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Good Friday

Life does not always progress in the way we plan. Whenever I feel like asking “WHY, GOD?!” I think of the disciples and what they thought when Jesus was on the cross. Life did not go the way they thought it would either, so I think I am in pretty good company there.

It is ok to sit awhile in mourning during hardships. Our finite minds need time to process the circumstances and work through what we know to be true. God allows this mourning. God understands this pain. God is with us even when it feels like He has abandoned us. People will betray us and run away from our grief, but God will never forsake us even when we cannot feel his presence.

Here is the difference for those who believe in Jesus Christ: no matter how dead our Friday is, we have hope in Resurrection Sunday. But we cannot skip the long, dark hours of Friday night and the grieving hours of Saturday.

It has been a difficult time for our family as Mr. K has been out of work for 16 months, but we have hope in a living Savior. We know how the story ends better than the disciples did on that long ago day at the cross. We know Jesus is alive! That is how we get through each day as we wait in hope. We wait in faith. We wait in love.

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A Father’s Love

Jeremiah 29.11Mr. K has been out of a job for 6 months. We never thought it would take so long for him to find a job and there is no way to know how much longer it will be. It is difficult to see a talented, hard-working man not be used to his full potential in a work-place environment, though he has been very productive at home and helpful to many others in his volunteer services.

The waiting is difficult, but the understanding of God’s timing is not. There are many examples of God staying his hand to answer prayer so we take comfort from these examples in the Bible. We believed in God’s faithfulness when Mr. K had a job, why would we stop now? We knew God loved us when Mr. K had a job, does he loves us less now? Of course not, that would be ridiculous! God is rich in mercy, overflowing with grace, giving us His best every day.

The other day, Mr. K drove over an hour to drop off a care package for The Boy who is working as a counselor at a Christian camp for the summer. They didn’t get to see each other there, but The Boy texted later to say thank you. He wrote, “You got all my favorites! How did you know I was almost out of gum?” A father knows what his son loves. A father goes out of his way to meet his son’s needs and to make him feel loved and special. There is nothing Mr. K wouldn’t do for the Boy and over the years he has proven his love, care, and sacrifice over and over again. God loves us the same way. We trust God knowing that our value is not in what we do but in who we are in Christ Jesus. The job will come when the timing is right.

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Joy and Pain

Romans 12.12Over the last few weeks we have had a couple of weddings, two graduations (one more tomorrow), two birthdays, a funeral, and the tragic death of a student who attended the high school where I volunteer. There has been joy and pain, celebration and mourning, and in the background of it all, the continuous job search for Mr. K who has been out of a job for 5 months now. The bigger things put the smaller things into perspective. Death has a way of doing that – making our thoughts come to a full stop. We ask each other, “Are you okay?” feeling our emotional parts as if we had a bad fall. “Is anything broken? Can you move forward?”

People often think about God when bad things happen. It is right to think about God when people die because He is the Creator and we wonder what happens to His creatures when there is no more breath. We think about the fragility of life, at least I do. I feel like we are held together with bubblegum and duct tape. “Are you okay?”

We live through brokenness and our bodies survive abuse, but a delicate skull can get crushed, and a heart can stop beating suddenly. Our next breath may be our last without preparation or notice. What is important? What should we focus on? Life goes on whether we want it to or not. Children need to be fed, the trash needs to be gathered and put on the curb, and love needs to be shared. “Are you okay?”

My 90 year old mom has seen her share of the joy and pain of life. I said to her how tragic it is when young people die and she gently disagreed with me. “Young or old, death is death,” she said. “A young person is spared the pain of living in this world, and that is good,” she explained. “An older person has enjoyed a long life, and that is good.”

We mourn our loved ones and we ask, “Are you okay?” Then we check the bubblegum and duct tape and take a deep breath.

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Unwanted Gifts

Birth of Jesus Blog Pic

How do you handle it when what God provides is not what you want?  I’ve been meditating on this thought through this season of gift-giving. What do we do when we are given a “gift” that is unexpected?  Unwanted?  Unwelcome?

