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.

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.

a minty evening, memories, wild turkeys and a flock of ewes

This evening I went for a ‘roll’ over to JW Ranch and enjoyed a visit with the ewes. On the way, I saw a family of wild turkeys with ‘a gaggle’ of young turkeys roaming around the pasture with them. (Do you call a group of them ‘a gaggle’ like geese?) The ewes came up to snuggle a bit, poking their faces through the fence to say hello. I went out to the gravel road along the fence line where I’d mended fences earlier this year. Many happy memories of time with Ramsy the bummer lamb, and other times in the pasture this spring flooded my mind and heart.


How I love living in this farming community. The mint fields were just harvested and the smell of peppermint still floods my senses as I roll on by. I pray that our lives will be a fragrant offering unto the LORD. When we live for ourselves, with selfish intentions, it smells more like the manure from the nearby small dairy farm. But the peppermint fields really remind me of the minty fresh cup of tea I often enjoy on fall mornings. I can feel fall in the air now, as summer draws to a close and soon kids head back to school. Or in this case, during a pandemic, kids pull up a chair next to a laptop to begin the school year. May God draw hearts closer to Himself during this time in history. May we find joy in His Presence, and abide in His peace and joy despite the turmoil in the world around us. Just as the sheep enjoy grazing on the pasture or eating the bale of hay together near the fence line, may we enjoy what God places in front of us, finding nourishment and strength as we encounter His loving Presence in these memorable times.

Coming Home

On this cool morning, I’m sitting on my friends’ porch. The sound of birds and farm equipment during harvest soothe my soul. The blueberry fields across the road form lovely lines and in the distance the swathed grass seed awaits the combine. I hear the mourning doves and maybe some pigeons, along with a choir of other birds. Maisy hasn’t discovered that I’m here yet. She’s a happy Swiss Bernese Mountain Dog that I have enjoyed since she was just a puppy. Now she’s a very large one year old. Bumblebees enjoy the salvia in front of me. The long porch with white wooden rocking chairs feels so inviting. I feel incredibly blessed.
Just after sunrise this morning, I checked on Jackie and Ken. He’s settling in since arriving back home from the care facility yesterday. This wonderful couple is adapting so well already. She lovingly guides him and he manages to get up and around with the right equipment. Delighted at being reunited, they smile a lot, and their good humor and obvious love for each other touches my heart. Married almost as long as I’ve been alive, they have a wonderful partnership. I think she said they’ve lived in the same house for 50 years now. The only time they’d been apart, except for during COVID after his health crisis, was when he biked across the entire US, and another time when he biked from Canada to Mexico. This couple knows how to live! At the care facility, they were only allowed to see each other through a little window, and that felt like torture. Their obviously close friendship inspires me.
I hope Jerry and I continue to cultivate such a vibrant relationship that endures for decades. When we’re old, I hope we’ll care for one another joyfully, sharing our sorrows and challenges with grace and humor. Sometimes we do well at that. Sometimes we don’t. We’re human.
We already have plenty of physical limitations and conditions to overcome together. We grieve inwardly, and outwardly that grief shows up in various ways.  Sometimes I need to remember that anger is a dimension of grief, and if not expressed in healthy ways, it will show up in strange ways.  More on that in another blog. We’ve made it through a lot in these five years. I love Romans 8 where it talks about how nothing can separate us from His love, and how God causes all things to work together for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Somehow our love grows stronger as we endure various trials. Somehow, by God’s infinite grace, we grow closer to the LORD and as a result we learn about His Hesed. God’s steadfast, enduring devotion, His covenant love…we get to experience these things in our marriage. We get to experience hanging in there when things are challenging. We learn about loving each other when love doesn’t come naturally. We find a way to forgive each other when we fail miserably. We carry on and we forgive one another because He first forgave us, even when we were hostile to Him. He loves us with a steadfast love. Marriage is a wonderful classroom.  A living laboratory. A chance to fail, to grow, to persevere. To reach the end of ourselves, and allow Him to heal and transform the broken places that painful times reveal.
I call marriage the Beautiful Struggle.

