I have discovered over the years, that life can be challenging. God desires to sustain us as we look for "splashes of His grace" every day. My desire is that through posts, or book reviews, you may find something that points you to the grace of God, and that He ultimately will make a difference in your life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sweet Songs of Love

Last week I spent four days watching my youngest grandson in Lubbock while my daughter, Sarah, led worship at a conference about an hour away. I enjoyed my time with James as we cuddled and played, and laughed together through the day.  I even enjoyed a 2:00 a.m. time of worship as I sang a variety of hymns to him as we rocked and swayed during a fretful night. Sarah is still nursing him, and that night he REALLY missed his mamma!  Though I couldn't help him in that way, I snuggled him tightly and sang him songs about Jesus and God's grace and love. What started out as something to soothe James, turned into a true time of worship for me. James eventually quieted and fell asleep, but I couldn't help singing just a little bit longer -- partly to make sure he was really sleeping soundly, and partly because the words to the songs I was singing were ministering to me. Jesus not only loved James, He loved me. And I was reminded about that through the songs I sang.

In my mind I know God loves me and is with me, but sometimes I also need confirmation from people around me -- that they notice me, love me, and that I really matter. A funny thing happened on my way home that made me ponder that! Feeling a little sad after kissing Sarah and James goodbye (and shedding a few tears), I entered the airport, went through security without any problem, and began my hour wait for my flight to leave. I had planned to pass the time and cheer myself up by treating myself to a Chai Latte at Starbucks (something I seldom do) and then settle in to wait for my flight. The Starbucks was even right across from my gate!! BUT IT WAS CLOSED!  Really? It was just 6:00 p.m., but it was Sunday --- so I settled in my seat and thought it was a good time to finish up my "homework" for the "Breathe" Bible Study I was doing. (Even if I didn't have my chai.)

Shortly after I had settled in, I got a text notification that my flight was going to be delayed.  I called my husband to let him know he didn't have to rush to the airport. No answer.  So I left him a message. Usually he's good about returning my call.  He didn't.  So, about 45 minutes later I called again. I knew he would be about to leave for the airport if he didn't get my message.  Still no answer.  I didn't leave a second message, but about 10 minutes later I sent him a text that ended with "text me back if you are alive!" (It had been icy and snowing there and in my mind I had already had him lying in a ditch on the side of the road -- Yeah, my mind goes there that fast!)  Still no response.

I thought I'd check Facebook while I waited -- my phone wouldn't load it. That silly little circle just kept, well, circling! So much for seeing what's going on in the lives of others, or posting my "woes" to the world!

Sarah lives about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Lubbock and I figured by now she would be about 15 minutes from home. I decided to pass some time by calling her and seeing how her trip home was going.  No answer -- sent to voicemail.  So I left a message and began to wonder if she too was in a ditch on the side of the road.  

I waited a few minutes and thought I'd call my daughter, Rachel, to see how things were going for her. You guessed it -- No answer -- another voicemail left and this time I added something to the effect, "I can't reach your Dad, or Sarah, and now you.  I'm beginning to think I'm not really here.  I may be in a bad dream.  Oh well.  Talk to you later." 

Ok -- one last person to try - my son, Daniel. I dialed his number and after ringing a few times I heard, "Sorry I missed your call.  If you want, leave a message and I will try to get back to you!" Once again, I left a "dejected" message -- "You were my last hope.  My whole family is gone. No one is answering their phone. I'm beginning to think I don't even exist. Talk to you later......Maybe....." with my voice trailing off.

I hung up and began to wonder if something might be wrong with my phone. I couldn't reach anyone, Facebook, wasn't working. Yeah, it must be my phone (or maybe I really didn't exist!)

I made one more call to my mother-in-law, whose house I had just left about 2 hours ago. The phone rang and rang and just as I was about to hang up, SHE ANSWERED!!  I know she probably thought I was crazy, but I told her I just needed to know I was really alive and shared with her my inability to reach my family members. I was thankful I was finally able to talk to someone.

I hung up and they announced it was about time to board. As I was getting my stuff together, my phone rang.  It was Rachel. While I was talking to her I heard  I was getting another call, so I cut her short, thinking it may be Stephen.  It was Sarah. She explained her situation, and I told her I was finally about to board. As soon as I hung up, Stephen called. He apologized and said his phone was on silent but he assured me he'd be at the airport waiting for me.  As I was in line to board the plane my phone rang once more.  It was Daniel. So, before I boarded the plane I heard from every member of my family, and was relived to know all was well, and that I really did exist!

