I Think I Can Breathe Again…

This was originally written in 2013…

Puddle Jumping

Steven Curtis Chapman says it best…

I don’t even wanna breathe right now
All I wanna do is close my eyes
But I don’t wanna open them again
Until I’m standing on the other side
I don’t even wanna be right now
I don’t wanna think another thought
And I don’t wanna feel this pain I feel
And right now, pain is all I’ve got.”

Today was a hard day.

Let me back up.

Three days ago I waved good-bye to my son, his wife, and my two grandchildren as they drove down the street, on their way to Northern Idaho to a new home, to new jobs, to a new life. Now instead of twelve minutes away, it’s fifteen hours.

My two grandchildren, one five and the other, one year old. My two grandchildren, who I have watched almost since day one. Every day. All day while mom and dad were at work.

I helped them learn to walk. Eat with a spoon. Drink from a cup.

I sat in that rocking chair over there, and rocked them to sleep. Sang hymns to them. Read to them about the “pants with nobody inside of them” (Dr. Suess). Held them when they were sick or healthy or when they just wanted to be held.

I sat at that table over there and played games with Boo, colored, painted, had tea parties.

And then one day, not long ago, my son announced a new job opportunity and you can guess the rest and that’s why I stood outside on Sunday morning, waving good-bye to a car filled with precious ones.

And Sunday, after they left, I went to the rose garden and everywhere I walked I heard Boo. I saw her chasing the blackbirds. And I could hear her excitement upon finally seeing the elusive jack rabbit we’ve been tracking for months – if only she had been there.

And Monday I worked in the garden and watered her garden – a garden filled with volunteer larkspur, bachelor buttons, poppies. She was so proud of her garden. I worked out there most all day. I worked out there until I couldn’t move. I worked out there so I didn’t have to think.

And Tuesday, yesterday, I still couldn’t move. I moved too much on Monday and paid for it on Tuesday. I had lost mobility and.. gained pain in its place. I sat on the couch and worked on my pictures and cried. My digital albums are filled with children’s smiles and I could almost hear the giggles behind them.

And then there was today. At one point I felt like I had been locked in a blackened room – hopeless, lost, empty. And I wept. For something lost. And it felt as if my heart was literally breaking in two. The crack I could live with a week ago became a bottomless crevice. The strength that held me together a week ago had become jello.

And I wept.
God, how am I going to do this?, I whispered through tears that hadn’t spilled out so hard in so long.

My head told me those two little ones were not mine to hold onto. I was not even their parent. Can a Grammy love her little Grammy grandchildren so very much?

Yes. Yes – she most definitely can.

As I sat on the bathroom floor, I cried some more and through the tears whispered, God, I lived for those kids.

They were my daily dose of laughter, love, smiles, hugs, joy. God used those two little ones to bless me over and above in so many ways I never deserved. I viewed them as my little disciples and we talked about God everywhere we went. In everything we did.

How I found the energy to do it every day, only God knows. I napped with John and napped when they went home. I fought through the pain within my body and refused to not hold my grandkids or change diapers even when I didn’t think I could stand it another minute.
My body was screaming to let go. My heart was screaming to hold on. My head was saying it was time. Time to listen to the body. The disease that strives to claim more ground with each passing day. Time to let go.

It was the grace of God that intervened. But oh how it can hurt.

And then I heard it. That still, small voice that you can hear when you’re sobbing uncontrollably because your not busy talking and making incessant, un-needful noise and chatter. The comforting, life-giving voice of God.

God, I lived for those kids, I had whispered through tears.

And before I could go on to the next thought of despair, He whispered back.

“Live for me.”

The uncontrollable sobbing became controlled. The tears dried up (for that day). A tiny ray of sunshine, a tiny grain of hope took hold deep inside my heart and the crevice began to close and return to a crack. A few more tears fell. Not from grief but because of grace. The grace of God. The trustworthy grace of a merciful God.

