Mercy Reigns


Message to my subscribers: I hit “publish” too soon on my draft of Mercy Reigns. I did erase it from the site but it still was delivered to your inbox. Please ignore that one. Here is the full post. :) 

April sunset-0001

Things have been very quiet on this blog recently.

Major life events were happening and things just felt too overwhelming.

Here is the short version: A couple of weeks ago, we had to close the doors to our business.

Over three years ago, we had entered into a partnership with a family member.  It turned out that our trust was horribly misplaced and we were betrayed.

We have lost our life savings, our investment, the college fund for our kids, the vast majority of our income, and we may lose our home. I can honestly say that we have experienced an unprecedented attack from the enemy as he has tried to destroy every aspect of our lives.

It has been heartbreaking.

It has been devastating.

It has been extremely scary.

The process of forgiveness was very  ugly and it has taken me the better part of a year. (And it is still a battle some days).

This journey has called us to walk by faith in a way that we have never had to do before.

Franconia 2014-0009-2

Here are a few things I have learned along the way:

1 ) I can trust my very good God. 

As speaker and writer Lysa Terkuerst said this past weekend when I saw her at a local women’s conference: “God is good and God is very good at being God.”

Amen to that. He is in full control and nothing takes Him by surprise.

One of the things I love most about Jesus is that He never pulls any punches. He made it very clear to all who would follow Him that “…In Me, you may have perfect peace and confidence. In the world, you will have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer! Take courage, be confident, certain, undaunted! For I have overcome the world! I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you!” (John 16;33, Amplified). 

The older I get, the less surprised I am when trials hit.  Jesus told me to expect them.

It wasn’t until this brutal season that I realized how much of my life I have spent expecting things to be easy and smooth in this world.

They won’t be. This isn’t Heaven yet.

I no longer hold such illusions. I may have meltdowns from time to time, but I am tough. I have chosen to live through this as Jesus told me to.

I choose joy.
I offer my weakness for His strength.
I accept His gift of peace.
I ask Him everyday for a fresh infusion of His courage.
I am confident that I will see His goodness both in the midst of and at the end of this trial.
I have become the enemy’s worst nightmare. I will not stay down. Each time he hits, I may get knocked down and be black and blue, but I WILL get back up. Every. Single. Time.

I have heard it said that the enemy doesn’t mess with those he doesn’t consider to be a threat to his kingdom of darkness, so I am taking this present season as a badge of honor.

If he thinks I was a threat before, he hasn’t seen anything yet.

2) I MUST preach the gospel to myself every single day. 

This is the only way that I have been able to forgive.

It is crucial that I remember the enormous debt that I owed a holy God and without Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf, I would be utterly without hope. He loved me when I was His enemy and hated Him.  Every one of my sins drove those nails into His flesh and without His grace and mercy, I would be forever cursed.

How can I then turn around and refuse to forgive the one who has sinned against me?

I  can’t.

Jesus doesn’t give any of His followers that option. …even as the Lord has freely forgiven you, so must you also forgive.”—(Colossians 3:13).

Forgiveness does NOT mean that everything is okay.
Forgiveness does NOT mean forgetting.
Forgiveness does NOT mean that things will go back to the way they used to be.
Forgiveness on my part does not necessarily mean that the offending party will realize error of their ways.
Forgiveness does NOT mean that you won’t still have ugly feelings.
Forgiveness is NOT something you can do on your own. It is supernatural.
Forgiveness DEMANDS that you cooperate with your powerful Savior and allow Him to forgive through you.
The process of forgiveness may feel like it will be the death of you. It isn’t. He will carry your through it.
Forgiveness is ultimately the kindest thing you can do for yourself. Because it will kill you otherwise.
Forgiveness is the way of peace.

3) His Word is my lifeline.

I have had to cling to the TRUTH of God’s Word with all of my strength.

As Charles Stanley once said, “I don’t care what I see, feel, hear, or think. THIS is what God’s Word says.”

When my world felt like it was collapsing all around me and spinning out of control, His Word was my anchor.

He has given me promises to hold onto during this time and I have allowed Him to write those promises deep into my heart. They are and always will be a part of me.

So rather than face each day with dread, I look forward with a sense of expectation to see what He will do. When fear threatens to overwhelm me, I review those promises and His peace floods my soul.

