The Secret to Thriving, Not Surviving

It was a quiet morning at the oceanfront hotel where we were staying at Virginia Beach. The breeze off of the Atlantic Ocean gently combed the beach grass. Families of birds chased the retreating waves, their footprints too light to make any impression in the sand. I walked alongside the beach, taking in the overcast grey sky blending into the waves. The beach approached a peninsula, promising a view that would surely not disappoint.

As the beach rounded the corner, another expanse of beach came into view with the same grey watercolor. I kept on walking. The horizon continued to taunt me as I walked closer to the end of this beach segment, followed by another bay of sand to trudge through. I kept my eye on the next corner. But each corner rounded to a similar scene. It seemed to be never-ending. It was beautiful, but it was also the same view no matter the number of steps I took. 

This walk felt like my life — a “Groundhog Day” of caring for my disabled daughter. There are beautiful moments. But most days are focused on each step without seeing the view. We are dealing with many of the same issues that we have dealt with for a long time. Only now, we are older. And my daughter is now bigger. It is becoming more physically challenging to keep up. Our patience has grown greater. Our wisdom has grown deeper. But our fatigue has grown more real as well. 

On my walk, I was looking for the beauty around the corner. I wanted the AHA! moment that would allow every grain of sand in my shoe to be worth the gritty journey. But each turn of the corner proved to be more of the same.

A vertebra "shell" found on Virginia Hampton Beach
A vertebra “shell” found on Virginia Hampton Beach

Chronic suffering is being trapped in a never-ending cycle of the same. We all have a painful thorn in our side that does not let up — an unanswered prayer, a salt-wound relationship that never heals, a broken heart that cannot ever be whole, a dream we must mourn. The reality is this broken world is marred by loss. 

I want to thrive in loss. Just survival is not enough for me.

I want a thri-vival

So how do we answer the deep aching feeling that there must be more? 

For the Christian, there is more. 

The only way to understand the intersection of a suffering mankind and a good God is to interpret this life through the lens of eternity. 

The only way to find purpose in our suffering is to know that our lives exist for more than this world. The more we accept decay — and, for that matter, learn to embrace it — the more we become thrivers rather than just survivors.

Decay is everywhere.

When I was walking this beach with the repetitive view, I finally looked down. Shells, seaweed, and abandoned nettings were peppered amongst the sand. All were carcasses of life that once was. The beach is a battlefield littered with the remains of an ocean ambushing its prey. What is one’s child’s playground is the cemetery of mollusks. What is one woman’s treasured pearl is the oyster’s expulsion of waste. What is one family’s treasured keepsake of vacation, is the skeleton of a conch.

Decay co-exists with beauty.

In fact, decay is required. For the beauty that emerges from decay is richer, more fruitful, and lasts forever. Like the compost that enriches the growth of a garden, decay, disability, and death are the fertilizers of a richer beauty to come. Yet decay occurs at the same time that flowers bloom. Beauty and pain can be enwrapped in the same moment.

There is no better example of this paradox of beauty and pain than the cross. The cross is the intersection of many contrasts — injustice and justice, death and life, hatred and love, grief and celebration. When Jesus died on the cross, He did more than punch a ticket to heaven. Purposeful suffering was exemplified. 

Still, living the joy of the cross on a daily basis is not easy. Especially in the mundane everyday struggles of motherhood or caring for the disabled, suffering can feel purposeless and never-ending. We can be deceived into hopelessness if we allow emotions to overshadow truth. The energy needed for everyday surviving makes thriving seem impossible. When the days of survival mode stretch into weeks, months, and years, we must learn how to thrive in the pit. So how do we seek thri-vival?

