My husband has been gone from this mortal life for 8 years today. Nine years ago today we first heard the word ‘cancer’ after his first of four brain surgeries to remove the tumor. We were also told he had, statistically speaking, 13 months to live. He lived exactly 12 months from that horrible day.
I recently had a widow ask me when it gets easier. She is nearing the one year mark and her pain is still such a fresh wound. I wanted to comfort her by saying that the ache of grief will get better in time. But does it? Does it ever really get easier? For me the answer is, No. It does not get easier, just more familiar.
I still wake up wishing Larry was next to me. I still go to bed wishing I could hear him snoring. I still talk to him, tell him about my day and how the kids are doing. I still know that there is an emptiness in my life that only he could fill. The ache is still there and it always will be. It is the silent companion of my every moment.
What has changed is that I no longer feel guilty for laughing. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve cringed at myself for enjoying life. That isn’t what Larry would want me to do and it is not honoring to a man who squeezed the most out of life, even when he was sick. I’m not afraid to make changes, even big ones like moving from the middle of the country to the east coast. I do still wish that he was here to take care of the details of life that I most definitely don’t like to deal with but I’m still trying.
Larry’s favorite verse was Hebrews 12:1. He lived by it. He ran with perseverance, the life God laid out for him. I’m striving to do the same.
So I guess maybe it does get easier, if only easier to live with. I’ve learned to make my own shadow albeit a timid one.
Still, God, you are our Father.
We’re the clay and you’re our potter:
All of us are what you made us.
Don’t be too angry with us, O God.
Don’t keep a permanent account of wrongdoing.
Keep in mind, please, we are your people—all of us.
I love to crochet and I love yarn. I really love yarn… a lot. It is impossible for me to into a yarn store and come out with just one yarn, I have to touch all of them and some of them are always very sticky and follow me home. I have so much yarn that I have a yarn room in my new house. I already have enough to keep my fingers busy for my (and several other’s) lifetime. At this rate I will live forever.
Whenever I crochet something I have to untangle the yarn. Inevitably the yarn that I use has knots galore in it so that I must work out all of the knots to make something beautiful. If I tried to crochet a sweater with knotted yarn it wouldn’t work out very well and it wouldn’t look very good either. My best friend has called my crochet projects “Detangled Creations”, and that is exactly what they are.
We are like that aren’t we? A tangled up mess of emotional knots. And yet Jesus patiently works on each one of our knots that He might make something beautiful in us. Even if we should miraculously have no knots in our life Jesus must still work with our “yarn” to create something useful. Perfectly good yarn is nothing if it is left alone; it’s just a ball of fiber. Similarly we are nothing without the Lord as our Savior. We may even look good on the outside, but inside we are just a ball of fiber or a lump of clay if you prefer pottery. It is only by the grace of God, the blood of Jesus Christ that we can be created and renewed into a “Detangled Creation.”
I chose to allow the Creator to create in me something useful for His glory rather than just sit alone – a ball of yarn without purpose.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
OK, so we have this new puppy. We’ve had him for about 3 months now. His name is Buddy. Buddy isn’t really a dog, he’s a small horse.
I’ve always had toy poodles, Annie is 5 pounds and CoCo is 6 pounds. My son Wade decided that we needed a dog that was bigger than my feet. Buddy is a golden-doodle, his mama was a golden retriever and his daddy was a standard poodle. At 5 months Buddy weighs easily 70 lbs and his paws are bigger than my feet.
Buddy is a dork. (He should have been named Gilligan). He’s the only dog I’ve ever seen with a comb-over. He hasn’t figured out yet that he isn’t the same size as the toy poodles, so he tries to act like the toy-poodles. There is no part of my lap that can hold this beastie, but he tries anyway. Buddy also picks fights with CoCo, but she can take him down! Annie just snarls at him and he leaves her alone. There’s nothing funnier than watching Buddy fall off the couch because a 6 pound toy poodle got the best of him.
Buddy has intestinal issues, that means that he has to have special food and he eats like a horse (pun intended). He is also the most ADD dog I’ve ever seen. He’s a spaz with no coordination and no traction on the hard wood floor. He rearranges the furniture every day with his slipping and sliding.
Buddy thinks that Noah is a chew toy, mostly because every time Buddy gets close to Noah he starts to squeal – Noah squeals, not Buddy. Buddy loves to rough house with Noah. Noah loves to rough house with Buddy, until Buddy nips him in the bud, literally.
Taking Buddy for a walk is quite the adventure. Making it back home with no face plants or wiped out knees is a miracle. Dislocated shoulders are also a great possibility.
Buddy has started doing something though that has touched my heart. He follows me wherever I am in the house and lays down on my feet. It’s so cute and so not convenient to have a horse head lying on your feet, but that is how Buddy tells me he loves me. And even though I complain about Buddy a lot, I love him too.
“[God Has Set Things Right]But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.”
Glorious lives…. I look back at the life I’ve lived and what I see is the long and sorry record I’ve written as a sinner. But what God sees is the glorious life He has willed for me. He sees me through the veil of the blood of Jesus Christ. He sees the perfect creation I will be when I enter into His glory.
What is a glorious life? Is it one of self-destruction and self-pity? Is it a life of hiding in the shadows or is it a life lived in the light cast upon us by the wonder of Easter?
I recently reconnected with my very first boyfriend via social networking. He is married and has a small son. I love that! Having someone to share your life journey is so important. What does this have to anything? Exchanging emails with him made me think about the girl who was so excited to get letters from him in the mail. Life was ahead of me and for me everything was glorious. I’m not sure when the “real world” stepped in, but in the matter of a few years glorious turned to gloomy. Heart break and personal struggles created shades of gray for many years. After my husband passed on the rainbows we’d had together turned to shades of black.
I have determined though that I will not sit in the blackness and feed into my own personal pity party. I am surrounding myself with color and I will use every tear I’ve cried to embrace the glorious future that God has created for me and paved with blood of my Savior.
Heavenly Father, help me to see the glory of this day that you have created for me. I thank You for the colors of Spring that fill my soul with joy. I thank You for my friends and family who fill my heart with hope. I thank You for Your all-consuming love for me that sees me as glorious in spite of my sins. In Jesus’ name… ~Amen
“What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.”
How are you living out your Faith? Do you live by rules and regulations of religious traditions or are you living by the resurrection of living Savior?
I’m afraid to say that I often try to hide behind legalisms, judging others for things that I would not want to be judged by. Justifying myself to myself. Backing myself into self-created corner of the world. Trying to compete in an imaginary pageant of righteousness.
Can I possibly hope to impress God with anything I do? Who is it that I’m trying to impress with my show? Others, who aren’t even watching, or myself? Just how much righteousness can I create for myself anyway?
Living by my faith in Jesus Christ creates a balance and content in me. Living by my charades of religion leaves me grouchy and needy. So why do I continue to live in pageant mode rather than by the grace allowed to me through my Savior? Good question.
Heavenly Father, I come to you again asking for holy blinders to keep me focused on the cross and the sacrifice You made to grant us the way to eternal life with You. Let us not forget the power of Easter and the freedom it brings to us to live in Your grace and mercy. “Thank you”, is not enough to express the gratitude and humility for this unsurpassed blessing. Help us to not keep our hearts hidden away. In Jesus precious name,…~Amen
Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”
We live in a race. Some call it a rat race, some call it a maze. Either way it’s a lot of energy expended on doing things that don’t need to be done. Don’t sweat the small stuff, right?
I don’t know about you, but I can get so caught up in the small stuff that I lose sight of my destination, my goals. This happens in my day-to-day activities as well as long-range objectives. I can get on the computer to send encouragement to a friend and get so caught up in everyone’s Facebook status updates that I completely forget what it was that I started out doing in the first place. For me cleaning house should be a marathon event. I spend so much time walking back and forth after the supplies that I thought I already had with me that I’m exhausted before even one room is done.
Getting caught up in day-to-day activities prevents me from keeping my focus on what I’m supposed to be doing for Christ. I allow the busyness of life to weigh me down and drag me under to the point where I’m completely useless as His ambassador. We’re talking lead blankets on all my limbs type of weighted down. Dragging the lead blankets against the current of a mighty river weighted down.
That is not what Jesus wants us to do. Paul tells us that we are to strip down and start running. Pretty sure he didn’t mean our clothes here, but rather all of the stuff of living that just doesn’t matter. I love the Message version of scripture. No spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Your sins have been forgiven, leave them behind you and keep running. Don’t get so caught up in religion that you lose sight of the Savior.
Read the Gospels and get back to the important tracks of the race. Embrace Easter and live!
10 God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
13-18Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.
I’ve got a few pet peeves. Probably more than a few truth be told. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone says, “God will never give me more than I can handle.” Says who? It’s not in the Bible anywhere, so who decided that God will never give us more than we can handle?
There are people all over the world lying in hospital beds that are facing more than they can handle. There are millions of people dying from the unsafe water sources they must rely on. There are more people alive right now that are dealing with more than they can handle than the total population combined just a generation or two ago.
Try telling an abused child that God will never give you more than you handle. Tell a mother whose baby just died that God will never give her more than she can handle and I bet she won’t give you a smile back.
The promise of God is not that we will never be given more than we can handle. Watching my beloved husband die one day at a time for 365 days from terminal brain cancer was more than I could handle…. Alone.
God’s promise is that He will help us handle whatever life gives us. Ephesians 6:13 tells us exactly what life will give us. “13Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own.”
The enemy spends endless energy trying to give us more than we can handle and his greatest desire is that we blame God when we get too much. “Why did God do this to me?” God didn’t do it to you. The enemy is doing it to you so you will turn your back on the one true God. We are also told what to do when life gives us too much. We are to be prepared, we are to, “Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life.”
Where are we to find these tools? “God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare.” The Bible is where we find the strength God is offering to us to make it through this earthly life. Life is hard, God is good.
Dearest Lord, Thank you for the weapons that You offer to us for our battles in this life. We ask that you nudge us every day to spend time in Your word that we may learn how to apply Your armor and be prepared to enter the battle. In Jesus’ name…. Amen
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[a] make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The Message version of verses 3 & 4 read:
3-4Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust. o the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I don’t know about you, but I love invitations. Most of the time. Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers (especially if the baby is there too!). I love all of these life events.
Seventeen years ago I received the most exciting invitation this side of heaven. On March 3, 1995 Larry Brandon invited me to be his wife. I was living in Denver at the time and one night during our daily phone conversations Larry asked me why I hadn’t moved to Michigan yet. I informed him that I had not yet been invited. A week or so later he flew me to Michigan for the weekend and in the parking lot of the Bay City Saginaw airport Larry gave me an invitation that he’d made on the computer and printed out for me.
Although we haven’t known each other very long
My feelings for you can’t be wrong
Please agree to be a part
of my of heart
and of my life
Take this ring and be my wife
I was so excited. This wonderful man who I’d only known 5 1/2 weeks (no I don’t recommend this, but….) was inviting me to share his life in the most intimate way possible. Two months later we were married and the nearly 15 years that we were together we the best years of my life. Our love for each other was the stuff that Fairy Tales wish they were made of. Yeah, it was that good. Until cancer cut our happily ever after too short.
This intimacy is only a foretaste of the invitation we have received from Jesus Christ. Jesus loves us so much that He paid the ultimate cost, the ransom required for us to have a relationship with God. He longs for us to know and desire Him as much as He desires us. Jesus is inviting us to know His Father as He does, up close and personal. Not just for a few temporal years on this earth, but for all eternity. Happily Ever After has nothing on this invitation!
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15 NIV
I have a friend whose 11-year-old daughter is fighting Leukemia. She was diagnosed last fall and now this little Lamb is having to go through horrendous chemo. One week in the hospital and one week at home for eight weeks. She’s half way there. All together her treatments will last 2 1/2 years (I think that’s right). At the end of her hospital weeks Mary gets mouth sores and nausea among other side effects. So much for child to have to go through.
Mary has one very important thing going for her. Her love for her Savior, Jesus Christ. Mary’s trust is a portrait of the faith of a child. When she’s feeling well she sings praise songs and her momma posts them on Facebook. When she’s not feeling well she vocalizes her trust for the God that loves her and holds her, and her momma posts them on Facebook. Mary is a modern-day Billy Graham, just by her faith, love, hope and transparency.
These are the kind of situations that beg the question, “why?” Why are the ones who love Jesus getting sick. There is no answer for us of course, at least not this side of heaven. There is no promise in the Bible that exempts us from the broken-ness of our physical bodies. Ours is not to know why. Ours is to be like Mary. Trust that there is good that is now and will continue be to coming from our faith in the midst of trials. Hope for a future with another view from the mountain top while we’re still exhausted from trying to climb out of the valley. Love our Savior unconditionally just as he loves us, knowing that no matter what we’re going through…. he’s been there.
