Friday, April 22, 2016

He's Got You and Me in His Hands~

It seemed like a problem, a huge problem, but looking back it was simply God's perfect timing.

(Why, at first glance, do we usually always see an obstacle to overcome, but seldom see an opportunity for God to showcase His faithfulness?)

Arriving home for lunch last Monday, I was greeted by a note on my front door. Evidently, a mere 45 minutes earlier, a delivery man had tried to deliver an envelope to my home.  Only, this envelope came with specific instructions: do not leave without a signature.

Needless to say, sans my signature, the envelope had left with the delivery man, and all I had was a note stuck to my front door.  The note assured me the driver would make two more attempts before sending the letter back to the sender.

Not knowing who the letter was from or if it was worth taking time off from work to "babysit" the front door, I decided to do some investigating.  I called the delivery company hoping to see if they could tell me who this envelope was from. Their answer was an unfamiliar address in Missouri. Next, I tried to see if I could pick up this envelope at a delivery location here in my town.  Their answer was for me to drive to their nearest office in a town almost 90 miles away.  With no answers in sight, and my lunch break now over, I headed back to work, frustrated and hungry.

Upon arriving at work, a co-worker, who sensed something was wrong, inquired about my lunch break, then upon hearing the details, tried her best to "track down" information about this delivery, too.  Unfortunately, her attempts were no more successful than mine.

That evening, as I rested my head upon my pillow and opened my heart to my Heavenly Father, I prayed about what He would have me do.

"Oh, Father God.  I have no idea who this letter is from or what it is about.  I don't know if it is important enough to take paid time off for or not. Speak to my heart the right thing to do. Thank you, Father God. In Jesus' precious name, I pray. Amen."

The next morning I awoke with the following plan running through my mind.

Ask for just one hour of time off from 11:00 am - 12:00 pm. This hour, combined with your hour lunch break from 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm, would provide a two hour window for you to be home to receive the delivery.

Thanking the Lord for His guidance and direction, I headed to work and put in my request for one hour of paid time off.

Arriving home shortly after 11:00 am, I wasn't surprised to discover the delivery man had not yet been to my house. Knowing it was God who spoke this plan to my heart, I knew my doorbell would ring sometime while I was home and before I had to head back to work a little before 1:00 pm.

With a gentle rain falling, I decided to take full advantage of this hour off and step out onto the patio to do some writing. As soon as my laptop powered up, God fueled my mind with the words of a post - six words to be exact. Six words that had been spoken to me earlier in the day, but still resonated deep in my heart: If you give in, it's over.

My time with God out on the patio produced the post entitled, "It's Not Over Until . . ."  And, if you have been following my blog for any amount of time at all, you know with God there is always a rest of the story.

Finishing the post, I went inside, dished myself up a bowl of salad, and then spent the remainder of my time away from the office, sitting on the patio, enjoying the rain, and eating my lunch.

Looking at my phone, and knowing it was God who had spoken this plan to my heart, I was very surprised to discover it was time to head back to work.  No doorbell had rung.  No delivery man had arrived. No signature had been asked for. No envelope had been given.

Upon arriving at work, the same co-worker, who sensed something was wrong the day before, sensed it again. Inquiring about my lunch break, I told her I still wasn't able to sign for the envelope.

"But, you know what I decided? God is the God of this entire universe. Nothing is too hard for Him. If that envelope is important and something I need, He will get it to me. I'm leaving it in His hands."

And, I did.

I didn't think about it again, until the next day at noon when I was home, finishing up my lunch, getting ready to head back to work and the door bell rang.  There stood the delivery man with the envelope in hand.

"I'm so glad I finally caught you at home. Today was the last day for you to sign for this."

"I know. God takes such good care of me."

Closing the door and looking at the envelope, I realized this was indeed something important, something I needed, something that my God had been so careful to place in my hands.

God knew I didn't need to take precious time off.
He knew the delivery man would come when I was home for lunch on Wednesday.

But, what about that one hour of time off you took on Tuesday?
Why would God tell you to take that hour off if you didn't need to?
(I hear you asking that in your mind.)

The answer came as I pulled into the parking lot when I arrived back at work with the envelope in my hand and tears streaming down my face.

