Hold My Hand

When my kids were little they had to hold my hand while we walked down the street or crossed the street and anywhere else I thought it was too dangerous for them to walk on their own.  As they grew however, they would pull away and protest trying to convince me that they could do it on their own. Eventually they learned how to be careful and I let go and let them be independent.  

Later, when they were teenagers, every once in a while when we were walking somewhere, I would take their hand and hold on as long as they would let me.  Even now that my son is grown with a son of his own, if I get the chance, I’ll slip my hand in his and relish the time together.

I think God may protect and guide us the same way.  Psalm 16:11 in The Message says it this way, “Ever since You took my hand I’m on the right way”.  When we take His hand we can’t go wrong. He is there to help us and keep us from stumbling. Psalm 63:8 promises that God’s right hand upholds us.  Even when we pull away and try to be independent, like our children, Psalm 139:9-10 reminds us that His supervision is inescapable. Praise His name! Thank God for that!

When  we guide our children, we know the imminent dangers around us and take their hand to protect them and teach them to be cautious.  For ourselves, we can’t see the bigger picture, the one that God sees. We need to reach out, take His hand, and allow Him to guide us through the dangerous times we can see so when the tough times come that we don’t see coming, we are already holding His hand and He can easily guide us to safety.  

In this world, I believe we are never grown up enough to be independent from God.  We will never see the big picture or be wise enough to navigate this life without the constant care and guidance from God.  I still get a bit too sure of myself and start acting like ‘ I’ve got this’, but those times are happening less and less the older I grow.    I like to think He enjoys holding my hand as we walk this life road together.

 

Are you pulling away for independence or holding tight depending on God’s guidance?  

Cheers!

We’ve come to the end of another school year.  This one seems to have gone by much faster than some in the past.  I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we had such a great 8th grade class, it was a pleasure teaching them.  But even when the group of students is well-behaved, for the most part, there is much more that goes into having a successful year at work.  

I am blessed to work with a wonderful group of teachers. They are kind and helpful, and they love the Lord.   Many times during the year when I would get frustrated with a deadline, or a student, or my own self doubt in teaching, one of them would just happen to walk in my room at just the right time and offer just the right words to turn it around for me and cheer me on.  And they tell me I was able to do that for them as well.

There are all types of cheerleaders in middle school!  In Hebrews 10 verse 24, the Word says we are to ‘consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds’.  It seems to me that we cheer each other on to continue the ‘good deed’ of teaching our students. Some days that requires a good deal of cheering.  

We may not notice each time one of us is struggling,  but I do I believe that God does work through each of us to provide the encouragement the other needs, at the right moment.  He knows what we need before we even ask (Romans 8:26) and He provides the answers sometimes in ways we don’t expect. To me, that is one of the kindest things God does for us, is provide His love through those around us when we need it most.

I’m looking forward to our summer break but I’m also looking forward to the next school year, working with some of God’s best cheerleaders,who also happen to be school teachers.

Who are the ones who cheer you on?  Look around, is there someone you need to cheer on?

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

 

Child of God

Memorial Day is quite a different holiday when you have a son who is a fallen soldier.  It is wonderful to have so many people take time to remember my son and all the other military fallen.  The heartfelt messages are a salve onto the open wound that seems to be taking forever to heal. They are greatly appreciated as they seem to be the perfect encouragement needed to keep me successfully walking this road laid out for me.

So, today, I thought I’d share what I consider the most amazing revelation God has revealed to me through Garrett’s death.  He has shown me a much clearer understanding of what it means to be a child of God. May it be just the right encouragement needed in your life.

In the first days after the news of Garrett’s death, friends and family reminded us of Scriptures that pertained to God’s will and His promise to somehow work it for good in Romans 8:28.  I know this Scripture, I’ve quoted it, written it, called on it many times, but this occasion, Garrett’s death, I was fairly certain there was no “working it for good” in my lifetime.  There were also many references to God’s will being perfect and that He only does what is best for His children. Well, I am a child of God and allowing my son to die couldn’t possibly be what was best for me.  I was heart-broken, down to the core, broken.

When the soldiers came to my door that morning to tell me that my son, my first-born, was dead, I thought my life was over as well.  So much of who I was, was tied to him, after all, I became a mother because of him. My dreams of his marriage, his children – my grandchildren, his future, it was my future, too.  It was over. No hope. No joy.   And this was what was best for me? How could this possibly be what was best for this child of God?

Six years passed, yes, it was six years before I was able to comprehend God’s love for me in this tragedy.  While visiting with a group of dear friends, one of them said, “God only does what’s best for His children”.  Yes, the same truth I’d known all along but that day they were new words. This time the focus was on Garrett being the child of God, not me.  My whole perspective changed.    Garrett was His child and had been since he made his decision to accept Jesus as his Savior when he was only seven years old. With new eyes, I could finally see that God indeed did what was best for his child, Garrett.  

Taking Garrett home was the kindest, sweetest thing God could have done for him.  Garrett loved being in the army, he loved his ‘brothers’ and he loved his job but we could tell it was taking a toll on him.  He was a sweet sentimental young man and he was also fun-loving daredevil. His dad and I wondered if Garrett would have been able to come to grips with and overcome the memories of his duties as a soldier at war.  We believe God showed his beloved child mercy and brought him home to live forever in peace.

I hate that Garrett is not here with us, laughing and living out a great life, but we can rest knowing that he is in heaven and we’ll see him again someday.  Now that I can see God’s love and mercy for him, I can see in my own life how God fulfills His other promises. He is ‘working it for good’ (Romans 8:28), he has ‘never left me’  (Matthew 28:20b) and as He comforts me, He leads me beside others that I may comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:4-7)

Being a child of God can be quite an adventure.   And remember,  that those precious children you are raising and are leading to the Lord, they are His and He does what is best for His children.   

 

We All Need Some

Encouragement has been the focus of the Bible study my students and I have been working on.  We didn’t start out with that in mind but once we opened the Word to find direction on other issues, God led us back to the importance of encouraging one another.

God gives us a great example as David proclaims in Psalm 10:17a;  “You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; You encourage them, and You listen to their cry.”  God encourages us and He listens to our cries. He gives us the instruction throughout Scripture. Oh, that we could do as much for those around us each day.  

Here are just a few of the instructions and examples from God’s Word and a few current day ideas to help us follow His lead.  Take some time and look up the Scripture and be encouraged by His love for us.

Encourage fellow believers with letters and cards to strengthen and uplift.  Acts 15:32

Encourage, if you have the gift of encouragement as part of the Body of Christ, then BE an encourager.  Romans 12:8

Encourage the oppressed, the fatherless, the widows.  Look around, there are people closer than you might think, who need encouragement.   Isaiah 1:17

Encourage one another by reminding others that we will be with the Lord forever.  Amen!    1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Encourage each other as you continue to meet together and spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Join in, go to church, get in a Bible study, and be part of the body of believers. Hebrews 10:24-25

Encouragement comes from the Scriptures which gives us hope and creates unity.  Stay in the Word, Christ is our hope and love of Him builds unity. Romans 15:4-5

Encouragement comes from the loving discipline of the Lord, because he disciplines those He loves. Hebrews 12:5

Encourage your leaders for even they need to be lifted up.  Even Paul needed encouragement! Leaders in all areas of our lives need encouragement.              Romans 1:11-12

Encourage friends instead of criticizing them when they are in trouble.  Think through what you say and how you say it. Job 16:4-5.

Encouragement takes time.  Set aside time to encourage those around you.  It really doesn’t take much time out of your day to lift the spirits of another.  Acts 20:1-2

Encourage others when the storms of life are at their peak.  Throw a life-jacket of kind words to those struggling with life’s trials.  Acts 27:22

Encouragement is like refreshment to your spirit.  Refresh someone! 1 Corinthians 16:18

Encourage, comfort and urge one another to live lives worthy of God.  Just take a second and remember what He did for you and me. 1 Thessalonians 2:12

Encourage others by your faith.  Believers and unbelievers watch us as we battle our trials, show them what faith in God can do.   1 Thessalonians 3:7

And the last one today, is the verse that has become the our junior high study’s  key verse; Encourage one another daily so we don’t get hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13.  

Life is full of people that are easy to encourage and those who are no so easy.