I have several devotionals that I read every morning and without fail, He speaks to me through them and I have fresh hope to face another uncertain day.

4) He truly is Jehovah-Jireh, our Provider.

We have seen Him provide in miraculous ways for our needs time and time again.

I did a fantastic Bible study by Dr. Tony Evans last fall called The Names Of God.  He said something that I will never forget: “God Himself is your Source. Everything else is just a resource. “

Our store was simply a resource. We were not ultimately dependent on it because Jesus is our Source and He has promised to provide for our every need. His resources are infinite so we need never worry that He won’t come through. He will. Every time.

At this particular moment, things look quite scary but we are choosing to rest and rehearse. We are resting in His promises and in His character and we are actively rehearsing the myriad of ways that He has been faithful to respond to our fervent prayers in the past.

5) Prayer is a powerful weapon.

We are incredibly blessed to have amazing friends who faithfully pray for us. (You know who you are and we love you dearly!).

We simply flat out cannot make it without prayer.

Sometimes, when things are dark and you are exhausted and feel like you can’t even pray anymore, just knowing that there are others who are willing to stand in the gap for you is an amazing gift.

Prayer moves the heart of our God. He is not unaffected by our pain. His Word tells us that He is deeply touched by our cries and moved by our prayers. He sees every tear that falls and He responds. 

I remember a Bible teacher once saying that when we combine our prayers with God’s Word, it is like dynamite. I have found that to be true. It has been the  adventure of my life to watch and experience how He answers prayer.

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Those are just a few of the lessons I have learned so far. I will be writing about many more in posts to come.

This morning at church, we sang “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone).” One line in that song really touched my heart. It says this: ” And like a flood, His mercy reigns/ unending love, amazing. grace.”

I had tears in my eyes as I sang those words because I realized that even through all the pain of the past year, it has been true:

His mercy reigns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Singing Of The Birds


Photo credit: stevecreek.com

It has been a long, dark, brutal winter in my part of the world this year.

The view out any window in New England is a world of  endless white, the promise of spring seemingly buried forever.

Last week, I met a dear friend for lunch. She asked about the latest on the ongoing trial that my family has been enduring for quite awhile now.

After I filled her in, she smiled wide and said, “Remember, spring is coming!” She reminded me of one of my favorite Scriptures, Song of Solomon 2:10-12, which speaks of the coming of spring and a time of great hope.

That Scripture stayed with me over the next couple of days, so it sprang immediately to my mind like the sun bursting through a cloudy day the moment that I encountered the singing birds.

It was well below zero that morning. The night before, the wind had blown and howled with hurricane- force velocity but the dawn had ushered in a blessed calm and the winds were mercifully stilled.

The instant I opened my eyes, I could hear the birds.

I immediately got up and followed their sweet sound, marveling that even though the earth was locked into sub-zero temperatures, there could be birds singing!

And there they were: two small fluffy birds perched on the bare branches right outside our window. I walked right up to the pane and could see them in great detail. Their little black eyes burned brightly and their brown and black feathers looked they they would be soft to the touch. But it was their singing that completely captivated me. They sat on those branches for probably a solid minute, their voices mingling in what was to me a beautiful symphony. I smiled with delight and wished they would stay all day. I had never before seen birds in that particular location.

All too soon, they flew away and took their lovely music with them.

But in their place, the Scripture my friend had shared with me rang out loud can clear: “Arise My love, My beautiful one, and come away! For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of the birds has come.” 

The great Creator God who controls all things had sent my winter-weary soul a message that morning through those two dark-eyed juncos: Winter will soon be over. Spring is on its way. Hope lives. There is always still a song.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops — at all….
~Emily Dickinson, c.1861

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And Now For Something Completely Different…


Earlier today, I came across a pile of old photos and spent an absolutely delightful time walking down memory lane.

This photo in particular stood out to me and caused me to laugh out loud:

scan tracy and susan

That is me on the right and my best friend Tracy on the left.

The year was 1987 and the event was my brother’s high school graduation party.

As always, I am documenting everything. From the moment I received my first Fisher Price camera as a kid (does anyone else remember these?!)

to a Polaroid I received as a young teenager, to the GIANT video camera my parents gave me when I was in my 20s, I was forever capturing moments with a camera. (still am).

