Archive for Acceptance

Courage for the Uphill Climb

*Courage for the Uphill Climb is the fourth installment in The Serenity Prayer Series.

God
Grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change.
    
     The courage to change the things I can

The UPS guy didn’t like my dog Max, and I didn’t blame him. Part Shepherd, part Rottweiler, no one even dared approach me when Max was by my side. Our hearts broke when he died last year. All that’s left of him are our precious memories, a few photos, and a mile-long scar rounding the outside bend of my left elbow.

No, he didn’t bite me. He merely did what dogs do, leaving a half-eaten rawhide bone on the stairs. Being the same color as the oak floor, I never saw it: I just stepped on it. My foot went flying out from under me, and I sailed elbow-first down into the living room. The blow shattered the joint and changed my life forever. In the weeks following reconstructive surgery I simply accepted the doctor’s forecast of permanent disability; he predicted pain and very limited mobility forever. But as time went on I decided I wasn’t ready to be a one-armed wonder, so I sought a second opinion. Our family chiropractor responded to the surgeon’s prognosis with a resounding, “Nonsense!” He gave me a sheet of exercise instructions, a couple of resistance bands, and the hope that someday my arm would be strong again.

Four years later I can see they were both right. It always hurts and it’s weaker than my other arm. However, the pain is manageable and I have far better function than I would have had without exercise. “To accept the things I cannot change” is a basic tenet of the Serenity Prayer and a step along the pathway to peace, but I must be certain that a thing cannot be changed- and if it can, I must summon the courage to change it.

I am a Christian saved by grace and an alcoholic/addict saved by recovery, miraculously blessed to live in the best of both worlds. Parts of my heart and soul are still broken, and will be until the day I go home to Heaven. For the things I cannot change, I ask for serenity and peace. For the things I can change, I pray for the courage to try. Better than an exercise band with a photocopied sheet of instructions, my Lord beckons me with these words:

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”– Jesus Christ (Matthew 14:27 NIV)

What does it look like: to “take courage?” In this case, it is my weakness surrendering to His strength. As I go about my day-to-day life, I picture Jesus holding my right hand. Because it’s attached to the arm that doesn’t hurt, I can pretty much wander the path while staying reasonably close to His side. But when I’m frightened I grab His hand with my broken arm- the one with little strength, the one that hurts all the time. Why?

To be led by that arm I must completely surrender; it has virtually no strength of its own. In addition, any movement away from the One who holds me results in significant pain in my elbow. I must trust Him not to hurt me, or lead me where I shouldn’t go. Never has trusting Jesus led me astray. With His help I’ve found the courage to change the things I can, one day at a time.

I felt pretty brave with my dog Max until the day a bear snuck up behind us. He let out a little whimper just before he left me in his dust. I happen to know Jesus ain’t afraid of no bear, or any other fear that can come my way.

“It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“It isn’t for the moment you are stuck that you need courage, but for the long uphill climb back to sanity and faith and security.”- Anne Morrow Lindbergh


Acceptance and Wide Open Spaces

*Acceptance and Wide Open Spaces is the third installment in The Serenity Prayer Series.

God
Grant me the serenity

         To accept the things I cannot change.


Three years ago my mother wrote me out of her will and gave all her legal rights to a man who wiped out her savings, sold her home, and took the money. Because she was still of sound mind I had no recourse. Now she’s dead broke and demented, living on government assistance in a surprisingly good nursing home. For thirty years I flew back and forth to Florida, bringing the grandkids to visit and taking us all to the shore. Through surgeries and rehab and the deaths of my father and stepdad I was there. I jumped through hoop after hoop to get her what she needed, and if she had only listened to me, she’d be closer and safer, not far away and scared. I prayed I’d be able to help care for her in her old age, but I’m financially unable to assist and legally powerless over her circumstances.

Why do things seem to work out so badly sometimes, even when we pray?

I don’t know. Jesus himself said, “In this life, you will have trouble.” (John 16:33a NIV) That guy could tell it like it was, and like it still is. I just know it stinks when the bad guys win and the good guys lose, and there’s nothing we can do to change it. Like the home team’s loss after the ump’s crummy call, we kick the dirt and grumble before turning out the lights and driving away.