As I read the Christmas story, I thought about Mary.  Imagine being given the gift of pregnancy when you are a virgin.  Imagine traveling with your betrothed and giving birth in a shelter God provided, but not a clean house. Imagine receiving the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh from benevolent strangers, foreshadowing the gift of a Savior dying on a cross. Mary said “I am the Lord’s servant… May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38) She graciously accepted her part in God’s narrative but life was not easy for Mary.

Many years ago God provided our family with a tiny 2 bedroom/1 bath 800 square foot condo.  Mr. K and I had 3 energetic little kids and a cranky cat and I was thankful, but I knew I could be a much better wife and mother if I lived a bigger house.  It was my constant prayer.  I reminded God daily that He could do better and 12 years later, God answered.  We moved to a bigger house and the waiting years created in me an understanding (I am a slow learner) that it did not matter where I lived if my heart was discontented with what I had.

The blessings that God provided were my husband and children, and as much as I thought I was grateful for them, it took the years of waiting to show me how God provided everything I needed.  I learned so many lessons in humility and patience while waiting for God to move us out of our condo.  Waiting time is not wasted time with God.

He is Immanuel, “God with us!”  Through death and divorce, cancer and chronic illness, betrayal and abandonment, Jesus is with us.  Are we willing to receive the gifts God has for us and like Mary, accept what God provides with humility?  Even in grief we can have gratitude because we have a Savior who is acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).  Look closely at what God has provided for you.  May the peace of God be with you as you remember the true Gift of Christmas with a humble and grateful heart.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

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Healing & Wholeness

 

Carl Bloch Painting2

“If I had more space I could get better organized,” I thought for the hundredth time as I looked at my cluttered living room.  Our family of two adults, three kids, and a cat had outgrown our 800 square foot condo and every available nook and cranny was filled with toys, clothes, books, and papers.  “If I was better organized, I would be a better wife and mother AND I’d have more time to serve you, Lord!”  God was more likely to answer my prayers for a bigger home if He knew my motivation was unselfish.

I went upstairs and checked on the baby.  He was still asleep, and with the girls at school, I knew I had at least an hour of quiet time.  I read from John 5 where Jesus heals the paralyzed man by the Sheep Gate pool in Jerusalem, but I was frustrated and I couldn’t concentrate.  “God, I know you want to teach me something, but I’ve read this story for years and I’m just not getting anything out of the Bible right now.”  I closed my eyes and lay my head down on the cluttered desk next to the bed in our overstuffed bedroom.

Praying for the Holy Spirit to help my understanding of the scripture passage, I imagined myself as an overwhelmed paralytic.  I felt the heat of the sun as I lay down on my thin mat.  I looked around the pool at all the other disabled people there.  I needed someone to help me be the first one into the pool so I could be healed but no one would help me.  I was paralyzed for 38 years, so I knew the system and it was not working for me. I thought about the little things that would make me more comfortable, like scooting my mat toward some shade as the sun moved across the colonnade.  Then I had an excellent idea.   I thought a more comfortable and larger mat was the answer.  I was lost in these thoughts when I heard the words, “Do you want to get well?”  I was caught up in my imagination, and I blurted out to Jesus, “I want a better mat!”  Suddenly, I was back in my bedroom.  Jesus asked me if I want to get well and all I wanted was a better mat?!

The lame man in the Bible also did not answer the question.  He told Jesus he had no one to help him into the healing pool when the angel stirred the waters.  Jesus had plans for that man.  He wanted to heal him and change the direction of his life.  I, too, needed healing, not for any physical infirmity, but for spiritual and emotional wholeness.   It was as if Jesus asked me the same question, “Mrs. K, do you want to get well?”  Rather than say “YES!”  I’d say, “Give me a bigger house, Jesus!  That is the answer to all my problems and frustrations.”

What the Holy Spirit showed me that day was that Jesus wanted to give me so much more than comfort and empathy.  Being short-sighted in faith was like asking for a new mat when Jesus wanted healing and wholeness for me. After healing him, Jesus gave the man an action plan, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  I had an action plan, too. I got up and did the work I had for that day.

