Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sweet Sorrow


Yellow skin. Yellow eyes. Labored breathing. Bruised skin. 

All the signs of a man who is soon to meet his Savior. Dan and I visited this afternoon as he lay in a hospital bed and I caught my breath as I walked in the room and saw how ill he has become in just a few days. We prayed with him and his wife. I read scripture to him. We hugged his wife as she wiped her tears away. He will be going home on hospice care in a day or two and has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. His kidneys and liver are shutting down. His wife spoke with us briefly about funeral arrangements.

A lump rose in my throat and tears rolled down my cheeks as his wife turned away so he wouldn't see her tears. One moment he was talking about seeing the Lord and the peace he had, and the next, he was weeping as he talked about his concern for his wife. We assured him that we would look out for her and that her church family would be there for her as well.

They both know that he will be home with the Lord soon and his pain and suffering will be over, but that doesn't mean his wife won't feel sorrow. She will still miss him. She will feel pain and loneliness and loss. 

Some good has come from this. There has been reconciliation of one of his children. Her son from a previous marriage told her not to worry about anything and has been there to visit a few times. Relationships that were broken are mending. Differences that seemed so important have been set aside in the face of the loss of a father.

This is the hard part of ministry. This is the second time this week we've experienced sorrow. On Thursday morning, we attended, and Dan took part in a funeral service for our 37 year old neighbor, who passed away from colon cancer. His parents, brother, fiancé and friends all mourned and at the same time rejoiced, knowing he was out of pain and with the Lord.

I so wish I could take away the pain. The only thing I have to give them is listening ears, an empathetic heart and praying. 

Our hearts are heavy this afternoon, but it's a sweet pain knowing that our friend will soon be where there is no more pain, no more sorrow and no more suffering. Parting from this life is a sweet sorrow for those who know Christ. We will miss them but know we will see them again some day.

Psalm 23 (NLT) ~

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.



    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,



    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.




Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.




You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.



Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Full


 


Flowers and green everywhere I look. Bees buzzing and birds chirping. Windows open and warm breeze blowing the curtains. Cups of ice cream in the sunshine. Moving Stephen out and moved in elsewhere. Working on a message, stretching my brain and lots of time in prayer. Delicious dinners made and served. Children's giggles and smiles. Putting together a children's program for Sunday. Preparing for youth group Sunday night. A surprise and opportunity to stretch for Nathan. Conversations with my daughter.

It's been a full, busy week. I'm thankful for the few moments I have here and there to reflect. 

My heart is full and I love the life God has given me!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

At a Crawl



 



I feel like I'm moving at a snail's pace lately. In the ongoing saga with my knee, it hurts 24/7 no matter what I do. I've been going to physical therapy and have made no progress. At my last visit on Friday, the therapist told me they were sending a progress report to the doctor stating that I was not progressing. But then she said, this report won't necessarily be enough to make the doctor order the MRI. When asked if I should continue to come while I wait to hear she said, "No." Ugh!

In the meantime, I've researched other physical therapy exercises to do for this particular problem and have been doing those, on top of what I already was doing. On a positive note, my legs are toning up nicely! :-)

I went for a walk last night which normally is impossible. The key is that I must slow way down, and then I was able to do it and my knee didn't hurt any more than it usually does. I normally walk a 15 minute mile and it took me 30 minutes to go 1/2 mile yesterday. But at least I was moving, was out in the fresh air and enjoying nature.

I commented to Dan as I walked that it only takes about 5-10 minutes of being out in the woods and I can feel my spirits lift and my head clear. Moving slower actually helped me to see things I normally would have missed, like a frog on the ground or a bird camouflaged in the trees.

We live in such a fast-paced society and miss so much because we are on the move constantly. There seems to be no time to sit and chat over a cup of coffee or to sit on the porch and just listen to the sounds around us. We have our heads buried in our phones, laptops and I-pads. 

When my phone goes off, letting me know I have a text, I feel as if I need to answer it immediately. And yet, it's usually at the most inconvenient times and causes my stress to rise. 

There is a book called the Tyranny of the Urgent that talks about this. Our priorities can often get shoved aside because some pressing thing is calling our attention away and yet, so often, that pressing thing really could have waited.

