Saturday, June 23, 2018

My Testimony

Like many, I was born and raised in a Christian home by two committed Christian parents. Like many, I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was fairly young, followed Him like a good girl for a while, and then slowly began to take Him for granted and do my own thing in my later teens. By the time I was 19 I had completely quit going to church, was dating a nice guy who was not a Christian, was drinking on the weekends, and pretty much making a mockery of my "faith". I remember having moments where I thought about all my friends who were unsaved and pondered the fact that I was doing absolutely nothing to point them towards Christ. But I was more interested in living life my way. I certainly wasn't the worst kid. I generally stayed out of trouble and I did well in school and was usually respectful to adults and kind to my peers. But I knew in my heart that I wasn't honoring God and I knew that God knew it too.

Ironically, it was Paul who was so instrumental in drawing me back to my roots. My boyfriend went into the Army and was shipped off and I found myself at loose ends. I had known Paul from church but as I said, I hadn't darkened that door in a very long time. We started dating and from the start I was attracted to what I saw as his intense passion and commitment to serving Christ. He was in a Christian band (the beginning of the "Jesus Movement" and contemporary worship) and he and his band mates were busy with their ministry. I realized that I had been longing for something more, even though I'd had no complaints before. I was drawn to Paul and from him to God and I excitedly began to embrace a life that was putting God before myself. Almost without a 2nd thought we got married, fought through our whole 1st year, began to settle in, started having children and before we knew it had 3 kids and a mortgage. We were heavily involved in a church and in ministry. I loved it. I felt I was where I belonged both in the Lord, in my marriage, and as a mom.

And then the bloom began to fade. Our marriage was suffering though I couldn't figure out why. Long story short, one night I found out that Paul had been fired from his very good job because his employer was aware of a cocaine habit that I knew nothing about. My world was shaken. What was I to do? I had 3 young children, I wasn't working at the time, and not only was my husband unemployed but he was an addict. It was a sleepless night. But God met me there, in my worry and my stress. By morning, I was able to reach out to Paul, reassure him that we'd get through this together, and began the enormous task of rebuilding our lives. The next year was difficult as we struggled financially and as Paul struggled with the aftermath of his actions. But through it all I had a faith that hadn't been there before and I knew that, no matter what, God was walking right beside me and I knew I could depend on Him.

Nine years later, Paul wanted to move us to Paso Robles. He was going to work for the same company that he was currently with but would run a small local store. It is a testament to the trust that we had rebuilt that I was actually able to follow him here. We quickly became immersed in life and ministry at 1st Baptist and served in a variety of ways. Two of our daughters met their husbands here in Paso and our oldest daughter (who had stayed behind) eventually left Santa Barbara and joined us. God added to our brood when we took in a 14 year old girl named Tammera who eventually became a daughter. Through her, God taught me about unconditional love and the idea of adoption into God's family became much clearer to me. Tammera is married now, has 3 children, and is living in Tucson, but she remains and always will be, my 4th daughter.

By 2010, Paul and I were shepherding a "Young Adult Group" that met for dinner and Bible Study at our house every week. I loved it and I loved ministering along side of Paul. He was also serving as Worship Pastor at 1st Baptist. Everyone was married and out of the house, we weren't quite as broke as usual, we had time together - I thought life was good. And then I found out that Paul was having an affair with one of the young women in our group and my life blew apart. Paul moved back to Santa Barbara and we weren't able to put anything back together. Only a few months after he left, my dad and I were forced to put my mom in a convalescent care home due to her advanced Parkinson's. Tough times - we all experience them and no matter how our details differ we all have the same choice: Trust God completely or try to go it alone. Once again, I found myself hanging on for dear life to the One who is absolute truth. I was far from perfect but God was patient and gracious. There were countless sleepless, tear-filled nights but the morning always brought God's incredible peace.