I don’t know what living for Him looks like in the days ahead – His plans, His dreams for me – but as I live for Him, I will trust Him completely. I’ve been through too much in my lifetime to do anything less.

Like I said, Steven Curtis Chapman says it best…

I don’t wanna feel this pain I feel
And right now, pain is all I’ve got.
It feels like it’s all I’ve got, but I know it’s not
No, I know You’re all I’ve got
And I will trust You, I’ll trust You
Trust You, God, I will
Even when I don’t understand, even then I will say again
You are my God, and I will trust You.
Trust You. I will trust You.

Even when I don’t understand the physical, emotional, or mental pain, I will trust Him.

Trusting While Fear-filled

He tells them to get into the boat. To go on ahead. Go to the other side and He would dismiss the crowd.

He knows what he’s doing.

The crowd, little by little, disperses. Some continue to hang around and chat. Ponder collectively over what they have just heard. Words that have spoken to their heart. Changed their lives.

While some remain, pondering His words, He hikes up the side of the mountain alone. He is going to pray. The air begins to cool. The sun begins to set. And there He is. Sitting. Kneeling on that mountainside. Alone. He is praying to his Father.

In the meantime, the boat, now a good distance away from the shore, begins to rock back and forth. Those inside the vessel begin to grow fearful.

Meanwhile, up on the mountainside, He continues to pray as the cool breezes began to blow past Him.

He knows. He is God and, He knows.

He knows who is in that boat which is swaying more fervently with each sharp gust of wind. Wind that is biting at their flesh.

They are doused with ice cold water that washes over them, drenching their hopes for a safe return. It threatens to fill the hull that holds them in what little refuge they have. It mocks them. Its intent is to sink and drown them. To bury their hopes. Their faith. Their trust. Their belief for a better way. If it has its way, the storm’s crushing waves and chaotic winds will leave them for dead.

And He knows this.

It is the fourth watch of the night. Almost sunrise. They have battled through the night with a ship destined for destruction in the wake of disaster.

He has battled all night in prayer. Were His prayers for their faith to increase and their fears to subside?

There are boats by the shore. He could probably get a ride. But instead, He walks. Right onto the water. And the waves lap high around His ankles.

He walks.

On the water.

How many times have we read or heard stories from the Bible that they’ve seemed to become commonplace and bring nothing into our humdrum lives? Our response?

“Oh yes. I’ve read that one – Jesus brought a little girl back to life. Pretty cool.”

Cool? COOL? It’s miraculous! It’s incredible. Incredibly miraculous. And if I think about it for any length of time, at any depth, I realize – it isn’t cool, it’s unfathomable.

And so He walks. And fear rocks each disciple as the waves rock the boat. Then they spot Him. When that fear has clawed its razor sharp talons into the depths of their beings – they see Him. But through fear-tinted glasses they don’t really see Him.

They see a man.

They see a figure.

They see…

“Peter! It’s. a. ghost.!!!”

But He is not a ghost. He is the One who will save them. Now. At this moment. And three years later. And every day after that.

Immediately He calls out. “Guys – it’s okay. Don’t be afraid. It’s me – Jesus.”

Peter gathers his thoughts.

“Lord, if it’s really you then…”

Should he risk it? Should he sound and look foolish should the far-off man really be a ghost? Will his request make him look brave so that when he appears foolish in three years on that day of denial, his companions may overlook his shame?

He risks it.

“Lord, if it is you, then tell me to come out there to you on the water.”

Does Peter, at this point in time, have an inkling as to who Jesus really is?

There is no bravery here. There is no foolishness. But, there is relief. Relief that Help has come. But still the winds toss the boat about. And in the tossing and the rocking and the swaying, Jesus says, “Come.”

At this point, Peter may have wished it was a ghost he had seen for now he had to show by works what his faith meant to him. Could he walk over to Jesus, who had been coming to them but now waited for Peter to come to Him?