Mary is always prepared to share her faith. There is nothing at all shy about her love for Jesus Christ, she freely sings it out from her hospital bed, from her home, from her heart. There is so much to learn from this little Lamb.
Heavenly Father, we try to have the faith of a child but we know that we fall short. We try to keep our focus on You Lord, but there are so many distractions. We try to love you unconditionally, but we still get angry when things don’t go our way. Please forgive us God. Thank you Lord for the inspirations to greater faith that come to us from the little Lamb named Mary. Protect her, please heal her, and continue to use this precious child to give us a glimpse of You. In Jesus name ~Amen.
14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her. 15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor (trouble) a door of hope.
There she will respond (sing) as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
I came to Guatemala in search of Jesus in action. I guess that’s the best way to describe it. Missions trips were something that Larry and I had always planned to do “someday”, but our “someday” was cut short. I first heard about this particular mission project last year when we went to church with Jeff & Amy Brandon, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Something in my spirit perked up when Pastor Jim was talking about it and my heart whispered back, “next year”. When next year arrived and we were moving to Allendale anyway, it was time!
As I said, I came to Guatemala in search of Jesus in action, or the real Jesus. The Jesus who got dirty and sweaty and reached out to help the ones in need. Something else happened along the way. I came face to face with myself. I didn’t care for what I saw.
Dan, the mission director, asked us the very first night if we loved Jesus or if we were in love with Jesus. Being in love is so much more than just loving. When you are in love your thoughts never stray from the object of your affections. You are consumed with them. You long to be with them every moment that you are apart. I love chocolate, but I’m not in love with chocolate. I had to admit that I treated my relationship with Jesus more like chocolate; it was there when I was hungry for it but otherwise I just left it alone. My relationship with chocolate was probably stronger than my relationship with Jesus. Ouch.
What I found in Guatemala was a woman who knew all the right things to say, knew the words to all the right songs, a woman who talked the talk but couldn’t walk that path because deep inside she was still full of resentment. How could I profess to be there serving the Savior that I love while my spirit was still gray with resentment because my husband was not healed of his brain cancer on my side of heaven. How human, broken, and selfish that is! God did not take my husband. He restored and perfected my husband and brought him home to glory. My life is still so full of undeserved blessings that I take for granted every day. Even simple things like safe water. I do think about that now when I go to the refrigerator for water that is filtered of even the chemicals used to make it safe so that it tastes good. A bathroom that can handle toilet paper and has a roof and door and seat…. A large house, not huge but compared to what we saw there it is a mansion! I have 4 sons that I am so proud of. Three of them have grown into amazing men. School for them wasn’t an impossible dream. They are all paying for their own college. Drew, Wade, and Scott… I am so proud of you. I love you more than you will ever know. I fall short in so many ways as your mother, but my love for you will never fade! The fourth is Noah, a gift to my loneliness. I see bits of each of his older brothers and his daddy in him everyday. I have the love of my husband’s family as well as my own. I have a steady income. I have the privilege of worshiping God openly without fear of persecution.
All this and more, and yet I still held so much resentment.
I set out to court my Savior, to fall in love with him in the days we were down there. I found Jesus in the work. I found Jesus smiling in the brown faces that were overjoyed to see us, to have someone care enough to reach out to them. I found my own heartbeat again. I found joy in the trust of a little girl who only wanted me to love her and hold her. I found that I could leave a bit of my heart behind and still be overflowing with the love of God.
The last evening before the flight home we had devotions that were a bit more intense than they’d been so far… and they’d been intense. That evening found me kneeling on the floor with my head buried in my arms on my chair, a river of tears that could not be stopped wracking my body with soul shattering sobs. My only thought was, “I’m so sorry, please forgive me.” That phrase rang out inside me over and over. My Jesus was there with his arms open, waiting patiently for the resentment to flow away from my heart, whispering to my spirit, “It’s time, let it go.”
I went to Guatemala to find Jesus. Jesus didn’t need to be found, he was with me all the time. I had to go to Guatemala to lose myself and fall in love with the One who saved me.