Let’s note a few things about this photo, shall we?

* I was so skinny! Although at that point in time, I probably thought I was fat, as girls are prone to do. Totally insane. I don’t imagine that I will ever see the number 110 on a scale again in my life.

*Can we take a minute to appreciate the fabulous 80’s hair? A mullet at its finest, I tell you!

Speaking of mullets, I simply must digress for a moment to present you with a visual tour of the fact that in my youth, I apparently loved mullets. Observe:

Nevermind the mullet: what in the world am I wearing?!

Nevermind the mullet: what in the world am I wearing?!

Here I am in all my mullet glory with some younger cousins.

Here I am in all my mullet glory with some younger cousins.

Can you imagine that I must have thought that that looked good?!

Can you imagine that I must have thought that that looked good?!

Tragic, isn’t it? I think we can all agree that the mullet should never, ever return.

*Notice the boom box. That was the newest thing because it was so small! When I showed this to my daughter, she laughed out loud while holding her tiny iPod in her hand. And it was playing a cassette tape. I had spent many an hour hunched over Casey Kasem’s America’s Top 40 to make the perfect graduation party mix tape. That tape was filled with the vocal stylings of The Bangles, Heart, Bob Seger,  Bon Jovi, Huey Lewis and the News, Michael Jackson, Springsteen, etc. The soundtrack of my youth that fills me with happiness for a time when life was easy  carefree, bright and fun. (Those same songs are all on my iPod today. 80’s music makes me all kinds of happy).

*Tracy was content to follow me around all day holding that boom box so that my video would have the perfect soundtrack. I can be heard several times telling her to do this or that.

I was so bossy.

(Some who know me and are reading this are no doubt saying, “Was?”) 

Moving on…

Tracy was an incredibly sweet person. She was my best friend since we were five years old all the way until her death in 1990. I still think of her all the time and sometimes she appears in my dreams. In those few seconds that we all have between first awakening from a dream and coming to full consciousness, I am smiling and ready to reach for the phone to call her.

And then I remember that she is gone and the familiar sadness settles over my heart.

This year, I will turn 50 in March and she would have been 50 in July.

I have gray hairs and crows feet. I will celebrate my 23rd wedding anniversary this year.

She is forever 25 and blonde, a bride of only 8 months.

I miss her so much.

*That sun-drenched, laughter-filled  day turned out to be one of my happiest and that very video is one of my absolute treasures. My videocamera caught many moments of fun and silliness, (including my brother getting a cream pie smashed in his face), and when I watch, I can still see those who have left us laughing, talking, celebrating. A day that is long  gone, but forever captured.

I only had a few still photos from the day:

My late cousin David and me

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Tracy and me

Tracy and me

The last scene of the video is everyone at the entire party dancing to Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll. Every single time I watch it, it brings both laughter and tears. If only life could be so carefree and full of joy all the time.

Pick up your camera or your phone and capture some photos and video of your loved ones today.

“We only have this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand—and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it before it’s too late.”—Marie Ray

 

 

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Dealing With The Switchbacks


Photo credit: indulgy.com

“Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to Heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just in our heads) that God is FOR us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.”—John Piper

The truth is, I want the straight line.

I want to go from one blessing to the next until I get to Heaven.

For many years, I skipped along that beloved straight line, believing that life was good and pretty and sunny and fun and kind and orderly.

And then the roof caved in leaving brokenness, darkness, confusion, tears, bewilderment, shock, loss, sadness, fear, and weariness in its wake.

Against my will, I was jarred awake to the brutal reality that this world is not heaven. It is enemy territory and the pain is searing and relentless.

I had so much head knowledge.

But suddenly, that wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough to cope with a life that was no longer safe.

I found that I craved safety. Yet there was no sense of safety in my circumstances. It was as if I was straining to balance on a tightrope and when I got up the nerve to finally look down, I was horrified to discover that the safety net was missing. And the winds were picking up, the sky was darkened by gathering clouds, and the only thing that was below me was sharp, jagged rocks.

I have never felt so vulnerable, terrified and small.

What to do?

I am a firstborn. I am a go-getter. I am driven. I am results-oriented.

So, my first choice was to look past the pain and begin to search for the silver lining. Surely this would help me become a better person. I will know why this happened in hindsight. I will be wiser. I can help others. I have lessons that I need to learn and this experience will help me.