I'm kind of glad that I'm at a crawl right now. It's making me evaluate everything and focus on what's important. It's causing me to appreciate some of the smaller, often unnoticed treasures around me. I certainly don't want to be in pain, but something as simple as slowing down a walk and looking around me has been a blessing.

Slow down today. Take a deep breathe. Shut off your phone and look around. You'll be surprised at what you will notice.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Late Bloomers


Zechariah 10:1 (NIV) ~

Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime;
    it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms.
He gives showers of rain to all people,
    and plants of the field to everyone.

Spring has come later this year. My daffodils are just now in full bloom and everywhere I look I see green and sprouting plants. It was a hard winter and I'm so thankful for the colors that I'm starting to see. Usually, by this time the buds are open and leaves are fully grown. However, no matter how late it is, I'm happy that spring is here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Provision







 


Dan and I have been in ministry for the past 30 years and it never ceases to amaze me how much God provides for us. We live on one income and have for most of our married life. And yet, whatever the need we have, it always seems to get met when we need it. And that has carried over for our children too. 

I used to fret and worry about how we would make ends meet, but have seen God provide so often that I don't really think about it anymore. We tithe, we help out others as we can, and while I'm frugal, we also aren't pinching every penny and yet, like the story of the widow's oil in the Bible, we end up always having enough. God is good!

This has carried over to my children as well.  We have seen the Lord meet Stephen's needs in a tremendous way just over the past few months. We helped him transport his things yesterday to his new church. He will be doing a 6 month internship as a youth pastor there with the possibility of it becoming a year. The cool thing is that we have known the couple that he will be working with for years. The pastor of the church was Dan's roommate in seminary. His wife is on my leadership team for my district position.

I wasn't sure what we were going to do for Steve as far as furnishings go, but was amazed when we got there that everything he could possibly need was provided. Furniture, utensils, dinnerware, pots and pans, etc. were all there. I knew about some of the items but didn't realize at how little he would really need. 

I think the only thing I bought him was an extra pair of sheets, some cleaning supplies, and brought a few things from around our house. We got him settled in, and then took him out to lunch and bought him some groceries. I think he has enough to last him at least two weeks, if not more. Dan jokingly told Nathan that we were going to be starving the next few weeks since we spent all our money on groceries for Steve.

We prayed for Stephen before we left and while I will miss him, I'm thankful that I rested well last night, knowing that God provided richly for my son.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Multitude Monday











My weekend consisted of so many good things: Beautiful weather, pots of herbs gifted to me by my boys, trips by the lake to walk (if you can call it that given the tiny distance I'm able to go). It consisted of a surprise trip home by my daughter, finally figuring out how my camera works so I can take pictures again, dinner made by Emily complete with napkin roses. And flowers and gifts from my husband. It was good as a friend prayed with me before our service yesterday morning.

I love my family and while there are times when we struggle with attitudes and problems and quirks, they still make me smile. My heart is full of thanksgiving on this Multitude Monday. God has blessed me in ways that are too numerous to count.

Today, we are helping Stephen move his things to his new ministry position. I know he's anxious, mostly about not having anyone his own age there and being responsible for this on his own. But he will adapt and we are praying his ministry is fruitful and that will change.

I have a just few things on my to-do list for this week and so I'm not writing out all the different categories:

✔ Taking Stephen and getting him moved in, as well as buying him some groceries.
✔ Taking Emily back to college tomorrow afternoon (I may or may not go with Dan, depending on my knee)
✔ Work on my message for Saturday. I'm speaking to about 60 women at a mother-daughter luncheon on Saturday afternoon.
✔Sort through Emily's clothes with her and give to goodwill what isn't being used.
✔ Work on consecration questions. I meet with my mentor next week and between the retreat I just finished planning and our district conference, I haven't worked on them at all.
✔ Come up with some games for Thursday night's 3D Kids
✔ Work on worship service for Sunday. The children will be doing the whole thing and I need to get some things organized.
✔ Travel on Saturday for my talk.

Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Soaring







Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV) ~

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Picture Perfect?