That time with the Holy Spirit was a precious milestone in my walk of faith.  I have learned to trust God beyond my circumstances because His desire is for me to be whole.  My Father in Heaven wants to give me bigger and better things than anything I could ask for myself.  But first I have to answer the question Jesus asks all of us, “Do you want to get well?”

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Untangled

Many years ago, my little girl struggled to untangle her favorite necklace.  Her tiny 6 year old fingers couldn’t undo the knot in the chain.  I said, “Give mommy your necklace and I will untangle it for you.”  She said, “I want to do it myself!”  She worked at it and did her best, but as hard as she tried she could not untangle the chain.  After some time, she came to me and said, “Mommy can you help me?”  I gladly took the necklace from her and used the tweezers to quickly untangle the tight knot as she watched.  Minutes later she was happily wearing her necklace again.

As I worked on the necklace, I realized there were many times I had a tangle in my life that I struggled to undo in my own strength.  Surely hard work and perseverance would get me what I needed!  But there are times when God allows situations in my life that are beyond me.  Rather than struggle and fret and get angry, I need to humble myself and give my tangle over to God.  This is a far easier thing to say than to do, but this is what I have learned.

There is a difference between giving up and giving it to God.  My daughter could have taken her tangled necklace and thrown it down in frustration.  She would have lost the pleasure of wearing a favorite necklace and also the time we spent together as she watched me work.  Giving my tangles over to God does not mean I stop working hard and doing my best.  Giving things to God means I let go of my demand to have plans go my way.  In time, God will bring beauty out of a mess.

God uses my humility to develop a relationship with Him.  By coming to me, my daughter acknowledged her inability to do something for herself.  That gave me the opportunity to show her what I could do for her.  I have been blessed by God’s amazing answers in situations I thought were impossible.  Thinking of it another way, I wonder how many blessings I’ve missed out on because I insisted on doing things my way and not getting anywhere.  Humility increases my faith in God and deepens my relationship with Him.  As a result, I have had encounters and opportunities I never would have experienced if I had maintained my stubborn desire to handle tangles my way.

As always, the best encouragement comes from God’s word.  “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” (Proverbs 25:9)  As a loving Father, God wants to strengthen my faith, but even more than that, He wants a dynamic relationship with me.  When I give Him the tangles of my life, He teaches me to trust Him to do what He can with all that I cannot.  And a trusting and loving relationship is even more beautiful than any untangled necklace.Necklace Phil  4:13

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Fear is a Paralyzer

Early in my marriage I had exactly what I prayed for, a loving husband and three beautiful babies and yet I often cried in frustration.  I was so fearful of making a mistake with the huge responsibility of raising three helpless children who depended on me for their survival and development.  Was I going to damage these precious blessings with my impatience and stupidity?  These thoughts really weighed on me and I felt I was not passing the Good Mother test.  I prayed constantly and sought wisdom from the Bible and read every parenting book I could get my hands on.  And you know what I discovered?  Fear is a paralyzer.

Parenting out of fear creates reactions with uncertainty rather than actions with confidence.  Whether we have parenting worries or financial problems or any other out-of-control feeling, fear makes us grasp at decisions in desperation rather than in confidence.

Once I let go of my frantic need to do EVERYTHING RIGHT ALL THE TIME, I had many choices for action.  Confrontation with a loved one is an opportunity to connect.  When I had a tantruming 2 year old, I learned to model patience, teach love, and show grace.  Running away, even mentally, doesn’t help anyone.  As much as I wanted to shut myself in my room, pull the covers over my head and eat cheese and crackers in bed (who does that?) I learned to face problems with faith and courage and the support of Mr. K.  There is a solution to most every challenge though the best answer may not be an easy one.

Fear is a paralyzer, but faith is an energizer. Let go of what cannot be controlled and cast any anxieties on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7).  I’m still learning how to deal with fear, but when I look back on all that God has taught me and Mr. K by relying on Him through the trials of parenting, I see how I have grown in wisdom and faith.  The kids have turned out pretty good, too.

The Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.