I was on a quest to have two questions answered: Why is this happening? and How do I get out of this?

I asked for prayer, but I was very careful to lace my language with very cheerful terms.

He is at work even when I can’t see it!” I would say brightly after sharing my pain. “I know He will work all of this for my good!” Heads would nod in agreement and assurances would be plentiful.

So why did those words sound empty to my own ears and why did I leave that place feeling like I hadn’t been truly honest, that my pain had been minimized, and that I hadn’t been heard at all?

(This is NOT an indictment against very dear and well-meaning people. They are simply doing what I am doing, which is trying to make sense of a God that we know is good but who allows awful things that we simply cannot understand).

I assured myself that this, too, shall pass.

Except…that it didn’t.

The pain continued.

I would often feel like I was swimming in a rough ocean, trying to make some progress. I would get swallowed by a huge wave, tossed around like  a rag doll, fight my way to the surface, struggle to get on solid ground (as solid as shifting sand can be), take few gulps of air…only to get knocked down again and this time be pulled further out to sea by the relentless undertow.

Looking through the pain for the silver lining wasn’t working anymore.

So, I sought to escape the pain.

Trips, shopping, eating out, getting together with friends. Fun, fun, fun.

Then the money dried up when the economy crashed and my husband’s job was eliminated. Things have been challenging ever since.

No more disposable income meant no more easy avenues for escape. And things just got tougher. There was illness, betrayal, job loss, death, setback after setback.

Lines began to appear on my face. Gray hairs began to overtake the blonde. The dark circles under my eyes could no longer be hidden with the most industrial strength concealer.

My prayer requests were no longer couched in cheerful language.

“I have no idea what Jesus is doing,” I would say.

Tears, which I once refused to show in public by sheer force of my will, fell freely now.

The varying responses would be an uneasy silence, platitudes, a hug, a listening ear, much-needed and appreciated practical help, or an offer to pray, all depending on where those people were in their spiritual lives.

I felt helpless. My feelings were hurt by the One who said He loved me and had a good plan for my life. There were just no easy answers anymore.

hated living with mystery. I wanted answers. I wanted my old life back.

Haven’t I been faithful? Haven’t I led Bible study for years? Haven’t I raised my kids to love Jesus and live for Him? Haven’t I been a good wife, mom, sister, daughter, and friend? Haven’t I been a mentor to the younger moms in my church and community? Haven’t I done a lot of volunteer work? Haven’t I given generously to those in need?

Haven’t I done it right?!

And there it was.

Do you see the common denominator in those questions?

I.

Do you see the sense of entitlement? I did this, so You must do that. You owe me a happy life! (cringe).

Except He wasn’t playing that game. He never was.

My life was so crowded with knowledge and stuff and activity and self-will that I refused to truly see the one thing I needed to see the most.

All along, I had been asking the wrong questions, which were why and how?

I had completely missed the WHO.

“Have I been with you for so long a time and you do not know and recognize Me yet, Susan?” —Jesus (John 14:9).

The question that Jesus had asked Peter on the Passover night over 2000 years ago, He now asked me.

There, in the midst of all the loss and broken dreams, was Jesus.

Not as I wanted Him to be, not as I wished Him to be, not as I assumed Him to be…but as He IS: holy, righteous, perfect, Love incarnate.

The time had come for what I needed most: an encounter with the God who had died for me.

The very worst thing that has ever happened to anyone happened to Him.

Pain has a way of crystallizing what is most important in life with laser-like focus.

The single most important event in this world is the Cross.

It was time for me “to see the crucifixion for what it is, not looking away, through, or past it.” (Tullian Tchvidjian, Glorious Ruin, p. 69),

“The cross is the ultimate statement of God’s involvement in the world this side of Heaven.” (Ibid).

The cross is my reminder that life on earth is not a picnic and my God has higher dreams for me than a pleasant life.

The cross is bloody, brutal, violent, horrific…and  as much as I would like to sanitize it, give it lip service and only glance at it… the truth is that meditating on what it means is the only sure-fire way to put suffering on this earth in its proper perspective. The cross is a symbol of a holy God’s hatred of sin and His willingness to deal with it once and for all at the cost of His own life.