Pictures are funny things, aren't they? You can crop them and edit them and make everything look like it is perfect. They freeze a second in time and make it look like a wonderful memory.

The reality behind this picture and this weekend is that it wasn't all wonderful memories. Yes, Stephen graduated and yes, we were proud and excited for him. There were many great moments, but, we also had some really hard situations and emotions going on too.

Nathan struggled through the entire weekend because he knows his reality is very different. He wants all of the things that his brother has. He wants to be able to look forward with excitement at wonderful possibilities. He would love to be able to go to college. He would like to have an open door and get to pick and choose the things he wants to do.

But he is limited by many things. And while I certainly understand his frustration, this past weekend was not about him, it was about his brother. So there was a constant tension going on. We could see the misery in Nathan's face and yet, we were happy for Stephen. Steve struggled too between being really happy and feeling guilty for it. 

So while pictures can look like everything is perfect, it often isn't. We met with Nathan's job coach yesterday. He found out the day before that she had closed his case because he was doing so well on his job. It was a bit frustrating that she did it without telling us. The reality is while he is doing well at his job, Nathan doesn't want to stay as a grocery store stocker his whole life. He wants to do something with meaning and purpose.

So we had a two hour meeting yesterday and got some paperwork filled out to try and get some help with further education. Nathan has an IEP diploma which, to be honest, is meaningless. He cannot get into college with it. He can't get many jobs with it because it's not recognized as a real diploma. The suggestion always is to get his GED. The problem with that is that he has serious learning disabilities and needs accommodations which many of the adult schools do not have.

His job coach brought a huge list of apprenticeships through our state, but again, they all required a "real" high school diploma or GED. So in order for him to get anywhere, he does need to do something with the educational portion.

He's overwhelmed. We are overwhelmed. But one thing I know. God is not overwhelmed by this. So we will trust Him, work on the necessary steps, a lot of praying and keep moving forward. Pray for my son. He wants nothing more than to make a difference and do something meaningful with his life. We want that for him too and I know that is God's desire as well.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Being Released for Ministry










 

I haven't posted in a week because it's been an eventful one. We traveled five hours last Friday for Stephen's baccalaureate and spent the night for his graduation which was at 2 p.m. the next day. What a wonderful event that was! We had great seats and I was able to get some really good shots of him.

We got home around 11 p.m. on Saturday and then got up for church the next day and we also had youth group Sunday night.  Then on Monday morning we headed out for a three day district prayer conference and arrived home yesterday afternoon.

One of the themes that seemed to run through our whole week was the idea of being released and commissioned for ministry. Both Stephen's Baccalaureate service and graduation were so meaningful, not only because he finished the hard work of earning a degree but because the students were prayed for and challenged and commissioned to now go out in the world and serve God.  

Part of a written message from the president of Nyack College stated, 
"...I ask you to look at the students lined up to receive their degrees. Then, imagine them as hundreds of small stones, each being held in the hand of the Almighty.
At approximately 4:30 this afternoon, the hand of the Almighty will literally fling this handful of stones out into our needy world. And like a handful of stones flung into a body of water, our graduates will make a splash. More than that, this handful of 'living stones' will begin to make waves. Just think of the 'ripple effect' that the Class of 2018 can have upon the world."
The president of the college was saying something to Stephen for a couple of minutes on the stage and I asked him later what he was saying. Steve told me he was giving him a blessing. 

In our service on Sunday morning, the elders and our head deaconess asked Stephen to come forward and they gave him a gift, but more importantly, laid hands on him and prayed for his coming ministry.

During our district conference there was an ordination and consecration service for the four men and one woman who had completed their coursework and passed their exams in order to become ordained and consecrated. The members of the licensing, ordination, and consecration committee, all of whom are ordained ministers came forward and laid their hands on them and commissioned them for ministry.

During our district conference it was heart-warming to hear the pastor of the church where Stephen will be headed stand up and share how he wanted to mentor Steve because he never had that himself. 

I'm so thankful that my son has been prayed for, and is part of a denomination that prepares people well for ministry. And I'm also thankful that as they release them into service, they give them a challenge, a commission and then pray for them as they embark into their ministry.

2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NIV) ~

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.