Accepting the things I cannot change. What does that really mean? Is it simply resignation, or perhaps something more?

The skunk who ruined our family party cut me out of the loop, but the Lord intervened through a mutual friend who kept me updated on my mother’s situation. Considerable research revealed the cad had squandered every last cent, while retaining power of attorney. Prayer was my only recourse; acceptance brought my only peace. Every day I envisioned myself walking my mother and the ne’er-do-well to the Throne, letting go of their hands, and giving them over to God. I asked that He would keep my mother from living on the street. He did. I am still asking Him to heal the cad.

Accepting the things I cannot change not only frees my soul but gives God room to move in His mysterious ways, according to His unfailing love.

“Acceptance says, ‘True, this is my situation at the moment. I’ll look unblinkingly at the reality of it. But I’ll also open my hand to accept willingly whatever a loving Father sends me.”– Catherine Marshall, American author (1916-1983)

Originally I had hoped to move my mother into an assisted living facility close to my home, but God did not answer my prayer in the way I expected. However, against all odds, she is in good hands. I’m slowly learning that acceptance is a spacious place where God lives and works, even wider than the western Colorado sky. It still stinks when the bad guys win and the good guys lose; it always has, and it always will, until Christ comes again. Perhaps that’s why the apostle Paul wrote these words to the church at Philippi; words to comfort believers then and now:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for accepting the hurt and worry I bring to the Throne; for answering my prayers in ways that work for my good and your glory. Help me trust that You will make all things right, in Your time. Amen!

©2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

The Exclamation Point of Surrender

*The Exclamation Point of Surrender is the first in The Serenity Prayer Series.

Just
     “God”

Not reverently, like

     “Almighty God”
     “Most High”
     “Creator of Heaven and Earth”
     “I AM WHO I AM”

Not endearingly, like

     “Dear God”
     “My Father”
     “Jesus, My Savior”
     “Oh Lord”

Not claiming a single promise, or fawning in search of favor

     “God, who relents from sending calamity”
     “God, who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”
     “O compassionate and gracious God.”

Just one word. Without the “Dear” or the “O,” or any address whatsoever. The speaker prays with urgency. The first word of the Serenity Prayer screams immediacy, with no time for title; no need to clarify the address of the recipient or the qualifications of the sender. No “in reference to,” flowery prose, or unnecessary details. God’s child needs help, and she needs it now. So the cry goes up from the church basement or the doctor’s office or from detox in a crummy part of town. Whether this daughter of the King can’t stop drinking, or using, or finds herself in circumstances beyond her ability to endure, this much is certain: she’s desperate and knows God can help her.

All my life I believed in the existence of a Supreme Being, but I began to learn about the God of the Bible when I was a young mother many years ago. My mentor pretty much forced me to go to a Bible Study with other young moms, church ladies-in-waiting with babies in tow. I prayed with all the sincerity I could muster, but my petitions consisted mostly of “Oh God, oh God, I’m so sorry. I won’t drink again tonight, I swear.” And I meant every word of it, until about 5:00 PM. When my hands started shaking I’d reach for the brandy, just to take the edge off while I was cooking dinner. Next thing I knew it was morning and I was sorry, so sorry, I won’t do it again, I promise. This included Tuesdays, when I’d pack Catherine up and totter across town to Bible Study.

Now there was this one church lady who was quite open about being a recovering alcoholic. Secretly I watched her live and laugh and love her kids, just like the rest of us. Secretly I was in awe of her. How could she go two days without alcohol, much less the two years I spent observing her? But on a sub-zero Sunday, in an early morning service, God responded to all my apologies with a Voice that thundered through my soul. I went home, poured my brandy down the drain, and called the lady who could laugh and love and make dinner without drinking. She took me to my first AA meeting, and I heard the Serenity Prayer. I’ve loved it ever since.

