemy to take advantage of Floyd being weary.  

We continue to pray for grace and strength for him for whatever is still ahead.

It has been 3 1/2 years since this unexpected journey began.  It seems like it has gone on forever…and, in other ways, the trauma of all that happened seems like just yesterday.  The only sure thing in it all has been God's goodness and faithfulness.  He has been my steady rock and refuge.  I couldn't have made it without His strength and grace.

There's a medical facility that I go to fairly frequently that has something that I don't particularly like - speed bumps!  The speed bumps they have seem like small mountains.  I understand the reason and need for them, but theirs seem unusually high.  You have to slow down to pretty much a stop before going over them.

I seem to encounter speed bumps on our journey too.  A "small mountain" that comes into my path that I can't avoid or ignore.  I pretty much have to come to a full stop before I can continue on my way.  Everything in my life has to be re-examined in relationship to the new bump in my path.

I hit one of those bumps a few weeks ago!  I had some medical checkups.  I am feeling good.  I look good.  Except for the "winter bugs," I'm healthy and have had no symptoms of cancer problems.  I was expecting to get an "all clear," good news type of report.  But, instead, I was told that there is a new tumor.  This is the 3rd return of this awful disease, the 4th time now that I'm battling it.  Needless to say, it was disheartening.  My heart felt bruised from the impact.

I received the news at the end of an exhausting week of medical and therapy appointments.  I know that things hit harder when I'm tired.  I took the weekend to talk to the Lord about it all.  I wanted to keep hope alive in my heart - but I found that I had to keep stepping over disappointment and weariness to get to that hope.  I realized I wasn't just tired from the week - I was tired from the 5+ years of the cancer battle.  I knew I needed to strengthen myself in the Lord.

I reminded myself that I'm alive!  That is very important, and somewhat unexpected according to my doctors.  It's definitely an answer to prayer.  The Lord brought this scripture to my attention. Luke 18:1 - "Jesus taught the apostles to keep praying and never stop or lose hope."  I chose to keep praying and keep hoping.  As I did that, the heaviness began to lift.  My heart settled with a gentle peace.

I heard Bill Johnson say that "our darkest situation is a table of fellowship."  I so believe that.  I've experienced it over and over again.  And I had the opportunity these past weeks for a new, fresh, deeper level of fellowship with the Lord as I processed the news I received - the bump in the journey.  I'm so grateful for that precious intimacy with Him.

"My life, my every moment, my destiny - it's all in your hands."  Psalm 31:15 TPT

"I raise my eyes toward the mountains.  From whence shall come my help?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth."  Psalm 121:1,2

"Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:6,7

"Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint."  Isaiah 40:31

"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

"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

This bump in the road (that felt like a small mountain) has pushed me closer into the heart of God.  My trust is in Him.  My hope is in Him.  As Psalm 121 says,  I know God doesn't slumber, and I'm asking Him to "not let my foot be moved" from walking close by His side holding His hand. 

During my recent checkups, I had to do one of my least favorite things - WAIT.  I had to wait for results, wait for advice on treatment, wait to see what my days and weeks ahead were going to look like.  The hours and days seemed to drag by as I waited.

We have waited a long time on this unexpected journey, too.  We've waited to see what God plans to do.  We've prayed up a storm, and then we've waited for answers.  Will God heal Floyd?  Will He take him to heaven?  Is there another answer that we don't see?  It's been a very long season of waiting.

One of the things I've learned is that the waiting time is not wasted time, it's a time of preparation.  The only way to "shortcut" through hard times is to walk hand in hand with the Lord, keeping my eyes on Him, and whispering "Jesus" when I need Him to help me in times of weakness. 

I think another thing I've learned is that the waiting time is as important as the answers we get.  It's during the waiting that I have the opportunity to choose to keep my focus and eyes on the Lord - regardless of what the answers are.  Keeping my focus on the Lord, on His Word, on His promises, on His character is so very important. I've had to choose it over and over and over.  As I've done that, I've had such deep and precious revelations about who God is.  And as I understand who He is, it releases His grace to wait for the fulfillment of all He has for us on this journey.

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

"Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters.....so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God." Psalm 123:2

"Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day."  Psalm 25:5

"Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield."  Psalm 33:20

"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

I realize that the waiting is easier said than done, but it's so important.  I learned that afresh in my recent situation.  I heard someone say that difficult times will diminish us, define us, or develop us.  I want to learn and grow in the waiting times.  And we don't have to wait alone - He's right with us!

Whenever I face "hard" news about Floyd, myself, or one of our family - I find I need to be on guard to keep things in their right perspective.  It's good for me to do this - to make sure I have the foundation stones of truth laid in regard to the things happening in my life.  There are many of these foundation stones, but I thought I'd share a few that have been helpful to me.  These are like a "grid" that I look through in facing the events that come my way.

·      It's important to remember that each day is a gift.  Even the hard days!  As I open and receive the gift of the day, it then allows me to look to God to help me with whatever happens that day.

God is with us on the good days - and I think even more especially on the hard days.  I find I can easily see Him on the good days, but I might have to look more carefully into the mist of the unwanted circumstances of hard days to see His hand at work on my behalf.  Somehow the enemy wants us to think on the hard days that God escaped and took off somewhere.  But as I whisper His name and tell God I need Him - the light of His presence shines brightly into the mist of the hard day.

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

·      I remind myself of the foundation stone of hope.  There is ALWAYS hope - even in the bleakest situations - because we serve a God of hope.  If I look at the circumstances, I'll probably be overwhelmed.  But if I focus on God, on His power, on His might - then hope rises in my heart and the heaviness of the situation lifts.  I have to keep my eyes on Him throughout each and every day.

"Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long."  Psalm 25:5

·      I also affirm the foundation stone of His grace and strength.  I can't do whatever I'm facing, but He can!  His grace is sufficient.  His power is perfect in my weakness.  He gives strength to the weary.  He adjusts His strength and grace according or our need.

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

·      I mustn't forget the foundation stone of "casting" my cares on Him.  I'm not able to carry the burdens and cares, but He easily can!  My burdens don't weigh Him down.  As I give them to Him, my load gets lighter.  I can continually throw my cares into His strong, waiting hands.

"Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you."  1 Peter 5:7

·      And a very, very important foundation stone - remembering that I'm not alone!  Not even for once second, one nano-second of the day or night am I on my own.  He is continually with me, watching over me, holding my right hand, bearing my burdens, giving me grace, building up hope in my heart, and reminding me of the gift of "this" day that He has given me.

"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; Indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The Lord watches over you - the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.  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

As I said, there are many, many foundation stones - but these are a few that help me.  Whether the day holds good news or bad, I "filter" the events of the day through the grid of these sure and steady foundation stones to guide my day.  And I stand firm and secure on Him, my Rock, as I navigate what comes my way. 

Then there is one foundation stone that overlooks all the others.  One of the most important foundation stones in my life - continually choosing to trust the Lord come what may!  He is absolutely, 100%, always trustworthy with both the big things and all the little small things that crop up.