  1. To thrive means that we change our expectations about decay. Our decay is not unique to our generation and decay will continue until this world belongs to Jesus again. We can certainly point out the decay of others, but we are often unaware of our own decay. We expect progression, not regression. And yet our society, many of our relationships, and our own bodies are fighting the natural decay that comes from the fall of man. We would like to believe that we are always getting better, but in reality, we ourselves are not immune to entropy. As our bodies and minds age, our ability to process our worlds is also dampened. But one day, this decay, too, will lead to eternal beauty. And decay will not exist in heavenly realms.
  • To thrive means we recognize our need for rescue. Grace covers our sin, for our salvation. But sanctification requires us to embrace pit-dwelling. He gives our feet a place to stand between each rung on the daily climb. This state of dependence is uncomfortable and yet necessary for our trust in God’s goodness to grow. The Gospel is lived daily in our lives when we are in a state of dependence. For our need for a Savior is often when we are at the end of ourselves. 
  • To thrive means we learn to abide in Jesus daily. We rely on His mercies to be new every morning and enough for today’s trials. We humble ourselves to be a servant rather than the source. Abiding in Jesus is trusting Him to fill in the cracks daily. Abiding involves constant connection with our Source of strength. We are emptied continuously so that He can fill us continuously. And we must ask for help. Ask for His wisdom. Ask for eyes to see His care for us. Ask for a heart of praise. And these one-second prayers build our relationship with Jesus and help us see the treasures in each exhausting step. We must sit under the Bible as a servant and not stand over the Bible as a critic. As we learn of God’s plan for the decay of this world, our souls are comforted and reassured that He has an ultimate plan for redemption. 

That is thri-vival — where pain and beauty co-exist. It is possible to be a thriver and not only a survivor. To thrive is to abide with Jesus. Because when we look only at ourselves and our circumstances, the decay is discouraging. But when we look at the cross, decay is defeated. It is in the daily struggle of chronic Christian suffering that we learn to abide. We learn to trust in the One who carries us from birth to death to eternal life. God alone sustains us.

Our walk on the beach becomes about Him, not about us nor the view that we think we deserve. 

The walk to heaven is more pleasant when we let go of the “should be” and “should not be.”  We will stop walking for the purpose of the view. We will walk because we are called to walk. And then we will start to see the treasures in every step. We will expect decay in this world rather than be disappointed by it. And one day, at the vantage point of heaven, we will look down at all of the faded footprints in the sand and we will understand why. The deepest sinking sand will be the sweetest places we thrived as we learned to abide in Christ.

This is the hope of the Christian in chronic suffering: There is more. And for today, He is enough.

“Listen to me, house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been sustained from the womb, carried along since birth. I will be the same until your old age, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you. I will bear and rescue you.”

Isaiah 46:3-4

Rachelle Keng is a physician practicing Obstetrics & Gynecology in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she lives with her husband Michael and their two daughters. She cares deeply for people and has a passion for writing about her reflections on life and faith. Rachelle’s oldest daughter has Angelman Syndrome. Her experiences as a special needs mom are often the inspiration for her writing.

Best Practices of Refreshed Special Needs Moms

I like to feel rested. My most satisfying days end with projects checked off my list and at least 7 hours of sleep. (And, hopefully, those are consecutive, uninterrupted hours.) But most days come and go with a lot of caregiving, emails with our daughter’s case manager, disability-related paperwork, medications organized, and the desperate need for a long winter’s nap! I know you relate.

The truth is, most people don’t get enough rest or true refreshment in their lives. Special-needs parents get even less. Lots less. I’m a special-needs mom to a young adult woman with significant needs and dependencies, so I’m going to share from a mom’s perspective. Dads are right here too.

Stick with me for a minute while I play out a metaphor.