I don't really know what God has planned for the rest of my life so I keep trying to just concentrate on taking the "next right step". Recently, God has shown me how utterly unworthy I am of His grace. I don't think I've ever really understood the verse in Isaiah that says,

All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

I have been fairly content with my degree of righteousness. It's also been tempting at times to compare myself to Paul and feel O.K. about myself. But I am learning the depths of my sin and the greatness of God's love and forgiveness. I must not let my failed marriage define my life. I cannot rest on my "own righteousness" just because I didn't commit adultery. My righteousness has no more merit than the rag I use to clean my toilet. I am plenty capable of massive amounts of sin and I need Jesus just as much as anyone else. More and more I am amazed at what He puts up with from me and I am so grateful for His forgiveness. And because of His forgiveness I am able to forgive Paul and many others who have hurt me through the years. Actually, I am more than able. I am commanded to forgive, obligated, in fact. If I can't forgive someone who is no more imperfect than me, how can I accept forgiveness from a perfect God?

My life certainly hasn't turned out the way I anticipated. I never expected to be single, to lose ministry I loved, to watch my mom die slowly and cruelly and to spend years now in a "waiting room" of sorts. I'm a slow learner but God is an infinitely tolerant and long-suffering teacher. He won't be done with me until the day I die.

<b>Isaiah</b> <b>64:6</b> by lukeroberts

Saturday, September 10, 2016

"I Am What I Am"

Hiding Your Words in My Heart: Day 2 - Week 63 - Romans 15:13 "May the ...

It has been ages since I've written anything and to be honest, I've missed it. But I've struggled and I've been totally uninspired and I've been busy and I've been distracted and ...

Excuses! Sure, there's been a lot going on. But it has been more than that. My daughter, Melissa, and I were talking the other day and she said something that struck a chord with me. She mentioned the lies that Satan can get us to believe and that one of those lies is that we are losers. Convinced that we are unworthy of love or respect, we (translation "I") then begin to live with the attitude that we are constant failures and that we continually disappoint God.

My struggles this year have covered almost every aspect of my life: financial, relational, kids, grandkids, aging, the health of loved ones, lack of discipline, and many others. While I have enjoyed many blessed times with family and friends and have also seen God's hand in so many situations, I realize that I have chosen to focus more on whatever current burden or problem is at the forefront of my mind. O.K. Maybe that's not so bad. But...How do I respond? I stupidly push God away. It's subtle but true. I stop talking to Him. I stop sharing with Him. I hang on to my worries and I stubbornly plod through my days filled with fatigue and discouragement.

I've had periods of time like this before but this time, it has gone on much longer. Satan's whispers have been unrelenting! I find that I have lost the grasp of grace. In I Corinthians 15:10, Paul says, "But by the grace of God I am what I am..." This statement follows his confession about persecuting "the church of God." I can list all my sins and shortcomings and it won't matter because "BUT by the grace of God, I am what I am."

Eternally loved by God, I was chosen by Him before time began. There really is nothing permanent in our lives except for the love of our Savior. I know this in my head yet I keep my eyes downcast, looking only at the trivial daily occurrences of my life and stressing about whatever instead of enjoying the fact that I AM LOVED! I really have difficulty accepting this. I am a list maker, a "get the job done" kind of person, a committed daughter, mother, grandmother, and employee. I step up, I keep up, and I lift up. And then one day, I gave up.

I have been a Christian for a very long time and yet the secret of God's grace so often eludes me. I would understand it better if I had a daily list of what God expected from me. It might look like this:

Pray twice daily for at least 10 minutes
Read the Bible
Eat healthy
Watch only 1 hour of T.V. per day
Work hard and be productive
Help out at least 1 person each day

You get the idea. Then I would have a measuring stick. I could just check things off my list each day and that's how I could judge how "acceptable" I was. But anybody can do something like that and they don't have to put any heart into it at all. So why is it so hard to imagine God being pleased with me, just because of who I am, and more importantly, because of who He is? And if I want a list all I need to do is get busy and study the Bible more. His word will tell me very clearly how to measure up.