As I turned off my engine, reached for my purse, then picked up my phone, I noticed I had an email. It was from a lady who subscribes to my blog and had replied to my post, It's Not Over Until . . .

This is what it said:

I can't tell you how much I needed to read this right now. I have just left my GI Clinic where I saw a Specialist for my  swallowing and eating issues. It was so upsetting when she said that I may have to be helped with a feeding tube. 

I am a woman of great Faith and have been feeling defeated the last few days. As soon as I got into my car something told me to look at my email, and I saw your post. I am a fighter and I am going to be okay! Thank God for you! I'm not defeated! I am going to read this one, over and over again Stacy. Your an Angel in "disguise! " Thanks be to God. 

God had most definitely spoken His plan to my heart Monday night when I had cried out to Him from my bed.  Only, more than simply answering my needs, God thought of this precious one, too.  In His unmatched love, and perfectly perfect timing, God blessed us both.

And to think,
He blessed us both with a blessing that spilled forth from 6 words lovingly and boldy spoken to me by a woman I passed in the hallway.

Because you see,
with our God,
nothing is coincidental,
nothing is happenstance,
nothing is by accident.

God is the Creator of the Universe.
Nothing is too hard for Him.

Truly, He does have the whole world in His hands.
The lady in the hallway.
The delivery man from out of town.
The email subscriber in the parking lot of the doctor's office.

He is always at work
working the details of all of our lives
into a tapestry
of delicate perfection and exquisite beauty.

What seemed like a problem,
a huge problem,
was simply God's perfect timing.

What at first glance looked to be an obstacle to overcome
was simply an opportunity for God to showcase His faithfulness.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Stronger Than You Think~

"I have no idea."

These were the only words I could say as I handed my husband my wedding ring.

"Oh, Stac.  Surely you have some idea. Look at it. What did you do to it?"

"Honest, Handsome. I have NO idea. All I did was take it off my finger, set in on the dresser, and hop into bed.  When I went to put it on the next morning, it felt tight and didn't seem to fit. I was in a hurry, so I placed it back on the dresser and headed out the door.  The next morning, it was the same story.  It still wouldn't fit on my finger. That's when I noticed it."

I could tell the words coming out of my mouth were reaching my husband's ears,
but not necessarily connecting with his brain.
I wasn't surprised.
I couldn't comprehend it myself.

"I know. I know.  It's the weirdest thing.  I have NO idea."

And, I didn't.

I couldn't explain it because I didn't understand it myself.
It defied all logical explanation.
There were no words to say.

I was out of town visiting my mom when the unexplainable happened.

Take a look for yourself.

What do you think happened?

Anything and everything except 
simply taking if off my finger and
placing it on the dresser, right?

And yet, that is all I did.

When I had shown this strange phenomena to my sister, who was also visiting my mother at the time, I remarked, "Guess I'm stronger than I think I am!".

As we chuckled out loud, I felt God speaking to my heart in a powerful, yet quiet, whisper:

"Yes, you are, Stacy.  You are A LOT stronger than you think you are because I AM with you."

The same is true of you, you know.

Oh, sure.
You might not be able to single-handedly re-shape the circumference of your wedding ring like I did. But, you do have the very same God living inside of you.

So often, we forget this truth.

So many times we
feel our weakness,
tremble in fear,
worry to no avail,
and shrink in defeat,
because we fail to remember and are quick to forget
that our powerful God,
the great I AM,
is with us.

In and through Jesus Christ,
you and I are A LOT stronger than we think we are.

In and through Jesus Christ,
you and I can do A LOT more than we think we can.

Maybe you find yourself in a situation that has you up against the wall,
 scratching your head,
wondering what to do next.

Maybe the shape of your life has changed overnight and suddenly no longer seems to fit.

Maybe all you keep hearing yourself say over and over and over again is "I have NO idea".

Take heart.
You have the Spirit of the Living God living inside you.

In and through Jesus Christ,
you and I are
more than conquerors,
more than able,
more than equipped,
more than ready,
more than enough.

We can do ALL THINGS through Christ.

We just need to look to Him.
We simply need to believe.
We need only to be quick to remember and fail to forget
that our powerful God,
the great I AM,
is with us.

You may have no idea, but you do have God.
And, because you do,
You, dear one,
you are A LOT stronger than you think you are.