Far from being a too-familiar, almost insubordinate way of addressing the Almighty, I believe that the opening word of the Serenity Prayer is the exclamation point of surrender. Our urgency admits we need help, and that help can come from Almighty God alone. In the weeks to come I’ll be sharing my experience, strength, and hope through the framework of this famous piece. If you receive this post by email, you can click on the link to visit my blog home. There you will find a copy of the prayer, as well as a very brief history. To God as He is revealed in the face of Jesus Christ- the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, be the glory; for now and evermore. Amen!

©2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

For more information on recovery and Jesus, too, visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

 

The Prayers of My Farewells

One final trudge up the hill, bearing the sandy trappings of our last day on the beach: chairs and towels, cooler and blanket, boogey boards, books, and a backpack. One last trip in the roasting car, A/C blasting, merging onto the highway. Elbowing our way into line, we joined the throngs of beachgoers headed back to civilization; even more so for us, as our plane would be leaving tonight. My heart said goodbye to Hawaii.

These last ten days had been more than a vacation. The Lord not only granted us respite from the daily grind, but relief and some healing from a heartache back home. Just when I reached the point where I could simply watch the waves break instead of hearing my heart break, it was time to leave. Oh, for a few more days on Kona! But this sacred time will hold a special place with the prayers of my farewells, safe in the arms of God. He’s been gathering my sorrows where I left them on the sand like a beachcomber scavenging treasure.

When I was young, the tide was always rushing in. With each swell came fresh opportunities, new responsibilities, and a fullness of life that kept me afloat. Now the tide has turned, slowly pulling back the demands but also the richness of relationships that sprang from community. Once we were all in this together, but the ties that bound us have loosened. We’ve scattered: to different churches, different towns, different jobs. I’ve had to let go, not only of friends, but of family members, of my children, and of souls I’ve met through work and service. Some of these partings were easy; a few were welcomed; but most just tore the hole in my heart a little wider. My only comfort is the assurance that Heaven is coming. For those who know Jesus, the sun will someday rise on a beautiful, distant shore, and all those I love will be there. God will mend all that’s tattered and torn; He will wipe away every tear; He will heal every broken heart. Meanwhile, the prayers of my farewells rest safely in His arms.

The sun set over the Pacific as we flew from Kona to Oahu, rising over Asia as our planet welcomed her new day. From Honolulu we flew east through the dark of the night, until dawn broke over the Rockies on our way back into town. It’s time for me to welcome my new life in the light of the rising sun. The time for heartache has passed, and I’m ready to face the dawn. As always, and forever: To God be the glory. Amen!

©2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

To see my favorite books on Heaven, visit Coconut Mountain Communications Resource Pages

To visit my website for resources and more, visit Friendship With Jesus

Running Off to Join the Circus

I’m standing in the shade of an elephant’s backside, shovel in one hand and pail in the other. In my memory, the circus smelled like cotton candy, felt like straw underfoot and sounded like a big brass band. The reality probably smells more like straw underfoot, feels like stepping on cotton candy (but squishier), and the toots are not coming from musical instruments. Even in my imagination I’m too practical. I guess the answer to my problems is not running off to join the circus. Sigh. If only life were that simple. Me and Dumbo against the world.

While it may sound ridiculous for a fifty-something woman to pack her bag and hit the road, I cannot believe I’m the only one who thinks about it. Mid-February is the dead of winter, especially in the Colorado high country. The snow begins to fall in earnest in November and carries on through May. While summer troubles are at least bathed in sultry breezes, winter troubles sting the heart like an icy, wind-driven snow. I wonder if the circus goes south for the winter?

It’s times like this I’m grateful for the discipline of my morning meeting with God. Turning my attention to Him, I ask for help in bringing my thoughts in line with His (2 Corinthians 10:5) as I relax with my daily readings. Oswald Chamber’s meditation this morning is entitled, “Taking the Initiative Against Depression.” Together we revisit the prophet Elijah as he’s running from the evil queen Jezebel.

Elijah was a prophet of renown who had already predicted a drought, called down fire from heaven, and raised the dead. He and the Lord were tight. If God had performed miracles through my own hands, I’d like to think I’d never get depressed. But even after all he’d seen the Lord do, Elijah hit the wall.