When I consider those couple of hours I was frantically trying to reach my loved ones, I was kind of like my little grandson, James, on his fretful night.  I needed someone to calm me, hold me, and assure me that everything was going to be all right. I should have just settled into the arms of Jesus and let Him sing sweetly to my heart. I think He often holds me, just a little bit longer, to make sure I am truly resting in Him, and I'm so glad He sings sweet songs of love over me.

"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing"
Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!

You've seen the commercial for Life Alert. It's a simple device worn around the neck that enables a person to summon help in case of an emergency, with a simple push of a button. Their commercial features a woman lying on the floor crying out, "Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!"  When I was younger, I used to laugh when I saw it. I may have even mocked her as I repeated, "I'VE FALLEN AND I CAN'T GET UP!" (in my most dramatic voice, of course!) Ok -- Admit it! -- You've done it too! Who hasn't??  With each passing year, I laugh a little less about it because I realize it won't be too long before I might really need one!

But as I watched that commercial again recently, that phrase struck a different chord within me. When I took a closer look at that woman lying on the floor, I realized I've been that woman. There have been times in my life when spiritually or emotionally I had crashed to the floor and could have (and should have) voiced the same thing that this woman was uttering. I had fallen -- and I simply couldn't get up!! Have you ever been there?

When I think back to those times that I was figuratively sprawled out on the floor, it would have been nice to have a fancy button hanging around my neck that I could have pressed to summon help. The sad thing is, that even if I did, I would have been too proud to push it. Deep in my heart I knew for sure I had fallen and I couldn't get up on my own, but I didn't want anyone else to know it.  Me, admit I needed help? How would that look?  That wasn't happening!! So instead, I struggled on my own, trying to pull myself up and back together, all the while hoping no one saw me doing it in the process. When asked how I was, I responded "fine" and plastered a smile on my face, when in reality, I was a mess and didn't know how I would make it through another day.

For me, falling emotionally is even worse that falling physically.  It's so much easier for me to share my physical needs than my spiritual or emotional needs. They seem so much more "personal" -- especially when you're a pastor's wife and are expected by some to have it all together! I am thankful for my Life Group at church who allow me to be myself -- blemishes and all.  But there are still some things that are too personal to even share with them.
So what should we do when we find ourselves helplessly lying on the floor? Do we have a "Life Alert" device for these spiritual and emotional situations?  Though we don't have an actual button to push, we do have immediate access to someone that hears our cry for help. Unlike the person at the call center,  He doesn't have to assess the situation and then determine who to send to meet your need.  He KNOWS your situation even before you call, and He comes Himself to your aid.

Psalm 40:1-2 comes to mind.

"I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. 
 He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along."  (NLT)

Our first and best course of action is to call out to the Lord for His help. Oh how I wish His help fixed everything immediately!!  Sometimes God's work of healing and restoration takes time. Verse 1 states "I waited patiently for the LORD to help me."  We have to wait patiently for Him. We call out for help, knowing and trusting that He will be there to answer. He hears us immediately, and then goes to work by acting on our behalf, but His complete work sometimes takes time. Take a look what He does for us.  Verse 2 says "He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire." It's the mire that often gets me.  When I looked up it's Webster's definition it said mire was "spongy earth (as of a bog or marsh); heavy often deep mud or slush; a troublesome or intractable situation." Mud and mire are slippery substances that you can get stuck in. After struggling on my own for some time before I even cry out to God, it's not hard to visualize me frustrated and covered in mud even as I continue to struggle against God's help. The more I resist His help, the deeper I sink, and the more difficult it is for me to get out of that pit! I am thankful that His love is deep and His arm is strong.
When I finally give up and relinquish control, then God can pull me out of the pit. When He does, there I am, exhausted and covered in mud, but I'm thankful He doesn't just leave me there to fend for myself. I imagine Him carefully washing off that dirt, drying my tears, changing my clothes, and then as verse two goes on to say, He sets "my feet on solid ground" and steadies me as I walk along.  After spending time in a pit of despair, without a good foothold, He sets my feet on solid ground, and then walks beside me to catch me if I start to stumble. He stays with me until my legs regain their strength. That's a good God!
How long does that take? I think it depends how deep the pit was and how long you were in there! We need God to get us out of the pit and steady us as we learn to walk again, but sometimes it's beneficial to also talk about your struggles with a trusted friend or counselor and have them to join you on your journey to wholeness again.  But know your HOPE is in the LORD.

Psalm 40:3 goes on to say:

"He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the LORD."
Sometimes it takes a little while to learn that new song. I'm still trying to learn verses 2 and 3 in a certain situation, but I have hope that I will sing them soon. So if you have fallen and can't get up, call out to God for His help. Put your trust in the LORD and begin to walk on solid ground again. Then sing!! Many will see what He has done and will put their trust in the LORD!