Rambling thoughts today but that's just a bit of what has been rattling around in my head. I am tired of moping around like I have been. Do I have stuff to be stressed about? Absolutely. My circumstances haven't changed. But God tells me not to worry. He's in charge. I think that Satan uses the worry to convince me that I am failing. The heaviness that I carry around is not mine to carry. I say that I hate that feeling but if I hate it so much, why do I hang onto it so obsessively?

I'd like to say that I'm going to turn over a new leaf but I don't have that sort of confidence today. However, recognizing that my approach has been utterly sinful and also writing down how I have been behaving will hopefully start me down a better path. It's frustrating because I know better but I still am weak. Maybe that's what most sin is about - doing things we know not to do and doing them for no good reason! I am praying that God will help me regain my footing and enable me to walk knowing that His hand of grace is tightly holding on to me.

<b>Psalms</b> <b>94: 18-19</b> 2-13-14 | Bible Verses | Pinterest

Friday, February 5, 2016

Quinten Lee

For some reason, I woke up this morning thinking about my little grandson, Quinten. It may have been because Donny and Melissa have been on my mind lately. Finances in our extended family seem to be a constant issue and we are all attempting to manage in different ways. Currently, both the Stivers and myself have ads on Craig's List for rooms to rent in our homes. I've been renting out a room for years but this will be new territory for Donny and Melissa. Anyway, perhaps that got me to thinking about their whole situation.

I began to remember the years before Quinten. I've written a few other times about adoption, etc. but left Quinten's story for Melissa to write herself. This morning, my heart is so full with gratitude for his very existence that I want to record my thoughts so that I can look back on them later. The funny thing is, just as I was beginning to write about Quinten, I got the following text from Melissa. It made me laugh.

     "Q has been in back to back to back timeouts for almost an hour. Looking forward to nap time."

As every mother knows, when your child suffers, you suffer. And it doesn't matter if they are 5 or 45. We hurt for them and with them. In fact, I think for me, it is harder to watch my grown children struggle or suffer because I can't just put a Band-Aid on it and rock them a little while. Everything is so much more complicated. While I want them all to grow in the Lord, the process is sometimes hard to watch because for all of us, spiritual growth most often comes through life's trials.

My oldest grandchild, my handsome, smart, funny Gabriel, will be 13 years old in April. Melissa had known since her teen years that she would probably not be able to conceive. We didn't stress about it then and didn't worry too much when she and Donny were first married. But then a few years passed. Gabriel was born. Over the next several years, Melissa watched her sister, Jenny, have 4 kids, and her sister, Tammera, have 3. I was the proud Grammy to 8 grandkids and I rejoiced over each one of them. But the ache in my heart grew for Melissa. She so longed for a child. And though she took her role as "favorite aunt" very seriously, that wasn't going to satisfy her forever. Donny is a quiet guy and doesn't express his feelings much but I know he was hurting too. He is great with kids - patient as he teaches them how to do something but just as likely to be down on the floor with them as if he were still a kid himself.

They began exploring adoption and it seemed a formidable task. They worked hard! They paid off debt, bought a house, took classes, worked on the house, wrote about themselves for the adoption agency, waited, worked on the house some more, and waited some more. Each time their "profile" was shown to a prospective birth mother, they were notified. We would hold our breath. Would this be the one? More time passed and more tears were shed. But they hung in there.

I will never forget the day Melissa came bursting through the office door where I work. My boss and I were sitting side by side at the front desk. Melissa could not contain herself! With tears in her eyes she practically shouted to me, "The Stiver baby will be born sometime shortly after mid-April!" They had been matched with a birth mom and the due date was right around the corner. The angels were dancing with us as Melissa and I hugged each other and my boss congratulated her. It was early February, just 2 years ago.