I don’t think Peter jumped. I think it was more like he wanted to jump ship as he slowly, cautiously, put one leg over the boat and then the next and then with both hands anchored tightly to the rim on the side the boat, with eyes closed, he lets loose. And he is standing.
I can imagine his surprise. He really is standing!

He probably smiles a sheepish grin to no one in particular and turns around and begins walking toward Jesus. You couldn’t wipe that grin off his face. You couldn’t squelch the pride coursing through his very being.

His shoulders are broad and he could have moved a mountain. If only the waves at his feet would settle. If only the wind would calm. As he looks at the waves and feels their sting against his legs, he looks to the horizon, watching the clouds rush toward him, while his faith flees and fear fills him once again and… he begins to sink.

Because that’s what fear does. It pulls you down and makes you feel like you’re sinking. The storms in life pound down so hard upon you that you will drown and no one can save you.

But Jesus knew. He knew what was going on in that boat while he was in prayer up on that mountain. He knew what they were thinking while he was intervening. He knew their battle with fear while he was battling for souls. And He knew what Peter would do.

“Lord, save me,” Peter cried out as he began to sink.

Jesus knew.

He knew the very second Peter quit looking at Him, is the very second Peter would begin to sink.

Peter didn’t sink immediately, but instead, “when he saw the wind”, we’re told he began sinking and cried out for Jesus to save him. And what did Jesus do?

Immediately He reached out and caught him. Not down, not under the water, but out. It shows Jesus was ready for that moment. Because He knew – before he even sent those boys across the lake, before he spent the entire night in prayer – He knew what was going to happen. Peter didn’t have time to sink because Jesus was in the process of saving him before Peter knew he needed saving. Before he cried out, “Lord, save me,” Jesus was in the process of reaching out before Peter had time to go under.

And Jesus meets Peters fears and faltering faith with tenderness.

With an arm around Peter’s shoulder and steadying his weak knees, Jesus asks, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

What do you say to that?

What could Peter say? What could he do? He said nothing.

The story goes on…

‘When they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.’

The wind died. In the mere presence of Jesus, the wind died. Not a word was spoken.

And, as the wind died, the disciples were saved. As the wind died, their faith grew. As the wind died, they began to live. Really live. And in their living, they worshipped Him. Why? Because they realized who they were hanging around with. They knew this Jesus – their Jesus – wasn’t some mystical, magical being that appeared as a ghost upon stormy seas. They knew this was the Son of God. The One that had the power to change hearts and minds. To change lives. To turn fear into faith and worry into worship.

There are a hundred and one things I could list that could cause me to worry. And fear. And many things on my list I have granted permission to cause fear and worry. Health issues. Financial issues. Family issues. Failures. On and on.

But God doesn’t want us to live there. We can’t live there for Jesus showed us that to live in fear is to sink in the storm. And His way is much safer: keep my eyes on Him, reach for His hand, and trust Him.

Above all, trust Him.

April 12th, 2015: This Week’s Offering

This past week, we had the privilege of watching our two oldest grandkids for a week while mom and dad went off to play in Hawaii for an anniversary celebration. I am certain we got the better deal! We were told we could spoil them as much as we wanted but though we tried, we didn’t have enough time to spoil them as much as we would have liked!

Grammy and clan – John is saying “Cheese”…

 

The week was filled with stories. Many we read, some we wrote, others we made for posterities sake. We took the kids shopping one day where they could pick out one toy and one outfit. Clara chose a girls’ Lego set – look out Uncle Mark! We put it together that afternoon. Those things are fun, no matter what age you are. She chose a pretty blue dress, whereas John was set on the Godzilla (“dinosaur”) shirt in bright orange. He opted for the dump truck/forklift combo in the John Deere section of the local Toys R Us. That was the extent of our ‘big’ shopping day and everyone returned home quite happy.

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Boppa and John

Every day included an egg hunt (at least one!), seeing who could blow the biggest bubble (the wind won!), and going for a walk. Every night was popcorn and movie night while we snuggled on the couch together, catching up on the latest Planes, How to Train a Dragon, Bob the Builder or whatever the movie choice was for that night’s entertainment. We sang along to Frozen, sat in suspense wondering if Dusty Crophopper would stall while trying to put out the fire, and wondered if Bob really would be able to fix ‘it’.