The willingness to look at the cross head on without flinching is what enables me to do the same with the suffering in my own life.

And to realize that the same God who has permitted the trials is the same One who allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross to take my place, to die the death that I deserved.

It was the only remedy for my sin-sick soul, the only thing that would save this rebel from hell.

When I lose sight of this most crucial truth,  it is then that I lose my way and my demand for a pain-free life takes center stage. When that happens, I am blind, ungrateful, small.

What I couldn’t see when my pain loomed larger than my God is that ultimately, the pain was a kindness.

kindness? 

Yes.

Because my greatest need is not a happy life.

My greatest need is an encounter with the living, resurrected Christ, who has delivered me from the domain of darkness and transferred me into His kingdom granting me redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1: 13-14). My life is hidden in Him, which makes me forever safe. He can only do good to me. He does not promise me an easy life, but He does promise to never leave me. He gives me beauty for ashes and is willing to fill me with His indestructible joy. He hears every prayer and sees every tear.

And when this short life with all its sorrows and joys is over, He promises that I will see His face and be with Him forever in a beautiful place where there is only joy and light and wonder for all eternity.

All the pain, the heartache, the trials served one grand purpose: they stripped me of everything but what is most essential: Jesus and me. Because that is exactly how this life ends, the only thing that ultimately matters.

I have learned to live with mystery. Life is still hard and there is no end to troubles in sight. I still battle fear sometimes. I definitely get weary. I have questions and granting forgiveness is still the hardest thing I have ever had to do. There are still tears and grief.

But I am free from the demand to have a problem free life. I am no longer looking for this world to be Heaven. I am not blindsided when pain hits. I have His hope, His joy, His light in the midst of this fallen world and I know I am being guided by His hand. My sense of entitlement is gone.

My greatest calling is to bring glory to Jesus and I can do that regardless of what is happening in my life.

I will close with these wise words from author Larry Crabb from his most excellent book, Shattered Dreams:

“When arrogant people who know they deserve eternal misery tremble before a holy God of passionate wrath, they discover grace. They encounter the depths of God’s kindness and love, a kindness and love they find nowhere else. They fall to their knees and worship Christ as their Lord and Savior and as their truest friend, really their only true friend. They know they don’t deserve a hug, no matter how badly they’re hurting but they get an eternal one anyway. That’s the grace that takes their breath away.

They enter into the community of broken, forgiven people who are hungry for all of God they can get. Nothing stands in their way—not shame, not the fear of revealing too much, not a desire to be well thought of. With abandon, they seek God.

And they welcome shattered dreams as friends. They enter their pain and discover an arrogant spirit that says, “I don’t deserve this.” They tremble in their unholiness before a holy God and discover how passionately they want to have a good relationship with Him. Then He reveals the new way of grace, the gospel that lets them draw near to God and discover how wonderful He is…the journey continues, a journey through shattered dreams to the exquisite joy of encountering Christ.” (pp. 196-197)

I wish for you that same exquisite joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Single Candle


It has been two weeks since I heard a snippet of his story on NPR and I cannot get the word picture he painted out of my mind.

photo credit: patriotguy

A holocaust survivor from Poland was telling his story on NPR as my husband and I ran errands.

In a voice that was both tremulous and tinged with steel, he described his wedding day. He had married his bride in a church lit only with one candle as the bombs fell on their city.

It was at that point that Doug and I arrived at our destination and we exited the car, never to hear the rest of his story.

How I wish I had listened to the program in its entirety! I never even got his name.

In the weeks since, the image of that wedding has continually played on the edges of my mind. How old were they? How did they meet? What made them get married at such a perilous time? How many guests, if any, were in attendance? How long did their marriage last?

Imagine the intense emotion of such a wedding day.

Love and and joy mixed with fear? Perhaps tears of both happiness at having found love and sadness at the reality of war that threatened to take it all away in a heartbeat?

Most of all, I love the glorious defiance of that  moment in time.

Amidst the ravages of a world torn by the ugliness of war, love was triumphing in that church.

The light of that single candle was piercing the darkness.

No matter how brutal and awful this world  can be,  love is always stronger than hate.

Set me like a seal upon your heart…for love is a as strong as death…it flashes fire, a most vehement flame, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. —Song of Songs 8:6-7

Even the smallest light  pierces and overcomes the darkness.

