We can tend our Chores while the Lord tends our Fears

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 something like this:

Lord, I have tried to take good care of the gifts you’ve given me yet they could be taken away from me at any time.  By next spring, will there be someone else mowing this lawn or watering these plants?

It’s been 14 months now since Larry was laid off from his job.  And while a contract consulting position has helped, he remains significantly under-employed.  As a result, we are not strangers to the kinds of fears, concerns and questions that many are facing today.  How are we going to make it financially?  Will we need to move?  How bad might things get?  What will people think?  What does God think?  Are we doing all we can or should?  Will it ever get any easier?  Does anybody care?  
Disability can wreak all kinds of havoc.  For one thing, it has an insidious way of storming against a family’s earning power.  I’m not making excuses or trying to stir up sympathy.  I am attempting to build awareness among the naïve and reassure those who face similar challenges that they are not alone.
We remain in a season of waiting.  While we wait, we are busy and grateful.  We are grateful most of all for relationships — a strong marriage and family, friends who are standing with us in prayer, Jesus.  We are busy trying to walk obediently with God, busy renewing our minds with reasons why we can trust that He cares, busy resting in the fact that God is sovereign.  While we are tending to our responsibilities and trying to steward our resources well, God is working out His glory and our good — even though it is challenging and may take a long time before we fully understand His higher ways. 
Some days (or moments) are harder than others in the battle against fear and worry.  The Bible tells us to keep knocking on the door of God’s heart asking for His peace, strength and protection from fear.  The Lord teaches us to fight back against those arrows of fear by saturating our minds with God’s truth.  Here are some verses keeping my heart and mind firm in the battle:

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.  Psalm 91:4-6

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”  1 Peter 3:12-13

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:27

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:37-39

There are many more jobs on our weekend chore lists yet for this fall.  It’s tempting to let them go.  After all, it’s not the end of the world if we just have more to do in the spring.  And just maybe it will be someone else’s job by then anyway.  It’s easy to get discouraged, slough responsibilities or give up completely.
Keeping a faithful heart and mind is hard work.  It’s also a gift of the Holy Spirit when we ask Him for it.  Why do I know it’s a gift and not something we can conjure up on our own?  Because, on our own, we are unable to muster up things like the reassurance that we are valuable to God, re-shaped perspectives about what is truly important, and daily diligence for things outside of ourselves. 
What is the Lord asking you to tend well while you’re waiting for His purposes to unfold?
A marriage?
A child you are parenting?
A project?
A body (health)?
A checkbook?
A ministry?
A career (or job search)?
A friendship?
A relationship with a family member?
Your relationship with Jesus Christ?
SOVEREIGN LORD, please calm my fears and show me how to steward my resources well.  Help me slow down and meditate on what I read in the Bible so that I recognize Your voice and respond promptly and wholeheartedly to it.  Prompt me with promises and truths from Your Word so that I can stand firm against these arrows.  AMEN 

Active (not passive) Waiting

I am a grateful follower of The Gospel Coalition Blog. It feeds me with truth and food for important thought while keeping my heart looking more broadly at the issues facing Christians today than I am sometimes inclined to look if left to my own narrow vision.

A few weeks ago, my husband Larry forwarded me one of their posts which I had missed. The post by Phil Tripp, titled God’s Will for Your Wait, resonated deeply with us. The last number of years have involved many seasons of waiting for us. Things we have waited for include healing, jobs, a book publisher, financial recovery and security, ministry clarity, partnership opportunities and so on. I know there are many who can relate to that struggle — experiencing some seasons of clear vision and mobilization and other seasons of waiting and wondering about God’s presence and purposes.

If you have ever wondered about God’s will in your waiting seasons or if you are wrestling, like us, through one of those right now, please take a few minutes to read that post. It offers very practical and gospel-centered direction.

Our family is traveling as you read this (some work and some play in Nashville). It’s been a time for continued prayer seeking God’s heart about the direction of our ministry and family. Even as we wrestle through wishing we could know more about God’s higher ways, we are also grateful for the ways that wrestling draws us into closer step with Him. Knowing that Abraham’s waiting (Romans 4:18-21) was also for our benefit is a great encouragement and an inspiring model.