If we can stay focused and keep our eyes open for opportunities to encourage the easy ones, we are less likely to let sin slip in and harden our hearts to the ‘not-so-easy’.  

As you were reading, did someone come to mind that you could encourage?  Maybe today would be a great day for you to be ‘refreshment to their spirit’.                           Be Encouraged!

 

 

Learning to Trust

This past Sunday we honored our graduating seniors during our worship service.  One of the cool parts was when a few of our adults were asked to share a testimony of  how they learned to trust the Lord.  Hearing them recount their experiences with Christ was very encouraging to me and helped me remember the many times Christ has come through for me simply  because I trusted Him.

One of my favorites happened back when our B&B was just getting started.  We were several months into operation and bookings were few.  We had started the business from scratch and it was taking awhile to get our name out there so we would have guests on a regular basis, now we needed people.  We had exhausted all of our reserves,  finances were beyond tight.

One Monday morning, I was looking over the months bookings and estimating the income they would bring and then I looked over the calendar of monthly bills, there was a huge problem.  We needed $2100 more to cover the bills. I had no idea how to get that many more bookings and to get them quickly. I just closed both calendars and sat there. I started to pray but He was already telling me, “If you want guests, you’d better get the cabins cleaned.”   I laughed a little and then hopped up and started loading up the cleaning supplies.

I was just starting on the first cabin when the phone rang. I’d forgotten to transfer the business number to my cell so I ran back over to the office but missed it. I called right back and the people booked a three-night stay. Thank you, Lord.  I walked back over to the cabin and went back to work. About half way through cleaning the second cabin, the phone rang again, another booking and then another.  Just as I was finishing up cabin number three, again the phone rang and two couples, calling together, booked their stay.

I couldn’t wait to finish cleaning so I could add up the amount of income these new bookings produced.  I want you to know that in just the three hours it took me to clean the cabins, God sent me $2400 in bookings, for that month.  He provided more than I’d asked.  Then it dawned on me that had I forgotten to add in groceries and gasoline. So God, as usual, knew more of my need than I did, and provided it all.

After that day, I continued to talk over the books with Him.  I’d talk Him through our bookings calendar and then we’d look over the bills calendar.  Each time, after I ‘showed’ God my needs, I would simply close the books and leave it with Him.  Then I’d go to work to prepare our beautiful place for the guests He was about to send us.

He taught me so much about trust during those days.  It didn’t make sense, but it didn’t have to because I knew it was from God, Jehovah Jireh, my Provider.  

 Proverbs 3:5-6,   “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.  Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.” (The Message) 

What’s your favorite story of when you trusted the Lord?  

 

 

The God of All Comfort

Maybe I do have something to say, after all.

Before my son, Garrett died….[ wow!, that still makes me pause – writing my son’s name followed by the word ‘died’ will forever make my heart hurt.  Those are words that should never be together in any sentence.] Well, before, I served God in any way He led me, I led the women’s ministry at my church, taught Bible studies, substituted in Sunday School whenever asked, sang in the choir and praise team, and spoke at women’s events around the state.  I always had something to say or to sing about Jesus.

But, after Garrett was killed in Iraq, everything changed.  The pain was beyond intense, the impact completely devastating.  I didn’t sing. I didn’t lead. I didn’t speak. The joy of those things seemed to have been buried along with my son.

One Sunday, during an attempt to attend church and be ‘normal’, a friend of mine caught me in the hallway and asked if I’d come give a little testimony in the Bible study she was leading.  I will never forget the look in her eyes when I replied, “I’m sorry, but no. I have nothing to say.” The loss of my son had stripped me bare and I no longer had it in me to share, anything.

God had already begun my healing process, but it wasn’t until He led me to write down the sorrow, the pain, the loneliness and the loss did I begin to see a bigger picture, His picture, which is when the true healing began.  It took me about five years to get to a point where I was ready to share again, but the miraculous healing that God had done in me had to be shared. We are now at ten plus years and He is still working on healing me. I don’t think it will actually be complete until I’m in heaven with Jesus and Garrett.

I do think however, that I have something to say again.  No matter the pain, the trials, the heartbreak we experience, I think we all, at some point, have something to say.  I’ve survived the death of my son, so I have comfort and encouragement to give to those who have suffered that kind of loss.   My sister survived breast cancer, she has comfort and encouragement to give to those who are in treatment or dealing with the aftermath of treatment.  And she does, every chance she gets.