It's so important when we hit a "bump" in the road (one of those speed bumps that I don't like), that we choose trust.  I sometimes see people immediately blame God when something happens. "Why did God do this to me?"  "Why did God allow this?"  "Why didn't God step in and keep this from happening?"  "Where was God when I needed Him?"  "I've served God all my life - why am I going through this?"  "How could a loving God allow this?"

Maybe it's human nature.  We want to find something/someone to blame when things go wrong.  It has to be someone's fault!  But, actually, we live in a fallen, imperfect world.  Bad things DO happen to really good people......and it's not God's fault, or anyone's fault.

I remember a time a number of years ago when we had gone through a particularly difficult and trying season......and then something else happened that was very, very hard.  My initial response was to say to the Lord - "Haven't we had enough?  Why are you allowing more to come our way?"  The words were barely out of my mouth when I felt so convicted - although I'd already had enough time to tell Floyd how unfair I thought it was. :(  But I knew that wasn't the right response!  I repented to the Lord and to Floyd.  And I asked God for help and grace to go through the new trial.

That was a good lesson learning experience for me.  I know that I know that I know that it's so important when a hard time comes along - that I immediately need to say to the Lord "I trust you in this."  I pray this out to the Lord daily.  I don't understand a lot of things that have happened to us, but I trust God in them.  I may never understand!  Some things will probably never make sense to my finite mind, but I can still choose to trust God.

The other foundation stones that I mentioned are all under girded by His trustworthiness in every situation that comes my way!!!  All of those foundation stones are solid and secure because of who He is.  His character is sure, unchanging, and true.

I have written about trusting God before - on a number of occasions actually.  But I know that I myself have to keep coming back to this - so it bears repeating.  We lived for a few years in the high desert in southern California.  The area where we lived was a granite mountain range.  One day we had a pretty strong earthquake.  I wondered if the house would come tumbling down.  But we actually "rolled" through the earthquake.  I watched the ground as the whole house rolled.  It was the most unusual experience.  The only damage we had was a stone on the corner of the fireplace hearth fell off.

The granite mountain, our foundation, was strong.  It absorbed the shock of the earthquake, and we could just roll with it.  When a new shock comes our way - I remember that very visual image.  God is my sure, strong, faithful, trustworthy foundation.  As I hang onto Him, He can help me "roll" through the earthquakes that come our way.

I'm still walking through some "aftershocks" of the diagnosis of my cancer returning.  Some of those have hit pretty hard.  I am choosing the rock solid foundation of God's trustworthiness.  There is no better place for me to be.

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock."  Matthew 7:24

"The Rock!  His work is perfect, for all His ways are just: a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He."  Deuteronomy 32:4

"There is no one holy like the Lord, indeed, there is no one besides you, nor is there any rock like our God."  1 Samuel 2:2

"He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken."  Psalm 62:2 

"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."  1 Corinthians 3:11

"He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord."  Psalm 112:7

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because He trusts in you."  Isaiah 26:3

We live in a constantly changing world, but the one sure thing we can count on is that our wonderful God is completely trustworthy!  He is the firm foundation on which we can stand - come what may!  How faithful He is.

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd is continuing to strengthen and recover from the 2 chest infections he had.  The doctor said he is making good improvement.  He seemed to enjoy it when some long time friends from out of South Africa visited him over the weekend.

When those of us on the "Care Team" for Floyd are with him, one of the things we try to do is encourage him.  He always soaks it up!  We remind him of how much he's loved.  I share emails that people have written that express appreciation.  We tell him that he's not forgotten.  It always seems to mean so much to him - and seems to minister to his heart.  Encouragement is healing.

I was thinking about a birthday that is coming up - and out of nowhere I remembered a birthday celebration from many years ago.  We were living in The Cleft in the red light district in Amsterdam.  We had gotten to know one of the ladies in the windows, and we found out it was her birthday.  We invited her to our tiny apartment to celebrate.  She was surprised, but excited to come.  I baked her a birthday cake, and we gave her some small gifts.  In getting to know her, we were able to mention a couple things that we appreciated about her.  To say she was overwhelmed by it all would be a massive understatement.  She said she couldn't remember anyone ever celebrating her birthday before.  Encouragement can be a powerful voice into someone's life.

A few days ago, I was feeling rather low because I've been so sick.  In my quiet time the Lord directed my attention to a passage of scripture that poured out His love for all of us.  I was so blessed by the wonderful, constant, rich, amazing love of the Lord for us, for me.  It so blessed my heart!  Encouragement can minister to the needs in our heart.

Also this week, just when I was starting to feel better, I got sick yet again.  It made me feel so battle weary.  One night, just before going to bed, I got a sweet email of love and affirmation.  It made me smile, and filled my heart with a sweet joy.  It was a lovely way to go to sleep.  Encouragement lifts our spirits in a way that nothing else can.

We all need love and affirmation.  Whatever our situation we have the need for encouragement in our hearts.  It's one of the ways God has made us because He wants our lives to be interwoven.  As we share encouragement, it draws us closer to each other.......just as God's affirmation draws us closer to Him.  I think because of all I've been going through, my sensitivity to how important encouragement is has been heightened.  It really is powerful.

"So speak encouraging words to one another.  Build up hope so you'll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind.  I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it."  1 Thessalonians 5:11 The Message

"Let your conversation be always full of grace."  Colossians 4:6

"The soothing tongue is a tree of life."  Proverbs 15:4 

"The tongue of the wise brings healing."  Proverbs 12:18

"Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them."  Ephesians 4:29

These last few weeks because of being sick so many times, it has felt like I’ve been taking 2 steps forward and 3 steps backward.  On this unexpected journey we've been on, there have been many times when I have felt like that.  

Over these many months when it feels like I've slid backwards at times, I've been grateful for the Lord's help in giving me strength to pick up the pieces, shake the dust off, and begin again.  He has given me the  grace for that each time. 

Someone sent me an amazing video clip of a little bear trying to climb a steep, snowy hill.  The mama bear is waiting for him at the top.  The little bear slides down the hill over and over - but each time he begins again.  I love bears anyway, and as I've watched this video a number of times I found that I could so relate to the little bear.  At one point he is almost to the top - and then he slides waaaay down the hill and you think he's gone this time.  But he finds a way to manoeuvre and keep climbing.  He is so determined.

Meanwhile the mama bear paces anxiously back and forth waiting for her cub.  I'm sure it was hard for the mama bear to not go down the mountain and help the cub.......but she knows the cub needs to learn how to climb.  It's the only way the cub will survive in the future.  

As I watched this I could just see the Lord watching me as I slide backwards sometimes in my trials.  He knows I need to go through them in order to get strong and grow in my faith and trust in Him.  He knows I need to learn the lessons.  He knows I need to learn how to climb higher.  God could easily rescue me in the trials, but in His tender love for me He allows me to walk through them.....to slide backwards sometimes.....in order to grow and mature.  He's watching anxiously over me all the time - never abandoning me!