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die.

“I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.”

He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”

So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
-1 Kings 19:3-8 NIV

Of this passage, Chambers writes the following:

“The angel in this passage did not give Elijah a vision, or explain Scriptures to him, or do anything remarkable. He simply told Elijah to do a very ordinary thing, that is, to get up and eat. If we were never depressed, we would not be alive- only material things don’t suffer depression…When the Spirit of God comes to us, He does not give us glorious visions, but He tells us to do the most ordinary things imaginable…as soon as we rise and obey, we enter a higher plane of life.”
(Excerpted from My Utmost for His Highest, February 17)

I found Elijah’s story and Chamber’s observations to be comforting on several levels:

  •  Even those who are tight with God sometimes founder on the rocks of fatigue.
  •  Rather than becoming irritated with Elijah, the Lord sent comfort- an angel, a cake of bread, a jar of water- twice.
  •  The gifts of God can be more than bread and water, or even the touch of an angel. The one gift I needed most today- encouragement- fell into my lap when I sat down and did the most ordinary thing.


I’ve decided it’s not a great day to run off and join the circus. The snow just won’t let up and I hear the roads are awful. Ringling Brothers plays Philly tonight and then they’re off to New Jersey. No offense to my Jersey readers, but I was thinking more along the lines of Hawaii. No, I think today is better spent taking a nap under the broom tree. Who knows what I’ll find when I wake up?

© Rachel Ophoff 2011, Coconut Mountain Communication LLC. All Rights Reserved.

My website is a lot more about Jesus and not so much about me. Visit http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

Looking Forward to Heaven With the Eyes of My Heart

Sunday, January 23 marks the anniversary of my daughter Catherine’s death. At the age of fourteen she died in a snowmobile accident on a sunny Sunday afternoon, enjoying an outing with her friends from church.

In the eleven years since her passing, I’ve made some important choices, but one stands out above the rest. I chose to seek God in the midst of the tragedy.

In the years and the months, the weeks and the days leading up to the accident, we as a family lived a life of faith as best we knew how. All four of us had invited Jesus Christ into our hearts as Lord and Savior, and accepted salvation through His death on the cross. We had given Him free reign in our lives (again, as best we knew how) and prayed for each other in faith every day.

You can imagine our shock and rage at this turn of events. As far as we could tell, our prayers for Catherine’s safety had fallen on deaf ears. The Lord we thought we knew had been replaced by an impersonal, uncaring God who allowed our daughter to die horribly before she really had a chance to live. Our pain defied description, underscored by a sense of betrayal by the Jesus we had taught our children to love.

But the three of us who remained made one major decision, and it was that decision that saved us. We went to the Bible, the source of our answers before the disaster, and sought to understand a God who would allow such a heartache. We, who had endeavored to follow Him wholeheartedly, hurled the same questions as Job, and prayed the same laments as King David (both grieving parents themselves.) Finally, we followed Christ to the cross, only to hear the magnificent promise given to the thief: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” And finally, as far as we could go in the Word of God, we followed them to Heaven, reading everything the Bible had to say about the home where Catherine waits for us. Though we cannot understand the ways of God (Isaiah 55: 8-9) He gave us enough to cling to for the days we still have here on Earth.

Today, I look forward to Heaven with the eyes of my heart. Catherine- we miss you, honey. To everyone else: if I have only one message I can share with you, it is this: Jesus is always enough. Between His saving grace and the power of His Word, He gives His followers strength for today and hope for tomorrow. If He can keep this addict clean, this alcoholic sober, and this grieving mom from losing her mind, He is enough for anyone and everyone. To God be the glory, Amen!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am. You know the way to the place I am going.” – Jesus Christ, on the night He was betrayed (John 14:1-4 NIV)

Do you know the way? If you would like to know more about friendship with Jesus, visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

©Rachel Ophoff, 2011, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC, All Rights Reserved.

Bittersweet Blessings and Late-Summer Bouquets

 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven; ..and a time to heal.”– The Teacher (Ecclesiastes 3:1,3 NIV)

“Some people are always grumbling that roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.– Alphonse Karr

Dear Catherine,

Happy birthday, honey. I wish you were here.