Christ has brought us through the toughest, most devastating times of our lives and I believe He wants us to do as the Scripture says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”   

Whatever trials you have faced, whether in health, death of loved ones, financial, or  something else, as you heal and are comforted by God, be listening for His voice or His nudge as He leads you to comfort those in trouble with the same comfort you received from Him.   Maybe YOU have something to say, as well.

 

 

Retreat to Advance

Ladies’ retreats have been one of my favorite events to attend for years now.  It it also one of my husband’s favorite events for me to attend. He loves it when I come home with a fresh look at my walk with Jesus, my life, and especially my role in our marriage.  

Come this June, my husband and I will be married 36 years. Two of the things he loves about me is my sense of independence and my strong will.   And two of the things that are a challenge for him are my sense of independence and my strong will.  We might not have made it had I not gone to a particular women’s retreat back in 1988. There, I learned to take the pants off. Not my pants, the pants! (Ha! Got your attention!)   I had to stop trying to wear ‘the pants in the family’.

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I truly wanted to be a Godly wife and Patrick’s partner,  but I wasn’t being that at all.  I pushed to get my way or simply made family decisions without getting his input. Things had to change, I had to change.  I spent many hours in prayer, asking for the strength to stop being so strong-willed and to love my husband enough to let him lead.  Ephesians 5:21-24 says in regards to our relationship, ”Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.  Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ.  The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing.  So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.”    Patrick didn’t ask this of me, God did.

I believe God started teaching me the next time my husband and I needed to make a decision on something.  We had our discussion but this time when we didn’t agree on how it should be done, I yielded and went with his choice.  He was shocked at first and he loved it. This became my new way of relinquishing control. It was really hard for me at first because I was certain that my way was better!  There were times I would have to bite my tongue to keep quiet and not say “I told you so!”, especially when he was wrong and it turned out to not be the best choice. We both learned and we both grew.  If I had continued to be bossy and stubborn, trying to be in control, he would never have become the wonderful husband and Godly head of our family that he became and I would never have become his Godly wife and partner.  

I wish I could say that through all these years that I’ve never again taken control,  but that wouldn’t be the case.  From time to time, I’ve slipped up but I’m much quicker these days at catching and fixing the problem.

 

Maybe it’s time for another ladies’ retreat?  What about you?

 

    

 

No Exclusions

In the mail the other day, I received some coupons offering great percentages off from a store that I frequently shop.  The percentages were different depending on which days you shopped. In the envelope there were also several perfume sampler cards.  I popped them open one by one and waved them in the air to catch their lovely aroma. Usually when I get these cards, the fragrances are far too strong for me, but this time, one of them caught my attention.  I really liked it so I asked for my hubby’s opinion. He is fairly sensitive to fragrance, so when he gave his approval, I began to give the perfume some consideration.

I thought, “Hey, since the perfume cost more than I normally would spend, I could use the 40% off coupon for the purchase.”  But of course, when I checked the back side where they write the exceptions list, much to my dismay, there it was, in super fine print, ‘fragrances excluded’.  Special offers are great as long as there are no exceptions.

Another industry that is known for having exclusions to their deals is the airline business.  We hoard our frequent flyer miles and bonus points only to be told when booking,  your dates are blacked out or you’re limited to booking the worst flight times available in order to use your points.  It’s aggravating.

There is one offer, however, which has absolutely no exclusions, whatsoever.  God made us all an offer of salvation and the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.  “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world, that He even gave His One and Only begotten son, so that whosoever believes and trust in Him as Savior shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 Amplified Version).  When God said, ‘whosoever’, He meant it, no exclusions. If you decide to accept Him today, He will not say, “Oh, sorry, this is a blackout day, you’ll need to try me on another date.” And Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  We don’t have to look a certain way, talk a certain way, have our lives all put together, He takes us just as we are, no exceptions.

I’ve not decided yet if the perfume is worth the full purchase price, but I know and am so grateful that God already decided that you and I are worth the full purchase price.  He paid for us all with His precious son, Jesus…. no exclusions. Amen, and Amen.

 

Be sure to pass this on and share the greatest offer ever made.