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After a wonderful worship service with the Cedar Hills Church, we were able to spend Easter with my mom and dad and cousin, coming to join us for dinner on Easter Sunday. The next morning we would be heading for home.

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It was hard to say good bye when Monday morning rolled around. Not a day goes by that a tear or two doesn’t drop when thoughts of those two, not-so-little-anymore precious kids wash over me. I stop and, instead of mulling over what isn’t meant to be, find the joy in what is and give thanks for the memories that we were able to make together. 

And  in the coming home, there awaits new memories to be made with our newest grandson, Finn. To say he is adorable, to say he is cute, to say he is awesome (to say the least)… well, I’ll let you judge. But the reason why I am so taken with him, is his personality (and the fact he may just have red hair like his mama). He is always so happy (especially when mom and dad are around). And this week took the cake.

You see, Finn has had a Grammy issue. He doesn’t like me to hold him. He didn’t want me to feed him. He hated me to change his diaper. I may, in fact, be exaggerating (but it wasn’t far from the truth). Until yesterday.

Yesterday Finn arrived with smiles, as usual. But something was different… He smiled at me! And it continued. He let me rock him and he fell asleep in my arms. He let me dance with him and we watched the birds fly by the window. He let me walk him and he watched the trees and flowers go by with me. And the very best thing was when I was taking him home. He was a little fussy – not crying – so I turned some music on and oh, what a treat!!! He sang all the way home! It was the same word over and over, (“aaaahhhh”) but it was music to my ears

God takes the broken hearts and heals them. How do we know this is not the song He sings over us (Zacheriah 3:17)? It surely touched my heart in a mighty way.

While on our trip to Idaho, we took a short detour to visit the beautiful Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in the town of Woodruff. Meandering through the outskirts of the main town, we passed several lush green farms, trees with ferns growing out of their trunks, and a gorgeous old church, its walls bursting with thousands of stories begging to be told. It stood across the street from an old school house, which boasted its own memories and stories of childhood days past. A familiar, old, steel gray merry-go-round and ladder slide stood ghostly still, vacated in the school’s play yard.

Shortly down the road, tulips by the thousand waited to be photographed and so I did what anybody else with a camera in tow would do and started shooting tulips. Reds, purples, pinks, yellows and what seemed every color under the sun were waiting to mesmerize the visitor and take your breath away. 

And so they did.

I am sharing some of the photos from our week up north via the tulip festival. It was short, but it was sweet. Enjoy.

 

Leaving Your Nets Behind

“Come, follow me,” Jesus says, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 

At once Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew leave their nets and follow Him. (Mark 1:17).

At once

They don’t even think about whether it is the right thing to do. They know. His presence demands obedience. Respect. A want and a need to follow.

At once

They don’t hesitate but immediately give each other a quick glance as if to say, “You in?” and seeing the answer on one anothers face, throw down their nets and join Him.

Jesus goes a little farther down the lake. He sees James and his brother John and immediately calls them and they leave their father and his hired men in the boat where they are and follow Jesus.

At once

Without taking their father. Leaving the family business. They, just like Peter and Andrew , throw down their past and follow their future.

They take nothing with them. They never stop to ask questions like, “What will we eat?”, or “What will we wear?”, or “Where will we sleep?”

They just obey. Without reservation and full of trust. Because they just know.

*** 

They didn’t need evidence. 

They didn’t need signs and wonders. 

They just knew.

Are we so bold? So trusting? Are we willing to say “Yes, Lord” when we look up into a starry sky or hear the cry of a newborn baby or smell the fragrance of a rose or hold new life in our hands? Are we quick to say yes to Truth even though we may not fully understand it or know where it’s taking us?

That’s what Jesus asks of us. He’s not asking us to leave our brains at the door. That’s not trust.

