The Light in My Window

The Light in My Window

Saturday, July 8, 2017

An Unfinished Story

If you know me at all or have been following this blog for awhile, you know that I am a huge proponent of journaling. I began journaling over 25 years ago while under the mentoring of my dear pastor's wife when my husband was in school, and it has become an important piece of who I am. Journaling crystalizes your thoughts, helps you to apply God's truth to your life, and provides a permanent reminder of all the experiences, blessings, and lessons that you might otherwise forget. If you want to know more about journaling, you can look back at some of my earlier posts.

This morning as I was having my quiet time with the Lord, I noticed I only have 1 more page left in my journal. I started writing in this particular journal over a year and a half ago, and much has happened since then. Our lives have completely changed. And in between that first page and now my next-to-last page, I have chronicled my spiritual journey every step of the way.

As I stared at that one last blank page in the book, I couldn't help but think how nice it would be if I could just finish the story. If I could wrap up all the events of this tumultuous past year and bring it all to a tidy, happy, logical conclusion on the final page of my book.

That is obviously not going to be the case.

Our lives are a story in progress, a story that God began writing and won't finish until we are at home in heaven with Him. I am reminded of Phil. 1:6 - "He who hath begun a good work in you shall perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." So often, when I can't figure things out and can't see any possible good outcome,  I want to jump ahead and know the end of the story, much like being immersed in a good suspenseful book when we want to skip ahead to the end and see how everything is resolved. The problem is, we become so intent on knowing the outcome that we often miss the details along the way. One of the biggest lessons I have learned this past year is that God's biggest work is often done IN us, not through us. Only God knows the twists and turns and the plans that He has for us. Each day is a new chapter. Each day brings new events that are beyond our control, and often far beyond anything we might imagine.

Such was the case this past Tuesday, July 4. Our older son and his wife and their 4 children were visiting us for the first time since we had moved to our new home. We had made plans for the day and evening for how we wanted to celebrate the holiday. We needed to drive two vehicles because there were 8 of us, so my husband and I drove ours, with the three older grandchildren in the backseat. Our son and his wife and their 1 year old followed in theirs. We were driving along on a perfectly beautiful, sunny, hot day when out of nowhere, a tree came crashing down on us. There was no escaping it. My husband did a great job and kept driving, trying to beat the impact, instead of coming to a halt in which case the impact may have been greater. The tree landed on our roof, shattered our windshield, and did major damage to the front end and entire passenger side of our vehicle. Our son and his wife who were following us saw the whole thing happen.

God was gracious to us. We were shaken up, but we were not hurt. Miraculously, we were all fine. The police office informed us that was not the usual outcome. Our vehicle was not fine. It had to be towed, and it has since been declared a total loss. Because of the July 4 holiday there were no rental car places open, so we all had to squeeze into our son's SUV for the 1-hour trip home. This was not a chapter in the story that I would have planned to write.

Friends, there is no way when I got up that morning I could have foreseen that happening to us. It was part of God's story for us - a part that was definitely not in our version of the story. It reminded me how powerless and out of control we are. It was such a horrible feeling to see that tree come toward us and there was absolutely nothing we could do to stop it. Likewise, we are often completely helpless and powerless at the events in our lives. And most often, we do not know the end to the story. We can only trust.

This week I was moved once again by the first stanza of the familiar hymn, Jesus Paid it All:

"I hear my Savior say,
thy strength indeed is small.
Child of weakness, watch and pray.
Find in Me your all in all."

As much as we would like to know the end of the story, we are powerless to make that happen. God is writing our story, and it is a work in progress, and written in a way only He can. Our job is to trust (so much easier to say than to do!) and to make Christ our all in all.

With a heart of gratitude,

Saturday, June 24, 2017

How Firm a Foundation

I wasn't planning to write a blog post this morning. I was hoping to get one out soon, but this morning I had other plans. The sun is shining. Tomorrow is my birthday. (A window just popped up on my computer to remind me of that!) I should be feeling great.

Instead I am battling feelings of frustration, even in the midst of trying to have a grateful heart.