Fast forward to today. Sitting on timeout is the culmination of Donny and Melissa's greatest earthly longing. I say earthly longing because they both love the Lord. They know Christ and He is definitely first in their lives. But short of heaven, Quinten Lee is it! He is the tangible manifestation of God's gracious love and abundant blessing to our family. I'll be honest. Right now, things are tough for us as a group. There's a lot of stuff going on in different people's lives and it's hard. We aren't unique in that. My heart breaks for some of the difficulties that friends in the church are going through too. And then I look at Quinten and I am reassured once again that God knows. He knows me! He knows my kids! He loves us unconditionally! It is almost too much to grasp.

I don't know the plans that God has for me or mine. I wish I did. I don't like surprises and I don't like to not be in control. This I do know: GOD IS GOOD! GOD IS ALL-KNOWING! GOD IS LOVE! GOD IS EVER-PRESENT! Whatever happens, I am praying that, as a family, we continue to trust in the God who has saved us. Even Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, said that he hoped and expected that he would not be ashamed and would have sufficient courage. If Paul "hoped" he would be courageous enough to "exalt" Christ, who am I kidding? Most times, I am just hoping to get through one day without a major spiritual blunder. I do not need to be ashamed of my frailty as a Christian. I need to recognize that I can do nothing without Christ so I might as well relax and enjoy the ride. I don't do well relaxing. I don't do well with not worrying. I need to get over that. As Paul said, I need to "expect". My hope is in the Lord. My children are in His hands.

Today, Quinten reminds me that God will work it all out. It won't always be so glorious. Sometimes it will be (and has been) really, really tough. But Quinten's beautiful smile came after years and years of heartache. I wouldn't trade it for anything! I know that I should know all this. I've been a Christian for many years. Today though, I needed a reminder. And so God woke me up with thoughts of a beautiful little boy that calls me "mom-mom" because he can't say "Grammy" yet.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

An Anniversary of Sorts

Exactly 6 years ago today, on another Sunday, my world as I knew it quietly imploded.


v. im·plod·edim·plod·ingim·plodes
1. To collapse inward violently.
2. To undergo a catastrophic failure

I did not see it coming but it was certainly a "catastrophic failure". My marriage of 37 years would never be the same again. The landscape of my life and the way I pictured it was forever changed. Now, on the anniversary of the disaster, I find myself reflecting back on where I have been and where I find myself now.

I'm grateful that this many years have passed. I feel like I have finally reached a point of pretty steady contentment and I'm glad to no longer be in the early, painful, emotional days. Can I say positive things about my situation? Of course, although I would never say that the break-up of my marriage was positive in and of itself. My personal belief is that the death of any marriage is tragic, simply because it goes against God's design and intentions. That said, some relationships fail and cannot be resurrected. I hesitate to even admit this as a Christian, but some relationships should not be revived.

I still get anxious and stressed sometimes but usually, I am anxious about the stresses in other people's lives, particularly my children. Strangely, I haven't mastered leaving them in God's hands. I seem to be able to be patient and trusting as I work through my own trials but can't yet manage to apply that trust in God to their lives. I'm working on it but as a somewhat "controlling", "fix-it now" type mom, I'm a bit like a paint-by-number in progress.

So, what is it that I have observed over the last six years?

First of all, I discovered that I could survive - but only by God's strength and grace. I learned what God really meant when He said, "the two shall become one",  because I felt it keenly when that "one" was divided. When my mom died, I realized that all the rest of "life" didn't get put on hold just because I wasn't done grieving my marriage and that it was possible to taste "grief upon grief". I slowly became more flexible as I chose to rent out part of my house to different people so that I could stay on the property I loved and, more importantly, allow my dad to stay in his home on the same land. I practiced finding joy without being able to share it with a partner. And as I felt "singled out" or like an "oddball", God showed me that I was most definitely not alone and that my situation was certainly not unique. Oh, and how God showed me His faithfulness - even though my circumstances didn't change, or, they changed too dramatically to suit me.

There is much I miss about marriage and just because God has enabled me to be content in these circumstances doesn't mean that I am unaware of what I am missing. Is God sufficient? Absolutely! Do I rejoice in my singleness? Umm...Not exactly. Do I think God will use my experiences in the lives of others? I really don't know. But I do know that He is using them in my own life. I am constantly reassured that God is very present and has not, nor will He ever, abandon me. I imagine, though, that I am like the tortoise. I am a plodder. I keep soldiering on, step by step, day by day, but it is slow going. I sort of wish that I could be like some people who have the sudden revelation and immediately grasp what God has for them and then rejoice and celebrate in it. That isn't me; at least not at this stage of my life.

I'm not as hard on myself, though, as I used to be. I know I could do better and I know I still disappoint and neglect the Lord. I also recognize that I used to be motivated by lists and activities and actions that didn't always have my heart behind them. Because that was what motivated me, I had a sub-conscience tendency to feel that I was "earning" God's good pleasure. It has only been recently that I have really been able to embrace the idea that no matter what I do, God will NEVER love me less than He already does. Maybe that is what God is burning on my soul during these days.

"I love you Lord, I worship you,
Hope which was lost, now stands renewed.
I give my life to honor this;
The love of Christ, the Saviour King!

Saviour King

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Yet Another Snake!!

So I had another snake in the house! I've lived out here in the country for 20 years but a snake in my house is something I will never get used to. I was walking down the little hallway by my kitchen and there it was. Here's the thing about snakes - they are fast! And if they disappear into an area where there is a lot of stuff, i.e. closet, pantry, etc. you just have to sell your house and move. You'll never find the darn thing. What to do?

The first step is to begin hyperventilating. This provides more oxygen to the brain so that in your panic you can still think clearly. (Actually, it causes dizziness and possible fainting but whatever!) I was hyperventilating and panicking with the best of them but I was home alone and I knew I had to rise to the occasion. I backed up into the dining room, ran out my sliding door to the patio and around to the garage. This allowed me to open the door leading from my kitchen area to the garage. Back into the house I ran. I grabbed my broom and gingerly approached the snake. It was a young one, maybe only 18 inches long. Its markings looked very similar to a rattlesnake but I couldn't be sure. I very carefully began to sweep the monster towards the outer door. It had the nerve to get angry! And not just a little. It was flipping around, hissing, trying to coil and strike, and twisting every which way. All the while, I was screaming bloody murder as I kept trying to sweep it away from occupied territory and out into the garage. I got it to the door where it got stopped by the threshold but I finally managed to flip it over the edge and slam the screen door. Now it sat, coiled up and hissing on the mat just on the other side. I tried to talk myself down while I considered what to do next. I did not want it loose in my garage. Of course, my only available bucket was clear at the other end of the house in my shower and was filled with water. I ran down the hallway, grabbed the bucket, headed to the front door, dashed outside and dumped the water and then ran back inside the house. I was still hyperventilating and though I was no longer screaming, I was making noises that only the Holy Spirit could interpret. Back to the garage door I scurried.

The snake was gone! This was a new crisis! My garage is so full of stuff! In a split second, I envisioned this aggressive little snake living in luxury in my garage, growing to mammoth proportions, while it fed on the mice and lizards that are native to the garage environment. I was too nervous to walk right out that door so instead, I again ran around to the dining room, out the slider, and entered the garage from the other end. Now I wasn't just hyperventilating. I was truly gasping for breath. I am, after all, an out of shape 63 year old woman, and all this excitement and exertion was wearing me out. I cautiously approached the mat where the intruder had last been seen. It was at this point that I finally began to pray but all I could utter was "Please, God. Please, God". I looked to my left but saw nothing. To my right was the chest freezer. I carefully looked behind it and still saw nothing. I stepped a little more to the right and bam! There it was. Now what to do? I still had my trusty bucket and my broom so I placed the bucket on its side on the ground in front of the snake. I then began to try to sweep the snake into the bucket. This required more hissing and twisting on the snake's part and more screaming from me but I persevered and only by God's grace, got the thing into the bucket. I carried it outside, put the bucket on the driveway, and then put an old cat litter box on top of the bucket. No way that sucker was getting away from me again.