Trust is what He’s asking of us. Faith. To trust and just believe what He says – that He is the way, that He is the truth, and that He is the life. Or more personally speaking,

He is our way

He is our truth

and

He is our life.

Just like the disciples, we, too, have a choice we must make… 

Will we lay down our past and trust Him for our future?

Smiling As We Sleep

I snuggled a little LoveBug this morning while he slept. My head tilted and resting against his, I could feel him smile in his sleep, his cheek against mine. The feeling that he trusted me, could rest peacefully and in safety. He had his feet pulled up and was positioned to look like a little ball of cuteness. (Which isn’t hard for him to do.)

That’s Finn.

And that’s what God wants from us…

To snuggle into his chest when the horrors and happenings of this temporary life pounce upon us like a lion, who. tears at the flesh going for the heart. We are left broken, dying, done. Tears don’t come anymore. What was – no longer remains.

We can feel as if we are being devoured by things that seek to bring us to despair, deteriorate our hope, and diminish our faith. We want to curl up in a ball and shut out the rest of the world, longing to be held and have someone we can trust tell us it’s going to be okay.

And that’s what God wants to do for us….

To hold us close as we let go and lean into His care, His comfort – into Him. He wants us to know we are safe and that He can be trusted. To shut out the whole of the world and find our rest solely in Him alone.

He wants us to be like Finn, the little LoveBug. To lay down our cares, and press into the one who holds us safe and secure. Resting in Him, letting Him deal with the heartaches and the horrors of this life, which can allow us to smile while as we sleep, instead of waking up with nightmares. And I bet that, just like this Grammy, God smiles when we finally let go and trust Him as we sleep.

What’s Your New Year’s Resolution(s)?

One word.

That’s the popular New Year’s resolution technique for the past few years. Pick a word that describes for you what one thing you want to consistently for the new year. So, I thought about it for quite a while over the past few weeks. And then I went to church with my son’s family the Sunday before New Year’s day. And the pastor spoke on resolutions and suggested one word.

      

With.

To not be behind.

To not be in front of.

But,

to be with God.

And I liked that.

But, I had a word. And I was passionate about my word. But I became passionate about this new word. So, I decided to marry them to each other and this is what I ended up with for my New Year’s resolution and it’s basically my mission statement, so to speak, for 2015:

To be intentional about being with God. 

Being intentional in my conversations with Him. Being intentional about time spent with Him – quietly in thought, study, prayer. Intentional about sharing Him. Making Him known however He leads. 

Being with Him may mean going where I went not normally go, being vulnerable, trusting beyond past experience, or saying yes when I may have said the opposite. 

God goes to the broken-hearted. He forgives the sinners. He holds the orphans and feeds the poor. He is angered by the wickedness and has mercy and compassion for those who have been crushed in their spirit. He has unconditional love for His children and gives grace to those who don’t deserve it.

I have not deserved such grace, nor compassion, or relentless love that offers relentless forgiveness. So this year, I am excited to have started the journey hand in hand with my heavenly Father. I am excited and feel as a small child going on an adventure with her loving daddy, hand in hand. Excited for the possibilities, the things waiting to be learned, the wonder of it all. With eyes wide open to the new experiences and the realities of all that can come, I will trust Him to hold on to my hand as He safely leads me where we go, knowing it is all for my good.

How I love my God and oh, how He loves me. Just as I am. Why would I choose to be anywhere else than to intentionally be with Him?

 

 

 

I’d Rather Have Jesus

In Psalm 5 we read that God hears our voice. And so, I lay my requests before him. Requests that are preluded with thanksgiving for provision and for sacrifices made. For children kept safe, needs fulfilled, wants provided.

Requests preluded with worship to a mighty God I cannot see. A mighty God I cannot fathom. One I sometimes cannot understand. Requests preluded with a regrets and sorrow for sins simplified by ignorance, blindness, pride, or a lack of acknowledgement. Requests followed by thanksgiving once more.
And then… I wait.