Source: 123rf

Imagine you’re a hiker with a bottle of water and 2 hours of walking, climbing and extraordinary views ahead of you. It’s hot but bearable. No specific obstacles are anticipated. Then you suddenly turn your ankle on a loose stone and go down. At first, you think it’s simple a sprain. You expect to rest a moment and then walk it off. But your ankle swells quickly and begins to throb mightily. After a painful weight-bearing test, you get nervous about whether you can make the walk back to your car safely on your own. Sensing you have only four more hours of daylight, you gather your wits and will yourself to walk. Unfortunately, frequent breaks to regroup keep your progress painstakingly slow and your water supply is running low. You wonder why you didn’t save more, in case your adventure grew prolonged. You’re weary with regrets. Fear sets in as sunset comes and goes without another hiker in sight. The parking lot is still far off. Your worries of rattle snakes, hairy spiders and eerie bats is growing and you’re feeling hauntingly alone. You drop back to the ground and realize you’ve gotten lost in the dark. To make matters worse, your water straw is now sucking air. That reservoir of refreshment seemed so much bigger a few hours ago than it does now!

Are you with me? That “hike” I described sounds like our journey through special needs parenting, doesn’t it? We’re walking life’s road with great awareness that there is beauty and excitement in the adventure but it comes with frequent setbacks that include danger, fear, confusion, overwhelm, and a host of other surprises. If you’re like me, you need ways to recharge your physical batteries, replenish your emotional reserves, and “rehydrate” your soul.

Finding time to rest and engage in effective, personalized refreshment strategies is not easy.

I find it’s helpful to start by asking myself a hard question. It’s the root question, really.

Do I trust God enough to prioritize my rest? Or do I think I need to press on hard because “if I don’t do it, who will” or “what awful or inferior thing might happen if I don’t get this or that done for my special needs child?” Friends, this kind of thinking reflects our pride and our lack of trust in God to be our ultimate Supply. After all, this is the same God who commanded the Israelites to rest on the seventh day and just trust Him. God provided exactly what they needed for food each day, but only enough for one day at a time. Anything extra spoiled overnight so they needed to trust Him for each new day. And on the seventh day, there was an exception to His pattern. He preserved a second day’s supply of food (which they prepared the day before) and gave them the opportunity for rest. God’s people honored Him best on that day by trusting Him for every necessary provision (even their very freedom) and reflecting on His faithfulness.

The caregiver in me is nourished by several things as I try to make rest a regular part of my diet. It has also helped me to recognize that I may not be able to indulge in long, slow swallows of refreshment very often but I won’t stay healthy or safe without adequate pauses for steady “sips of hydration.” It’s taken time to learn what works for me — what needs to be on my list and how I need to pace my rations. If you don’t yet know what works for you, let me encourage you to prayerfully ponder it and do some experimenting.

When I observe special needs moms who make self-care a priority, I’m always empowered with ideas and renewed commitment. Perhaps this list might confirm your own approaches or inspire some new ways for you to stay equipped for the trail ahead.

Ways to Stay Equipped for the Trail Ahead

Take 30-minute power naps. Now don’t roll your eyes. Impossible as it seems, this may be the single most helpful thing you can do for yourself and your family. That’s right, for your family. Taking a nap is not a self-indulgent thing. It is another way to serve your family. A 20-30-minute investment will give you a huge bang for your buck! Ideally, allow yourself 10 minutes to wind down then 20 minutes to sleep.

Tackle high-stress tasks promptly and when your energy is most fresh. 

Recognize that the “perfect” IEP is not the ultimate end-goal for your child.

Release yourself from the weight of responsibility to find every “best specialist” or “best therapist” or “best teacher” or “best special education program” or “best everything” in town.Briefly ask questions or research online but cover it with prayer and then trust God to point you in helpful and productive directions. When the situation doesn’t seem ideal, remember that God is perfect strength in our weakness and will work out every single situation for His good purposes.

Know what triggers your personal stress then ask God to help you discern when to take action and when to let go of what is out of your control.

Choose healthy ways to pamper yourself. It may require getting a couple hours of help from a spouse, older child, parent, neighbor, friend, or church volunteer to make this happen. This may seem improbable but it is a worthy effort to seek such support with the same vigor you put into advocating for your child. Get a pedicure, soak in the bathtub or have coffee/tea with a friend. Watch a fun movie while snuggled up with your child or spouse. Gather up the family and take a short field trip somewhere fun and different than the usual routine like bowling, a wildlife museum, aquarium, or theme park. Plan a staycation day with your family or spouse. (There are times when it is appropriate and necessary to do this with your typical children but arrange care for your child with special needs to stay home.) Eat enough protein and veggies. It helps me to focus on putting more good things in my life rather than thinking about denying myself the more indulgent treats.