let’s go down to the river to pray…

Blood running down my shins. Pain, fatigue…sweat pouring down my face and down my neck onto my back. Heat causes my nerve conduction to short out, so I can barely navigate on my feet. Weary of MS and limitations that worsen on hot days. Finally home with a few more rubber mats for the garden paths, so my wheelchair can carry me around the raised beds more safely. Trying to unload the heavy mats with Sweetie, both of us too tired. His hands need surgery, so gripping anything really hurts. So I lift things and grab the dolly. We wrestle the big mat and 5 smaller ones out of the back of the van. Frustrating words fill the air, two people in a lot of pain doing the best they can. Never enough, though. Blood drips down my shin and I bang it for the third time on the edge of the dolly. He expressed frustration that I wasn’t home to help him build a ukulele. Never mind the tasks I wanted to finally accomplish. Too tired for a cool shower yet, so I heat up some leftover GF pizza. Sweetie pours me a cold ginger drink which refreshes me. Then I remember the baptisms today. Singing “Let’s go down to the river to pray…” before heading for the waters. The harmonies echoing under the oak grove where His Presence feels like the balm of Gilead to my weary parched soul.
Seeing Rich and others baptized after sharing their testimonies…a precious joy. He raises his arms in triumph after coming out of the water. His children and wife rejoice, as do his friends and church family. Suddenly the cold shoulders of people nearby our home, the harsh words and glares fade away. I belong to Him. The accuser of the brethren has been cast down, we overcome by the Word of our testimony and the blood of the Lamb. We all sin. We all fail. But the beauty of belonging to Jesus is that our sins are washed away and forgiven, removed as far as the east is from the west. Washed away as we are identified with His death and resurrection. Made new, clean, pure once more. Raised to new life. Transformed by His love. Able to forgive those who hurt us, disappoint us. Ready to let go of those wounds of recent times. Not ready to trust those who have so little compassion and only think of themselves, who kick you when you’re already hurting, but ready to forgive and let go of the pain inflicted by their behavior and words. Ready to eat my delicious pizza with fresh kale, feta cheese, and other fresh garden delights…and read The Baggage Handler for book club tomorrow night. Thank You, Abba Father. You love us so. I snuggle into Your Presence for the evening, safe, secure and beloved.

Isaiah 58 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
11 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.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
    and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the Lord,
    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heightsof the land
    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

(Isaiah 58 from the NIV.)

Goodbye, Maple Tree

What an encouraging day. Got the ramp installed this morning properly and it will work fantastic for the back door to the patio. Got the tree removed and cleaned up. Had a long peaceful nap. Thank you, Richard, Kris and Aaron!!! And thank you, Jerry, for sweeping the driveway afterwards. One of these days, maybe soon, I can get back to planting succulents and doing more than the essential watering, etc. But I got plenty of exercise today helping the guys. Reminded me of the many fun times cutting firewood as a kid with Katie and John Gould’s family. Working with others on a physical project feels so good to me…I love to see work getting done and I miss being stronger and healthier. Years ago I could buck more hay than most men, for hours. I could run 10 miles and did cross country and long distance track. I rode on bike trips in Canada with Canyonview, and I could pedal up the hills with the best of them. Those days are joyful memories now. I need a power chair to do many things and find daily life challenging. But I know that we are incredibly blessed anyway. Very thankful that following Jesus is an adventure that doesn’t depend on circumstances—joy and peace are mine because He lives within me. Christ in us, the hope of glory….

fully present to life, not virtually distracted

If we live in the same general neighborhood, I might disconnect from you virtually. I just believe face to face conversations are healthiest. Besides, prayer is far more powerful than FB. We are praying for you. If you have a specific prayer need, please feel free to let us know. We have a front porch and can serve you a cup of tea if you are local, or we can go enjoy the succulents in the back yard (at a safe distance of course  I believe that technology can be used for evil or for good. But God knows our hearts. I intend to use my other pages more and this page less for now. So if you want to connect, please use the old fashioned methods if possible. I missed the garbage day celebration because I was planting some verbena and gardening. But I was out front just after the truck went by, and Jerry opened his window to talk to me. He said you are overdoing it again. Yes, I have been gardening for an hour or more…but it is good exercise, and I didn’t fall!

Planting things and weeding is my home PT plan. After I got tired and wobbly, I considered testing his theory and laying down to see if the garbage truck driver would pick me up and give me a shake, and then set me on my feet. Thankfully, God has done just that. We got away for four days, and God renewed my spirit. Jerry and I had time to connect and enjoy the LORD together away from this place we call home. Yesterday, some wonderful people from our church delivered three used horse stall mats they no longer needed. That was so kind! Now if I fall by the raised beds, it won’t be so painful. We’re still looking for a few more mats for the garden paths, so if you hear of some used ones, let me know.

I wish you the best as you allow the garbage truck to haul off the junk, the wounds, the gossip and malicious behaviors in your neighborhoods. May the boundaries you set be healthy ones, ones which honor God. May our words build up, and not tear down. May we be good examples to the children in our neighborhoods. (During COVID we have a rare opportunity to spend time cooped up with lots of neighbors and kids for months at a time. This can be a gift if we use it well.) If you live on my street, we’d love to see you face to face. But don’t be surprised if I don’t embrace FB as a form of communication with you. God reminded me through a former teammate in China that being fully present in our lives is a much greater gift than having a ‘virtual presence.’ (If it weren’t for the ease of keeping in touch with friends and family far away, I’d close this account.) May God instead bring unity, peace, joy and love. Only as you abide in Christ is this realy possible. I want to begin my day in the Word of God and prayer. I need to put on the armor because this life is a spiritual battle and we need not get entangled in the brambles. Instead I seek to interact with God with gratitude and worship, and turn on the relational circuits. As we connect with Him, we draw strength for the day.

This morning two mourning doves just flew over as I am sitting outside watching the sprinklers water the things I just planted. My prayer is to sow love and grace where weeds have sought to choke out our joy. I hear the sound of doves. A hummingbird just landed in the maple tree close to my wheelchair. Our birdhouses are full of fledglings who are soon going to learn to fly. The Living Water has refreshed me as I have enjoyed His Presence outdoors this morning. Now for a shower to wash the mud off.

Today is our day with Val and Steve, who have so graciously helped us once a week in the midst of this hard time with our health. We really are more blessed than I can express, more thankful than I can find words for. May the mud of this life wash off and flow down the drain, leaving pure hearts and clean hands for His service. Two men (or women) looked through prison bars, one saw mud, the other saw stars. May you see stars, and the Son who created the heavens and the earth. As far as the heaven is above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness to those who fear Him.

Trapped

Today my husband and I awoke at the Oregon Gardens, and after a delicious breakfast at the lodge, we went for a roll/walk (I roll, he walks) around the gardens. We saw a doe and two fawns, hummingbirds, and other wildlife. We saw the rising sun cast soft filtered light upon the gardens, and I recalled how it all began in the Garden. Coming here is like going home for me, and time in the Oregon Gardens is so renewing. Since our family farm is just up the road, the woods and the hills feel familiar, like the land we farmed as a family in my youth. In fact, I can see part of our farm from these gardens, off in the distance. That part of the farm, on Hibbard Rd, has been farmed by the Kuenzi family for 102 years now.  The land is part of us. After Jerry and I went into Silverton to buy him a hat, we had some lunch and a nap. Much needed rest felt so good to both of us. COVID has been a stressful season of time, and life in our small town has held both joys and trials.  In the afternoon, I drove over the my Mom and Arie’s to pick up a prescription I really needed which my friend had kindly gotten for me today. I didn’t feel up to driving downtown Salem to get it, so I had run out and her kindness meant a lot. I told her sometimes I feel trapped in this body, and pain and limitations can make daily life hard and wear me down emotionally.

A few weeks ago, I fell in our garden, spraining several limbs and my wrist and knee, gashing my leg on the cinder blocks, and reminding me that indeed the secondary progressive stage of multiple sclerosis can be quite discouraging. My legs give out randomly and the treatment for MS no longer is effective. The nature of the progression is such that the deterioration is not in the brain and spinal cord so much as it is in individual nerves. So simple tasks like swallowing my food or vitamins can result in heaving. I’ll do speech therapy for that problem, but again there’s not a lot that can be done. Medically speaking, I’m told just to adapt our lives to the power wheelchair, so ramps and home modifications have occupied our days in recent weeks. I started PT and an OT came to the house to help me figure out adaptations that need to be made as soon as possible. The health crisis that has been steadily approaching for the past nine months is here, and likely here to stay. The OT told me it is important the my environment support me. I am extremely grateful for long time friends and new friends who have helped out with doing dishes and cleaning or organizing while we work out better ways to get things done at home. Jerry continues working at home during COVID. He couldn’t get time off to run me to the doctor the day I fell, so a friend from high school kindly offered. Every genuine need that arises is met by a loving God who sees me. He knows. He understands. I can’t balance well enough most of the time to do all of the house work.  This is hard for my husband and me both. We do the best we can.

I think about that phrase, “when your environment supports you, life will get easier.” To be honest, lately I’ve noticed the things around us that not only don’t support us, but at times attack me and kick me when I’m down.  I don’t have the energy for drama in our neighborhood and I will not be engaging with any of that from here on, either virtually or in person. We will build a fence and set appropriate boundaries emotionally and physically because healthy boundaries matter.

We managed to stay neutral for two years for the most part, but we moved into a neighborhood with some lovely people who also had long standing strife between them. The police get called, and people tell us about their conflicts, and we have simply responded that we are praying to be able to love our neighbors, to remain neutral. When we left for this little vacation, however, my heart was grieved. Not only did our neutrality vanish when someone chose to verbally attack me and say horrible things (which were not true) in front of children that I love, but I will never again trust the people who chose to treat us in this way. I will forgive them because Christ forgave me, but that does not mean I will ever be required to trust them unless they earn that trust. In fact, I have chosen to forgive them already. I stood in the Secret Gardens, with my power chair a few feet away, and watched the stream flow under the little bridge. Like it says in Job, we can recall our troubles as waters gone by. I choose to forgive. Not because it was okay to treat us this way, but because we have a living and true God who loves us. He forgives us and forgives those who condemn us and speak lies about us to others. God’s Word says that He restores unto us the years the locust has eaten. I feel lately as though a swarm of locusts just ravaged our fields and home.

Home hasn’t felt comfortable recently. It’s rough living each day in a body that is not only struggling but declining in terms of  health, mobility and balance. Strife among people around us and anger directed and us didn’t feel good. But over and over God spoke these words to my heart:  The battle belongs to the LORD. There’s a verse that says, “Do not go into the fields of the fatherless for their Redeemer is so very strong.” I don’t need to defend myself against lies and mistreatment. I have a Savior who was betrayed, and misunderstood. He knows what it is to be falsely accused.  Yet Jesus humbled Himself, even to the point of allowing those angry mobs to crucify Him. He went to the cross for me and for my neighbors, and for each person we love or struggle to relate to. He desires that none would perish. John 3:16 talks about how  He extends His love to all of us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so whoever believes on Him would not perish but have eternal life.” My identity has nothing to do with the false things someone said about me two days ago in front of children that I care about. My identity is found in the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ, who gave His life for me and for those same people who feel justified in treating me this way.  God knows the truth. I need not defend myself to anyone. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is LORD.  I will bow my knees now in gratitude and humility. We all need a Redeemer.

Forgiving others doesn’t mean that we will trust them necessarily. We can allow them to earn our trust, and that may never happen. That’s okay. We know the truth and we rest in the Way. the Truth and the Life.  Colossians 3 says to set our minds on the things above. Paul goes on to say that we rest in our identity and position in Christ. The things of earth grow strangely dim when we are able to do this.

I am loving time with my husband in this beautiful place. He is sleeping peacefully now. This morning a doe and her two fawns walked very close to us, at peace and accustomed to human beings coexisting with them in the gardens. When we moved to Jefferson, we hoped that we would feel that way, safe and accepted in our community. (Sometimes living there has felt a bit like the wild west. When we first moved in, the SWAT team was in the neighborhood several times. A suicide devastated a family. We heard other stories that brought us to our knees in prayer. We grew to love many in this rural community.  We’ve made some beautiful friends, and I am very grateful.)