I called my fabulous 89 year old father (he and I have dealt with snakes before) and he came up immediately. He used to backpack and camp and hike and is really good at all that outdoor stuff. Even he, however, was uncertain if this was a rattler. The babies don't have rattles yet and though this one was certainly not a newborn, it wasn't that big and it was hard to get a good look. Every time we peeked into the bucket, it was coiled and striking the side and we were just a tad bit nervous. We decided that we had better err on the side of caution and dispatch the thing in case it was poisonous. Don't get me wrong, I hate to kill things. But I was defending my home, my refuge, my sanctuary. Long story longer, my dad and I did what needed to be done. (I'll be honest here, though. My dad supplied the plan, the courage, and the execution. I was simply the assistant.)

I'll admit. I was shaken. I had been walking around outside one evening, just a few nights before this. I was thinking how nice it was that we had made it through snake season without an incident. Now that thought was shattered. And worse, the snake incident was inside my border, not outside. Now, I was looking in every corner. Now I was wondering if there were more. Now I was uncomfortable in my own space. I was on guard and I was definitely not relaxed. And how did it get in? What was the point of entry? It was irrational really. A snake in the house is a very rare occurrence. There was absolutely no reason to think that I had been invaded by an army of snakes. Nevertheless, it was unnerving and unsettling. I was immediately grateful that God had shown me the snake. What if I hadn't seen it? I was also grateful that He gave me the ability to get it out of the house, even though I didn't do it with any beauty or finesse. And I was so grateful that it happened at a time when my dad was home. But...I would have been more grateful if God had never allowed it at all!

If you know me at all, you know that I tend to look for spiritual lessons everywhere, especially in my trivial, everyday happenings. I woke up this morning thinking about that little snake and what God could teach me. It was such a perfect analogy. After all, in the Bible, the snake represents sin. In the same way that God allowed me to see that snake in my hallway, He reveals sin in my own heart to me. If I am paying attention, I get it. I see it. But I do need to be paying attention. In fact, I need to constantly be asking God to show me my sin and my faults. That way, I can deal with the sin in obedience. And then I need to be on guard. I'll never know how that snake got in my house but I try to do everything I can to make my house "snake-proof". I don't always know how sin slips into my life. It is so subtle. I need to be "sin-proofing" my heart. I need to stay in the Word and be obedient to God so that sin can't find that point of entry. But when it does (which it will), I need to chase it outside with a vengeance, maybe even screaming all the way. And then I need to check myself and make sure that there is nothing else that needs to be shown the door. I'm working on it!

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Quick Look At the Life of Joshua

I work for a dentist and so if he goes on vacation the office closes and that is when the rest of us take our vacations also. Last month, I was going to have a week off but I had failed to make any plans. As I thought about it, I realized that if I didn't do something I would get pretty cranky. I don't have to be gone for a long time. I enjoy being home and doing stuff around here and I don't mind my own company. But, I couldn't stand the thought of not getting away at all so at the last minute, I made a reservation for one night in a hotel in Cambria. This quaint little town has become a sort of refuge for me. After my mom died, I spent a few days over there by myself, and just re-grouped. After Paul left, I saw a counselor for about a year and on Fridays (my day off) she saw clients in her home which happened to be in Cambria. I got into the habit of preparing for that day and making it a "mini-retreat". I would listen to praise music on the 45 drive over and pray the whole time. Often after the counseling session I would spend time on the beach reflecting on all sorts of things. When I could afford it, I got a massage while there. Anyway, Cambria has come to represent to me the place I go to slow down and meet with God.