Don’t let guilt and unforgiveness fester. Confess your sins quickly. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. Ask your loved ones for forgiveness and grace. Give them the same. Seek the empowering Holy Spirit for help to live well and trust God to be the strength in your weakness.

Develop a practice of gratitude and reject a critical spirit.

Get counsel for chronic grief. It’s real. Find constructive ways to talk about it. Seek out friends and professionals who will empathize and guide you biblically.

Tackle household clutter as proactively as possible. However, be on guard about giving a tidy house too much power.

Saturate your mind with the truths and promises of God’s word.  Thankfully, there are many wonderful devotionals specifically for special needs parents these days. Check out Key Ministry’s Family Resource page for ideas. One of my mainstay tools is simply a good Bible reading app with a scheduled devotional. (YouVersion is my app of choice.) And I like that I can reset the calendar when I get behind on daily readings. No guilt here!

Prayerfully establish and protect boundaries, especially as it relates to interruptions and difficult relationships.

Do one unique thing each day to serve or encourage another person. This can be as simple as a Facebook comment or as involved as modeling generosity with your children by preparing a meal or cookies together for a struggling neighbor. Generosity and kindness are terrific energizers.

Do a daily review, thanking God for all meaningful connections, activities, results and happy surprises.

Finally, whatever is on our uniquely personal lists, there are two non-negotiable and reliably effective “best practices.” These are irreplaceable for any person seeking true and lasting refreshment, special needs mom being no exception.

Repent of sin and trust God.

Acts 3:19-20 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.

Drink deeply from the well of intimate relationship with Jesus. 

John 4:14 “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”


Best Practices of Refreshed Special Needs Moms by Lisa Jamieson first appeared February 21, 2019 on Patheos.com.

Lisa Jamieson is the author of books and Bible studies including theFinding Glory series of resources and the new children’s book Jesus, Let’s Talk. She is co-founder of Walk Right In Ministries and leads the Minnesota Disability Ministry Connection. Lisa and her husband, Larry, have been married 30 years and have three grown daughters. Their daughter, Carly, has Angelman Syndrome and lives at home with them in Maple Grove, Minnesota.

Whole-Hearted Engagement With Those Who Suffer Isn’t Optional

Loving and praying for each other is not optional and scripture doesn’t leave room for anything but whole-hearted engagement with people who are suffering. True, it can be overwhelming, scary and messy learning to engage in the lives of others when their needs are  complex (e.g., disability, mental illness, aging, traumatic injury, chronic illness). But people with atypical lives are not a liability to the church. They are what enrich the church! 

No situation is too big or too complicated for God.


What’s in A Rescinded Academy Award Nomination?