I am very thankful for how far we have come this past year. God has been and continues to be faithful. But that doesn't mean that things are easy. I am thankful that my husband has a job, but frustrated because he is working far too many hours, and his schedule requires him to rotate between early mornings (as in 4 am) and late nights (as in after midnight). When he is finally home he is doing paperwork or sleeping. That means we seldom see each other, and even more seldom do we get to do anything together. Big change for a couple who has been married almost 42 years, and has served side by side in ministry for 22 of them.

I am thankful for my sister in law being able to leave the Marshall Islands where she and my brother serve as missionaries to come home and help my mom care for my dad, who broke his vertebrae in a fall, following having broken his ribs in another fall. I was even doing fine with God not allowing it to be me being there with my mom to be the caretaker right now, when I wanted to so badly. A sweet friend reminded me that this is God's time to give my sister in law the blessing of doing that. But now that he has been moved back from rehab into the SICU last night due to shortness of breath and dropping of oxygen levels which was causing him even more confusion, I am feeling frustrated that I can't even go see my dad for a long weekend because I am too far away unless I can get time off work.

This morning when I was asking the Lord for His help in all this, He brought to me the words to the hymn "How Firm a Foundation." I know it was Him, because I had not even been thinking about hymns. These are the words that ministered to my heart:

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word.
What more can He say, than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and I will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by my gracious, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow will not overflow.
For I will be with thee, thy trials to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design
thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

(My hymn book says "Author Unknown")

I am reminded once again of the firm foundation which is laid for me in the form of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

At a family funeral a few weeks ago, I was also reminded of the Godly foundation which was laid for both my husband and me in the form of Christian homes and a Godly heritage. As we listened to a graveside message that clearly proclaimed the gospel, we realized that not all families are privileged to hear that. As we wandered the cemetery and found the graves of my husband's grandparents and great-grandparents, who knew the Lord to the best of our knowledge, we realized anew the Godly foundation that had been given to my husband. It was an incentive to me to pray even more for this Godly foundation to be seen in our lives for our grandchildren.

As one of my favorite verses says,"God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.." (Psalm 46). Thank you, Lord, that You are my firm foundation!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

When You've Been There

Hello dear readers! I've missed being able to write my blog as frequently as I used to.  In this new chapter of life, a full-time job takes up most of my time, and my hours outside of work are spent with my husband and maintaining my home. There is a familiar verse which has taken on new meaning for me as I have been meditating on it recently: 1 Thess. 5:18 - "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." Although I may be doing something other than what I would like to be doing with my life right now, and at times I feel like I am missing out on so much, because I know that this is God's will for me at this time I can have (or at least try to have!) a positive attitude of thanksgiving. We all have circumstances in our lives which are not to our liking. It isn't easy, but if we remember that everything is ordered by the Lord and is His will for us right now, that goes a long way toward helping us to be content.

The other day at work I was speaking to a customer on the phone and was attempting to give them directions to a meeting that was being held at another location. I have a good resource book that I use to give directions, but because I have never personally been to the place in question, when the customer began asking specific questions I had to hand the call off to someone else who had actually been there and was better able to help them. I couldn't help but notice the correlation between actually having "been there" and the ability to answer their questions.

Did you ever notice that when you are talking to someone and you find that you both have been to the same place, you have an instant rapport with them? You compare notes and swap stories about where you've been, as only those who are intimately acquainted with a place can do.

Likewise, when we share a common life experience with someone, it puts us in a unique position to relate to that person in a special way. That's why support groups are so popular - we know that others who are or have been in our same situation can really understand and relate to what we are going through. I am convinced that God's design for us is to use all the experiences that He gives us to minister to others who might be going through similar circumstances. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

How can we use our having "been there" to minister to someone else?

Remember -"this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." This is what God has for you right now, and remember that His desire is that we glorify Him in everything. One way of doing that is remembering that because God has equipped us with having "been there," we in turn may be able to help and comfort others who are going through similar trials.

Reach out - It is very easy to get wrapped up in our lives, to feel like we are the only ones going through this, and to shut others out. There is no lack of opportunity to minister to others, only a lack of vision. We need to be looking for people who may be experiencing what we have already been through and for opportunities to encourage them. If we realize that God may have a ministry for us of encouraging others as a result of our having "been there," we need to actively pray and seek to be used by Him.

Rely on the Lord - Rely on the Lord for wisdom and for help in being a blessing to others. As a pastor's wife I used to worry about saying the right things and having the right answers when it came to helping others. I remember when I finally realized I didn't have the answers or the ability to help people, and that only God did. I felt like a huge weight was lifted off me. I don't have all the answers - and you don't either - but God does, and all we need to do is point people to Him. Relying on the Lord in our weakness is what Paul was talking about in 2 Cor. 12.

What have you experienced in your life that God can use to encourage someone else? Infertility? The death of a spouse, parent, or child? Being a care-giver? Losing a job? Children leaving the nest? Illness? Moving?  Have you been there? You can help someone else who needs your encouragement.

Til next time,

Friday, May 19, 2017

Giving Up Control

I have an amazing husband. I really do.

Some of you may have seen my post on Facebook about the wonderful dinner he cooked and served me when I came home from work one evening this week. He cleaned up the kitchen, too! He has never hesitated to pitch in and help, whether it be cooking or dishes or laundry.

During the course of our marriage, I have always pretty much taken charge of the house and all the related tasks. I thoroughly enjoy everything about homemaking, and after 41 years I am pretty good at it. But since I began working full-time a couple months ago, we really have been working together as a team. If he gets home from work before I do, he cooks. If he's working at night and home during the day, he'll do some of the laundry or run to the grocery store instead of me having to do it. When it comes to the finances and bill paying, I have always taken care of that as well, but now he might be the one who goes to the bank or pays the bills.

Don't misunderstand me! I am definitely not complaining! I am very blessed to have that kind of a husband. But for me, there is a difficult side to this. I have been doing these things for a very long time - and I am used to having complete control over what I do. He often doesn't do things the way I do. No longer being in charge means that sometimes I have items on my grocery list and I look in the refrigerator or pantry and see my husband has already bought them. I don't know what clothes are clean and what is still in the hamper. I have to check to see the status of our finances. After so many years, it is a bit of an adjustment to not feel in control of things at home.

Losing control can be an uncomfortable feeling but it is ultimately a good thing. Likewise, often I have struggled with the Lord over who is in control of my life. I have my plans and my idea of how things should go and how they should turn out. And more often than not, life doesn't go that way. Never have I been so out of control of my life as I have been this past year, when everything suddenly changed and nothing turned out as we had planned. In fact, that is one thing that the Lord has really driven home to me these past months: We may plan and we may think we are in control, but God's plans will stand. Proverbs 16:9 - "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." And Proverbs 19:21 - "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." 

Plans - it's kind of ironic that I work for the county planning department and I work around plans every day. Plans are something that we  put a lot of thought and work into, and we think they should be set in stone. But when we give our lives to the Lord, we need to realize that we are no longer in control. God desires that we submit our will to His. And God in His love and wisdom does a much better job at being in control of our lives. While we may have Plan A, God's plan is really Plan A, even though it may be quite different than ours. And God's plan is always better.

I am reminded of the words to this song that is sung by Mac and Beth Lynch:

With my whole heart I humbly seek you;
Now use my life, O Lord, I pray.
I yield my stubborn will completely,
May your commandments light my way.

My life, Lord, is yours to control;
I give you my heart and my soul.
I'll seek your will, never mine,
Rich treasure to find.
Give wisdom to choices I make,
Along every path that I take.
So when I complete life's race,
"Well done" you will say.

And in the end, that's what it's all about.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Roses and the Thorns

This week marks 7 weeks since I began working full-time. Along with that, somehow it seems like time is passing even more quickly than it used to. Am I the only one wondering how it is possible that it is already May and that this Sunday is Mother's Day?

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to visit the Botanical Gardens with a group of ladies from church. The day's cold and cloudy weather was not lovely, but the flowers were, especially the large variety of gorgeous orchids blooming in the conservatory.

After enjoying a considerable amount of time in the conservatory, I became separated from my group so I spent a few minutes wandering alone in the rose gardens, which were beautiful. I observed how exquisitely each petal was formed, and the endless varieties and shades of beautiful colors. I marveled at our great Creator who designed such beauty and perfection. I asked myself how I could ever think that a God powerful enough to create something so intricate and beautiful could not take care of me?

But at the same time I was admiring the roses, I touched one to bring it up close to take a picture and instantly the thorns pricked my fingers. And my attention immediately turned from the beauty of the rose to the pain. As I thought about this later, I couldn't miss the significance. The beauty was still there, unchanged, but my focus had shifted to the thorns. The Lord made me realize that so often I do the very same thing. There may be blessings all around me, but I am stuck in the thorns.

In Numbers 11:5 we read how the children of Israel looked back and cried over the things they used to have in Egypt and now missed. "We remember the fish we ate in Egypt freely, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic." But in verse 6, they continued on:"But now our soul is dried away and there is nothing at all except this manna!" They were so immersed in the past that they completely missed what God was doing for them in the present.

We tend to be critical of the Israelites for reacting in such a way, after all God has done for them. But if I am honest, I can so relate to this. Often lately I am feeling sad over what I used to have that I no longer do. Little things, like a yard to enjoy this time of year. My nice top of the line kitchen appliances, because I love to cook and bake. The spaciousness of my house. And bigger things - time with my husband. Free time to do the things I love, like blog and scrapbook and bake. And especially the time and opportunity to visit and attend all the special events of our grandchildren. These are my thorns.

But what about the roses? We may not have a yard, but we don't have to be concerned with mowing and keeping it up either. My appliances are not deluxe or have the features I want, but they are new. Our apartment may be small, but we have a home (which doesn't take much time to clean!) I don't have much free time anymore, but I have a job. And while I miss time with my husband, I still HAVE a husband, as well as beautiful, healthy grandchildren.

I am reminded of my theme for this year - contentment. I recently read that"Comparison kills contentment." And it's true. That includes comparison of the past and the present. We sometimes need to remind ourselves to shift our focus from the thorns to the roses. That will go a long way in helping us learn to be content. God is faithful and pours His blessings out on us over and over again. We just need to see them.

Til next time,

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Older Woman and Mentoring

Hello! It's a beautiful, warm sunny spring evening here which is very welcome after an extended onslaught of heavy rain. This past weekend I made a quick trip by myself to spend a day with my brother who is a missionary serving literally on the other side of the world. He was only in the States for another couple of days, and I hadn't seen him in nearly 2 years, so after work last Friday evening off I went. It was a fast but good weekend with him and with my daughter and her family, but then that rain moved in on Sunday and made for a long, stress-filled trip back home. My husband is out of town for work, so it's been a LONG week here by myself!

If you fall into the category of one of my younger readers, you may not really understand or relate to the first part of this post. But as I have been reflecting over the past couple of weeks, I have felt keenly aware that I have entered into the realm of "older women." I'm not really sure why my age has become so apparent to me. It's not like it happened overnight! I do have 10 grandchildren, after all! Maybe it was going to the eye doctor recently and learning that my vision has gotten worse again and I need not only a new pair of glasses, but a second pair for when I am working on the computer. Maybe it's the five pounds I have recently put on which drive me crazy and I can't seem to get rid of. Maybe it's seeing other women with cute haircuts or stylish outfits and then realizing that they are probably my daughter's age. Maybe it is because I am not quite as fast to learn new things as I always have been. I've been talking to new friends and realizing I am quite a few years years older than they are. Regardless of what led to this realization, it's a new feeling to look around and realize I am one of the older women there. I still feel the same as I always have - well, most of the time anyway!

There are, however, certain advantages to being older - although I'm not yet old enough for some senior discounts or medicare. I have learned a lot, experienced a lot, and know how to do a lot of things. I have more confidence and am not as easily shaken. I know what I am good at and what I am not. I have been married for 41 years. I have acquired a fair amount of wisdom. Most importantly, because I became a Christian at a very young age I have had over 50 years to walk with the Lord. There is nothing more precious than that!

I'm what Titus 2:3-5 refers to in the KJV as an "aged" (or mature) woman. I love it that God gives direction in His Word to women and what He expects of them. And specifically, He has entrusted to us older women the responsibility of mentoring the younger women in our lives. Susan Hunt in her book Spiritual Mothering defines mentoring as "investing in the lives of others in a nurturing way that we share the gospel as well as our lives with them." It means showing them how it's done, and sharing our lives. It goes back to the Biblical mandate of one generation teaching the next the goodness of the Lord. It means taking a personal interest in the younger women around us and being willing to invest ourselves in them. As a younger woman, it is so helpful to have someone come alongside who has already walked the road we are walking and can give some insight as well as some practical help. As an older woman, it gives purpose to our lives to be able to share the benefit of what we have already experienced.