I arrived at the hotel around 3:00 p.m. on a Monday. I settled in quickly and then spent the next couple of hours walking along the boardwalk and watching the ocean. There is something about staring at that incredible vastness. It quiets me which is a good thing. But then my plans seemed to stall. I didn't feel like eating at a fancy restaurant so I ended up picking up fish 'n chips to go and a few things from the grocery store. After eating way too much, I found myself just zoning out, playing games on my tablet or watching mundane T.V. It was frustrating because I had specifically asked God to speak to me, to give me something that I could take home with me.

I don't know why but when I got up in the morning, I decided to read the book of Joshua. I asked the Lord to enable me to focus and it helped that Joshua read like a fascinating story of war, victory, defeat, and incredible faithfulness. I've been wanting to solidify my thoughts about Joshua ever since so this is my attempt to do that.

First of all, Joshua was a great man of God. I know that God uses fallen men and obviously we recognize the value in understanding that we are all sinners saved by grace and that even the redeemed sin. Abraham, David, Peter - all great men of God who had some pretty major lapses. But in reading Joshua I realized that he started well, he continued well, and he finished well. That isn't to say that he was perfect. But for the most part, he was single-minded in his pursuit of God and dedicated to living a life of obedience. What an example for us! I can't go back and fix my past but I can commit to living life well from here on out. Ah, but that commitment! Was Joshua ever afraid of what God might ask of him? I am. Later that day, I was watching a couple of guys try to learn to surf. Now, I can't surf. But I grew up around surfers so I figure I'm qualified to judge. I watched them over and over again, ever so timidly, approach the waves and try to decide whether they should flip around and try to ride one in or if they should duck under it and get out a little further. Because they were indecisive, every time they did take off they started too late and the wave either rolled under them and broke too far in front of them to propel them anywhere or it broke right on top of them and pushed them under while they floundered toward shore.

In Joshua 3, the Lord instructed Joshua to tell the priests to carry the Ark of the Covenant into the Jordan River. As soon as the priests' feet touched the flood waters of the Jordan, the water stopped flowing and all of Israel crossed the river on dry land. But the priests first had to dip their feet in the water. And if my surfers had bravely committed to a wave, they might have succeeded as well. And then there's me. Talk about timid! I live with a lot of fear and I am not saying that reading about Joshua changed that overnight. It's definitely given me food for thought, however. As I pray and think about what God wants from me and how He wants me to live, I think about Joshua and all that he accomplished in his life. I know he wasn't afraid because he knew his God and he knew he could trust Him to accomplish His will. And, if he ever was afraid, he was still committed enough to keep moving forward because his desire was to live an obedient life that was pleasing to God. That's what I want too.

There were a couple of significant glitches in Joshua's life. In Chapter 7, his army was soundly defeated when they tried to conquer the city of Ai and it turned out that it was because some of the people had sinned against God by stealing and lying. God is for us. He is on our side. But He won't turn a blind eye to our sin. The people involved in Israel's sin had brought trouble on the whole nation and all suffered the consequences of their sin. God later granted Israel victory but the impact of sin was definite and lasting. It is a sobering thought - who might my sin affect besides myself? Is it worth it? Absolutely not! Another little glitch occurred in Chapter 9. The people of Gibeon presented themselves to Joshua and the men of Israel and asked them to form a treaty with them. They said they had come from far away and they tricked Israel into believing them. Joshua made a peace treaty with these people. But there is a phrase that stood out to me. It is in Joshua 9:14 and it says, "...but did not inquire of the Lord." God had very specific things that He had commanded Joshua to do and conquering the WHOLE land, not just part of it, was towards the top of the list. Joshua and his men may have meant no harm. Maybe they didn't think this episode was important enough to bother God about. That's my life in a nutshell. I save God for the "big stuff" and bumble about the rest of the time on my own. Such a simple phrase, "inquire of the Lord". My study of Joshua is reminding me to do that more. Nothing is beyond the scope of God's involvement and nothing is too trivial.