(Remembering and re-posting from March 2013)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

It's Not Over Until . . .

We met in the hallway,
like we have so many times before.
And, like every time before,
this time when we met,
I looked down on her.

a giant of a girl at 5 feet 9 inches tall,
and her,
a teeny, tiny, elderly lady,
probably not more than 4 feet 4 inches tall.

It was obvious,
by the look on her face,
she was struggling today -
struggling to breathe deep,
struggling to place one foot in front of the other,
struggling to move and not hurt at the same time.

The pain radiated from her face,
so did a smile.

"How are you doing today?" I asked as I gave her a hug.

"Oh, I'm doin'. You know me. I'm not about to stop doin'."

And, she was right.
I did know her and I knew this to be true.

At almost 90 years of age,
she is still doin' whatever God might be calling her to do.
And mostly what God has been calling her to do
is play the piano,
and play the piano she does!

She plays for an elderly choir.
She plays for a weekly devotional service at an area nursing home.
She plays whenever and however she can.

And, I thought about me,
and what God had called me to do,
and how so many times,
I am tempted to stop doing -
especially here,
especially now,
especially in this season of overwhelming grief.

How I am quick to think about giving in -
especially when I am
struggling to breathe deep,
struggling to place one foot in front of the other,
struggling to move and not hurt at the same time.

But, before I could think another thought,
this giant of a woman on the inside,
looked right up at me and said,
"If you give in, it's over."

With the words still fresh and hanging in the air,
she headed on down the hall.

But me,
I stayed right there,
letting the words she had just spoken
reach out and
take hold of me,
and shake me.

If you give in, it's over.


And, I thought about my husband, and how life for him on this earth is now over.

Not to live anymore.
Not to give into or take from.
Not to struggle through, yes, but not to delight in, either.
Not to do anymore "doin'" in.

And, I thought about me.

How the grief,
and the missing him,
and the lonely of being alone without
his smile,
his laugh,
his embrace,
his scent,
his prayers,
his words of encouragement,
his everything,
has tried to
push me right over into over.

And, if I gave in . . .
if I gave in to the sorrow,
if I gave in to the grief,
if I gave in to the missing him,
if I gave in to the weight and the pull of it all,
it would be over for me, too.

And, I realized,
in His kindness
and in His "not about to stop doin'" love for me,
had used this moment of looking down
to draw my eyes up.

Up to Him,
up to His outstretched (always outstretched) hand,
so that He, himself,
could pull me right back into my own doin'.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
~Galatians 6:9

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
~Hebrews 12:1-3

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 3:14

what I had failed to remember,
and what I needed to never, ever forget was this:

It's not about the size of the fighter in the fight,
it's about the size of the fight in the fighter.

I pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms.
~Ephesians 1:19-21

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.
~Romans 8:11

It was more than obvious
God had chosen to use this lady,
this precious little woman of giant faith,
to look down on me in love
and lift me back up.

As I watched her walk into a room,
closing the door behind her,
I thought of Paul,
who, knowing his over was quickly approaching,
held his pen high and wrote these words:

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

"Me, too, Lord." I said as I stood in the hall.
"May it be true of me, too, Lord."

Fight on for God. Hold tightly to the eternal life that God has given you and that you have confessed with such a ringing confession before many witnesses.
~1 Timothy 6:12

Lovingly and prayerfully dedicated to Joanna H.
This is how we,
you and me together,
 are going to get through this.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Leaving and The Taking~