I want to be determined like this little bear!  I want to keep climbing the mountain - never giving up no matter how many times I slide backwards.  I can imagine that little bear keeping its mama in view as he works hard each time to climb to the top.  I want to keep my eyes on the Lord as I climb!  I want to grow in my trust and love for Him.  I want to keep going and get to the top of the mountain.  I know the Lord will help me!

"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13

"But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work."  2 Chronicles 15:7

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."  2 Timothy 4:7

"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

Determination is not some magical power or super-spiritual anointing.  It is simply deciding in our hearts that with God's grace and help we'll keep climbing that snowy mountain.....just like the little bear......no matter how many times we slide backwards!

Watch the bear video here!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd is doing better.  The chest infection isn't gone, but he's stronger.  He's attentive, smiling some, and definitely not so miserable.  

A while back I shared about joyful dependence.  Some people asked questions about what I shared.  May I emphasize that the joy the Lord gives us is not dependent on our circumstances.  In fact, it's usually in spite of our circumstances!  It doesn't really make sense.  We can be going through hard, gruelling, painful situations - and yet be joyful!  We're not crazy.  It's one of the "ways of the kingdom" that doesn't make sense without the Lord.

But with our wonderful Lord, it makes perfect sense.  He's the one who can give "beauty for ashes."  He's the one who, in the oft used example, can take sour lemons and make sweet lemonade.

In recent days when I've been quite sick, I have felt "low" physically.  I even found it a bit discouraging to be fighting yet one more thing.  But - underneath all that remained a joy.  It's very hard to describe, but it's real!  I consider it a sweet gift from the Lord.  For the Christian, I think joy is our "birthright."  It's something He deposits into our spirit by His grace.

I heard one person say - there are storms around me, but peace within me.  That's what I've felt in these recent days.  The peace that brings His joy.  It is precious.

"Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in Him.  And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with His super-abundance until you radiate with hope!"  Romans 15:13-15  TPT

Joy, peace, and hope - what more can we ask for?!

In a "season" - or journey - like I'm walking through, there is lots of time to think.  I have thought back through all the years of our lives - from meeting at a YWAM Easter outreach in Las Vegas.....to being married when we were SO young.....to having our first home in Afghanistan.....to living on a house boat in Amsterdam with a toddler and a puppy while expecting baby number 2.....to raising our children in the red light district in Amsterdam.....to training leaders in the Colorado mountains while caring for our daughter who was sick for a number of years.....to pastoring a church in the middle of America.....to starting over and pioneering in a new country when we were just about to hit the age that everyone retires.  There have been very few "dull" moments!

We were speaking in a church in Canada one time that was pastored by some friends.  As Floyd was introducing me, he made the statement that "I'm not very adventurous."  The pastor and his wife burst out laughing!!  The list above speaks for itself I think. :)  And that doesn't include some "adventures" I had before we married!

I heard the statement recently - "Usually is the enemy of adventure."  My first thought was that Floyd and I haven't followed the "usually" in life......and we have certainly had lots of adventures!  Sometimes it has scared me to death, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.  Growing up in Galveston, Texas I knew God had a plan for my life.  I knew that it was going to be "different" (not what everyone usually did), but I had no idea of how it would unfold into the life I've had.

It's made me realize how grateful I am that God is in control!  We'd make a mess of things otherwise.  But when He's in control, He has so many wonderful things in store for us.  Even what we're walking through now isn't "usual" - battling cancer over and over while my husband is lying in a hospital bed unable to speak or move......well, even this has been an "adventure."  Not one I would want necessarily, but certainly one where I've seen God's goodness and faithfulness.  I would hate to have missed all the beautiful lessons He's brought into my life during this time!

As I look back over our life together while I've had this time to think, I can see how God has grown us, prepared us, strengthened us, and gotten us ready to face perhaps the biggest adventure of our lives.  It fills my heart with gratitude to Him for how He's had His hand on us all these years.  And it makes me love Him for His care.  I wouldn't want to have missed out on any of the adventures He's had for us.  We can relax when we're in His sovereign hands.

I guess what I'm also saying is that it's important to "embrace" the adventures that come - both the good ones and the hard ones.  We may not like them (I certainly haven't liked some of the ones I've walked through), but if we'll embrace them and trust the Lord in them - there will be good in the hardest situations.  No, I'm not saying that God brings the hard things.  We live in a fallen world and hard things will happen to all of us.  But we have the opportunity to trust God in the hard things, and allow Him to bring good through them.

"The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."  Isaiah 58:11

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps."  Proverbs 16:9

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

"The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall for the Lord upholds him with His hand."  Psalm 37:23,24

"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

There is much I could say about embracing what comes our way.  I've done a 90 minute teaching on it in the past.  But suffice it to say that as we embrace what God allows into our lives, there is good that follows.  There is a sweet adventure in walking with Him through everything that comes our way!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd is doing better.  It seems he has had 2 infections.  He's not totally well, but he's much better than a few days ago.  He tries to focus in on our visits, but gets tired easily.  We continue to pray that he will feel better.

I was watching a Hallmark movie recently (I'm a fan of them).  It was about a woman trying to conquer her fears.  She said "when do we stop being a worrier and start being a warrior?"  I thought about that for a while, and realized that's pretty much what I face each day.  I have to step over the worries of all that's happening in our lives, and choose to put my hand in the Lord's......and go to battle to overcome the challenges and fears that I'm facing.  I want to be a warrior!

My mother was a very Godly woman.  She was a woman of prayer and intercession.  She had great faith, and was very generous with the limited resources we had.  She modelled so many wonderful examples of living a life of trust in the Lord.

But she was also a worrier.  It was her weak spot.  I can understand it in terms of things she had to face.  She lived through the Great Depression and the war years.  She lost her first husband, and had to raise 4 children as a single mom in those hard years.  She had lots to worry about!  I'm not sure I could have survived all that.

But her way of worrying made an impact on me.  I've had to work to overcome that in my life.  And on the unexpected journey we've been on, it's been a big test for me.  I'm sure it's why God has highlighted trusting Him to me over and over.  Trust in God protects me from worry!  As I make the choice to trust God, I can't make a choice to worry at the same time!  They contradict each other.  Thoughts of worry may be because I'm not fully trusting God.  Worry can be unbelief in disguise.

In fact, I've found it important to resist the temptation to worry.  When worry tries to creep in, I have to make conscious choices to turn my thoughts and attention to God and His faithfulness.  Often when I find worrying thoughts filling my mind, I realize I haven't given these things to the Lord.  Many times they are "little" things, small issues.  God is concerned about every detail of our lives.  There's nothing too small to talk to Him about.

I was looking over some old sermon notes of Floyd's.  In one of them he said that there are 2 words that make up the word worry - to divide.....the mind.  That's what worry does.  It divides our mind from focusing on trusting God!  And we don't want to be double-minded.  The Bible warns against that.

For every worry we might have, the simple antidote is to focus our heart, mind, and emotions into trusting our wonderful God.  And instead, we can be mighty warriors of trust in God!