Let us remember we are never alone in our waiting and let’s be active in the process — celebrating, studying and yielding to the One who credits our faith to us as righteousness.

Lord, may our waiting be an act of worship! AMEN

How Are You Indulging Your Freedom?

It’s a happy 4th of July here in Minnesota and our family is at the lake. Just as we’re deeply grateful for the many freedoms we have as citizens of the United States of America, we’re appreciating countless freedoms because of our faith in Christ and we’re even enjoying a few special freedoms simply because we’re on vacation.

The weather has been perfect for plenty of swimming and boating which is especially important to us as a family with a child who has Angelman Syndrome. To say that Carly loves the water is a huge understatement. Such a gorgeous weekend at the lake means hours of freedom for us relaxing on the dock while Carly entertains herself endlessly in her life jacket.

Along with the life jacket, a boundary is another thing we critically need in order to enjoy freedom with Carly around the water. We use a rope with floats on it to create a large “swimming area.” It keeps her from wandering into unsafe waters and allows us to supervise from some distance without having to constantly chase her back to the safe zone. The little rascal tests the boundary from time to time but has generally learned to respect it.

It’s ironic that creating a boundary actually creates freedom. How many of us tend to chafe at boundaries instead of appreciating what safety and rest they might have to offer!

What freedoms are enticing you today? Are they all they’re cracked up to be or is there just an illusion of something great out there when the reality is that pushing beyond the boundaries would bring danger, chaos or simply something you’re not ready for yet?

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13

Lord, thank You for the grace that saves me! Help me to grow in my appreciation for the eternal privileges and blessings I enjoy because of the ultimate sacrifice You made. Forgive me, God, for pushing the boundaries of Your good gifts and perfect design. Help me to trust You with all of my heart and avoid relying on my own understanding. I want to acknowledge the value of Your ways and live forever in the perfect peace and rest of Your presence. AMEN

Vision Correction Needed

Like many children with neurodevelopmental challenges, our daughter Carly has vision problems. She has some of the more traditional issues like astigmatism, near-sightedness and strabismus. But one of her significant challenges involves immature and inefficient central macular vision. In other words, she has hyper-peripheral vision. It is actually a very common but under-diagnosed problem among people with autism and other learning disorders and this is tragic because there are therapies to help, problems that can be avoided and potential to be unlocked. Even if you don’t know anyone with this problem, please stick with me and keep reading. I’m developing an analogy here.

Hyper-peripheral vision creates many challenges for Carly and for us. Because of her tendency to rely too much on her peripheral vision, her depth perception is compromised (also contributing to instability when she’s walking) and she is inclined to “play” with her vision in self-stimulating ways that create a ripple effect of other problems.

Twelve years ago when Carly was almost 2 years old, we began to learn about how to do some simple daily therapies designed to help her develop stronger central vision. We’re so grateful for all the progress she’s made in this and other areas even while we keep working the process and praying toward complete healing. In the meantime, Carly’s vision therapies have provided a great opportunity for us to learn some important things about God and the way HE sees things.

One of Carly’s therapies involves wearing special glasses for a few minutes a couple of times each day. The glasses restrict some of her vision while stimulating her macula. The brain receives some visual information but needs to fill in the missing pieces. I still find it fascinating to put those glasses on myself and wonder about how they work and the complexity with which God created us. Despite the fact that the glasses only allow visual input to come through a few tiny pin-sized holes, my brain takes only a few seconds to fill in the missing pieces so that what I PERCEIVE is the complete picture of what I’m looking at in the room. I’m hardly aware that something is missing.

It strikes me that we operate like this in our faith. We don’t see the whole picture of life but God does.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. HEBREWS 11:1

We are taking in limited information with limited understanding and, oftentimes, with an immature spiritual perspective. Yet, because God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present, He has a different perspective about everything than we do and can be fully trusted. God’s ways are higher than our ways and we don’t need to see it all. But we can benefit from developing God’s perspective.