Without us possibly even knowing,
it happens.
This exchange of leaving and taking.
For the past 26 years, I have been beyond blessed to have spent time with my handsome honey. As we shared meals across our table, as we soaked up sun together on our patio, as I opened my laptop and relaxed on our couch while he sat nearby watching TV, and as I sat across from him in his truck, I have been (sometimes consciously, sometimes not) knee deep in the leaving and taking.
When my love left, he left behind
hand written words of love, encouragement, and spiritual truth,
days filled with smiles, (along with hugs and kisses),
laughs that resurface when remembered,
and memory after memory after memory after memory.
And, as precious as these gifts are,
when my love left, he also left behind
God's peace,
God's love,
God's joy,
God's protection,
God's grace,
God's favor,
God's blessing,
God's very presence in this place,
in my heart,
in my life
through his daily prayers and the daily living of his faith out loud.
He left behind a faith in God that fans the flame of my faith still.
And, what will I be taking with me into my tomorrow,
without him?
All of this and so much more -
a more that can't be tapped on letters of a keyboard and poured out onto a page,
a more that can't be squeezed into mere words,
a more that can't be contained. Period.
I will be taking with me a more that is
so satisfying,
so heart-filling,
so precious.
And, as I sit here writing,
missing his company beside me,
I think of the exchange that happens each day,
in friends meeting for lunch,
in co-workers passing in the hall,
in shoppers sharing the aisle of a store,
in travelers sitting side by side.
I think of the exchange that happens each day
husbands and wives,
fathers and sons,
mothers and daughters,
fathers and daughters,
and mothers and sons.
teachers and students,
peers and classmates,
merchants and cashiers,
telemarketers and potential customers,
passengers and flight attendants,
doctors and patients,
preachers and disciples,
disciples and the world.
And I wonder,
what is it we are leaving behind and taking with us in each planned meeting,
happened upon encounter,
God-ordained moment of time?

Without us possibly even knowing,
it happens.
This exchange of leaving and taking.
May we always leave behind
the sweet aroma of His presence.
And, may we always take with us,
into the next intersection with another life,
the oh, so intentional,
ever burning,
unrelenting passion of our God
alive in us,
working through us
to heal,
to soothe,
to refresh,
to empower,
to conquer,
to defeat,
to overcome.
So, in the end,
after our time on earth has ended,
the time we have spent here will continue to be lived out in this timeless truth:
Our lives, given, surrendered, and lived out in the power of our God
do indeed make a difference,
in this generation and the next.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

When the Word Fits~

The roll of her eyes said it all.

"I can't believe she just said that. Right now. Already. So soon. I'm sorry."

And even though the chair my sister was occupying was a short distance from mine,
I felt her nearness and it settled my heart.

Somehow, I let the word roll on by before a teardrop had the chance to form and roll down my cheek.

We were sitting in an office at the funeral home.  The secretary, a sweet, helpful woman, had voluntarily offered to call someone on my behalf and follow up on a particular matter.

And, in her defense, everything she said was said with the highest level of respect. Her conversation, a model of top-notch professionalism.

But, there was that one word.

As we finished our business and stepped into the fresh air, I spewed what I had been holding inside.

"She used the "W" word. We haven't even had his service yet, and there's that word."

"I know. I'm sorry."

And, I knew she was.
Sorry this was happening.
Sorry we were at this place.
Sorry the "w" word now somehow belonged to and was associated with me.

I hadn't thought about it since,
the "w" word that is,
until last night when I was scrolling through photos I've made and I came across this:

And, there is was again.

Only this time,
instead of rolling my eyes,
I lifted my eyes to Heaven.

before I could let the word roll on by,
a teardrop,
and then another and another,
gently rolled down my cheek.

"...a champion of widows."

The phrase captured every single part of me.

"...a champion of widows."

And then,
like a movie playing in the forefront of my mind,
one by one,
I saw all the undeniable blessings of God
that had started the moment my husband's life had ended.

- the look of peace on my love's face
- the all-encompassing presence of God Almighty Himself
- the do-anything-for-you support of my family
- the strength of an army of prayer warriors around the globe
- the sea of cards daily flooding my mailbox
- the constant supply of familiar faces in unbefore places of need
- the kindness of a stranger praying for me in the middle of a store
- the "pay it forward" gift of $50 towards the purchase of remembrance cards
- the gift of paid time off sacrificially given to me by my co-workers
- the unexpected monetary gifts from unexpected places and unexpected faces
- the outpouring of tears, and hugs, and love - so much love

And while the grief and the sorrow and the trying to fathom the unfathomable
is at times
overwhelming and too much -
my God,
the champion of widows,
shows up in my corner,
time and time again,
defending me,
upholding me,
sustaining me,
supplying me,
reminding me,
embracing me,
in ways that is at times
overwhelming and too much.

And, I realize the word, that at first, had sought to wound my heart
is in fact,
the very word through which my God is
and guarding my heart.

"...a champion of widows."

Heading out the door for work most mornings, 
the conversation between my husband and I usually went something like this:

“God willing, see you tonight, Handsome.”