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Matthew 6:34

"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

"Then Jesus said to His disciples: 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.' "  Luke 12:22

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

Many of us are in the thick of the battle in terms of things we are facing.  We do feel like "warriors" trying to overcome the things we're going through.  I read an anonymous quote (often attributed to Winston Churchill) - "If you're going through hell, keep going!"  We can purpose our hearts to trust God in the midst of the big battles we're facing!  We can push worries away and choose to be warriors of the faith!

A few weeks ago I had a throat infection/chest congestion/cough, etc.  I had to take some meds to get rid of it.  I was so glad when it was gone.  I was fine for about 3 weeks, and then last week it seemed to return with a vengeance.  I now have a raging infection in my mouth and throat.  I'm feeling really weak, worn down, and quite awful.

It's been a bit discouraging to me because I have worked so hard at building up my system and immunity.  We're in winter, so there are lots of "bugs" going around.  I seem to be vulnerable to them.

A couple days ago I was looking through some of Floyd's files trying to find some notes for someone.  I came across a large sheet of paper with only 3 sentences on it - hand written by Floyd.  It said:

"Pain and suffering are God's gifts to us to drive us to Jesus.  In our sufferings we share in His sufferings.  In our shame we meet His glory."

It felt as if Floyd himself was speaking to me in the midst of my being so sick.  I could hear his "voice."  It was very special to my heart.  And it put things back in perspective.  I need to keep my eyes and my heart focused on the Lord - even as, or maybe especially because, I'm feeling weary and worn down.

I'd be the first to admit that I'm not a fan of suffering when it comes along!  But I'd also have to admit that I've seen the "gift" of what God brings into our life through it.  The closeness, the intimacy, the grace, the comfort, the daily release of His sufficiency to help us - those are all things that I don't know how we can experience any other way.  No one can meet us in our suffering in the way He does.  I'm grateful for that gift.

"God met me more than halfway, He freed me from my anxious fears. Look at Him; give Him your warmest smile.  Never hide your feelings from Him.  When I was desperate, I called out, and God got me out of a tight spot.  God's angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray.  Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see - how good God is.  Blessed are you who run to Him."  Psalm 34:4-8  The Message

I am running to Him in my physical weakness today.  I am speaking out my trust to Him - opening my heart to receive His grace and strength.  

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd is not doing well.  He is battling a chest infection and was pretty miserable this week.  He still attentively listened to everything I shared, but it broke my heart to see him feeling so awful.  

I know it's hard for everyone to understand exactly what Floyd's condition is.  I've tried to explain it, but it's hard to grasp unless you are here with him.  One thing to clarify - he's not in a coma!  He is conscious.  He recognizes us, he listens attentively most days, he seems to understand, and he often responds in some way to let us know he is tracking with what we are saying.  There are, however, some days when he just doesn't "connect" with us.  His attention seems elsewhere.  Because he can't speak to tell us things, we don't always know what is happening with him.  On his good days, he greets us with a big smile.

We recently passed the 40 months milestone for Floyd's illness.  It's a strange thing.  In some ways it seems to have gone by quickly.  In other ways it seems to have been forever.  All we can do is just walk through one-day-at-a-time.  

Lots of my days start off "normal" - calm, peaceful, with things to do that day, but not intense.  And then suddenly, like a light switch being flipped.......things come along that bring storms into the day.  The day becomes stressful and intense in an instant.

I've had some of those days this week.  Each time, I immediately knew I couldn't make it on my own.  I needed God's help.  I needed Him to rescue me in a few situations.  A couple times I've found myself saying to the Lord - "Really?  You want me to have to deal with this?"  He was probably chuckling at my attitude.  I'm glad He is patient with me and has a sense of humour.

I'm learning once again, in very profound ways, that I can't just live on yesterday's grace and on the strength of times gone by.  I need to receive afresh His mercies that are new every morning, and lean into them each day, for each new thing that comes along.  Sometimes I have to receive that fresh grace and help many times a day!

Someone sent me the photo I've used at the top of this post.  I absolutely love it!  When I'm facing something overwhelming, I think of this photo.  "Aslan" is right beside me!!  He will help me get through anything.  I can just picture the mighty "Lion of Judah" standing beside me in the daily battles.

There are so many verses about God "holding our right hand."  Sometimes I stretch out my hand and imagine Him holding it while I speak out promises from the Word of how He'll be with me.  I sense His presence with me in the "battle" of the day.

In the midst of these things this week, the Lord put the word BRAVE on my heart and gave me a simple understanding of what it meant for me:

B - be bold, in the strength of His might

R - be resilient, don't let the storms blow me over

A - be alert, watching for things I need to take a stand against

V - be vigorous, in my pursuit of God's grace

E - be eager to learn and grow

I think these are the things He is asking of me as I hold firmly to His right hand.  I can be "brave" because of His help.  Aslan is by my side!

"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

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

"He is at my right hand.  I will not be shaken."  Psalm 16:8

"Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand."  Psalm 73:23

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

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."  Exodus 14:14

Our character will be shown in the great moments, the big moments of life, but it is formed and developed in the small moments.  Each day when I encounter the small things that bring the storms - God is using those "small" things to grow my character.  He is faithful to help me. Certainly my character has been formed and developed over all my years, but it's not over.  I'm still learning and growing!

I've mentioned before that shortly before Floyd got sick, the Lord gave him a word about breakthrough.  He didn't understand what it meant, but he knew it was an important word for him.  Through his illness, we've prayed for that breakthrough.  Maybe we've seen it - maybe not.  Several people have suggested to me some ideas about what it might mean.  I'm still not sure, so I keep lifting it to the Lord.

I've also mentioned often that I trust the Lord.  I trust Him when we don't see the answers we'd like to our prayers.  I trust Him when I don't understand some of the things we are walking through.  I trust Him on good days and on hard days.  I trust Him for Floyd's future - and for mine.

A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend, and he made the statement to me that "trust is better than breakthrough."  Those words grabbed my attention, and I have pondered them in my heart over and over.  I'm sure He is right!

There is probably nothing more important in our walk with the Lord than trusting Him.  Absolute trust - in spite of circumstances, and especially in times when things don't make sense to our limited understanding.  I tell the Lord - over and over, many times a day - "I trust you!!!"  The more I say it, the more it becomes a sure anchor in my soul. 

But I'm fully aware that trust isn't always easy.  In fact, in our walk with the Lord, I think the enemy does all he can to keep us from trusting God because He understands how powerful it is when we do trust.  The enemy tries to sow seeds of mistrust continually.  He whispers lies into our hearts when we don't immediately see answers to prayer.  He tells us God doesn't care when our suffering goes on for a long time.  On difficult days when we're overwhelmed with all we are going through, the enemy will want us to believe that we're on our own.  The enemy doesn't want us to trust God!

The simple reason for that is because trusting God is powerful.  It keeps us steadily on course even when everything in our situation tries to pull us away from God.  Trust keeps us focused on God's promises, His provision, His power.  Trust takes our eyes off our situation and onto looking at our wonderful, faithful Father.  Trust opens our heart to a place where we can receive God's help.