Your gift this year is a late-summer bouquet. The bittersweet blessing of cooler nights and shorter days seems to have spurred the neighborhood flowers into furious bloom, a last-gasp effort that shouts, “We’re not done yet!” Even the butterflies appear to have launched an August campaign to pollinate the planet, one bush at a time. As the sun moves south, the turquoise skies of summer are deepening to that autumn shade of azure, the postcard-perfect backdrop of a Rocky Mountain fall. You loved every season of your Colorado home, but this last week of August still belongs to you. God lent you to us as a late-summer gift.

You would be twenty-five today. To us, you will be forever fourteen. For several years your friends kept in touch with us; we joined the throngs of celebrants as they graduated, married, and moved on with their lives. Understandably a little gun-shy in crowds, your dad and I always grabbed a corner table for four; it seemed we could not attend any event without including our constant companions, bitter and sweet. Tears burned my throat as I hugged every bride, threatening to escape as even as I gushed over her dress. Finally we’d throw the rice and wish them well; off they would drive for their honeymoon as I cried all the way home in the car. I would have loved to have seen you get married.

Sorry, sweetie, I get caught up. On a brighter note, what’s your birthday like in Heaven? Do you celebrate birthdays there? Does Jesus hug you tightly for me, laughing at your goofy sense of humor and tickling your funny bone? Oh, how I wish I could be there! As it is, I’m afraid I might have to call Him away from the party. Missing you on your birthday is so hard I can’t stop the tears from coming. I need Jesus down here with me. He knows what it’s like to feel sad.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.”-Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:38 NIV)

Jesus knows about suffering, both His and ours. To His disciples He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b NIV) Did He know you would leave us so soon? Of course. Did He build you a nice home in Heaven? He promised He would, so I’m sure that He did. (John 14:1-4) I guess my real question for Him is: What does “taking heart” look like? How do I overcome a world full of brides and grandbabies and birthdays every year?

And He whispers, “Remember. Remember My gifts as well as My commands.”

“Remember the friends I sent you? They give you their hugs, their presence, their prayers.”

“Remember the Word I sent you? It’s your invitation to the Party, and the promise of My love.”

“Also remember I have work for you to do. Reaching out to others will rescue you from the pool of self-pity. Keep your eyes open for My assignments.”

“Remember the Colorado skies you are so fond of? The ‘someday’ of eternity is coming. On that day, your azure skies will drop the act and run for cover. Even the splendor of the Milky Way at midnight cannot begin to compare with the glory of Heaven. Catherine is safe and happy and busy. To her, time has a different meaning. You will be here almost before she knows it, and almost before you know it, too. Be patient and wait for Me. On your ‘someday’ I will come and take you Home. In the meantime, I will help you through the hard days and rejoice with you on the good ones. And you still have good days to come. Trust Me.”

Okay, Lord. Who can argue with that?

Catherine, here’s your birthday bouquet, made of the flowers that bloom in late summer. The colorful ribbons that weave their way through it are my precious memories of your laughter, your kindness, and the strength of your will. The crystals that bounce back those sparkles of sunshine are the tears that have watered the growth of my soul. I send my love, I wish you the best, and with all my heart I look forward to the day I will see you again.

Happy birthday, honey.

Love, Mom

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31;24 NIV)

“The hope of heaven under troubles is like wind and sails to the soul.”- Samuel Rutherford.

And Then He Said Goodbye

“Snatching the eternal out of the desperately fleeting is the great magic trick of human existence.” -Tennessee Williams in The New York Times.

He’s packing his truck again, but this year is different. Rather than living on campus, he and a buddy are renting an apartment for their junior year. All summer he’s been rescuing furniture the neighbors naively left on the curb as garbage, lovingly restoring an old desk and converting a wooden crate into a coffee table. The opportunity to turn trash into treasure appeals to the inborn thriftiness from his father’s side of the family.

I’d like to think that from my side, the crazy side, he hasn’t been saddled with anything, but his curly hair is a dead giveaway. I can only hope my legacy to him is an honesty that keeps him true to himself and mindful of Jesus every moment of every day.

He’s actually been leaving for years; on missions to Europe and Africa and Central America, to school and to life and away from us. This is how it should be. It’s the natural order of things. And yet…and yet. Every time he drives away, it breaks my heart.

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven…a time to uproot what is planted.”The Teacher (Ecclesiastes 3:1,2 NAS)

Ten years ago his sister left us by accident, in an instant; perhaps saying a silent goodbye in her last fifteen minutes between heaven and earth. Her brother comes and goes with purpose, increasingly more going than coming. They were, and still are, my treasures; by far the greatest gifts God lent me, with the operative word being ‘lent.’

I hate that. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the gifts, the wonder and miracle of raising my children. But I hate the goodbye, or at least the ‘goodbye for now.’ I want the happily ever after. Someday I will get it. But for now, I must live in my fifteen minutes or months or years between heaven and earth; and in the time ahead I will lose more than my children. Already my youth and some of my teeth have hit the road, with more than a few of my marbles rolling merrily along behind them.

So how do I live between here and there? How can I fill the hole where this particular plant was rudely uprooted? This void is a sad, lonely, hollow spot; dark and misshapen, obviously missing its purpose and host. Nothing I own or hope to achieve can replace his presence. The tears dripping from my chin trickle down the sides and pool at the bottom, but even they are absorbed by the dirt and fade from view. As I wallow in the mud at the depths of the pit, I cry out to the Lord: “How do I survive this?”

And He whispers: “Remember.”

“Remember you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.” (Deuteronomy 15:15 NIV)

I remember how the Lord called me out of addiction and gave me the strength to stay clean and sober, for thousands of ‘one day at a times.”

“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands.” (Deuteronomy 8:2 NIV)

I remember how the Lord helped me recover from the hurts of my past and gives me the grace and strength to live in peace and freedom today.

“Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, the judgments He pronounced.” (1 Chronicles 16:12 NIV)

I remember countless prayers answered with a ‘yes,’ saving my marriage and providing for our every need.

“Remember to extol His work, which men have praised in song.” (Job 36:24 NIV)

I reflect on the character of my husband, my daughter, and my son. I am grateful beyond measure that they extended the love of Jesus to a hurting world, and I’m thankful for these precious souls He lent me for a time.

“On my bed I remember You; I think of You through the watches of the night. Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings.” (Psalm 63:6-7 NIV)

At the very worst time, when Catherine died, the Lord sent provision through His people, promise through His Word, and comfort through His Holy Spirit.

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him” (Lamentations 3:22-24 NIV)

In our bedroom we keep a small cabinet with the treasures Catherine held dear. Alongside her baseball caps, Miami Dolphins jersey, and her music box are her Bible (dog-eared and underlined), letters sent to us by people whose lives she touched and with whom she shared her faith; and her poetry, hinting that she knew her time here would be short.

The cabinet doesn’t exactly fit the hole she left behind, so I pour in hope around the edges: the promise Jesus gave me in John 14:1-4 that got me through the early years; the gift of twenty-five souls who gave their lives to Christ at her memorial service; the kindnesses she shared that spread out like ripples on a pond.

I still miss her, sometimes so much that I cry even today. But somehow I’ve survived the last ten years, and I’ve come to know Jesus better as a result. So what will fill the hole my son leaves behind?

The Lord says, “My compassions are new every morning. Take one day at a time and trust Me. Remember.”

So he packs his reclaimed furniture into the ancient Ford Bronco, this curly-headed boy/man I love with all my heart. I can’t yet imagine how God will fill the hole, but I trust He will and I cling to Him with all my strength. It’s worked every day so far.

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” (Psalm 27:13-14 NIV)


Flunking The Personality Test

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

-The Teacher (Ecclesiastes 7:8-9 NIV)

“I get no respect.” – Rodney Dangerfield·

**********


Received by email June 29:

Rachel,

Thank you for your interest in the bookkeeping position. Although we are impressed with your qualifications, we are pursuing a candidate who more closely fits our requirements. Please watch for future job openings with our company that might be applicable to your skills.

