celebration

My husband and I went out to lunch today to celebrate our sixth anniversary (a little early) at Ba’s Vietnamese Comfort Food. We enjoyed sharing the chicken pho, the fresh vegetable tofu spring rolls, and a chicken skewer.

The chicken pho was served with basil and bean sprouts, and lime (and jalapeno) if you so desired. The chicken bone broth had been cooked for six hours, making it a healthy and delicious meal. While the chicken didn’t have spicing, the dish tasted delicious.

We have had a relaxing, fun day together. We feel so thankful for these years we’ve shared, and for God’s grace in strengthening and blessing our relationship over time.

Then we went to a favorite grocery store where we bought fresh fruit for a family meal tomorrow. My sister and her son are visiting from north of Boston, so we’re really excited to see them tomorrow and be with Mom and Arie and others.

We want to thank God for His steadfast love and for helping us grow. Marriage brings out the best and sometimes the worst in us, but all of that is okay–we know that He likes us to see where we need His healing and growth most. Our heavenly loves to continue to bring to completion the good work He has started in each of His children.

We love to try different eateries, and after more than a year of limited outings/food choices, eating somewhere in person felt like such a treat. We play with our cameras and enjoy time to relax together and talk. I especially like having a meal out because we usually have more good conversations face to face without the distractions of daily life.

I’ll share a few pictures and the FB link for this restaurant. Great family atmosphere and the art and decor was lovely. We’ll be back!

https://www.facebook.com/basvietnamesecomfortfood/

a caring father

This evening after I finished mowing our lawn, I pulled a few weeds. I can’t balance well enough for long, so I’ll have to continue weeding another day.

I wanted to enjoy a little more time outside. Too tired and unsteady to walk, I took the power wheelchair for a spin. The gentle evening light and warm spring air felt so good. On a nearby street, I saw a family out for a bike ride. The mother was walking, and several kids were biking. I saw the father riding a kid’s bike, demonstrating how to ride a bike for his younger son. Then the younger boy got back on his small bike, but he couldn’t quite balance adequately yet.

His father straddled the back tire as he walked and leaned forward, steadying the handle bars for his son. He let go and his son managed to stay upright a little ways, and then as he toppled to one side, his father gracefully caught the bike and kept his son from hitting the sidewalk. His son smiled proudly as his father spoke words of encouragement. “You made it quite a ways that time. You did it!”

I smiled and heard the other kids praising him, too. Like seeing a toddler’s first steps, I had joy of witnessing a holy moment. I admired this father’s caring actions and the love on his face.

I thought about how we still need encouragement and support as adults. When we try to learn something new, or we simply get weary and lose our balance, we need to know that someone stands ready to help us right ourselves and try again.

I am thankful that my husband has never been embarrassed by my need for assistive devices. Some men, with a more shallow nature or fragile ego, might feel ashamed to walk alongside a wheelchair, or to walk beside their wife who is using a walker despite being relatively young. Those of us with multiple sclerosis don’t always have the luxury of being steady on our feet regularly enough. I felt very triumphant when I made it safely all of the way down the aisle on our wedding day. We placed seats for us to rest in during part of our wedding ceremony. Guests told me they were relieved that I didn’t have to struggle to balance and stand for a long time, as tradition sometimes suggests.

My husband sometimes holds my hand in the grocery store as I ride on the motorized shopping cart. I never feel any hesitancy to accept me with my mobility limitations. He encouraged me to buy a LifeGlider, which is a newer device that helps prevent falls, and it arrived a few days ago.

I really appreciate my husband’s support. He wants me to have what I need to live life as fully as possible. Today we took a walk together on his break. I felt so good walking alongside him with my hands free (rather than pushing a walker). I relaxed knowing that even if I stumbled, the LifeGlider would keep me from hitting the ground.

This evening I loved how the siblings and the boy’s mother and father all encouraged him with smiles and positive comments as he tried to learn to ride a bike. When this boy is older and trying something new, I think maybe the self-talk in his mind will be positive, too. How different it would have been if his father hadn’t been willing to patiently teach him.

I couldn’t help smiling as I saw this loving father model grace and support rather than criticism. I saw the joy on the boy’s face as he experienced a small victory and kept trying to balance on his bike a little longer and go a little farther.

Father, I hope I can trust You as I take risks and learn new things like this child trusted his father. Rather than being anxious and discouraged by the many times I fail or lose my balance, help me instead to celebrate the small gains and dare to go on risking. Help me to trust that You will help me not to crash as I attempt new things or walk on unsteady legs.

Help me celebrate my progress on writing a book, however slow the process may feel. Help me remember that You stand ready to help me, and that You cheer me on.

Thank You for the times I have fallen and You provided my husband to help me up, hold me close, and reassure me with his loving embrace and tender words of affection.

A Man of Sorrows, Acquainted with Grief

Note: I originally wrote this piece back in 2010 during a time when health limitations felt a bit discouraging. Perhaps these words will encourage your heart now, as we journey to the cross again this spring.

Ever get weary? Ever need some encouragement? I do.

I’ve never found renewal or encouragement by focusing on hard circumstances, but when I turn my face to Him, He comforts me.

I’m thankful for the verses that tell us Jesus was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief; I’m thankful that we have hope beyond this life and these bodies. Take a look at Isaiah 53:2-12.

Sometimes I feel discouraged by the idea that my life’s potential has been diminished by a neurological condition.

God has, over the years, shown me that this thinking is not accurate in His economy. Still it can be discouraging to have fewer opportunities to use the skills and gifts He’s given me.

Sometimes I miss looking healthy and fit, and a wheelchair or walker doesn’t make me look either. In fact, some people make assumptions about someone using such equipment and devalue them or write them off.

I miss doing counseling, writing trainings and workshops, and teaching groups. Last night I grieved some of the losses I face. However, I was so struck by the passage in Isaiah and noticed new things as I read the New Living Translation.

Our values needn’t be shaped by the world, but by the example of our Savior. Early in the chapter we read that there would be nothing beautiful or majestic about the Messiah’s appearance, nothing to attract us to Him. Verse 3 tells us that Jesus was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. Last night this verse comforted me as tears warmed my cheeks.

The next verse reminds us that it was our weaknesses He carried, it was our sorrows that weighed him down.

He suffered horrible abuse— Jesus was beaten and whipped, suffering ultimately for our wholeness and healing. He was pierced for our rebellion, and crushed for our sins. Jesus knew oppression and harsh treatment. Yet he never said a word.

Isaiah 53:8 really struck me because sometimes I feel sad that I will never have my own biological children. It says, “Unjustly condemned, he was led away.” (The footnote shares that in the Greek version it says: He was humiliated and received no justice. Compare Acts 8:33.) No one cared that Jesus died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. (One Greek version reads: Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.)

Isaiah 53:8 wraps up saying, “For he was struck down for the rebellion of my people.” The passage continues to speak to my heart. Imagine the Creator of the Universe, the Son of God, being mocked, crucified and buried as if he were a vile criminal. Imagine Isaiah prophesying these things would happen, and every detail being fulfilled.

When I read verse 10, it spoke profoundly to my heart: “But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.”

Catch that—Jesus will have many descendants…and this is only possible because of Christ’s willingness to suffer and die in order to redeem all of us who would believe on His name and find life for all eternity. Verse 11 says, “When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied…”

By His death and resurrection, it is possible for many of us to be counted righteous, for the Savior would bear all of our sins. Our dirty hearts and lives are washed clean in the blood of the Savior. We are set free!

Beautiful! Instead of a few earthly descendants, Jesus will have thousands of descendants throughout eternity, and who knows what impact our lives can have when yielded fully to the Savior’s loving eternal purposes.

In our suffering, we have the opportunity to be conformed further into the image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. As He abides in us, and we abide in Him, eternal mysteries are accomplished. Christ in you, the hope of glory…that’s a mystery that gives life and hope to weary souls.

We will run and not grow weary, walk and not faint as we learn to follow in the example of the Messiah who willingly laid down His life for our redemption. He chose to do the Father’s will and accept the cup of suffering as He allowed those who opposed Him to nail Him to the cross after beating and mocking Him.

His sacrifice and intense suffering paid off in exponentially greater, eternal ways than we could grasp with our finite minds.

Because Christ obeyed the will of the Father, we have the opportunity to be joint-heirs with Him!

Though we may know infirmity and severe suffering in this life, we have a hope and joy that can transcend these limitations and hardships.

I love Hebrews 12:1-2, and will close with these words: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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.” (NASB)

Let’s learn from the example of Jesus, who endured the cross for the joy set before Him. We who are redeemed by His blood are His joy.

Although I won’t ever have biological children, I have known the wonder if seeing others accept Christ as their Savior and LORD, and grow in His grace and truth. Some opportunities to share my faith have arisen precisely because God allowed me to live with multiple sclerosis.

This earthly life goes by quickly. Live it for His glory!

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

A Special Tradition for New Years

Years ago, I began a tradition I really enjoy on New Year’s Eve or the first day of the new year. I sit by the fire, and I write a letter to Jesus, expressing the desires of my heart, and thanking Him for answers to prayer.

I save these letters in one place, and each year I enjoy looking at the letters from previous years, and I can see all that God has done in our lives in the intervening time. This exercise has become something that I look forward to each year.

May God bless each of you as the calendar turns a page to 2021 tonight. This past year has held many challenges, but we’ve seen God answer prayer and sustain and strengthen us in His Hesed–His steadfast devotion, His covenant love, and His enduring grace.

May this next year hold healing and growth for each of us, and a drawing near to our faithful Redeemer.

Most of us hope for a calmer year next year, but in the midst of the west coast fires, the global pandemic, and various other challenges, we have seen His beautiful provision, grace and His Hesed in ways we’ll never forget.

Psalm 37

Ouch!

I watered the succulents on our front porch this morning and as I was returning, I sprained my ankle as I fell. I landed in the flowerbed and couldn’t get up. My face rested softly in the mulch and pain shot up my ankle.

Concerned that no one would know I’d fallen for awhile, I waited. My husband was working on the other side of a window located down the front porch but I didn’t think he’d see me. As I laid in the dirt, I noticed the front door was still open. So I called for my husband, Jerry, and my friend who was helping clean the house, and they came and helped me up. Olive went and got the manual wheelchair from the garage.

I was frustrated about falling, and having more injuries to contend with. This is the fourth time this year, and living with MS sure doesn’t get easier over time.

Unlike last time when I fell on a sidewalk in Salem, hitting my face on the concrete (and no one helped), I was home and they heard me and helped me.

My husband took a break from work and he got a bucket of warm water, and with a towel, he gently washed the dirt off. His kindness touched my heart. I thought of the Savior washing the feet of His disciples. I am thankful God picks us up from the dirt and brings a warm cloth too and washes us off, tending our wounds.

This evening we heard the doorbell. Jerry went to answer the door, and I joined him soon, using my manual wheelchair since I can’t stand on that ankle yet. A young boy from the neighborhood with Christmas lights shining on his cap handed us a tin of cookies, a Christmas card, and a glass jar of hot chocolate mix with a festive ribbon over the top. We were so touched by the kindness of these neighbors. His grandma was with him, and I think his mom was pulling a wagon and waited out by the sidewalk.

This brought back memories of when we were kids and Mom would make all kinds of cookies and goodies and put them on a tray (with our help), and we’d deliver them to many of our neighbors out in the country. This kind gesture meant so much, and when I asked if they lived nearby, his Grandma said, “This is Bailey’s younger brother.” Then I recognized him. Bailey helped me plant succulents and more than once she came to the door with other girls this summer asking if we needed help with anything. She’s a treasure, and we have such great kids in this neighborhood.

This family touched our hearts this evening on a dark winter day. Thank You, Father, for the beautiful ways you remind us of Your Presence and love.

longing for comfort and truth?

We live in bizarre times. If you’re looking for comfort and truth, you won’t find these in the news.

The government won’t provide it. The media won’t either.

They can’t give you what they don’t have.

Expect adversity, but hope for peace.

The world doesn’t have a lot of peace to offer right now. In fact, the whole earth is in distress.

A pandemic rages.

Storms, fires, and political turmoil have ravaged many places. Entire countries are in crisis.

Seek His face. Seek His face continually. Then you will be like a well-watered garden whose springs do not fail (see Isaiah 58). In the midst of great turmoil, God still remains the only enduring source of hope, peace, truth and comfort.

Run to Him.

Find refuge in the shadow of His wings.

Perilous times lie ahead, too. But He already knows the outcome. He will accomplish His loving purposes ultimately.

Almighty God. Abba Father, our covenant-keeping Redeemer, we choose to seek Your face in these troubled times.

We trust in You alone.

Be Still

In a world flooded with words and opinions, find time to be still and know that He is God.

Remember, when we pray we can simply listen to God, as Mother Teresa once said. When asked what God does then she replied, He listens, too.

Companionable silence.

In a world where quiet and solitude so often get neglected, be still.

Connect with the peace and sheer power of our Almighty God who knows the future. He holds the Present. He heals the past. Gentle is strength under control. Marvel in His gentle beauty, His tender compassion and grace.

Cease striving. Quiet your heart.

Rest. Be renewed.

after the rains

This evening, for the first time in about two weeks, the air was fresh enough to breathe outside without a mask. I saw the sky after the heavy rains, the lightening and thunder that rumbled through our area last night, and I felt so relieved. I went out to get some fresh air and watched the sunset at my friends’ waterfront, enjoying the clean Oregon air with a very grateful heart.

The air quality in our area has been among the worst in the world these past two weeks. So, the big storm with heavy torrential rains and water washing away that smoke, and hopefully putting out more of the remaining fires that have been ravaging our state….that storm felt so welcome.

Last night the thunder and lightening lit up the sky so brightly that people said it hurt their eyes. I had room darkening shades and an extremely tired body. I slept through it all. The loud rumbling thunder. The bright lightening strikes, and the winds…none of it woke me.

Maybe I felt a bit exhausted from these two long weeks. Praying for God to spare the homes of people I knew, to spare our family farm and my hometown, and the farms and homes of cousins and friends…I felt like I fought the fires along with the brave men and women who were out there on the front lines, but I fought through prayer. God heard our prayers, and in His sovereignty we saw Him answer many of those heartfelt prayers. Homes were spared. Lives were spared. Winds turned the fires, miraculously sparing the Christian Renewal Center and other very beloved places like my friends’ cabin up on the mountain.

So does it mean God did not hear the prayers of those who lost their homes? Does it mean He does not care? God loves each one of us, and somehow, in His sovereignty, He sometimes allows people to experience very painful losses. He doesn’t love them any less. In fact, I think we confuse the reality of His unconditional love with our human nature. We’re finite in our perspectives and often don’t see beyond today and beyond ourselves. He’s eternal. He’s never in crisis, never worried or scared. He is Almighty God, Maker of Heaven and Earth.

If you have lost your home and things very dear to you, I am so sorry. I visited my parents last weekend. My husband and I took them a pizza and salad for dinner. My Dutch Father, Arie, sat and wept over the loss of homes and properties. He felt so sad about the losses people were experiencing. I was touched by the compassion of this godly man. He cried, and many of us felt like crying often these past two weeks. Our beautiful state has been ablaze. By God’s grace, some of the fires are now under control or contained. Some homes were spared. Lives were spared. But our vulnerability as human beings remains vivid in our minds.

Two weeks ago, on Friday night, not many suspected these weeks would hold so much tragedy. Not many suspected that we were going to be at war with infernos blazing across our state, and that some of those fires would be lit by arsons. We were about to hear about a huge windstorm, blowing in the opposite direction as usual, and dry hot conditions that would soon place many of us in the path of danger.

So often life is like this…we don’t know what is around the corner. A resilient person knows that something bad might happen at any time, but just as likely, something good might just happen, too. Despite all of the fires and sad stories I heard, I saw God move mightily. Often in hearts and families.

Tonight the sunset spoke volumes to my heart. The beauty along the waterfront, the beaver swimming across the waters, the geese and hummingbirds flying around in the newly washed fresh air…all of it seemed to worship the Creator. In front of me, a hummingbird paused midair, hovering with its wings moving so fast they were almost invisible. All creation testifies to His goodness and grace.

Thank You, Father, for sparing our home and community. Thank You for your promises that you will never leave us or forsake us. Thank you that you instill hope in our hearts and renew us in Your love, just as the torrential rains washed the smoke out of the air. You wash our filthy hearts clean. You make us white as snow by the cleansing blood of Christ. We worship You tonight, and thank You for Your enduring steadfast love and care.

Fires and other major stressors? Here’s some help:

Feel like you’ve been through the wringer? Well most of us in Oregon have been in fight or flight all week, and although in some areas things are calming down a bit, it’s not over yet. The fires continue in many parts of the state and the air quality is very poor. Take time to breathe deeply (indoors with air purifiers on if possible) and connect with the LORD. This calms your nervous system. Take time to hug your family or loved ones or ride an indoor exercise bike. This produces endorphins and bonding hormones that make you feel better. Drink lots of water. This helps flush the toxins from breathing smoky air. Your mental health matters too. There are some simple things you can do to help. Gratitude helps you to turn on the relational circuits in the brain. Even giving thanks for simple things, like the fact that you woke up to another day, can help. Pain turns off relational circuits, making it hard to relate to God and other people well. But you can turn those circuits on with interactive gratitude and worship or thanking God, so these tips might help.


There’s also an exercise we call the “Five Bar.” When your phone or laptop has a strong connection, you can see five bars signifying that. If you have a few minutes, close your eyes, pray and think of a time when you felt a strong connection to God. (If you don’t believe there’s a God, you can improvise, but this is more powerful because God’s Presence in healing and powerful. He is love.) Then when He brings a memory to mind, remember that time of deeper connection with God. Marinate in those memories, using all five senses if you can. Take as long as you want. Then, once you feel connected, share this with someone else out loud if you can. This will help create better neural pathways in your brain as it turns on relational circuits, too. A simple thing you can do also at this point is ask the LORD, “Is there something you’d like me to understand?” Or you can invite Him to come with you to the thoughts that are troubling you. He may minister to your heart in a way that can be very healing. These principles come from something called the Immanuel Approach, which Janet Taylor and I taught to some counselors in Asia a few years ago. I still offer Immanuel prayer ministry to others sometimes. Remember God is with you. He is mighty to save!

Just had a shower and washed the ashes and smoke out of my hair, enjoying the warm water and emerging clean and fresh. Now I have God’s Word playing in the background as I get some daily chores done. Feels like being washed and renewed, too. In a very distracting time, we need His Word more than ever. In a time of crisis, His Word is a light unto our feet…a refuge, a source of power and strength. We can rest on His promises, and where faith and promises unite, we see God move powerfully and lovingly.