Trust in God drives away fear - any fear we have because of what we're walking through.  Trust opens the door for the promises of God to be alive and part of our life each day.  Trust gets rid of worry and discouragement.  Trust brings strength when we keep our focus on the Lord's power.  I've found trust to be one of the main "keys" for helping me persevere on this long unexpected journey.  And trust is something we can all choose!  

"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

"See, God has come to save me.  I will trust in Him and not be afraid.  The Lord God is my strength and my song; He has given me victory."  Isaiah 12:2

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

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me."  Psalm 28:7

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."  Isaiah 26:3 

"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

If you are struggling with trusting God, one of the things that's helpful is to speak out trust in His wonderful promises:

- I trust in your faithfulness.  Deuteronomy 32:4

- I trust in your unfailing love.  Psalm 52:8

- I trust in your lovingkindness.  Psalm 63:3,4

- I trust that you are near to me when I call.  Psalm 145:18

- I trust that you will help me when I'm weak.  Isaiah 40:29

- I trust that you hold my right hand.  Isaiah 41:13

- I trust that you give wisdom.  James 1:5

- I trust that you have good plans for my life.  Jeremiah 29:11

The list is ENDLESS!!!  He has promised to meet our every need.  We can trust Him.

In our situation, I don't know if we'll see the "breakthrough" we want or that we expected.  But I know that I daily see the fruit of trusting the Lord.  He is so good and so faithful!  I have found that, truly, trust is better than breakthrough!

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd is continuing to remain stable.  He's had a few coughs, but the dreaded chest congestion hasn't returned which I'm so grateful for, as our cold winter weather is here.  He's been smiley when people have been with him and seems to be at peace. 

He got tearful when I shared some family news this week, but was otherwise peaceful.

I've learned on this journey that there's an area where I need to be careful.  God has met us time and time again.  We've seen Him answer prayer, perform miracles, and be so faithful to us.  And yet, when we face a new trial or testing, if I'm not cautious - I can easily respond with unbelief.  I may even find myself thinking maybe this is too hard for God.  It's really "too big" this time - or I'm asking "too much."

Someone sent me a video of a dear elderly lady sharing her walk of prayer with the Lord.  She referred to this verse: "How oft did they provoke Him in the wilderness, and grieve Him in the desert.  Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel."  Psalm 78:40,41

She said God used this verse to tell her to never limit Him!  I love that.  God is limitless - but we can limit Him in our hearts through our mumblings and grumblings and unbelief like the children of Israel.  I don't want to be like them!  They wandered in the desert for 40 years because of their responses!!  Their complaining didn't help one little bit.  All it did was bring discouragement.

When something seems "too big" - when it feels daunting......the only thing I know to do is to go to the Word and start reading all of God's promises once again.  I've read them before.  I've seen Him fulfil them over and over again.  But when facing new challenges, I go back to them like I've never read them.  I let the truth of His word wash over my soul.  I pray the promises out loud.  I sing them in songs.  I thank Him for how He's fulfilled them in the past.  And I step out in fresh faith in believing Him to meet me in the new challenge.

Holding onto God's promises helps me deal with any doubt that is lurking in my heart.  It strengthens my faith.  It gets things in their proper perspective.  It keeps my eyes on God, not on the needs and problems.  It lifts my spirits as I'm reminded of how awesome God is.

I don't want to "limit the Holy One of Israel."  I want to have an open heart to trust Him, and to believe for new, fresh miracles.

"Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping - believing that he would become the father of many nations."  Romans 4:18

"Nothing will be impossible with God."  Luke 1:37

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

"Our Lord is great, vast in power; His understanding is infinite."  Psalm 147:5 CSB

"Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God."  Romans 4:20

"The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it."  1 Thessalonians 5:24

All too frequently I seem to be facing "impossible" situations - for myself, for Floyd, for our family, for the All Nations ministry.  I MUST keep my focus on God - on His goodness, faithfulness, and promises.  He is totally sufficient for every need.

Every once in a while I think about eternity.  I have to admit that it's a concept that my finite mind can't quite grasp.  Time that is unending - that goes on forever, and ever, and ever, and ever.  I'm so used to thinking in minutes, hours, days (I wrote a book on time management!)......with most things having a conclusion to them - so eternity seems unreal in some ways.  I can't wrap my brain around it.

But it's very real!  We will spend eternity with our wonderful Father!  I don't know what all He has planned, but I'm sure it's good.  Maybe we'll spend the first thousand years just thanking Him for His goodness and worshipping Him.  Like the song says, we can "only imagine."

I remember sitting on the deck of a boat on a lake in Colorado years ago.  Floyd and I were talking with a friend about eternity.  In the dark, looking up at the gorgeous sky, thinking about the universe, contemplating how awesome God is, wondering what it will be like to spend eternity with Him - I was overwhelmed by the beauty and grandeur of God!  I think I had a revelation in that moment of the wonderful gift in store for us after this earthly life.  Someday we'll walk with the saints of old, with friends, family, many loved ones - and we'll bow in worship together before our Heavenly Father.

The verses from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 certainly take on new meaning when thinking about all this.  "Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

I was talking with a friend recently who reminded me that everything we're walking through is preparing us for eternity with God.  In the big picture scenario, this life is just a tiny blip.  It seems so huge to us right now as we're living it out......but in the scope of eternity it's nothing.  And God is using this time to get us ready for eternity.  Everything we're experiencing, every choice we're making, everything in our relationship with Him is all preparation!  Talk about an education - wow!  Most of us thought our schooling was long behind us.  But we're in the "school of life" that is getting us ready for eternity.

I don't know about you, but I want to do my best to get ready!  I've failed miserably at some things, but God is patient and forgiving.  He gives us new beginnings, and He uses the mistakes to help us learn and grow.  He never gives up on us!  He never thinks we're hopeless.  He just lovingly gathers us in His arms, forgives us, and helps us.  He is preparing us each day here on earth to spend eternity with Him.  What an awesome and glorious thought!!  

Through Floyd's illness and my battling cancer, I've had lots of opportunities to think about eternity.  On a number of occasions I thought one or both of us could be moving into eternity right away.  That's still a very real possibility, although I'm not in any hurry!  But thinking about eternity is not a scary thought at all.  I realize we have a wonderful treasure in store for us in spending eternity with our Maker.

But I also realize that I want to be faithful here and now to get ready.  I want to learn every lesson He has for me.  I want to help others get ready.  And I want to worship Him here in preparation for worshipping Him forever......that "forever" that my brain can't quite grasp!