In expectation, I wait.

I wait for something to happen. Something good. Something for my good. Something for the good of one I have intervened for. Something better.

I anticipate it. Hope for it. Watch for it. Bank on it. Look for it.

Why? Because God made a promise in days past and then… He kept them all.

Noah built and God saved.

Abraham obeyed and God blessed.

Abraham offered Issac and God provided.

Moses sprinkled blood and kept the Passover and death had no power.

Rahab welcomed strangers and her family was promised life.

But what about today? What about now?

It is so hard to lay down my requests and wait. For many days in this past year, it has been even difficult to lay down my requests. Why? There are days I don’t know why. Some days I know it stems from not feelng worthy of such infinite mercy, such grace, such provision.

Yet, he tells us to trust Him. To commit to Him and He will do as He says.

Commitment.

It’s a loaded word. One used to paint a picture of marriage. A betrothment. A word used for one who has agreed to be obligated to a promise he has made. It is used by the faithful. A pledge given to another. Having the idea of attachment, a constancy and devotion, an adhesion that can’t be pried loose nor a loyalty that can be broken.

For some it means a restriction for freedom. For others it is the means.

Can I commit? Didn’t I?

Have I lived in such a way for my Jesus that I was committed? Betrothed? The opposite would be unattached, indifferent. Have I been like that? Separated as one becomes when the light has gone from their marital relationship? Have I appeared to be living apart from Him, unengaged from the miraculous and trying to create miracles of my own? In my ambition to lead a quiet life (1 Thess. 4:12-13), have I seemed remarried to a worldly god instead of a my Pince of peace?

Oh God, I hope not.

Dear God, I cry, I hope not.

It is a heavy word, commitment, but in relationship to being stuck like a band-aid to God, it is not bulky or burdensome. Instead, it holds an abundance of wonderous hope.

In commitment to a mighty, loving, and glorious King, I too, like Abraham and Issac, Noah and David, Joseph and Rahab, and all the others who walked long before my steps left footprints on this earth, have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13,14).

Goodness that comes as a peace in the dark hours and pours over me a light and a hope. Goodness that reaches down when I cannot look up. Goodness that guides in my lostness. Goodness that gives hope when everything seems hopeless.

Rhea F. Miller. She is the author of a poem written in 1922. A poem that caught the attention of George Beverly Shea. A poem he put to music ten years later. The words were the cry of his heart.

He sat down at the piano in his home and played this new song. His mother came in from the kitchen with tears in her eyes and encouraged him to sing it in church the following Sunday.

He did.

Ten years after that there was a knock on his door. Standing on the other side was a Wheaton College student, stopping by to tell George how much he had enjoyed and loved his singing. His name? William Franklin Graham. The rest is history.

The poem/song? I’d Rather Have Jesus than Anything.

So would I. To be committed to Him as a loving, loyal wife to her husband. To be obligated to Him for life. To be faithful when I feel faithless. To be pledged for eternity – for death will not separate us. To be attanched, constant and devoted. To be adhered to Him like a band-aid stuck to the skin.

That’s what faith can do.

It keeps you focused. It keeps you centered. It gives hope. It gives peace. It gives joy. For you are not looking within, but up. You are looking to Him for every expectation, for every answer to your prayers, every cry of your heart.

Yes, I’d rather have Jesus than anything. For by faith, He is my Prince. In sickness and in health. On the richer days and the poorer days. In the better days and the worst of days. In sadness and in joy. I want to cherish Him as He cherishes me and show Him my deepest devotion, forsaking all other gods as long as I live.

I’d rather have Jesus than anything.

 

Listen to: I’d Rather Have Jesus

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold,

I’d rather have His than have riches untold;

I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,

I’d rather be led by His nailpierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain

And be held in sin’s dread sway;

I’d rather have Jesus than anything

This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause,

I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;

I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame,

I’d rather be true to His holy name

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom,

He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;

He’s all that my hungering spirit needs,

I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead