The Light in My Window

The Light in My Window

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Jehovah-Jireh - God, Our Provider

Happy Thanksgiving!

I can't believe we are just a few days away from another Thanksgiving...wasn't it just the 4th of July? We are excited about being able to share Thanksgiving in our home this year with our oldest son and his family!

I hope you will forgive me for being late with a blog post, and also for writing a post today that just shares my heart. I was up and out early on this Saturday morning accomplishing my lengthy errand-and-shopping list before the day got away from me, and as I was driving I was thinking about this time last year. There is something about the holidays, Thanksgiving and New Years in particular, that make me reflect on the past year. I think what prompted my line of thinking was hearing one of my favorite songs - "Jehovah-Jireh" by Matt Whitcomb and recorded by the Hamilton family. I love these words:

"Today in this place, we seek for God's will.
We trust day by day that our cup He will fill.
And when He tells us to sacrifice our treasures here on earth,
Rich blessings are in store for us,
And joy of matchless worth."

"Jehovah-Jireh, in You we hide,
Jehovah-Jireh, You will provide!
For we know that you are with us,
Your loving hands will hold us,
We rest secure,
We place our lives within Your hands."

I actually wrote these words in my journal almost a year and a half ago after hearing this song. They were so appropriate at the time. And they still are.

Last year at Thanksgiving, we had just sold our house but we had not yet moved. My husband was commuting two hours a day to and from his new job in Richmond. I had given notice at my job because we were moving but I had no idea if and where I would be able to find a new job. We hadn't yet secured an apartment. We had no church home. Things were uncertain at best.

Today, we have moved out of the apartment that we lived in for the first ten months of our transition and have been in this house (a rental house) for about 6 weeks. My husband is still working long hours but he only has an 11 mile commute to work. I have a job that I like and that provides me with good benefits. We are serving in a local church as much as we can. As I thought about all these things, I couldn't help but think how true it is that God is our Jehovah-Jireh - He has provided. He has blessed us richly and met every need.

This month in my personal devotions, I am returning to the study "Choosing Gratitude" by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. I first read this book and taught this study several years ago when we lived in Illinois. It impacted my life so much that I wanted (and needed) to do it again. There is a 30-day Gratitude Challenge that is included in the book, and I have gained so much from it. It is the kind of study you can do again and again. True gratitude is missing from our lives as Christians and it is life-changing. One of my favorite quotes from the book is this: "Is the gratitude that flows out of your life as abundant as the grace that flows into your life?"

Gratitude must come from a humble heart - when I am dissatisfied or resentful or comparing it is because of pride, thinking I deserve better when I don't. Having a grateful heart means sometimes we choose to be thankful when it is hard. Psalm 50:23a is encouraging - "The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies Me." 

Along with this study I have been reading through the book of Isaiah. Chapter 40 is one of my favorites in the whole Bible. I started to highlight my favorite verses and found I was highlighting the entire chapter! It is full of the characteristics of God, and a picture of contrasts - God is described as powerful, strong, infinitely wise, everlasting, Creator, great and mighty. Yet "He will feed His flock like a shepherd, He will gather His lambs in His arms. He will carry them in His bosom and gently lead those that are with young." (verse 11) As our Shepherd, He knows what we need, and He is our provider - our Jehovah-Jireh.

Wishing you and yours a very joyful and blessed Thanksgiving,

Saturday, October 14, 2017

God of the Hills and the Valleys

If you know me personally or follow me on Facebook and are familiar with all that has been going on with us, you are probably really surprised to see this blog post. You are no more surprised than I - writing a blog post was not on my (very full) agenda for today. Just one week ago today, we moved into this house. We are only about 8 miles from where our apartment was, but there was still as much work with this move as any other. There is a world of difference being in a real house once again! And on this Saturday morning, if I ignore the stacks of boxes everywhere and the mess and the dirty windows and the lack of decor, it almost feels normal to me. I have some good music playing, I made baked oatmeal for breakfast, and best of all I have spent the last hour at my computer preparing the lesson and the outline handout for the Ladies Bible study I will be teaching this coming week.

Yes, God has answered prayer and has opened the door for me to teach ladies once again. It is only once a month, but truthfully with me working full-time that is probably a good thing. I have not taught for 18 months, and I have missed it so very much. I guess only someone who loves to write and teach as much as I do can understand how much a part of me that is. As I sat and studied and wrote this morning, it felt so normal and wonderful. My heart is full.

I wanted to share a verse with you that my attention was drawn to in my devotional time with the Lord this past month. 1 Kings 20:28 - "Thus says the Lord, Because the Syrians have said that the Lord is the God of the hills but He is not the God of the valleys, I will give all this great multitude into your hands so that you shall know that I am the Lord."

God is God of the valleys, as well as God of the mountains. These past few weeks have been full of mountains and valleys. At the end of September, our oldest son was ordained into the ministry and installed as Associate Pastor at the church that he and his wife have been at and served in ever since they were married in 2004. Being there for the weekend and witnessing the ordination and installation service that was so moving with magnificent music, meaningful Scripture readings, my brother and another bringing messages from the Word, and watching my son so confidently yet humbly saying his vows was an incredible, overwhelming experience for me as a mother. I could only think of Luke's words in Luke 2:19, "But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."

Another mountain was seeing God provide a rental house for us, and His provision of people to help us move. I have moved many, many times in my life, but this was the first time I ever had to move while also working full-time. It seemed impossible, and it would have been if it had not been for the help we received. A sweet friend gave up an entire afternoon to help me pack for 4 hours straight. The Lord sent my brother and sister-in-law, missionaries on furlough, to visit us the last few days before we moved. They were invaluable in helping us pack, take down and re-install things, and cleaning the house before we moved in. Last Saturday we had a dozen people show up from our new church with willing hearts and hard-working bodies. God's provision was such a blessing and encouragement.

There have been valleys as well, places of deep disappointment and discouragement. Getting our things out of storage has brought some hurtful memories. Nothing is like I thought it would be at this point in our lives. But as I reflected on this verse, I had to remind myself that God is still the same God in the hard times as much as He is God of the good times. He still leads. He still provides. He still protects. He still blesses. He still is a sovereign God. If He doesn't lead through the valleys as well as the mountains, then He wouldn't be God. As I am re-studying the book of Exodus in preparation for teaching, I m reminded that just because we might be in the wilderness does not mean God is absent. Through both the mountains and the valleys, God's desire is that we glorify Him.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Blessing of a Prepared Place

This may be a longer post than usual, because I have a lot to catch up on! The weeks since my last blog post have been a whirlwind. We've been home just a few days after spending a week in Oregon, a long-awaited visit to our younger son and his family who moved there about 14 months ago. We had such a great week, and I also learned a lot of interesting things about Oregon:
1) The Pacific Northwest takes their coffee very seriously! There is literally a coffee shop or kiosk on every corner, and often more than one. Everyone always seems to have a coffee cup in their hands. Which is just fine with this coffee-lover!
2) It is illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon. Yep, they come out and pump your gas, just like in the old days.
3) Since I unfortunately came down with a cold out there, I learned first-hand that you can't buy Mucinex-D in OR - it takes a doctor's prescription. However, Marijuana is legal. Go figure.
4) When you go shopping, you have to buy or bring your own reusable bags. Everywhere, not just certain stores. My husband unknowingly snagged a bag at Walmart. The idea is that if you have to buy bags, it will encourage people to use and re-use permanent, earth-friendly bags.
5) Smoke from wildfires (that we usually only hear about on the news) is very real and troublesome. It is normally clear and beautiful, but when we were visiting there were 19 different wildfires burning in Oregon, and the smoke in Eugene was horrendous. The visibility and air quality were very poor and you could even smell the smoke inside.

All in all, our week in Oregon was absolutely wonderful. We spent a day on the Pacific Coast, taking in the gorgeous scenery of the ocean, rocky coast and lighthouses, watching sea lions, and eating seafood. We also spent 2 days in Portland visiting a huge bookstore and the Oregon Zoo and enjoyed eating at a well-known restaurant. The rest of our time we spent in Eugene, where we did some more sight-seeing and ate at a couple more well-known and enjoyable places. But hands-down the most precious time was the time we spent together as a family - eating meals, talking, riding in the car, playing games, and getting re-acquainted with our grandchildren, ages 19 months and 4. We played and read books and laughed and cuddled.

As I sat in the Sunday services of the church where our son serves as youth pastor, my heart was so full. As I saw him in his place of ministry that God had prepared for him and prepared him for, I couldn't help reflecting on all the events that had brought him to this place. His acceptance of Jesus as Savior at Awana in South Carolina. The years of home-schooling. His friends and high school jobs and years of youth group and church involvement growing up in Illinois. His various ministries every summer during his college years, including his internship at the very church where he is now youth pastor! To see how God has specifically led and brought him to this place where he and his wife are now serving the Lord is a joy to this mother's heart. It isn't easy to have them on the other side of the country. When we were on the plane and I saw on the digital map the many states we were passing over - Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah - and we visited the Pacific Ocean when we live just a short distance from the Atlantic, it made it very real how far away they are. But they are definitely in the exact place that God has designated for them to be in, and we wouldn't want them anywhere else.

This week John 14:2 and 3 caught my eye. Those verses talk about Jesus preparing a place for us. Of course, the place He is referring to is Heaven and He was comforting the disciples with the assurance that He would be preparing a place for them and would come again to bring them there. But how true it is that God prepares places for us to be! He prepares places where we wants us to be, whether it be a workplace, dwelling place, or ministry place, and in so doing He prepares us for those places. Jeremiah 7:7a - "I will cause you to dwell in this place."  From Genesis to Revelation, God led his people and His servants from place to place. Think of Abraham. Joseph. Moses. Ruth. Esther. Nehemiah. Paul. And Jesus. I had never stopped and thought about the significance of place before, but it is pretty mind-boggling!

There have been many times this past year when I wondered (and sometimes still do) "How did I end up here?" Not so much geographically, but a very different place from what we had planned and intended. I know many people who could echo the same. Yet, God has prepared this place for us.We have come to the conclusion that God would have us stay in this place, at least for the foreseeable future. We had thought this was only temporary. We had prayed for something different, and that He would open doors of a different place and opportunity to us. But God seems to have a different plan.

As I write this, we are once again preparing to move - this time from our 2 bedroom apartment into a rental house nearby. No, I am not thrilled about moving for the 4th time in a year (counting having moved out and back into our house and out again last year). But we have decided that if this is going to be our God-designated place, that it only makes sense that we eliminate some of the inconveniences of apartment living, gain some space, and have all of our belongings out of storage.

The blessing of place - our Heavenly Father has a place for each of us. When we walk with the Lord and seek His will, it is then a blessing to be able to rest knowing we are in our God-prepared place.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Secure in Him

Three weeks since my last blog post have sure passed quickly. The summer is almost over, as evidenced by the shorter days and school starting again. For many years, this week was the week when we would be seeing one or more of our children off to college. That was always a time of transition in our family as we adjusted or re-adjusted the size of our family and finally we were down to just the two of us. Now we have grandchildren heading back to school. Where does the time go?

I am thankful for those years of adjusting to the emptying nest, because these days transition seems to be a constant of my life. (I joke that the only thing constant in our life is change!) Because the lease on our apartment is coming up for renewal in two months, and we have to give notice of what we are going to do, we have been in the midst of some major decisions. And because so many things are out of our hands, we have had some big disappointments, especially just this week. Things that we had thought and hoped were going to happen aren't. And we are left wondering (again), "Now what do we do?"

My daughter gave me a book for my birthday which has been such a blessing to me. It is Secure in the Everlasting Arms by Elisabeth Elliott. I highly recommend it. If you know me at all, you know I am a big fan of Elisabeth and her books and quotes which contain so much wisdom. One of her most quoted sayings is "Just do the next thing", and that has been my theme lately.

One chapter in her book contains the following quote by a man named Jim O'Donnell, which was used by permission and refers to his wife's illness, but it spoke to me:

"We must learn to be faithful people in this new assignment, one we certainly never would have asked for but one which can still bless us and use us to serve our Creator and others." (emphasis mine)

I have been thinking a lot about that - the idea that even though it doesn't seem like God is using us at all at the present, He can still use us in ways that we never would have thought of or planned. Ways that are very different from having a formal ministry of teaching or speaking or mentoring, which I miss so much. And God recently gave me two instances to illustrate this. I hesitate to share these because I don't want the point to be me. I want to show how God can use us to influence others in very unlikely ways, and that we can have a ministry no matter what, as long as we have a servant's heart. Psalm 138:8a tells me, "The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me."

A couple Sundays ago, a woman I barely know at church came up to me and said she had been watching me and had noticed how I dress, and she wanted me to know she appreciated the example I was setting. I was shocked, because I never knew I was being watched. And I was even more surprised when after the morning service, my husband were in a local restaurant having lunch. I was dressed as I always do for church - a nice and modest dress with a matching jacket and jewelry. Our waitress, who was probably in her twenties, came over to our table. She looked at me and said,"Wow, you look so nice! I love the way you dress! I wish women like you could teach women my age how to dress." She went on to describe how it seems like women her age have no idea how to dress nicely or appropriately. My husband remarked after she left that those two incidents tell us that someone is always watching us, whether we are aware of it or not. God can use us in such simple ways as having a testimony in the way we dress.

The second thing that happened was yesterday at the close of my day at work, when my phone rang at the last minute and it was one of the managers. He said he just wanted to compliment me on the nice job I was doing and how well I handled the customers. I about dropped the phone, but it made my day. Again, I had no idea I was being watched. God can use us in the way we speak and treat others.

The point of this is not that I know how to dress or that I do a good job at work. The point is that God can use us in many ways, and sometimes those ways are totally unexpected or totally different than what we are used to. Someone is always watching us or looking to us for our reaction. But we need to be open and willing to do what He has for us.

And that brings me back to the title I gave this post - Secure in Him. Because that is what it always comes back to. It all depends on an attitude of trusting Him. I love Psalm 139, and a verse I read and meditated on this week which goes along with this is verse 5, "Thou has beset me behind and before, and lay thy hand upon me." The phrase "beset me" also means "hem me in." I love the picture of being "hemmed in" by the Lord. He holds the boundaries. He won't let us unravel (it sure feels like everything is unraveling!). He controls both the past and the future. If we really believe that, then we can be open to what He has for us.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Controlling Our Portion

A couple days ago I marked the 4 month anniversary of beginning my new job working for the County planning department. Four months have sure flown by quickly. Working full-time after working part-time and having been a mom and/or a pastor's wife at home for so many years has necessitated a lot of changes in many areas of my life. Most of the adjustment has gone quite well. But one area that I can't seem to figure out is how to avoid gaining weight when I am sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day.

You don't need to flood me with comments and advice on how to lose weight. I know all the right things to do. I'm actually a Lifetime Member of Weight Watchers. I'm a naturally healthy eater - I love all fruits and vegetables, I don't eat many high-fat foods because I don't digest them well, and I TRY to stay away from sugar. I drink water. It comes down to one thing: portion control. I simply eat.too.much for someone who is as sedentary as I am, especially given my age which brings with it a lower metabolism. I feel better when I work out, but fitting in time for regular exercise with my work schedule is hard. So these days I am trying to remember to reduce my portion sizes.

I was reminded of this the other morning as I was having my Bible reading and came to Psalm 16. Psalm 16 contains a lot of great verses, but verse 5 especially caught my attention: "The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup, You hold my lot." That has the idea that when we walk with the Lord, He assigns us the specific portion He has for us, a little at a time, and in so doing He makes my lot, or the whole picture, secure. Jeremiah 13:25 says, "This is your lot, this portion have I measured out for you, declares the Lord." When we have a portion, we have a measured, limited amount, rather than getting an unlimited amount of everything at once (think buffet restaurants). Likewise, God seldom lets us preview everything that He has in store for us. And that's a good thing.

Elisabeth Elliot says in her book Secure in the Everlasting Arms, "We are meddling with God's business when let all manner of imagining loose, contemplating possibilities instead of just following one day at a time God's plan and simple pathway. When we try to meet difficulties prematurely, we have neither the light nor strength for them yet."

Those are wise words. Just like those controlled meal portions, the Lord lovingly and graciously measures out for us His plan for the day, one day at a time. We often would like to glimpse God's plan for our future, but the Lord knows it is too much for us to take in all at once. Accepting the portion that God gives us each day is one way that He stretches our faith. 

Not only have I been at my job for 4 months, but it has now been over a year since we left our ministry. We have a deadline looming this fall of deciding whether or not we are going to keep this apartment for another year, and we are earnestly seeking the Lord's will and plan. We have learned many things on this journey we have been on this past year, and one of them is this: the best way we can prepare for the uncertainties of the future is to be faithful today. God desires faithfulness doing whatever He gives us as our assigned portion for the day. The opportunities we have right now to serve the Lord are few, and they are small compared to what we used to do, but we know God requires faithfulness of us. In everything.

I had originally been thinking about posting some new recipes for you today, because I haven't done that in a long time. But no matter how good they are, that doesn't seem to fit with a post about weight and portion control! Instead, I will close with some verses that have been special to me this week:

Psalm 33:11, 20-21: "The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. Our soul waits for the Lord, He is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in Him, because we trust His holy name."

Til next time,

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!