"From eternity to eternity I am God.  No one can snatch anyone out of my hand.  No one can undo what I have done."  Isaiah 43:13

"He has made everything appropriate in its time.  He has also set eternity in their heart."  Ecclesiastes 3:11

"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity."  2 Peter 3:18

"So that being justified by His grace, we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."  Titus 3:7

"This is the promise which He himself made to us: eternal life."  1 John 2:25

"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen."  1 Timothy 1:17

Our friend, Pete Greig of 24/7 Prayer International, has an online resource called “The Prayer Course” and in one of the sessions he said - "Your choices, thoughts, prayers, and actions echo in eternity."  Everything about this life goes into eternity.  It's all part of what God has in store for us.  The questions we have, the things we don't understand, the prayers we didn't think were answered – someday we'll look back on all this and see that God was using everything to get us ready to spend eternity with Him.  It certainly gives me a different perspective on my daily life!  I want to get ready.

P.S.  I have recently watched all the sessions of “The Prayer Course”.  It is SO good!  It's simple, clear, real, honest, do-able, and inspiring in the way Pete shares about prayer.  Each session is about 20 minutes long.  I found it such a boost to my faith!  I'm already watching it a second time.  So often I find teaching on prayer makes me feel like a failure.  This is just the opposite - it made me want to jump in and pray as much as I can.  I think you will find it very helpful. 

Click here to see it 

Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had a quiet week.  He was very solemn and serious when I was with him - attentive, but not very responsive - but completely at peace.  I so often wish I knew what he is thinking.  I'm always grateful for the peace and rest he has.  A few times over these long months there have been times of agitation - which always bring "agitation" to my heart to see him like that.  When he's at peace, I realize what a gift that is!  Thank you Lord.

In my everyday life, continuing to persevere through everything in the daily routine - I am keenly aware that I am dependent on the Lord.  I need Him every hour of every waking day!  I couldn't make it without His grace, strength, help, and wisdom.  I would be so lost without His help. 

The world might think that that kind of dependence is a sign of weakness, but it's actually completely the opposite.  Knowing we can't make it on our own, that we're dependent on Him, is acknowledging where our strength comes from!  Our strength comes from the maker of heaven and earth!!  It's not a negative thing.  It's the most wonderful thing in the world that we can trust God to be our help in all the details of our daily lives.

I am dependent on God in so many ways, in so many areas of my life.  If I'm not careful, it can seem overwhelming at times.  One of the things that helps significantly, is that underneath the cares and needs there is a deep well of joy that He puts in my heart.  I know that might sound crazy!  Heavy problems - and deep joy.  Only God can balance that out and make both possible. In the midst of hard situations, I've found I can even choose joy.  I ask for His "mantle of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness."

Sarah Young in one of her devotionals uses the phrase "joyful dependence."  I like that!  There is a beautiful joy in knowing that we are dependent on Him, looking to Him, trusting Him.  It's not a contradiction.  There is dependency and there is joy - and they go beautifully together!

In thinking of this, I was reminded of a poem.  The author is unknown.  It was found on the body of a soldier at Gettysburg in the American Civil War.

"I asked for strength that I might achieve; 

He made me weak that I might obey.

I asked for health that I might do greater things;

I was given grace that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy;

I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men; 

I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I received nothing that I asked for, all that I hoped for -

My prayer was answered."

I often ask God for help to make it through some of the hard things in the day.  He graciously answers - and He also gives me joy.  What a wonderful Father He is.  His answers aren't always what I expect, but He is always faithful!

"My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth."  Psalm 121:2

"To give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified."  Isaiah 61:3

"Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken."  Psalm 55:22

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord."  Psalm 27:13,14

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

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

"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy."  Psalm 16:11

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

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

"Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy."  1 Peter 1:8

These verses are food to my soul.  They are my lifelines into the promises of God.  I am so grateful that He has given us a rich bounty of verses that speak to every need, every situation in our lives.

As we look to Him, He will meet our every need.  He never fails us.  He never leaves us.  He never rejects us.  He never gives up on us.  He never grows weary.  And as we lean into Him, He gives us joy unspeakable!  I am joyfully dependent on Him.

Life in Africa is always interesting! :)  A few nights ago our alarm went off in the middle of the night.  We weren't alone.  Two neighbours nearby had theirs go off too, so something was definitely happening.  All the dogs were barking in the neighbourhood as well.  Fortunately none of us were broken into!

We have a camera that looks out to the field behind us.  I could see something moving, but it was too dark to determine what it was.  I thought it was either a very large animal, or a person kinda bent over carrying something.  The security company came to check our area to see what was going on.

Everything was quiet/no one was around, but they did find a HUGE porcupine in the field - probably with all its quills out, which is why it looked so large on our camera screen.  They are known to roam our area at night.  That doesn't explain the alarms going off, of course, but at least I know what was moving in the field behind us.  I actually wish I could have seen it better.

This whole experience got me thinking about the unseen world around us.  I can imagine in my mind's eye the angels that were watching over us!  There are times when I have sensed God's divine presence and protection.  I'm sure there are many, many times that I wasn't aware that God was watching over us too.  Every night as I lay in bed, I ask God to send angels to watch over me, Floyd, and our family.  I'm so grateful for His constant watch-care - especially since Floyd isn't with me.

There are times when I've been with Floyd and he will look at something beyond me.  He's not "blanking out" - he's very focused on looking at something.  But I can't see anything.  I've found myself wondering if he's seeing angels.  I've prayed for angels to watch over him, and keep him company in his hospital room.  I hope God allows him to see them.  I asked him one time if he was seeing angels, and he smiled.....so who knows.  I'd love to see one (maybe I have and didn't know it), but whether that happens or not I know God sends His angels to watch over us.  They might have been walking right beside that porcupine!

"He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways."  Psalm 91:11

"God will order His angels to take good care of you."  Luke 4:10

"I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared."  Exodus 23:20

"The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them."  Psalm 34:7

"The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."  Psalm 121:8

We were in a bad accident one time in Colorado.  We hit black ice during a snowstorm.  Our car rolled several times and ended up upside down.  With the help of some passers-by, we managed to get out of the car - with only a few bumps and bruises.  When the state patrolman arrived, he asked how many people were killed in the car - he said no one could survive that!  He was shocked when he realized we were okay.  There's not a doubt in my mind that God cushioned our movements as that car rolled.  He was definitely protecting us.

I remember another time when we were traveling with a team across Turkey and Iran.  We had misjudged our time to get to the next town, and ended up stopping late at night to camp in a field to sleep.  The next morning when we awoke we saw a man (or angel?) on a nearby hill.  He said he watched over us all night to make sure we were safe.  I have used a picture from that occasion at the top of this post.  I’m the one right in the front : )  

There have been so many times when family members have been in dangerous situations.  In looking back, we've often thought there had to be angels watching over them, guarding them, protecting them.  I've never seen an angel - many people have......but I'm sure they've watched over me and our family.  I'm very grateful for God's protection!

Our Unexpected Journey

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I had a sweet visit with Floyd this week.  He was so tender.  I read my update about grief and gratitude to him.  Then I started recounting all the things we both have to be grateful for.  He seemed to relate to this - with both tears and smiles.  Then I had a time of prayer for us.  I told him that in my updates I would ask for prayer that he'll be able to see God's goodness in the midst of his hard situation.