Best of luck in your job search,

Amanda

Translation:


Rachel,

Nothing beats the internet for weeding out the misfits. Oh sure, you’re probably good at crunching numbers, as your resume’ suggests. But remember the second page of our application? Those cute little boxes you checked off told us all we needed to know about your personality. After the laughter subsided, we revised our help-wanted ad so as not to attract your type. Based on your profile, we predict you’ll soon be living under a picnic table in the park. You should fit right as most of your neighbors will also be over fifty. Good luck, honey. You’ll need it.

Amanda

**********


Dear Amanda,

Thank you for your timely response. Since your help-wanted ad has been running online for several weeks, I can only assume I am but one of many to flunk your personality test. Fortunately, the God who created me has the perfect plan for my life. He will gently plunk me down in just the right job at just the right time. Meanwhile, I’ll keep praying and doing what’s in front of me each day. Rather than stressing over my identity quirks and advancing age,  I will focus on what God has to say about me. Please see the attached document.

Rachel

Attached document:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” -King David (Psalm 139:13-14 NIV)

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever- do not abandon the work of your hands.” -King David (Psalm 138:8 NIV)

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PS: What do you mean, who is Rodney Dangerfield?

Let’s Celebrate For a Change!

June has set down her suitcase and set up shop in the Rockies! Not since the sun rolled south last September have we enjoyed the warmth of the last couple of weeks. Up here, even the trees are smart enough not to bud out until June, lest a spring blizzard break their branches. Finally, the last of winter retreated up the valley and spring has boogied in from the south like a kid let loose in the arcade. Let the people rejoice!

I know my dog does. Max is an eleven-year-old German Shepherd mutt mix that we rescued from the shelter after Catherine died. He actually rescued us. We walk the neighborhood every day of every season. I pray as we walk- he rolls in whatever covers the ground at the moment. In this precious month of June, my conversations with God are prayers of celebration for the beauty of the mountains in spring. Max takes advantage of every shady spot we come across for a cool roll in the grass.

Riotous color has poured down from the crowns of crabapple trees and flowed into the flowerbeds of purple iris, blue flax, and yellow pansies. The aspens are green, the air smells of sage, and the sun hangs long in the western sky. All year long I wait for this month. All I can say is yahoo and woot! woot! Let’s live for this moment that is June!

This might seem like a lot of fuss over spring, especially for someone who knows that winter is optional. I grew up in South Florida, where the grass is green all the time and the only two thermostat readings are hot and hotter. I never even saw winter until I was twenty-one. Florida does provide stunningly beautiful weather most of the year. Why would I choose to live in a long winter/short summer zone, especially now that the novelty has worn off?

The short answer is seasons. The long answer is seasons.

God created within me a need for spiritual balance, and He uses the changing course of nature to rouse the hungers in my heart. Even summer’s whimsy eventually tires of the heat, welcoming the cooler, softer light of fall. The sweet, woodsmoke scent of October’s melancholy swings wide the gate for the cold, dark clouds of November to swirl in, sucking the leaves of autumn skyward. December snows always decorate the yard in time for the holidays. January marks new beginnings of both promise and sorrow- a clean calendar page, an inevitable birthday, the astounding gift of another sobriety celebration, then the solemn remembrance of my daughter’s death. All these ups and downs test my emotional fortitude; I weather the highs and lows by clinging to Jesus in prayer. He and I hunker down for the long winter of perseverance. Sometimes life seems cold, long, and dark. Only through faith and with God’s help can I believe the sun will roll north once again.

Our God is a God of miracles, and I can’t think of a better miracle than the breath of new life in June. I thank Him for the balance of warmth and cold; of hope and dismay; of faith and despair; of sorrow and joy; because the pain of these earthly contradictions compel me to seek His face. It is because Jesus loves me that He rouses the hungers of my heart. There is no better reason to celebrate, and no better time than now. To all my friends in the Northern Hemisphere, welcome to a time of rejoicing that the long winter is past. Welcome to June!

There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV)

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