Jesus, Himself, benefitted from taking God’s perspective. As recorded in Mark 14:35, Jesus could say with complete confidence, “But let what you want be done, not what I want.” With Jesus’ human perspective, he faced the prospects of suffering and death with an overwhelming desire to be rescued. Yet, when He viewed his circumstances through God’s eternal Kingdom perspective, Jesus could willingly surrender Himself and trust in a greater purpose.

It’s tempting to go through life frustrated by unanswered questions — the things we can’t easily understand or “see.” One of the very best gifts that comes out of growing intimacy in our relationship with Jesus Christ is an increasing understand of God’s perspective. The more deeply we know God, the more we share His eternal Kingdom perspective and appreciate that something much bigger than ourselves is at stake. Things like suffering take on new meaning and we carry into life’s challenges a new kind of anticipation and appreciation.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 CORINTHIANS 3:18

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 CORINTHIANS 4:18

LORD JESUS, no ears have ever heard nor eyes ever seen a God who is greater than You. No God but You acts for the good of those who trust You (Isaiah 64:4). Thank you for having the vision and power to create complex things and involve them for great purposes. I want to have more of a Kingdom perspective on life — in the details and in the larger picture. I want to know You more and see how You see. And, Lord, when I don’t see well, help me to trust that You are actively involved in the unseen to ensure that all things are working together for Your glory and for my good. 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

Life on the Bumpy Road #1

It always amazes me how full our lives get. We live in a culture frantic to keep up with “The List,” the Joneses, our needs, the kids, the high expectations. After a mission trip to a very laid back culture in 2008, I became even more aware of how my personality and culture repeatedly drives me toward my calendar and steady doses of urgent matters.

I feel justified but frequently frustrated to find myself staying up late into the evenings because there are so many “worthy” and urgent things on my plate. You know what I mean. Your list looks different than mine but we all have one that challenges us. I have a child with severe disabilities, three teenagers and a graduation coming up, a husband prone to life-threatening infection due to a chronic health condition, a vulnerable back that requires me to make a simple work-out regimen a regular part of most days, a non-profit ministry to run, and our family is now into eight months of unemployment. For Larry and I, it’s a crazy pace to keep up.

I stumbled onto this verse the other day and it brought me, once again, a good reminder about where I place my priorities — and TRUST.

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. PSALM 127:2

To me, this verse begs the question: “How much do you trust God, Lisa?”

It is good to be continually evaluating priorities and pruning out of my life anything that keeps me from bearing the best possible fruit. John 15 has been a great guide for me. Jesus said (with my emphasis):

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit….the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

First and foremost, I must take time to remain firmly rooted in the relationship that anchors and nourishes me. Then I have to periodically cut some things loose or life just keeps adding more and more. A life without regular pruning is an unreasonable and undoable way to live.

God created the whole universe and life itself and then He RESTED. God provided enough manna for the Israelites in the desert each day for six days of the week but commanded them not to try to save any for the next day. He expected them to trust Him to supply enough, one day at a time. But on the last day of the week, he would give them enough for two days so that they could rest for a day. On every other day of the week, if they tried to save any manna, it would spoil by morning. But at the end of the week, God kept the manna fresh overnight so that they could stop gathering and just enjoy His provision and each other.

I suggest here that we’re all being stretched to consider how much we trust our God who repeatedly urges us to rest in Him and to take breaks from our toil. If we have our priorities straight and are working on them in a focused manner while plugged into a relationship with our Savior, has He not promised to honor our best effort and make that enough?

There will always be more work to be done, more time to be given to a worthy cause, more people to help, more emails to read and more great stuff to plug the kids into. I see marriages and families being ripped apart every day and the slow, subtle deterioration started, at least in part, because folks were so stretched doing good and valuable things like ministry and community service and countless activities for their kids while their marriages were getting the last dregs of their energy and passion. You know what? Satan LOVES that!

Let us receive the gift of rest from a holy God who is always sufficient — and we are not. He doesn’t allow us to be entirely self-sufficient because if we were, we wouldn’t need to trust in Him.

Do you trust Him enough to let some things go?