I've had to deal with some big stuff this week - things that I'm not familiar with, and that I'm not quite sure how to handle.  On one particular day, I found myself tired and emotionally drained at the end of an intense day.  I had recorded the movie "I Can Only Imagine" recently, and decided to watch it to relax and unwind.

I've seen the movie several times before, but the impact of it always hits me afresh.  REDEMPTION!!  Where would we be without it?  We'd be so lost and hopeless without His redeeming grace and help.  I found myself crying and worshipping at the end of the movie - my heart filled with love and gratitude for the amazing power of redemption.

I thought of all the pain, loss, and suffering that we've walked through on this unexpected journey - me, Floyd, our family (it's not only what Floyd and I have walked through - there are a number of other losses and pain that have happened during this time for our family).......and many of you are walking through similar things in your life.  God is going to redeem each one of those things!  We may see it in our lifetime - or we may only see it in eternity......but we'll see it!

We serve a God who at the very core of who He is, is total love and redemption. Whatever you and I have gone through where there is something that has been robbed from us - He is working to redeem that.  He alone can cleanse the hurt, the sorrow, the weight of what is gone.  He alone can fill us with His strength, His grace, His healing, and His fresh power to keep going.  

And, of course, He has given the ultimate redemption in sending His Son to die for us, to extend total forgiveness to us......the greatest gift of redemption.  We are incredibly blessed to have such a wonderful, powerful redeeming Father.  The truth of this has been washing over my soul in wonderful waves of His goodness.

"He sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever.  Holy and awesome is His name."  Psalm 111:9

"He has delivered us...to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption."  Colossians 1:13,14

"Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption."  Psalm 130:7

"You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good."  Genesis 50:20

"Come and see what our God has done, what awesome miracles He performs for people."  Psalm 66:5

"And 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

"But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold."  Job 23:10

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  John 16:33

Our wonderful Lord works in our life to give "beauty for ashes."  How awesome our Redeemer is!

I have also recently written about looking for the good in the hard things.  I have a fresh opportunity to do that!  I'm not a fan of winter.  The cold, rainy, windy winter season is rather miserable and discouraging for me.  Thankfully, in between the stormy weather, we have some lovely days of sunshine.  I'm grateful for those days.  And there's no snow to shovel here!  That's definitely a blessing.

As I was reflecting on this season that I'm not fond of, I realized that there are 2 beautiful gifts that we have in winter.......certainly things to thank the Lord for.  One is that all the aloe plants start blooming.  There are lots and lots of aloe plants around - and their flowers are beautiful.  They bloom in winter. :)  They are already so gorgeous.

Another gift is that we have the most awesome winter sunsets.  They are majestic masterpieces, like huge celestial paintings.....and they are at their absolute best in winter.  The colours, and the combination of colours are just stunning.  I stand in awe some nights watching the sun set.  Although it's so hard to "capture" the magnificence, I have used some photos I took at the top of this post.

Seeing these gifts in the midst of the winter weather that I don't like was a good personal reminder to me to look for the good things in the midst of hard, unpleasant things.  As I said before, they are ALWAYS there!

In the J.B. Phillips' translation of James 1:2,3 it says:  "When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don't resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!  Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance."

I can't really say that I always welcome the trials, pain, suffering, and unpleasant circumstances as "friends."  But I'm trying to see the good in them, the things I can thank the Lord for!  I believe God wants to bless us as we go through the hard times.  He trusts us that we can make it through them!  And He brings beauty to us in the midst of them.

I read a quote somewhere - "Life's burdens are designed not to break us but to bend us toward God."  As we look for the good things in the hard things - it bends our hearts in gratitude towards God!

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

"And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.  And there was evening and there was morning."  Genesis 1:31

"The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof."  Psalm 24:1

"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good.  And God separated the light from darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night.  And there was evening and there was morning, the first day."  Genesis 1:2-5

"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?"  Psalm 8:3-4

"On the glorious splendour of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate."  Psalm 145:5

I've realized that many times the "battles" in the hard times and situations are not just in what I'm going through, but in my thoughts.  If I let my thoughts run rampant, it can lead me into doubt, fear, insecurity, and unbelief.  But if I bring my thoughts to Him, and choose gratitude and worship - it changes my whole perspective!  I'm so very grateful for all the good, all the beauty He brings into the trials of life!  It's a daily gift from my Father to me.

Our Unexpected Journey

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I had a sweet visit with Floyd last week.  Sunday was our 52nd wedding anniversary, so we "celebrated" together.  The photo above is from our special day all those years ago.  It feels like ancient history. :)  Lots of sweet memories.

Floyd is doing well at the moment.  His therapist told me that He's having some good movement in his sessions with her.  There have been some cold, wet days here in Cape Town.  We need the rain, so I’m not complaining - but I'm very glad that Floyd has a warm, cozy room at the hospital.  And we are praying the chest congestion doesn’t come back to bother him.  

I dream quite often, but I very rarely remember what I dream.  I wake up knowing I've had a dream, but I can't remember anything about it.  On the rare occasion that I remember my dream, I always check in with the Lord to see if it's from Him.  I recently had such a dream that I know was an encouragement from the Lord.

I dreamed I was driving in a big city - heavy traffic - lots of different highways - very confusing - and I wasn't sure where I needed to go to get to my destination.  I knew where I was headed, but didn't know which roads to take.  As I drove, I saw injustice and unfairness along the way.  I wanted to stop and do something, but I couldn't because of all the traffic.    It was a bit upsetting.  I also had on shoes that made driving very difficult.

But in the midst of all this, someone was with me who was guiding me.  I couldn't see who it was, but I knew him, I trusted him.  He was familiar with the roads.  He kept telling me which road to take, and he was helping me with the lane changes in the heavy traffic.  I was nervous, but I felt confident that He'd show me the way.

When I awoke, I realized it was a picture of my life!  It gave me fresh courage and understanding that I'll make it to where I need to go on this unexpected journey.  Even now, several days later, the details of the dream are so vivid in my mind.  It has been comforting to me that God understands all the decisions and choices I am faced with, and He is guiding me.

Every week, usually a number of times each week, I face decisions that I have no experience with.  I truly don't know "which road" to take.  I feel surrounded with busyness, confusion, choices, unfairness, and it's often painful to manoeuvre because of the neuropathy in my feet.  Each detail of the dream seemed to reflect the reality of my life!

I have carried the sweet encouragement with me ever since the dream.  It has strengthened my heart that God is with me in such a sweet way on this journey.  HE is my guide!!  He is helping me navigate the busy roads.  I couldn't make it without Him.

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.' "  Isaiah 30:21 

"The Lord will guide you always."  Isaiah 58:11

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

"The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand."  Psalm 37:23,24

"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 

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

I love all the ways that God speaks into our lives.  I love that He understands and brings comfort to our hearts - even in the specific details.  I know I couldn't make it on this journey without Him.  I'm so grateful that He is right with me, directing me as I go along.  How faithful He is!  