Hope is more powerful than despair.

Bravery conquers fear.

Love always wins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Angel Named Mike


Our pastor’s words at the end of the church service struck fear into my heart.

“There is freezing rain out there and it seems to be icy. Please be careful going home, everybody.”

I live in the mountains of northern New England. I am well acquainted with winter but I really have had enough of it.

Driving in snow is bad enough but ice absolutely terrifies me.

Things didn’t look good when my mom and I exited the church and her car was completely encased in ice. Why we didn’t just turn around and go back into the comfy, warm church to wait it out, I’ll never know.

We took a million baby steps to the car and sat there for a good ten minutes until the defroster melted the ice so she could see to drive. She insisted on driving because she was concerned about my blood pressure. I have only had two accidents and they both involved ice. That feeling of having no control over my vehicle was terrifying and it still haunts me.

We started out very slowly and made the decision to take the road that runs along the lake rather than risk the main road where people go much too fast under any conditions.

All was fine until we rounded the corner and the lake came into view. Suddenly, the road was like a skating rink and all control was lost. The car started to spin and slide from one end of the road to the other.

To our horror, we began to hurtle toward the boat launch. Miraculously, we came to a sudden stop right before we would have slid down the boat launch into the lake! We also narrowly missed hitting a parked truck.

It took several minutes until Mom felt okay to put the car into gear and keep going. We did fine on the flat part of the road but trying to get enough traction to get up the fairly steep  hill that would lead us toward home was another matter altogether. Her tires spun and we began to slide backward down the hill.

Mom valiantly tried to back the car into a driveway but couldn’t do it. So, she attempted to pull into a driveway across the street, sliding all the way. The car  finally came to a stop, half on the sidewalk and half into the driveway.

Our hearts were pounding right through our chests and we tried to catch our breath now that we were stopped and in a relatively safe place.

If you are ever in a crisis situation, you would want my mom  there. She remains calm and is the picture of efficiency.

The person you do NOT want with you if you are in a crisis situation is me.

I was shaking. I was crying. I was a mess.

I called my husband (who didn’t feel well enough to attend church this morning) to tell him what had happened. He tried in vain to get me to calm down and finally told me he was going to call the police and report that we were stranded and get back to us.

I just felt so helpless so I started to pray. “Jesus, please take care of us and get us safely home.” We were literally less than five minutes from home but it seemed like miles.

No sooner had I finished that prayer when a man walked (slid) up to our car. He was around 60 years old, had salt and pepper hair, and a wide smile. He explained that his name was Mike and he lived across the street. He had seen our troubles and walked over to see if we were okay.

I couldn’t believe I was meeting the man who I had disparaged for the past 7 years that we have lived here.

You see, he owns a junkyard.  There are a lot of No Trespassing signs everywhere as well as a fierce looking German Shepherd standing guard. His house/business is on my path when I walk into town and I have always wondered who lived there, thinking what a shame it was that this eyesore is located in such an otherwise pretty area.

And now here he was right in front of me, nice as can be.

Seemingly unbothered by the freezing rain, he stayed with us for the next hour, chatting amicably, spinning lots of stories, and doing a wonderful job of taking our minds off our situation.

He shared his life story which has been filled with hardships; yet he remains a cheerful person who is willing to lend a helping hand to those in need when he can. He is a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee, fiercely independent and occasionally some salty language slipped through.

As I listened to his stories, I could feel my heart rate return to normal and my breathing came much easier.

At one point, he suggested that Mom pull up further into the driveway so any other out-of-control cars would not hit us.

Not even 15 minutes later, a truck that was coming down the road too fast lost control on the ice, hit the back of a car  just a little further up the road that had gone into a ditch, and slid crazily all the way down the hill  finally coming to a stop right where our car had been!

He would have certainly hit us and since he was traveling at a pretty good speed, I shudder to think of the damage that we were spared.

Eventually, a salt truck came by to treat the roads. Mike informed us that he thought we would be okay to  take one more run at the hill.

Then he saw the looks on both of our faces.

“Would you feel better if I drove the car up the hill for you?” He asked. “My nephew just came over and he can follow us and give me a ride back down the hill.”

Mom gratefully accepted his invitation and he helped her across the car and settled her into the passenger side with utmost gentleness.

He drove with ease to the top of the hill and took another look at my mom, who was white as a sheet by this time at the thought of getting back behind the wheel.

“You know what? I’m just going to go ahead and drive you lovely ladies home,” he announced, motioning his nephew to follow him. We only lived another half a mile away. He delivered us right to our front door.

“What can we do to thank you?” I asked as I shook his hand.

“Not a thing!” he waved his hand dismissively. “Just say a prayer for me the next time you go to church. I was happy to help.”

He looked at my mom and smiled. “She reminds me of my mama, God rest her soul, and I would have wanted someone to help my mama if she was in this same situation.”

With a cheerful wave goodbye, he climbed into his nephew’s SUV and off they went.

Jesus answered our prayers by sending us an unlikely angel in the form of Mike.

Sometimes He answers our prayers in the strangest of ways, but they are nonetheless beautiful.

We will be forever grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tears In The Soup Aisle


Photo credit: Flickr

Have you ever burst into tears in the middle of a grocery store?

I did that yesterday afternoon. Right in front of the soup cans, the dam broke and the tears flowed in aisle 3.

I live in a small town. On any given trip to that store, I see at least two people I know.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case right then.

I finished my shopping and headed out into the snowy day.

As soon as I closed the door to the driver’s side, the tears became sobs and I was grateful for the snow covering the windshield so no one would see my meltdown.

I cried out to Jesus for mercy. There was no lightning bolt from the sky, no voice from Heaven. Yet I knew He heard me. I knew He saw every tear that fell.

The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles…You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, each tear entered in Your ledger, each ache written in Your book. ( Psalm 34:17; Psalm 56:8)

I drove home and my head was pounding. In spite of my exhaustion, I began to keep my eyes and ears open because I knew He would speak to me. His heart is touched and moved by our pain and He always seeks to comfort us.

He didn’t wait long.

I checked my Instagram feed and one of the people I follow posted this Scripture: “…Hope in the Lord, for with the Lord, there is mercy (exactly what I had been asking Him for!) and with Him is abundant redemption. (Ps. 103:7). NO situation is beyond His redemption.

Shortly thereafter, a new post from one of the bloggers I read popped into my inbox. I clicked on it and could not believe my eyes. She used a verse that He had given me several times in the past few days: “Behold, I am doing a new thing! (He is at work, even when we can’t see it)….Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert!” (Isaiah 43:19). He always makes a way.

Each time we open His Word, we can hear His Voice ringing out in all its boldness, resounding with hope, shining light into our darkness.

The fact that He put those particular verses in front of my eyes was no coincidence. There is no such thing. He intended for me to see them because He knew I needed to see them. They were His message to me.

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This morning, I still wasn’t 100% myself.

So, He filled my day with more of His love notes.

I received a text from my best friend that was filled with encouragement. He speaks to us through His people and her words were very soothing to me. Friendship is a gift.

…There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. —Proverbs 18:24

The first Scripture I saw when I opened my Bible was this: “Let us not lose heart and grow weary in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.” (Galatians 6:9).

There is a due time and an appointed season. This season will not last forever. There is no need for me to lose heart. No one stays in the valley forever. He always leads us out.

Later, my brother stopped by and caused me to laugh out loud with one of his stories. Laughter is good for the soul.

He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. —Job 8:21

As the sun went down, we received a bounty of His provision.

My God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your ever need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.—(Philippians 4:13).

At the end of a busy day, I was tired and wanted to relax. I clicked onto Netflix.

I found myself clicking on a Christian movie from 2010 called The Encounter. I didn’t have high hopes for it, as it started out a little on the hokey side. But as I watched, I was drawn into the story and Jesus had a tender message to me through one of the characters.

He saw my tears yesterday afternoon, heard my cry to Him, and set about speaking to me in a variety of ways through:

His Word
Instagram
a blog post
a friend
His provision
a funny story
and a movie.

Do you need to hear from Him? Listen to His Voice as you read His Word. Open your eyes and your ears and experience Him.

He longs to communicate with you and He is wildly creative.

Pay attention and let Him speak. You will experience a profound joy and He will fill your heart with His peace.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who trusts and takes refuge in Him. —Psalm 34:8

 

 

 

 

 

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