We’re so quick to start kicking and screaming when things don’t go our way.
It’s tragic that the song “Alone Yet Not Alone” got pulled from the Oscar nomination list. Or is it?
An announcement was made yesterday that the Oscar nomination for the song “Alone Yet Not Alone” was rescinded.  Apparently, there was email exchanged between the song’s composer and the Academy and, no matter how well intentioned it was, the Board of Governors took action to protect the integrity of the process. 
It’s so easy to rush to judgment about why this should not have happened. For sure, it’s just plain sad.  Sometimes I think we worry a little too much about perceptions. In any case, there will be those who think this was an attempt to silence a message that points people to Jesus. This song was from a film that did a powerful and profound job of pointing people to the One True God!
Should composer Bruce Broughton have been more careful? I’m pretty sure he has some regrets today. But I’m also pretty sure He is taking comfort in knowing that God will do something really cool with this mess.
There’s something I’ve learned over the years. Whenever circumstances get really ugly, God does things with those messes that are bigger, better and more beautiful than anything I could have imagined, hoped for or done for myself.  In fact, it has been when my life seemed most broken, upside down or backwards that I’ve had my most intimate encounters with the power, presence and goodness of God. 
I think the singer of “Alone Yet Not Alone,” Joni Earekson Tada, would agree with me too. Joni, more than anyone, knows that God’s purposes always prevail. No weapon formed against God’s love and reign will ever prosper. Ever.
The message of this song could bless millions of people. How many million people would have gone to listen to “Alone Yet Not Alone” if it had won an Academy Award? How many would have listened if it had NOT won? How many will go listen to it today — people who would NEVER have otherwise gone to listen to it — just because they’re curious about this song that got pulled from the Oscar line-up? 
Of course, we’ll never know. Well, maybe Jesus will explain it to us in heaven. But for now, I trust something bigger is unfolding.  I think this whole thing is going down in a way that God is just chuckling about.  There will be people who hear this song today and in the coming days who will experience a hope and comfort — and possibly even life transformation —all because this song never appeared at the Academy Awards.
Let us pray… 
Listen to “Alone Yet Not Alone” here.


Where does that nagging ache in your marriage come from?

A few months ago I read another wonderful book about marriage.  I haven’t been blogging much lately but ran across my notes and couldn’t help but feel God’s timing might be in my posting something on the topic of marriage today. It’s my prayer that some of our readers be encouraged, spurred on and empowered by these wonderful truths from Gary Thomas as I’ve paraphrased from Sacred Marriage.
Don’t be surprised when you become disillusioned by your spouse. He/she was never intended to fully satisfy you. The marriage relationship was designed to point us to our need for Christ and form us into His image.
God delighted in giving us an exclusive relationship to enjoy with our spouse BUT, in order for that relationship to thrive, it is essential that God remain at the center of our hearts. Our ultimate fulfillment comes from God and the marriage relationship is just added blessing — not the other way around.

“As odd as it may sound, I have discovered in my own life that my satisfaction or dissatisfaction with my marriage has far more to do with my relationship to God than it does with my relationship to (my spouse). When my heart grows cold toward my God, my other relationships suffer, so if I sense a burgeoning alienation from, or lack of affection toward, my wife, the first place I look is how I’m doing with the Lord. (My spouse) is, quite literally, my God-thermometer.” (Sacred Marriage, p. 237)

PRACTICAL APPLICATION
Read Genesis 2:18 and Genesis 2:24 and thank God for the holy (though imperfect) union of your marriage.  Every time your spouse disappoints you this week, pray this prayer:
“That’s why I need you, O God!”


Prayerfully Pondering Life, Loss & Newtown

In the past few days (particularly in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, CT), I have found it helpful to chew on these quotes and verses about life and loss.  I pray that it may be helpful to you also as you take your own heart and mind to the feet of Jesus for comfort, strength and wisdom.

The world needed a suffering Sovereign. Mere suffering would not do. Mere sovereignty would not do. The one is not strong enough to save; the other is not weak enough to sympathize.”  From How Does Jesus Come to Newtown? by Pastor John Piper. 

“We were talking about the shooting and how it is devastating. They reminded me of all the babies America kills daily in women’s wombs, yet we do not mourn over that.”  From my friend Nathan Haugen. 

 “The life that we live falls short of the life God gave us.”  From Tis More Blessed to Receive 12.16.12 by Pastor Dan Johnson.

***


Romans 3:23

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 1:14
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 


John 16:33

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

John 14:1

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

John 1:12

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

Matthew 19:14

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

1 John 4:12

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

1 Peter 3:13-14

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.

Luke 2:10-11

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”


***

I am empowered and comforted to FEAR NOT! No matter what circumstances surround us, God stands in authority and is the suffering Sovereign.

Hebrews 4:15-16

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Top Blog Posts for 2011!



We are looking back at WRIM Blog reader favorites for 2011. If you missed them the first time around, we hope you are blessed today!
The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving 2000 were a time of profound emotion for Larry and I.  While overwhelmed with gratitude for an experience of remarkable community support, we had also just been told that our 2 1/2 year old daughter Carly had Angelman Syndrome. The news ripped our hearts. Continued here.
I’m excited to share a really fun story today. It will take a little setting up but stick with me because this will kick your week off with a big smile. Have you heard? Story is all the rage these days. Everyone is talking about it. Your story. My story. God’s story. Continued here.
This is a very difficult update for me to write. Ordinarily, we would post something of such a personal nature only on Carly’s Care Page. But I felt prompted to share our need for prayer more publicly at this time.  Continued here.
Pulling dead flowers from the gardens one afternoon last week led me to tears and a couple days of raw emotion.  I knelt by the phlox and day lilies praying ... Continued here.
We drove to Springfield, Missouri and back to Minneapolis for Thanksgiving. It involved almost 24 hours driving and required a certain amount of caffeine. My usual “drug” of choice is green tea but that would have triggered too many stops. After peering into the cooler at the gas station for a moment, I decided on a Pepsi Throwback.  Continued here.

Mission Disentangled

We have all experienced moments, seasons and degress of discontentment, have we not? It’s not difficult to get caught up in the daily grip of busy schedules, a sense of insufficiency, or a longing to feel more appreciated, more rested, more financially secure. I remember times when I believed I would be happier if only my kids were better behaved, if my spouse or friend was a better communicator, if I could lose more weight, if I had a more satisfying career or was more talented, if I could make a more signficant difference in helping improve the lives of others, and if my family was safe from encounters with things like cancer, disability or accidents.

Along the way I have discovered that God’s expectations are even higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-10) yet He never makes impossible demands of me (Ephesians 4:11-13, Hebrews 13:20-21). Somewhere between trying to measure up and growing up in my relationship with Christ, God keeps reminding me His power is made perfect in my weakness through two invaluable tools — His Word and in His Holy Spirit alive in me.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

This truth is the same for me as it is for you. Do you believe this to your core?

Reality Check: Sometimes life gets hard — sometimes REALLY hard. And, without God, I will never be sufficiently equipped to live it well. That’s why I appreciate the perspective and insight these verses bring.

2 TIMOTHY 2:3-4 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

2 CORINTHIANS 10:3-5 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Consider these facts for yourself:

Fact #1 — God is my Creator. Jesus is my Savior. The Holy Spirit is my empowerer. (Hebrews 11:6)

Fact #2 — To be disentangled, I must embrace God, myself and others in view of mercy. (Romans 12:1-5)

Fact #3 — Keeping focused on my relationship with Christ influences my ways of thinking, my attitudes and my behavior. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Fact #4 — Recognizing God’s sufficiency, sovereignty and indwelling releases me and mobilizes me for a life of freedom! (John 7:37-39)

The Word of God is our Divine weaponry in the enemy’s battle for our minds. Whenever we have questions or doubts about who God is or who we are in relation to Him, that’s where we must go to re-align with the truth. It’s in growing that kind of personal relationship with God our Father and in fixing our perspectives about life on His perspectives about life that we develop passion for our mission. And, because the Holy Spirit dwells in those of us who are in personal relationship with God, God energizes us for things that please Him. That’s a powerful combination! That’s an arsenal where I can anchor my life, satisfaction and freedom!

Clues for me that I am becoming re-entangled with the world are: self-indulging, taking on too much, feeling stuck in shame, becoming critical. What does it look like in your life when you become “entangled in civilian affairs”?

As we disentangle our focus from things of the world, we find freedom in a life with Christ that fills our aching souls and honors our holy God.