I read a quote by Prince William of England when he was speaking to the survivors of the mosque killings in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Prince William, of course, lost his mother in a very public way when he was a young boy.  He said, "Grief, if you let it, will reveal who you are."

I've been reflecting on that statement for several weeks.  There is so much truth in those few words.  Grief, hard times, sickness, loss, discouragement, sadness, pain - they all bring out what's inside.....both good and bad.  We can become angry, resentful, bitter, disillusioned - or we can turn our hearts to God and allow Him to help us walk through the hard time.

It's so important in the GOOD times to prepare ourselves for the HARD times!  We all have seasons when things are going well - when life is just good, and there aren't big problems to deal with.  During these times, we need to press into God and dig deep foundations to prepare us for the storms of life when they come.

When hard times do come, we must dig deeper still!  We must dig deep, deep, deep into the resources that God has for us to help us stand against the strong winds of adversity.  Prayer, spending time in the Word, worship, and fellowship with other believers are all keys for helping us dig deep roots.

One of the keys for me has been to keep a grateful heart no matter what comes my way.  Even in the midst of the hardest times, there are ALWAYS things to be grateful for.  If I find it hard to be grateful - I can practice!  Just like I have to practice anything I'm learning to do, I can "practice gratitude" until I learn to do it well.  The more I practice, the better I get at it.  My mother always said to me "practice makes perfect."

When I practice gratitude, I ask God to give me eyes to see all the things in my life to be grateful for.....especially if I'm going through a hard time or a painful time.  I sometimes grab pen and paper and start by walking through our home and listing all the things I have to be grateful for.  Then I think of the world around me - and my family, friends, even acquaintances.  My list usually gets so long that I have to stop because it's taking too much time!!

Practicing gratitude changes my whole perspective on the situation.  The horrible situation doesn't look near as bleak when it's balanced by all the good things I have to be thankful for.  And a heart of gratitude begins to grow inside of me for the next time I need it.

I still have hard days - please don't get me wrong!  But keeping my eyes on Him, trusting Him, and practicing gratitude helps keep things balanced.  And then when any kind of "grief" comes - hopefully good things will flow from my heart and reveal who I am in Him.  

"The things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart."  Matthew 15:18

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer."  Psalm 19:14

"Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."  Hebrews 13:15

"Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him.  Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness."  Colossians 2:7

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

"Giving thanks always and for everything....."  Ephesians 5:20

"Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever."  Revelations 7:12

There have been many things to grieve about on our unexpected journey.  From day one there has been a sense of loss - we have "lost" so many things.  But I've seen God fill up those empty spaces with His goodness and faithfulness.  In the midst of the grief, my prayer is that God will help me reveal the joy of who I am in Him.  

Our Unexpected Journey

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I’ve had a sweet visit with Floyd this week.  I got some big smiles, and very purposeful "blinks" to things I was saying.  Overall he was in good spirits, and seemed to be doing well physically.  It was so nice to see him in a peaceful state.  

My new cancer treatment is going well with only a few small side effects.  I'm praying for it to keep getting better.

I recently watched an interview with Corrie ten Boom from many years ago.  Her vibrant testimony was as real and vivid today as it was decades ago.  It was lovely to hear her voice again, and her stories of God's goodness and faithfulness strengthened my heart afresh.  One statement she made brought many memories flooding  into my heart.  She said "nothing is too great for God's power, and nothing is too small for His love."  Wow - so very true!

Just today I was talking with someone about our early days in ministry - especially when we were newly married and in our years in Afghanistan.  We were young, idealistic, and thought anything was possible!  We did some crazy things - but it was because we believed God could do great things!!  And, you know what?  He came through time and time again.  I'm still in awe of some of the things that happened.

We also took our small, everyday, somewhat tiny needs to Him - and saw Him meet us over and over again.  Again, we believed God cared about the little things in our lives as much as He cared about the big things.  I never hesitated to bring the small things to Him - and, again, He came through in wonderful ways.

During those early years a dear man named Dr. Christy Wilson came into our lives.  He "marked" my life forever by how he constantly thanked the Lord for both great and small things in his life.  You couldn't be around him very long before he was offering up thanks to the Lord for something!!  He had one of the most beautiful hearts of praise and worship of anyone I've ever known.

During the last few years I've realized how key it was for my whole life that I met Dr. Christy and learned this lesson from him when I was a young wife and mother.  It changed the way I viewed events in my life forever.  I love to bring the "great" matters to God and ask for answers - and I love that I can share the smallest details with Him and experience His love in them.....all-the-while thanking the Lord for everything that is going on!

I don't think I could have made it through these last few years if it wasn't for the greatness of His power......and the loving care of His Father's heart for the tiniest details of my life.  How wonderful, good, and faithful He is.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."  Psalm 46:1

"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13 

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."  1 Corinthians 10:13

"In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:37-39

"But 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

For those of us who are in our senior years, there are some things we don't like about growing older - especially all the aches and pains. Some days I feel like I'm falling apart bit by bit.  It's often said that "growing old isn't for wimps," and that is quite true!  But I think it's more than balanced out by all the good things of being older.  I started reflecting on them:

  • The richness of fellowship with the Lord that can only come over time.

  • The treasure of walking through many decades of life with my "gentle giant" and best friend, learning and growing together.....this one gift alone is priceless.

  • The sweet wonder of watching our children grow up and have their children.

  • The wisdom of age - I wouldn't want to go back to being 20 again for anything!

  • The treasure of friendships, especially the life-long ones.  The friendships we have that have come over many years are a priceless gift - something no amount of money can buy.

  • The joy of having seen lots of God's marvellous creation as we've travelled all over the world in ministry.

  • The fulfilment that comes by being able to pass on the things we've learned to the next generation.

  • The wonder of seeing God answer prayers over and over and over again through the years.  It never ceases to amaze me that He hears us and answers the cries of our heart.

And the icing on the cake, as the years go by, is being aware that God "knows the number of our days" and someday we'll join Him for all eternity.

Many of our western societies look down on the "frailties" of age.  Much of advertising is geared to products to help us stay young.  I'm blessed to live in an African culture where age is honoured and respected.  I'm "mama" to even strangers because of my wrinkles and grey hairs.

On the days when something isn't working in my body as good as it used to - I think through this list and realize it's okay.  The scales are more than balanced out by all the precious things God has brought into my life over the years.

And to those of you reading this who are still young - may I encourage you that you have a lifetime of wonder to walk in as you see God bring all these gifts into your life.

"Even to your old age and grey hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you."  Isaiah 46:4

"Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.  They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing."  Psalm 92:13,14

"Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."  2 Corinthians 4:16

"Remember the days of old; consider the generations past.  Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you."  Deuteronomy 32:7

"Is not wisdom found among the aged?  Does not long life bring understanding?"  Job 12:12

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

"They will still bear fruit in old age."  Psalm 92:14

Life is truly a gift to be cherished.  I'm so grateful for every year I've had!  The "best days of our lives" aren't behind us - they're right in front of us as we live every day to the fullest for His honour and glory....whatever age we are.