As of right now, there are twelve people in the world who have been inducted into the Master Penman Society – twelve. And Jake Weidmann is one of those – the youngest by thirty years. You might not think it’s a big deal, and I didn’t either until I realized what that means…and how beautiful hand-written word can be. I’ve been following Jake on social media since I first saw his story – you can watch it here:
What I love the most about Jake is his patience for perfect detail. A piece of art or writing cannot be what it should be without patience for detail. His wife in the video says that he will scrap whole pieces and start again – because it wasn’t right the first time. And what you see in his finished work is perfect. It is clean, flawless, and symmetrical – always. God made his hand to write and paint and draw – perfectly.
I am a details person, although not in the way that Jake Weidmann is. I like spreadsheets and dashboards…I like totals and averages and comparisons. The things I do daily almost always involve one or more of those – and by them I can measure improvement or decline. I can see trends. I can see completion. Even at home I calculate…I measure my performance, remaining tasks, and time allocation. I size up what has and hasn’t been done…who needs to have more mom time…what is going well and what needs attention.
On the wall in my office is this verse:
Psalm 37:23-24 The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.
Up till about a week ago I had read it a handful of times but never really thought much about it, but now I think about it often…He delights in EVERY DETAIL. That’s a lot of details. All of those things that I measure and calculate and produce – those are steps that God orders for me. All of my relationships, all of my victories, and all of my deficiencies – He sees those too. He sees them and knows them – better than I do. In this season of my life, He put me here not to write or to draw, but to manage details and to nurture a home…and through those details of my life He will direct me, and even hold me up when I’m not strong enough.
I cannot produce a perfect work of art, and I cannot pen perfect letters to make perfect words – you probably can’t either. But I’m pretty excited and overwhelmed to know that when we are walking with the Lord, the details of our lives can bring Him – the God of heaven – joy and glory. I’m also comforted to know that He will never – yes never – let us fall.
I walked down the streets of NYC in awe. In awe of the variety of people, of sin, of poverty & materialism, of smells…some good and some horrendous. I saw homeless teens taking shelter in cardboard boxes and people digging through garbage for scraps to eat. No one else seemed to be alarmed by these sights. I was taking it all in for what seemed like hours as a heaviness eventually settled on my spirit.
Then I heard someone preaching from what I thought was the Bible. There were groups of men monopolizing corner after corner on street after street. They were dressed in robes and stood on ascending, throne-like platforms. As I got closer I heard clearly their confusing message. They screamed into microphones… words of racial hatred and Bible mixed with blasphemy. They shouted loudly in Hebrew, and made hissing sounds, at several Jewish men who ran past me.
The man on the top of the platform yelled into his hand held mic “YOU, lady with blonde hair, DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?” Out of hundreds of people walking by, he was looking and speaking directly at me. I yelled back to him “Yes, I do believe in God.”
Later I thought about this experience and wondered how I would have felt if an evil man had held a gun to my head while asking me the question, “Do you believe in God?” The same question that the young college students in Oregon were asked this past week. They stood up and and declared their faith in God. And then were shot and killed.
[blockquote cite=”Hilary Mantel, author” type=”center”]I cannot unbelieve what I believe. [/blockquote]
Where does such faith, such belief, come from? A convicting, amazing faith that sees beyond this life and chooses Jesus over all else? Unless a person knows Jesus, God incarnate, they cannot possibly understand.
Those who lack faith will not understand how Christians can stand in the face of death with sadness, yet boldness; those with faith know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the LORD. (2 Corinthians 5:8)
Those who lack faith will not understand a belief in something you cannot see; those with faith see Almighty God and His glory in everything. We see with spiritual eyes the purpose and meaning of this temporal life. Temporal… short, fleeting and passing quickly like a vapor. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
[pullquote cite=”Isaiah 26:3″ type=”right”]Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.[/pullquote]Those who lack faith may not understand why, in the face of death one would not save himself, if even out of fear alone; those with faith understand grace and peace. How it pours over one who needs it every single day and in perfect timing. We also know that Christ gave His life for us so that we can have life eternal. I’m not sure every person who says they are a Christian would stand strong for Jesus in the presence of their murderer. But I do know that genuine Christians would; there is no other choice.
Those who lack faith will not understand why God would allow such things like the tragic death of innocent students; those with faith understand that God is Sovereign. That nothing passes through His hand without his permission and that even the most horrible things are exchanged for a greater purpose. No heartache is wasted. (Psalm 139)
[pullquote cite=”Revelation 21:4″ type=”left”]And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.[/pullquote]Those who lack faith may not understand why parents and families and a nation must suffer at the hands of such awful tragedy; those with faith feel deep sorrow and weep for the hurting. We know that God miraculously heals broken hearts and comforts those who are suffering. We know that one day all things we despise… sickness, sorrow, heartache, physical death and evil will come to an end. We know that we must walk through life so that we can understand good and evil. So that we learn to hate unrighteousness with all that is in us. We are living among the consequences of sin in a fallen world. One day there will be no more tears. It is then that we will understand the meaning of love and righteousness in all its fullness.
Those without faith can’t understand how Christians can believe in eternity; those with faith know that the dash between our birth and physical death is a tiny dot on a long line of never ending life. “For God so loved the World that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
It is open to everyone….this invitation to receive faith in Jesus; this hope beyond understanding and peace that is not explainable. This faith that gives one the ability to grasp the incredible love story of God-incarnate humbling himself to walk with us and become the payment for our salvation. So that mankind might be saved from eternal separation from Himself. So much is not fair in this upside down world. Like homeless teens living in cardboard boxes. Or people eating out of garbage cans. And, students being murdered for their faith. But Jesus promises to make all wrong, right. To settle every score and bring peace and righteous judgment. He will do away with evil and we will forever praise Him. He is the ONLY HOPE for all men. It is for these reasons that we can never deny Jesus or that we belong to Him. Not ever. As Hilary Mantel stated so simply, “I cannot unbelieve what I believe.”
My heart aches for the families of the murdered students in Oregon. Their loved ones proclaimed their faith in God through Jesus with their very lives. Then their faith was made sight and they heard ‘Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the JOY OF THE LORD.” (Matthew 25)
About the author: Becky Bennett is the wife of a bearded-hipster-worship-leader and is the mother of three small children, Ava (5), Avianna (3), and Jack (1). Becky was diagnosed with a life-altering nerve disorder called CRPS in October of 2014 and is determined to choose joy in suffering. Originally from Maine, Becky now lives in Webster, NY, where she and her family love being a part of Northridge Church. Becky is a writer, a dancer, a singer, an artist, and a dreamer. Her greatest passion is Jesus. You can follow her journey at ToChooseJoy.blogspot.com.
This week, my dear little first-born is heading off to kindergarten. Like so many mommas who have gone before me, I’m transitioning into the place where I have to let go. As she sets her little light-up-sneakered foot onto the soil of her new school, she is stepping into the beginning of a lifetime of choices that will happen outside of my home, outside of my reach. The questions she will have to answer are about to get much more serious than, “Would you like grilled cheese or peanut butter?”
It is in these first few steps that I have to release from my arms the baby who taught me what it meant to labor and to ache but to keep my eyes on hope and on the prize of my pain. In the same way that I had to breathe deeply and walk away from her crib at night, wondering if she would keep on breathing when I did, I have to let go of the fear of what might happen to her when my eyes aren’t on her. I would suffer anything if it meant that she didn’t have to experience pain. But I can’t do that for her. I cannot choose the trials that she will have to face.
It’s been three decades since my own mom set out on this journey with me — the journey of letting go. I wonder what was it like for my mom when she stood on the other end of the phone line while my husband told her, from the hospital, that our life was going to change forever because I had just been diagnosed with a disease with no cure. In that very moment, she was in another hospital hundreds of miles away, where my dad was having surgery for cancer. I wonder how many times her stomach turned I wonder what her grief must have felt like. A mom — having to let go.
For all of the years that she spent lovingly preparing me for possible decisions and potential scenarios, my mom couldn’t choose my next steps for me as I faced loss after debilitating loss. She couldn’t give me back my legs when they were pulled out from underneath me, and my dancer-mobility was replaced with a wheelchair and a hopeful pair of crutches. She couldn’t be close enough in proximity, because of my dad’s condition at the time, to help care for her three small grandchildren whose momma had just been bound to a bed. She couldn’t be there to try to coax my youngest into taking a bottle — my baby, who, at the time, was only nine months old and had just lost his only-known food supply because of the medications I now had to take. She couldn’t be there to make us dinner. She couldn’t be there to tie my shoes. She couldn’t wish away my tears. She couldn’t take away my pain.She was helpless to help me, her little girl, in any way other than to pray. And pray, she did. She cast me into the arms of the One who cares for me more deeply than even she. And care, He did.
And I was ready for it. I was up for the challenge, resolved not to give in or to let it get me down. I chose joy in the suffering. I chose hope underneath heavy despair. In large part, I was able to make those choices because my mom had spent her life modeling the strength and mercy and joy and hope of Jesus for me.
When I think about letting go, when I think about releasing my daughter into a world of choices and inevitable suffering, I have another choice of my own to make. Will I trust God with her life? Will I believe Him, not just for myself, but for my child, when He says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance,” (James 1:2-3)?
I pray for good friends, kind teachers, and strong mentors to fill the years that are to come for my daughter. I pray that they would draw her towards Christ, rather than away from Him. I am reminded, however, that so often it has been through the least friendly “friends,” through the most difficult teachers, and through the greatest weaknesses in my mentors that I have learned the most about what God’s faithfulness and never-ending love and true wisdom really look like. I pray for a smooth journey and for success for my daughter. I know, though, that it has been on the bumpiest terrain and in some of the most devastating failures that the darkest places in my own heart have been revealed and that I have been healed. Trying times have been the very instruments of my maturity and my ability to press on through further trials. And those trials have been the very influences that cause me to cling more tightly to my Savior.
So, I will cast my cares on Him. I will entrust my child to the tenderhearted God of the most intimate and gracious and life-giving love. To the One who is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) and binds up their wounds. As my mind reels with urgency, wondering if I’ve missed something in these years that flew by so quickly, I’m comforted in knowing that my five-year-old does not have to be prepared, right now, for everything she will ever face. She only needs to be ready for today. I will pray her through each moment that I cannot be a part of, and I will be waiting with open arms when she comes running back home at the end of the day.
I will rest knowing that no matter what choices or challenges lie ahead for this little girl, she has already made the most important one that she will ever make: to give her life to Jesus. He will always be with her. He will carry her. He will never let her go. “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day,” (Psalm 46:5).
This beautiful little person didn’t come into the world just to fill my arms. She came to fulfill a destiny. She’s walking out the door. She’s ready. And I think that now I’m ready, too.
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When I was a kid, maybe 5 or 6 years old, I had the keen idea of writing on my bedroom wall with a ballpoint pen. I didn’t write a lot…just a little dime-sized scribble right at the head of my bed. So the night after I did that, my mom came up to read a book to me before I went to sleep. The whole time I “casually” covered this pen scribble with my hand so she wouldn’t see it, and I was SURE she didn’t because of the oh-so-subtle way I hid it. She didn’t say anything about it that night – score! But what was I going to do the next night? And what if she came into my room during the day when I wasn’t there? I would have to strategically place the pillows, and continue hiding the mark with my hand. I knew I couldn’t hide it forever, and I felt awful for doing it at all…So I called my mom into my room and told her what I had done. And once she knew, it was over. No more worries, and no more hiding.
At the time that seemed so big – and for a five year old I guess it kind of was. But what was in my heart is the same as the guilt I feel, or at least should feel, over sins I commit now. Only now, I’m a big girl and I don’t have to tell anyone if I don’t want to. There are flaws and sins about me that literally no one will know if I don’t confess them. And why should I?
The Bible gives us some guidelines for prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication (a churchy word for asking for what we need or want)…But honestly I think the confession part goes right out the window a lot of the time, and it makes me wonder if we even think we’re really that bad. Why don’t we worry when we sin, like I worried when I wrote on the wall as a kid? Why don’t we tremble at the thought of God’s disappointment? Why don’t we run to Him for the reassurance just that He knows what we’ve done and forgives us? Why don’t we WANT Him to know every fiber of who we are? We hide, like Adam and Eve…or perhaps even worse, we don’t even acknowledge the trespass we have committed against Him and we go on with our lives ignoring our injured relationship with God. Depth and satisfaction in any relationship comes from transparency – and it’s no different with God. Confession to Him is a gift…It gives us the freedom to be known completely, to be restored in our relationship with Him, and to hide nothing.
God tells us not only to confess sin to Him, but also to each other…I think He knows that there are things we just can’t overcome on our own, and that He made us to depend on more than just ourselves. He tells us to share the darkest parts of our hearts with each other…but we usually share the best of us instead, for the sake of our image or reputation, or for our perceived protection. We tend to think that hiding what is in us somehow makes us less vulnerable, when in reality the opposite is true. Granted we can’t go telling everyone everything – that wouldn’t be wise. But our inner circle, the ones we call our very closest friends, should know who we really are so that they can come beside us when we are too weak to stand alone.
Confession and transparency lead to freedom because through them we know that we are truly known…that there is nothing to hide…that there is nothing that anyone could find out about us that we didn’t already admit out loud. And honestly, in my own life I’ve found that living a transparent life is just about the best way to show other people why I need Jesus so desperately, and why they need Him too. I need saving with every single breath, and the last thing I want to do is hide that. We live in a time and culture where people want proof of things…and one thing I can prove and reproduce an infinite number of times is the fact that I cannot possibly live up to the standard that my faith demands. My need for Christ is absolute and irrefutable.
So be known…Be known by the God you serve and by the friends you keep. Be real, and show others why salvation is so necessary. Be transparent and live in the freedom that comes with it.
[blockquote type=”center”]This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:5-9 [/blockquote]
I’m always in the middle of reading a book, and every so often I come across a really great one. This past week I read Gracia Burnham’s book “In The Presence Of My Enemies”, the true story of her kidnapping by a terrorist group in the Philippines. She and her husband Martin, along with several others, were taken hostage in the middle of the night and kept in torturous conditions. Sadly, after 1 year and 11 days, Martin lost his life during a rescue attempt by the Philippine army. They had survived 16 gun-battle rescue attempts, and on the 17th the Burnham’s were shot, she in the leg and he in the chest. The book kept my interest with every single word and I had a hard time putting it down.
Gracia and Martin experienced a living nightmare. While most Americans were trying to make sense of 911 and the craziness and sadness of that, these two missionaries were in the middle of the jungle wondering if they would ever get home to their three children. Reading this book, I saw such real Christianity lived out. Not many people can say that they experienced anything near this kind of horror. But people do live out difficult trials and can learn from Gracia’s insight – I know I sure did.
Her words taught me that…
The toughest of times have the ability to strengthen relationships.
I noticed something pretty amazing about Martin and Gracia. During the most difficult times they learned to rely on each other. Instead of turning on each other in frustration and fear, they helped and comforted each other. They shared a toothbrush, learned to sleep leaning against one another and continually watched out for the other. They didn’t let this awful trial come between them, but instead, they learned to work together and allowed it to strengthen their marriage.
“My heart sunk to the bottom of my toes. Everything we owned in this life was back there in that backpack. The sheet we pulled over us at night, my long sleeved shirt, our toothbrush…A horrible wave of guilt swept over me. How stupid of me. I just lost it all. ‘ Oh Martin, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry!’ I cried between sobs. My husband did not reproach me. He just quietly answered, ‘You know honey, we’ve got to save our energy for walking. I forgive you. And you need to forgive yourself. Its going to be ok.'” ~Gracia Burnham
During difficult times it’s wise to know when to speak and when not to.
When either Martin or Gracia wrestled with discouragement and despair, the other gently listened. They just let the other feel whatever it was they were feeling and didn’t jump right in to fix each other with words; I’m sure they barely had the energy or even the ability, but nonetheless, they just loved each other through their feelings. When Gracia spent several days crying, Martin let her. He held her and he wiped her tears or let her sit by herself. He knew that she had to work through things on her own. He realized that he couldn’t heal her heart, but that he could support it.
[pullquote type=”right”]The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…Proverbs 37:23[/pullquote]” ‘Oh, I’m not giving up my faith’, I’d tell Martin. ‘I still believe that God made the world, He sent his Son, Jesus, and Jesus died for me… I’m just choosing not to believe the part about God loving me. Because Gods not coming through.’ …I was really mad at God. After about three days of living with this torment, I was totally miserable. When I wasn’t at the river crying, I was in the house crying. Martin learned not to say anything, because he knew this was something I had to work through myself… I knew that I had a choice. I could give into my resentment and allow it to dig me into a deeper and deeper hole both psychologically and emotionally or I could choose to believe what Gods word says to be true whether I believed it or not. This was a turning point for me…I simply gave in and handed all my pain and anger over to the Lord right then and there….From that day on, the Lord somehow let me know in my spirit that he was still faithful.” ~Gracia Burnham
Trials are meant to strengthen our faith.
I felt Gracia’s struggle and if I were her I would wonder: “Why would God allow this? Where is He? Does He even care about me or even know where I am?” She had to wrap her brain around her faith and what it looked like before her abduction, versus what it looked like in captivity. Trials do this to everyone, especially if you are being held against your will, hungry, tired and thirsty. She chose to believe Gods promises such as, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. Not because she felt the truth of those words right then, but because God can’t lie. She learned that God walks through hard and difficulty with us and doesn’t rescue us immediately from trials. He supplied so many needs and Gracia began to be thankful for each one. She told one story about a care package miraculously finding it’s way to them. Gracia watched as their captors rummaged through the box before giving it to them, helping themselves to a package of candy bars. She was angry. She was happy to receive the soap and peanuts and all the wonderful supplies in the box, including a new pair of Martin’s prescription glasses…but she was so mad about the stolen candy bars. God worked in her heart and she changed her attitude to one of thanksgiving. So many of us do the same thing…focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do. Reading her raw struggle was awesome and such a valuable lesson.
[pullquote type=”right”]Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding. Proverbs 3:5[/pullquote]”We began making little piles of all the wonderful things. But at the same time, we couldn’t stop thinking about those Snickers bars. The bounty we had wasn’t quite enough somehow. And then we looked at each other and said, ‘You know, this box has arrived from our mission out of nowhere–and we’re complaining about what the Abu Sayyaf took? We should be rejoicing in the Lord’s goodness.’ We decided we needed to share. Martin began going from group to group giving…We had asked the Lord earlier in the month to send us something nice for Thanksgiving and realized something incredible: It was Thursday, November 22– Thanksgiving Day!” ~Gracia Burnham
The picture is always bigger than what we can see.
Although Gracia would never have chosen to go through what she did – to enter into such suffering and the heartache of losing her husband – through her very words I was able to see part of a bigger plan. Deep in the jungle, amongst 50+ terrorists, men who may have never heard the name of Jesus, Gracia and Martin shared the gospel. They lived it and spoke it in the midst of the most horrendous trial. Gracia taught the other hostages the words to “How Great Thou Art” and they sang them while the terrorists listened. Martin had several conversations with others about God and in his kind and gentle way he was able to share Jesus. I know that when this couple gave their lives to be missionaries they never imagined that this was how they were going to be used.
“…I was able to harmonize while we sang the song (How Great Thou Art) every day and sometimes several times a day. The Abu Sayyaf never hissed at us for singing it….More than once Martin said to me ‘Maybe God has us here just to praise him in this very dark place.'” ~Gracia Burnham
We are stronger than we think.
Gracia never thought in a million years that she could endure what she did…walking miles with no food and sleeping night after night in mud…being bitten by bugs, filthy for weeks at a time, separated from her children…the fear and terror of being shot at, running for her very life, living with out the basic essentials, the humiliation of having to go to the bathroom in front of strangers and the heartache and shock of watching her husband as he was shot and as he took his last breath on this earth. But she did it. And she did it well! What an amazing example of strength and resilience.
“I looked back at where Martin still lay. The red spot on his shirt was larger now. His complexion was pasty white. And then I knew–the man I loved more than anyone in the world was gone. I wanted the world to stop in that moment, to reflect on my dreadful loss, to mourn the senseless death of my wonderful husband. Unfortunately, the circumstances demanded otherwise. I had to think about getting myself off this mountain alive.” ~Gracia Burnham
After reading her book, I want to hug Gracia Burnham and give her a life supply of candy bars! I can’t wait to read her next book, called “To Fly Again” I have no doubt that she did! Through the pages of her book I feel as if I know her, that she is a kindred spirit. Her story glorifies her God, and my prayer is that yours and mine will as well.
[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]This is my story, this is my song, Colette[/custom_headline]
[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/48352229_caf6c84ceb_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]ONE MORE DAY! Enter our July Giveaway NOW!!![/custom_headline] With each post we have published in July, Colette has added ONE MORE of her FAVORITE THINGS to this month’s giveaway!
As of this post, the giveaway includes:
a SURPRISE gift from Anthropologie,
Dunkin’ Donuts coffee,
Victoria’s Secret hair spray and leave-in conditioner,
a lilac scented Yankee Candle,
a beautiful salad tong set from anthropologie,and
“In the Presence of My Enemies” by Gracia Burnham!
There are THREE WAYS TO ENTER!!!
1. Subscribe to our email newsletter – click HERE!
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3. Tag a friend under any post on our Facebook wall and encourage them to follow, like, or subscribe – click HERE!
You CAN be entered more than once! SUBSCRIBE, FOLLOW, and TAG NOW!!! The giveaway ends this week!!!
Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by Horia Varlan http://flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/4268896468 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
I remember sitting in a church service about two years ago, in the back of the auditorium with my husband and a few friends. I could see my dad in the second row where he always sat, singing and raising his hands in worship to the Lord. I prayed for healing for him as I watched him that Sunday morning…and eventually I got exactly what I prayed for. But not in the way I expected.
My dad had been troubled for quite some time up till then. For many physical and emotional reasons, he was becoming less and less himself – more anxious, less able to cope with the stresses and changes of life, less able to enjoy what and who he loved. He was rarely at peace…He was restless, always searching for something it seemed. It wasn’t by choice – there had been circumstances in the past that had physically changed him. But regardless of the source of his problems, he was becoming less and less able to live free from the burdens his mind laid on him.
So I prayed that day in church as I watched Dad sing – for his physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. For restoration of relationships. For wholeness. I said to God, “Do whatever it takes”, and I remember the moment after that because I realized what I had just said to God…and I meant it. I wanted God to do whatever it was going to take for my dad to be healed. For his life to be whole. I knew that the cost could be great, but I was willing to take the chance.
A few months later my dad started slurring his speech, and he started walking more like an old man than the 61 year old that he was. He started losing his balance, and even falling sometimes. All of a sudden it was very clear that something had happened inside of his body. Tests and scans were done…There was no mass, no infection, no tumor, no imbalance that would cause such a change. And we were left with “dementia” – non-specific and unpredictable. He had a Parkinson’s-like condition as well, and his needs quickly escalated. Within a short time he was in a nursing home.
I prayed for healing…and look at what happened.
At first glance perhaps you’d say that God just said “no”…And maybe He did. But even if “no” was the answer, I think He wanted us to trust Him to fulfill that promise we find in Romans 8:28, that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him. Maybe He wanted us all to see that His healing comes in many different forms.
During the time that he was so debilitated, Dad needed my mom…He needed her in a way he never had. And she cared for him. She was tender toward him. Like most marriages, their relationship wasn’t perfect – but because of my dad’s needs I could see them growing closer – putting the past behind them and dealing with this new challenge together. I saw forgiveness. I saw surrender. I saw true love. I saw healing.
Dad died less than a year after I prayed that prayer…in his sleep, in the quiet. Mom and I went to see him that night last August, and he looked peaceful – there had been no struggle or fear or pain. He went home – home to Jesus, whole and renewed. Healed in every way.
Almost a year after his death, my dad became a part of my daughter’s salvation story. She’s private about emotional things, and after he died she was quiet…very quiet. But something happened in her heart that changed her during the time following his death, and she decided that she wanted to trust Jesus as the leader of her life. She is healed – redeemed forever from the penalty of her sin. (Watch the video below of her salvation story and baptism.)
I know that there are many people reading this who are praying for healing for themselves or for someone they love, and I write it not to dissuade you from those prayers but to encourage you to see what healing can mean in the eyes of the only One who can see all of time at one glance. We see this vapor of time that we call our life, but He sees everything and everyone – and how it all fits together in light of eternity. Trust Him to heal HIS way, to use the “no’s” for good, and to take what we would never have chosen for ourselves to paint an ever expanding picture of how great and mighty He is.
I prayed for healing, and this is what I got.
I got the healing of not just my dad, but also of my mom and daughter who I love so dearly. A favorite quote of mine by St. Augustine says, “…I was born into this life which leads to death – or should I say, this death which leads to life?” and the more I experience the more I know it to be true. It isn’t our gain that profits us, but our loss…The death of us – our sin, our flesh, even the literal death of our bodies – those deaths lead to freedom, healing, and true eternal life. We may not always get what we ask for from God, but as followers of Jesus we can trust Him to work all things – yes ALL things – together for our good.
[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]It is well with my soul, Melissa[/custom_headline]
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When you look at me you see an introverted brunette. A lover of antiques, photography, strong coffee, and my totally amazing farming husband. A little deeper though, overflowing the capacity of my heart, is a place. A people. An experience that forever altered my view of the world, beauty, and life.
I was born into a family of 2nd generation Christians. I grew up in church. The Bible was fed to me by day and played on my tape recorder by night. At the age of 4 I asked God to forgive me for pinching my sisters and taking short cuts on my chores, and God forgave me of my sins. As I grew up, I grew away from what I had always been taught. I didn’t run away, start drugs, or live immorally, but I began to doubt the reality of my faith. I began to struggle with cynicism and bitterness; I wandered and pretended for years. During my senior year God used Psalm 139 to grip and destroy my hardened heart. Little did I know that God was forming those “ashes” into the stage from which He could begin His work.
The following May found me on a plane bound for adventure. I tried to mentally prepare myself for what I was about to see, but no amount of self-coaching could have taught my heart these new emotions I was about to experience. When our plane finally landed, this place was no longer just an outline on a map. It was real, and about to wreck my heart forever.
[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″]It was ZAMBIA.[/custom_headline]
I wish I could tell you the exact moment it happened. My new point of view came together in pieces. A mosaic. Feelings of helplessness, giggling dark skinned babies, and broken particles of my old calloused heart are what make up this work of art that God has put together. I want to share with you one pivotal moment that my mind will forever have bookmarked.
I will never forget their faces. Scratch that. I can never forget their faces. Plans had been interrupted for that day for my team, and we stopped at a daytime “home” for abused children. God doesn’t make mistakes. I know for certain this “interruption” was orchestrated by God Himself. There were probably 40 souls present. All of these precious children came to this home for love, support and protection during the day and then had to return to their abusive homes at night. My heart screamed out knowing that these little ones would have to leave the safety of this place in just a few short hours to endure the horrors of “Hell” for yet another night. When we emerged from the bus, swarms of dirty, unkept children greeted us. One by one each child approached, shook our hands and curtseyed at our feet. What a humbling moment as these “untouchables” paid such respect to us who had never known hunger. Us who had secure and loving homes, stable upbringings, and every felt need provided for. My heart ached as I longed to grab their tiny hands, and show these bleeding souls who really deserved the recognition. Who the real brave ones were. We sang a few songs and tried to make them smile; but these children were serious. The nights of abuse etched deeply on their faces. I wanted to come in, snap my fingers and rescue every one of them from these horrors. The helplessness was suffocating. When our time was up, we walked back to the bus, shrouded by children who had given us all their love and trust. My thoughts ran wild and untamed. Outside my window was a little boy looking especially alone. He reminded me of my cousin Lincoln who was 3 at the time. Just then, like a bolt of lightning, the thought raced through my mind.
[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″]“What if that was Lincoln out there?”[/custom_headline]
The revelation took my breath away. I sat there willing myself to not glance back into his sad eyes as the bus began to pull away. The kids began chasing after us waving and yelling their goodbyes. I couldn’t hold it back any longer and the tears began to flow. I turned around in my seat and watched as those tiny faces chased us until their legs couldn’t run anymore, and disappeared into the billowing dust. I couldn’t shake that God whispered question from my head. “What if that were Lincoln? What if that was ME?”
Sometimes my weak human mind falters. Has my Father missed this tiny village? Has His omnipresent eyes somehow forgotten to check on these despised children? Why have I never been truly hungry? Why do I have a house with heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer? Why do I belong to a family full of healthy people? How does it seem that the cards have been dealt so desperately unfair? God WHY?
In my weakness, God’s gentle answer revealed His strength. Not one child in a grass hut is unseen, ignored or without purpose. Not one tear falls uncaught. There is not one sleepless night where He is not there cradling their heart. He has them all in the palm of His hands and their names on His tongue.
My heart has been broken and rebuilt by dedicated bush pastors, cheerful blind villagers, brave malnourished children, and the prayers of weak lepers. It’s only by God’s grace I was born where I was. It’s easy to ask God “WHY”, but it’s not so easy when He asks that question back to us. The Bible reminds us in Luke 12:48 “to whom much is given, much is required.” God has redeemed us to be His hands and feet. What an honor!
God doesn’t have to bring us to Africa to make a difference in this world. My story is deeply entwined in Zambia’s grass huts in the same way that others are rooted in a personal tragedy or Vacation Bible School. Every story is unique. Hand crafted. The key is, what are we doing with those God orchestrated events? It doesn’t have to be big to make an impact. In fact, all through Scripture we see that God specializes in the small and mundane. He simply calls us to act. Share a smile with the cashier at the grocery store, leave change and a Bible verse for the next person to come to the laundry mat, invest in the child who can’t fit in at school, visit the lonely widow in the nursing home. No act is too small that God can’t use it in mind blowing ways. He just calls us to plant the seeds. He will take care of the watering.
This introverted doubter flew to Zambia to change lives, but left changed instead. My eyes have been opened to the reality of suffering all around me. It’s not just across the ocean – it’s here even in our own neighborhoods. May we strive to make our corners of the world better places.
[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]For the sake of the world, Kate[/custom_headline]
Kate Foster is 23 from Rochester, NY and recently moved to Athens, MI. She is a lover of Jesus, her husband Ethan and dark chocolate. She dabbles in many things but enjoys crafting, decorating, and photography. You can browse her work at www.etsy.com/shop/fosterhappiness
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Kate’s gift basket includes Foster Happiness designed coffee mug, gift tags and a framed Bible verse. There is also 1 set of Jamberry nail wraps, manicure set, a Zambian wall hanging, and coffee and candle donated from Cafe Macchiato in Spencerport, NY!
That’s me in that photo above, but in reality I’m not very good at being married. I know that some of it is because of past circumstances, but I also know that some of it – a lot of it actually – is just me. I’m an arguer. My job as a critical care nurse has honed my reasoning skills to a lethally sharp edge, and I have the fortunate and unfortunate ability to develop a court-case-style presentation of my thoughts in 15 seconds or less. Pretty impressive, you say? If you were my patient in the hospital you’d think it’s fantastic, but you can imagine what my husband thinks of this amazing talent of mine. He says I should have been a lawyer, and I don’t think he means it as a compliment.
For these past seven years I have struggled, and I continue to struggle. It is hard for me to stop and breathe before I speak; it’s hard for me to pray for words before I give my own; it’s hard for me to love someone over my own self and to take care of that person’s needs before my own. Paul writes in Romans about wanting to do right but then doing wrong anyways, and that passage resonates with me…I know in my mind how I should love, but I don’t actually do it.
We all have something, don’t we? That thing we can’t seem to get past.
[pullquote type=”left”]Whether I deliver on my end or not, He delivered on His…[/pullquote]God showed me something recently that I’d never realized before. At Calvary, Jesus conquered sin – my specific sin. Whether I deliver on my end or not, He delivered on His and I am free from this sin’s power and this sin’s penalty. I am free of it in light of eternity because of the cross. I rely on Christ for that – I rely on Him for salvation and eternal freedom from sin’s penalty because I know I can’t possibly achieve it. But somehow in the depths of me I believe that I can conquer my own issues here and now.
How do we typically deal with changing ourselves? I think that many times we try to control our behavior. I “make an effort” to be more patient; I “try” not to be abrupt; I “refrain” from saying those things I know would be hurtful. And on so many levels I consider those to be successes. But if I continue to simply modify each behavior, no real change will ever happen in me because it’s just behavior…and eventually the heart in me that caused the behaviors in the first place will rear its head and cause some other sin, because WHO I AM never changed.
[pullquote type=”right”]Repentance and striving toward a godly life isn’t a task to complete, but a transformation to be made – a transformation that only He can complete in us. [/pullquote]The real answer to change is not control but surrender. I gave my life to Christ upon my salvation, but it can’t stop at that. The surrender of my unclean heart and my sins has to continue throughout every minute of every day of my life so that my heart can conform to be more like His. Repentance and striving toward a godly life isn’t a task to complete, but a transformation to be made – a transformation that only He can complete in us. Christ was the only One who could conquer sin at the cross, and He’s the only One who can conquer sin now.
My marriage has a purpose in my life, and so does whatever your “thing” is. God is showing me more about my own heart through my marriage than through anything else; He shows more of His character to me through my marriage than He has through anything else; He gives me a story to tell through my marriage that could not come from anywhere else. My marriage is tough so that I can surrender myself more and more to my Savior…so that I can testify to who He is and what He can do.
If I control, I feebly attempt to save myself. But if I surrender, He is the Champion of the story. And THAT is a story worth telling.