Recently, that feeling of peace and comfort was disrupted in a big way. But we know that in Christ, we can abide in Him and be at peace, no matter what is going on around us. In Revelation, it says that “they overcame the accuser of the brethren by the Word of their testimony and the blood of the Lamb.” The enemy of our souls seeks to steal, kill and destroy. Whether I am bleeding from crashing into a mailbox, or bruised and battered after another bad fall due to MS, I know that some people will respond with great compassion and mercy. Others will not. That will hurt. It’s okay, though.  I am called to keep my eyes on Jesus and to recognize that only then can I live at peace among people who wound others by their words and actions. Wounded people wound people. It’s an age old problem, ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. I will not be relating to anyone in our neighborhood via social media or going out without my phone in the future. For one thing, when I fall I need to call for help. Jerry came out and scooped me up when I fell in our garden a few weeks ago. His arms felt so good around me. Some other loving friends have been helping us adapt our home and make everything more wheelchair accessible. I remember how Corrie ten Boom spoke comforting words to her sister Betsy (before Betsy  died in the concentration camps where they experienced the most brutal abuse imaginable and inhumanity from other humans). Corrie comforted Betsy with these words: “Underneath are the Everlasting Arms.”

When I fall, whether people nearby criticize or speak to me with accusations, or whether they pick me up and hold me close like my husband did, I can be at peace. Because although I do need my environment to support me more, God is at work. The ramps are getting built and we have a few more to set up. I will get a different kind of walker that we hope will prevent at least most of the falls. The bruises and sprains will heal. The gashes from the cinder blocks and also the rusty mailbox near my flowerbed are healing. So is my wounded heart. I have released those who hurt me most by forgiving them. I will fix my eyes on Jesus and abide in His love. I am planting succulents and dreaming of a service dog who can help me with mobility and getting up when I fall. A dog’s unconditional love can be so healing. I am blessed by friends around the globe who truly love me and support us in this hard time.

For momentary light afflictions are producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.  Paul’s words resonate with my heart in a deep way tonight .  The eyes of the LORD search to and fro throughout the inhabited earth to strongly support those whose hearts are fully His. Really, Paul experienced shipwrecks and assaults both physically and emotionally. He counted all things loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus our LORD. He considered those things he lost as rubbish in contrast to the wonder and beauty of knowing the Redeemer. I think about people around me who are afraid to attend church or really explore who Jesus is because of the way some who profess to know Him have treated them. Granted, human relationships can get complex, and in this fallen world, conflicts arise. But that’s a tragedy. My prayer is that those who call upon the name of the LORD will live in ways that honor Him and that we will be ready to give account for the hope that is within us. Romans 8 says that we have been set free into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We are adopted, loved, treasured, and nothing can separate us from His love. I cannot fall from grace or lose His unconditional love. Nor can I do anything that would separate me from His lavish grace and precious love. So if I bleed a bit, or get bruised and beaten up emotionally, I can count it joy as I encounter these trials. To suffer for His name is not a disgrace but an honor. I am His and His banner over me is LOVE. Underneath are the everlasting arms, and soon I will rest next to my husband, peacefully sleeping in His lovingkindness and Hesed. His steadfast covenant love holds me close when I am hurting. No matter how I am treated in this life by other people, I am fully loved, fully accepted and fully forgiven. His banner over me is LOVE. As far as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness towards those who fear (revere, worship) Him. I am so thankful God gave Jerry and I these four days in to walk (or roll along in a power chair) in the Garden with our Creator.

May you rest fully in His love, be at peace and strengthened by the joy of the LORD, which does not depend on circumstances. I am my Beloved and He is mine. His banner over me is love.  Sometimes I feel trapped by my body as MS progresses. I get tired of falls and pain, limitations and the harsh realities that come with this. A few days ago I felt so weary of living among human beings who aren’t always kind to one another. I felt claustrophobic and so eager to get away from a culdesac where struggles wearied my soul. I am stuck living in this body which isn’t easy.  In a few days, we will return home and resume life together, trusting God’s grace to be sufficient. We can trust that His power will be made perfect in our weakness.  Though being away is wonderful, I am no longer dreading returning home. I will keep my eyes on Jesus and we’ll be okay. Life with MS and other health issues we face together will never be easy. We’ve been dealt a very tough deck of cards between us. We are so blessed to have friends and family who love us and help us. I still look forward to eternity where no more tears and no more suffering will exist. In His Presence is fulness of joy. And, I can enter into His Presence as I worship and explore the beauty of these gardens with my husband.  I am free in Christ. Now to go and lay down beside the one in whom my soul delights and join him in peaceful slumber.