ALMIGHTY GOD, You are my Commanding Officer and I want to participate in Your mission. Please strengthen me in heart, mind and body to fully engage in my relationship with You and to increasingly share Your perspectives about sin, suffering and stuff! Please make my aspirations HOLY. Mobilize me, by the power of Your Holy Spirit in me, to do the things that delight You and to serve others on behalf of the spiritual freedom I have available to me through You. AMEN

Between The Rock & A Hard Place

Do you ever have one of those days or weeks when your To Do List is entirely full of urgent and critical things? Often, there seems to be no easy answer to the every-pressing question of priorities. This new week hasn’t even begun yet and I’m already far behind while also starting with a serious deficit of sleep. Since I am certainly not the only one wrestling between my Rock and a hard place, I believe it would be helpful for all of us to go to God’s Word for some direction and encouragement.


1. Admit weakness and imperfection then yield to the grace and power of Almighty God.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

2. Flee concern about impressing anyone but your Creator and Lord.

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:3-4

3. Claim truth over discouragement.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

FATHER IN HEAVEN, help us to live by Your ways and promises. Please ease our anxieties and any pressures we feel. We want to trust You completely to guide us and meet needs. Help us to yield to You for everything — especially wisdom, discernment, hope, comfort, and perseverance. Thank you, Jesus, that You are our Rock and the sure foundation we can always depend on no matter what hard places we find ourselves in. Thank You for being completely dependable and sufficient, loving and powerful. Please put your power in us to do what needs doing — no more, no less — for the glory of Your holy name. AMEN

The Hospital Trip that Wasn’t

Carly was sick the week before Mother’s Day. It was a simple cold. But nothing is ever really simple when your child has special needs. For example, at 13 years old she doesn’t know how to blow her nose. Congestion creates mouth breathing that brings a dry throat which becomes sore and then she quits eating or drinking. Dehydration comes quickly so she’s very vulnerable to contracting a bladder infection which means a couple of days in the hospital. Without assertive caregiving and prayer, the domino effect of something “simple” wreaks havoc.

It’s taken us a handful of trips to the hospital but we have gradually learned how critical it is to stay on top of Carly’s hydration at the earliest signs of illness. Yet even our best efforts aren’t always enough. I have come to realize that God designed it that way. If our best efforts were enough, we wouldn’t need Him. Periodically, He needs to leave us hanging out there in the pit and mire so we will remember how dependent we are on Him. More importantly, we remember how dependent we can be on Him.

When we went to bed on the Saturday evening before Mother’s Day, Larry and I recognized that a day intended for pampering mom was going to start with several hours in an Emergency Room with Carly on IV fluids. We simply hoped those few hours wouldn’t stretch into days on IV antibiotics as well. I will admit that our faith was small. We went to bed ready to make the best of no ordinary Sunday. We were praying for an overnight miracle but hunkered down for the likely conclusion.

The next day, Carly dismissed our offers of juice and water but gobbled up two cups of mandarin oranges. By lunch time, she was eating like a trooper and by early afternoon she was eagerly accepting any beverage offered. Breakthrough! This was the miracle we prayed for and it brought such great encouragement that day. It encourages me again today just remembering it.

Since God doesn’t always answer prayers exactly the way we expect, it can be tempting to quit asking and quit hoping. This experience was another reminder that God wants to hear the desires of our hearts — wants us to keep asking and asking boldly — and also wants us to keep trusting Him to answer in the ways He knows will be best.

In one of my favorite Psalms, King David wrestled with His emotions before God and ultimately landed on encouragement and renewed confidence. His spirits shifted because he put His focus on God rather than his problems by persistently reflecting on the ways God had been faithful in the past. Psalm 77 says:

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.

Reflecting on the greatness of God put the size of David’s problems into perspective. It also reminded David of how deeply and personally God cared about him. We can learn a lot from his example.

LORD, I want to take a few moments right now to recall the times and ways that You have heard my heart’s cries and met my needs in surprising but perfect ways. Thank you that, when I do this, my hope and trust grows because I appreciate Your power and wisdom to do what is best, no matter what the answer to my prayer looks like. Help me to embrace life as an adventure of anticipating how You will surprise me next with Your faithfulness. Because of Your power and love expressed through the cross, I can trust that Your purposes will prevail in Jesus’ name. AMEN