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.

Creating Space for What Matters Most

Sometimes we can get caught up in working towards a goal, and in the midst of learning and trying to accomplish something, we lose sight of how this may be impacting us and our relationships.

Recently I made a prayerful decision to let go of a goal, for whatever time God leads me to do so. God gave me guidance in a number of ways…all culminating in a moment when the blur and strain of various responsibilities, emotions and concerns I’d been carrying over the past few months came into focus.

God spoke to my heart in the grocery store, when a fairly simple task felt like a big challenge. The motorized cart I used to gather the groceries for Thanksgiving dinner was full (and I had a few groceries already setting around my feet) and I couldn’t seem to find the frozen turkeys. People pointed here and there as they guessed where the turkeys were kept, but none of their guesses were anything more than a wild goose chase. I wanted to finish and go pick up my mom from her appointment, but I needed to find the turkey first. For a moment, I felt like pulling over and crying. Instead, I prayed, “Please help me, God.”

Finally, I asked the woman at the deli where they kept the turkeys, and whether someone could help me get the turkey to the check-out stand in the front of the store. She pointed at a freezer “island” in the back of the store, and she paged someone to help me. Before the customer service woman arrived to help, a nice young man working in produce (his first day on the job) picked up the 20 lb. turkey I pointed to, and he gladly carried the turkey up to the check-out stand where I took my place in line.

I am thankful for how God spoke an important truth to my heart as I rode the motorized cart around the store, and finally got the turkey and other groceries loaded into my van. Like that cart, my life had gotten too full recently. Health issues and major life transitions of loved ones, the recent loss of a beloved family member, and various other concerns all weighed heavily on my heart.

As I prayed more about all of this, I sensed God showing me that He saw the impact of all that. He is always glad to be with us and treats our weaknesses tenderly. With all of these major life events going on in our extended family in recent months, I realized I really need to create some space for what matters most. To do that, I needed to be willing to put a personal goal on hold, and trust God with this decision and the eventual outcome.

When I shared this decision with a friend, she commented that in Psalm 46:10, “Cease striving and know that I am God,” the language means to release something, to let go and to relax. In releasing this desire to God, I felt such genuine peace. I slept better. I felt able to be more emotionally present again. Offering love and practical support to loved ones began to feel natural again. My own health benefited from this letting go as well. Living with multiple sclerosis is more challenging than I often acknowledge. I try to live in light of eternity, but being realistic about my limitations and my own needs helps.

Sometimes a goal or focus takes on a life of its own, and we begin to work with singular focus towards reaching that goal. But as it says in Ecclesiastes 4:6, “One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after the wind.” Christ calls us to learn the unforced rhythms of grace as we yoke up with Him and find our burdens lighter because of His power and strength.

When God calls us to do something, we apply ourselves and put our heart into this task. Yet, when God leads me to let go of that same goal or task (even for a time or season), I want to obey without hesitation. When love motivates me to set something aside, I can trust God’s timing, His heart and His leading.

 

Miracles Come in Many Forms

Miracles come in many forms. I always used to say it would be a miracle if I ever got married. It’s not that I hadn’t had opportunities, but I used to wonder why anyone would choose “this,” to share my life which also involves living with a neurological disease that can make life pretty challenging.

I don’t have time to share this whole story today, but on a trip to China in 2011, which I’d wanted to make for 17 years, I spent some deep time in prayer near a beautiful river surrounded by karst peaks. In response to the cry of my heart, God assured my spirit that He would never withhold even an ounce of His love from me. Then I felt led to ask, “What else (besides this trip) might be possible that I’ve written off?” And I asked for a husband. God gave me a verse that directly spoke to that desire, and I felt this uncanny assurance that He would send me a man to share my life with. I returned home that fall with a strange peace that God had answered that prayer, and by January I met the man who is now my husband.

A Puppy to Love–Big Paws

This weekend my friend and I spent a morning having a retreat at my parent’s place in the country, enjoying the beautiful view and landscaping. Taking time away from normal life stressors to pray, read God’s Word and reflect renewed us both.  Afterwards, my friend drove us to her house so that I could meet her new puppy.  A Swiss Bernese Mountain Dog, Maisy is still young but has paws and a stature that reflect her future size.    This adorable puppy will become a beautiful big dog someday.

I have been working on writing again, and I hope that I will grow into my “big paws.” I want to encourage the hearts of others, and direct their eyes towards Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.  To write with the hope of publication involves a steep learning curve, and though I am very motivated, I feel a bit like this awkward puppy.

I have written professionally earlier in my life. I developed trainings for professionals in my field and wrote some educational materials.  I also wrote a workbook on grief related to health issues.  But, in resuming these efforts at writing things that I hope will be useful and enjoyed, I have felt a bit clumsy at times. Like this puppy, I feel “rough and tumble,” too.

Maisy captured my heart, though, and my friend wants me to spend time with her dog and help in the training process. You see, my friend is a physician and she knows I have more free time than she does during the day.  She also knows I have missed my service dog a lot since he died a few years ago.  I am looking forward to writing while hanging out with Maisy in the days to come.

Lord God, please help me grow into my potential, too, and carry with my writing some of the joy this puppy brought to my heart.

DSC09989

 

 

heat and the radius of my life today

Heat and MS aren’t very compatible.  So I need to stay in on hot days like this one.   Miles came and pressure washed the driveway, and this strong high school student accomplished a lot despite the heat.   I marvel that God has given him and others health and this kind of capacity physically.  It’s been a long time since I could accomplish much on a hot day.   Long ago, I felt restless at the necessity of staying inside in hot weather.  Instead, today I felt a sense of anticipation, hoping that this block of time might allow me to continue making some progress on some writing I have been doing.   A friend called and asked a question about grief, and what it meant when a woman prayed that they would ‘grieve fully.’   We had a good discussion about the nature of grief and things close to my friend’s heart today.  We prayed for one another and I felt very thankful that God has prepared me to be able to minister to women and others who are hurting, both through my education and experiences.  He is a Redeemer and loves each of us so tenderly.  Sometimes God uses a phone call to confirm some direction or a need which He might like to address partly through things I can write about.  I shared my recent intro with her about how Jesus ministers to us in those places of loss and grief, and what the Word says about grief.  I pray God will use my writing to encourage and comfort her.

Sometimes living with limitations can be frustrating, and I look to God to help me. Lately God has confirmed that I can persevere by His power and grace, and that He desires me to run this race with endurance.   How quickly I accomplish something isn’t the issue…only that I offer my efforts up as a sacrificial praise offering to Him.   You see, I can’t do this without Him.  I wouldn’t even try.  But I believe I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and I believe He desires to redeem the things I’ve experienced for His glory.   So, I will press on and trust Him with the timing and outcome.