So what kind of things are we to mentor in? Titus 2:3 says we are to be "teachers of good things." The word that is translated "teacher" has the idea of both personal example and Godly wisdom. The "good things" are actually the characteristics that are listed in Titus 2:4-5. There are so many ways that we can come alongside and encourage the younger women in our lives in their marriages, their mothering, and their walk with the Lord. All it requires is a willingness to invest in others, and some time and creativity on our part.

So as for me, I'm going to change my perspective on getting older. I want to be able to be a blessing and invest in the younger women God brings into my life with the intention of helping them and glorifying God in the process. After all, that is His perfect plan.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

More Than These

Good morning! It's a beautiful sunny spring Saturday morning here, and it's been too long since I have been at the blog. It has been an eventful few weeks, but more on that later. This weekend is Easter weekend - that time when we reflect on what Jesus did for us on the cross. He paid the ultimate price for our sin with His own life, but He is alive! Without the resurrection we would still be without hope!

This past week in preparation for Resurrection Sunday, in my quiet time with the Lord I have been re-reading passages about the crucifixion and resurrection and meditating on them. I parked for awhile in John 21. It was after the resurrection and Jesus had just revealed Himself to His disciples.  Put yourself in their place and think about how they must have felt. They had been completely broken and discouraged at the death of their beloved Jesus. I can't begin to fathom their joy when they finally understood who He was and that He really was alive. But it was verse 15 that really stopped me, when Jesus put this question to Peter: "Lovest thou me more than these?"

"More than these". I couldn't stop thinking about what the "these" refers to. I think it means anything that we are loving and holding onto more than the Lord. Those things that keep us from loving Him and trusting Him like He wants us to. I think "these" is different for all of us.

This Easter is once again a first for us - the first time in 22 years that we are not celebrating the Resurrection with a congregation that my husband is pastoring. Easter weekend was always one of my favorite, and also one of the busiest, times of the year for us. My husband always liked having a Good Friday service, and we also often had Easter sunrise services. I recall many years and precious memories of Easter breakfasts, cantatas, and special services. It was busy, but we loved it - and we truly did those things with the intention of giving God the glory for the death and resurrection of His Son. I miss those times so much.

Along with missing ministry life, as I already mentioned the past three weeks have been full of events both good and bad. Last weekend, I was privileged to have the wonderful opportunity to speak at a Mother-Daughter Luncheon at a church in northern Maryland. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the Lord was so gracious in giving me clarity of thought and the words to hopefully encourage the ladies there in their walk with the Lord. He also answered my prayers for safety since I drove up and back by myself. Again, I haven't had the opportunity to speak or teach for a year and for one who loves it as much as I do, that has been hard. I am trying just to wait upon the Lord and trust Him.

Two weeks ago tonight, I took my husband to the emergency room in the middle of the night for chest pains and pressure that he began experiencing at work. The doctors were concerned because he has an extensive family history of heart disease and because of his symptoms. It was a stress-filled two nights and two days in the hospital while many tests were run, and we were so grateful when all of the results came back that it was not heart related and he was released.

Presently my husband is at the doctor for a bad burn he got on his arm at work a few weeks ago that has become badly infected. He has a busy week of work ahead of him, and then will be out of town working at another restaurant location for a week. So now you can see what I mean about it being a crazy time for us here. And while all this is going on, I am still adjusting to my job and a new routine working full-time.  I can't help but think about the differences between a year ago and now, and these events being a part of His plan for us.

As I ponder all of this, the answer to the "more than these" question came to me. For me, the "these" means the past and all the unanswered questions. I think the Lord was asking me if I love Him more than wanting to know the answers. Do I love HIM more than I love the ministry? Do I love HIM more than things I don't have anymore and more than people that I miss? This has been such a convicting question for me to mull over.

We all have the "these" in our lives which threaten to keep us from loving God like we should. It may be our possessions, our home, our families, our friends, our jobs, our hopes and dreams...the list is endless. Once we recognize that there are "these things" that we love more than we love Him, we then need to surrender them to Him and learn to trust even those things to His wise providence.

Happy Resurrection Sunday!