“Unless I decide to go to Cancun, in which case, I’ll send you a postcard, Beautiful.”

“Cancun? A postcard? You can’t go to Cancun, Handsome. What would I do here without you?”

“Oh, you’ll be fine, Beautiful; you have God.”

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

Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you. 
~ Hebrews 13:5

God in His holy dwelling is a father of the fatherless and a champion of widows.
~Psalm 68:5

For the first time in my life,
these letters are not simply words on a thin piece of paper written years ago, 
they are the rock solid foundation on which I am standing here and now.

wrapped up in the inescapable longing to go back to what once used to be, 
woven into the insatiable desire to once again be with the love of my life, 
is this undeniable, unstoppable, unchanging truth: 
no matter what may come my way, 
no matter how overcome by sorrow I may feel, 
no matter where I may be,
no matter who is or isn't in my life, 
I have God,
the champion of widows.

And, because I do,
little by little,
day by day,
I am learning to embrace this new word -
a word that now, somehow, belongs to and is associated with me,
while all the while thanking my champion God,
that I will forever belong to and be associated with Him.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

When You're Juggling Faith and Heartache~

It's become more than apparent,
that what faith appears to be to someone watching
and what faith feels like to someone walking through it,
can seem to be completely different
and yet,
in reality,
be absolutely the same.

Two months tomorrow, my world stopped.  At 4:58 pm to be exact.
Getting my world started again, -
no matter how many times the clock ticks,
or how many days go by,
or how many times I flip the page on the calendar over to a new month,
is still an ongoing, don't-know-how-to-do-it, battle every single moment of every single day.

it's become more than obvious,
to some who might be looking in at my life,
that my "impressive faith" (another's assessment, not mine) has somehow
presented me with a mess-free, struggle-free, "neat and pretty" journey through this valley of deep sorrow and grief.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

One after one, I receive them.
Emails from people who are hurting.
Words of heartache are penned, and with a hit of a button, sent to my inbox.
And while receiving these emails blesses my heart no end,
I am starting to realize that
those who are hurting,
those who are struggling,
those who are on the other side of the screen
reading the words I pen here,
are somehow comparing their walk with mine,
and feeling as though they are coming up short.

"I wish I had a faith like yours."

"I admire how you are allowing your faith to shine the way for others. I feel as though I am failing as a Christian."

"You're so strong, even in the midst of heartache. Me, I have been struggling with anger and depression."

On and on,
real people,
caught in the grips of real pain,
are reaching out to me with real words,
about the very real struggle of juggling faith and heartache.

They see what my faith appears to look like,
yet, know how their faith (or their supposed lack of faith) actually feels,
and they wonder
what they are doing wrong.

And, they never to stop to realize
that faith is faith,
and hurting is hurting,
and it is possible to feel both at the exact same time.

I know this to be true because
I am right there in the trenches, too.
I am right there wiping tears that refuse to stop falling, too.
I am right there fighting to get up in the morning, wanting only to cover my head with the blankets and pretend this will all one day go away, too.

I get it.
I feel it.
I know it.
I live it.

Faith doesn't make it easy.  Faith makes it possible. 

Yes, God has blessed me with a strong measure of faith.
His faithfulness to me in days past is the foundation on which I now stand.
I know that I know that I know my God loves me.

behind closed doors,
and more times than not,
right out in the wide open spaces where everyone sees,
(whether I like it or not!)
I am a mess.
I come undone.
I fight to hold on.

Hurting is hurting,
grief is grief,
heartache is heartache,
sorrow is sorrow,
no matter how much faith a person may have.

The struggle is real,
this balancing faith and heartache.

And I hope
through the words written here
to somehow make it so apparent,
that what faith appears to be to someone watching
and what faith feels like to someone walking through it,
can seem to be completely different
and yet,
in reality,
be absolutely the same.

Keep walking your walk.
Keep fighting your fight.
Keep trusting your God.

And, keep remembering this:
Faith doesn't make it easy. Faith makes it possible.

Keep on keeping your faith,
in the midst of,
in spite of,
in the "overwhelmingness"  of,
your heartache, -
no matter how messy,
no matter how undone,
no matter how raw
it may look or feel.

This is where we find our victory.

This is where our faith carries us through.