I want to live my life more like Joshua did and I am grateful that God is bringing me gently along that path. Joshua summed up how we are to live in Chapter 22.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


I have a problem with joy. How stupid is that! But it's true. It's not that I don't feel joy. I definitely do but I am so hesitant to express it. Why is that? When someone asks me how I'm doing, I usually respond, "Oh, pretty well," with a slight shrug of my shoulders and a rolling of my eyes. The unspoken implication is, "You know, I'm doing O.K. under the circumstances. I can't be expected to be great, now can I? You know, because..."

I need to get over myself. I think the reason I do this is that I feel like if I express too much joy or admit that I'm really doing well, it will trivialize the loss of my marriage. And that, to me, feels a bit like a betrayal. I can't really get over Paul, can I? I shouldn't get over him, should I?

The Bible has a lot to say about joy. I'm realizing that I can be joyful, and admit it, and still mourn my losses. When I keep my joy to myself I rob God of the glory He deserves. He has been so gracious to me! He took me through a very difficult experience and almost 6 years later I am doing well. I'm fine. I'm good. I'm even sometimes great!

My perspective has been twisted. I somehow got the idea that joy cannot co-exist with sadness. But I was wrong. I lost a husband. There is certainly nothing unique about that. Job lost his entire family but he was still able to rejoice because he knew his Creator. I truly believe that God is sovereign and that He is good. I may never understand the reasons why my marriage broke up but I can accept that God allowed it and I can embrace the path He has placed me on. And I can rejoice in all the blessings that are mine as a child of God. That sounds so holy but it is true. I can also rejoice in less spiritual things. It is no sin for me to dance with joy with a grandchild or celebrate with the anticipation of another one. Grandchildren aren't technically a "spiritual" blessing - like salvation, forgiveness, prayer, etc. but they sure bring me a lot of joy! I think I've been willing to testify to God's "spiritual" blessings but I withhold expressing joy over more earthly pleasures because I got it into my head that I should continue to suffer. Bizarre!

I will never, ever, get over (at least not completely) the catastrophe that was my marriage. But... I have an 89 year father who is a man of integrity, I have four fabulous daughters, and I have nine (almost 10) grandchildren, I have girlfriends, I have a home, a job, fairly decent health, I have ideas, I have time... the list is endless.

I spent a lot of time praying today that God would hold back the fires and prevent them from consuming Hume Lake Christian Camp. I was so struck by comments that a friend, Scott Saunders, made. He said,

"From its inception up until yesterday, the official report is that the Rough Fire is at 0% containment. Presently it is at 3% containment.
That statement is false.
The truth is that this fire is 100% contained.
It is 100% contained in the palm of the Almighty Creator. The one true God. The Lord Jesus Christ. The Maker of fire, the forests, the lightening, and the sustainer of the very ministry of Hume Lake Christian Camps.
Yet we gauge it by how much mere man can contain or control it.
As I try to sleep tonight wondering what news of the fate of our homes and community will be tomorrow, God is reminding me that He is the one true Incident Commander and to have peace. That peace should not come from the outcome all of us are fervently praying for but because He is God, His Will will be done, and He has a plan."

Someone else, talking about the fire, said that all that was left to do was wait for the inevitable onslaught and be ready to defend the camp. These comments are so applicable to all of life. My life is totally under my good God's control. My life, my joy, my successes, are measured by His ruler, not man's. He has sustained me and will continue to do so. The onslaught will come. We all suffer trials. But that does not change who is in charge nor should it change how we live our lives. He is the same God whether I'm married or single, and my joy (and peace and trust) does not depend on my circumstances but depends solely on the God who holds all things in His hands. 

"Lord, let me go through my days giving praise to You for all that You are and for all that You have done for me. Forgive me for being afraid to express joy for fear that someone will misunderstand and think that I am glad I am no longer married. My understanding of You is so limited. Bless me with Your wisdom and humility. Amen!"

Neh 8:10