. . . in the storm . . .

I remember the day . . . some parts not so clearly. But I do remember the storm. Strong March winds rocked the vanilla colored Volkswagon as we headed up the mountain. Dark clouds filled the sky, and pelting rain added to the already frightening moment.

“We’re not going to make it,” I silently feared. Only two hours earlier, Tom and I had breathed our marriage vows to one another, and were off on our first adventure. NOW a storm threatened to destroy our immediate joy. I was scared. Certainly I had been in other rain storms, going with someone, somewhere. But never had I been so excited in the middle of a big storm with someone I had only begun to trust.

Timidly, I watched my very new husband manage the wind and the heavy rain and wondered . . . wondered if we would be safe.

That was 55 years ago–today, March 14.

Storms rage often and everywhere. There are over 100,000 thunderstorms in the U.S. every year. Then there are the dust storms, the sand storms, wind storms, ice storms. Add to that the tornadoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis that bring havoc.

Today –again–we were driving to a get-away, secret place. And again, a storm happened in almost the same scenario as fifty five years ago. But I didn’t wonder today if we would make it. I knew this man beside me would manage the vehicle with the wind, rain and winding roads as diligently as he could. I trust him completely. Tom and I have a secret. We have chosen to walk this journey with the third person in our union, the Lord Jesus.

“What time I am afraid, I will trust in the Lord.” Psalm 56:3

So many storms these years–all kinds. It’s the tearful storms, the pain storms, the hurtful storms, the medical storms that can’t be managed or maneuvered easily alone or even together. The ‘nothing is working right’ storm. How do we survive those? It’s a storm Tom and I right now–find ourselves.

Storms are more easily endured when three walk together through the difficult times. “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (Amplified.)

John tells of an incident in chapter 6 when the disciples suddenly found themselves surrounded by a massive storm. Strong winds caused high waves in the darkness, and they were afraid. Jesus walks through the storm to get to them, to bring them to safety. “It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

I choose to believe that he is walking in the storm towards us this day and reaching his hand to save us from drowning. Even when the mud is too deep, making it impossible to lift one foot after the other, His presence is sensed even in the roar of the winds.

My regular readers know that I have been writing of this storm we find ourselves these past months; this is where we are. I must remind myself often that He is here, in the NOW, in the boat with us. Therefore, we continue to walk through these days with joy and confidence that God is indeed working His purpose out for our good and His glory.

And if you are going through a storm NOW, then know that He is coming to you in the dark night and affirms, “I am here. Trust me, Do not be afraid.”

. . . trusting . . .

(Rain was pounding loudly on the roof last night. I went to sleep, comforted–and didn’t post this blog ūüôā

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. . . fearless?. . .

The view from my kitchen window looked more like spring than January.  Families of squirrels  skipped playfully in the warm sunshine.  We were enjoying days of rare temperatures the first week of a new year. These furry rodents were taking advantage of  moments in the sun. They were everywhere, running through piles of fall’s left over leaves. You could almost hear their happiness.

Minutes later, I was on the phone and screamed in my caller’s ear. A red tailed hawk flew past the window with one of those playful unsuspecting squirrels dangling from its grip.¬† He stopped to rest on a nearby tree branch with his fresh lunch catch. The victim’s tail wiggled slowly as I snapped a picture on my phone.¬† (If you increase the size, you can see the tail laying to the right of the hawk.)

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I know. I know— survival of the fittest. The happy squirrel didn’t have a chance. The red-tailed hawk, flying 120 miles an hour to catch lunch he has spotted from 100 feet  is guaranteed success.

Is there a lesson here?  Somewhat similar to  being caught in the spider’s web, but different.  (see . . . caught . . . ) I have pondered the difference. A moth, a butterfly, wasp–well, they get too close to a ‘do-not-enter area’ of the web, and life is over for the unsuspecting victim.  But a happy squirrel is living within his own territory.  This unprotected soft rodent is an easy target for the sharp eyes and talons of a hawk.

Wonder why a hawk doesn’t grab an armadillo?

Nine-banded armadillo

The hawk has few predators. Neither does the armadillo. The only predator for this nine banded rodent is a man with a gun or a fast car.  This is nightly road-kill on our country roads in Tennessee.

“Be well-balanced, be vigilant and cautious at all time; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring, seeking someone to seize upon and devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 (Amplified)

Often we are as innocent and free as squirrels, romping in the winds and warmth of the NOW. . . and then. . . quickly snatched, captured. I watch the hawk with the now placid, once playful victim—barely a wiggle. This predator doesn’t eat its prey quickly; it subdues it or squeezes it just to the point of suffocation –and then devours each piece slowly.

For a moment I witness the large predator with the small squirrel in its grip, and I see me struggling to be free. The Hawk that devours me, you—always comes with warning.  After all, a roar is not silent. Too often, I am deaf to the loud signs. Till it’s too late.  Potentially hazardous talons of busy-ness, self pity, apathy, judgment and other devious hooks squeeze life from me.

Can I, can you live free, in the NOW?  Without fear of the Hawk, but yet protected as the armadillo. The armor of the particular species living around us can deflect a bullet.  But I don’t want to be covered with hardness.

Me thinks it’s a difficult journey‚ÄĒto walk in fearless trust. The next verse after the warning to be on the look-out for the enemy instructs one to be firm in faith. Other words in verse 9 encourage us to be rooted, established, strong, immovable, determined.¬† (Amplified)

WOW.¬† I can live as a squirrel in an armadillo’s covering.¬†

. . .fearless. . . in faith.

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. . . content in the impossibles . . .

I was terrified. One of my greatest fears is failing. Being disappointed in ‘me’.

So when a friend artist invited me to attend a painting class last weekend, I laughed, “I cannot draw a straight line. I drew stick people and little chickens for my children for years. That’s the extent of my creative drawing ability.”

She insisted, “You will have fun; I know you can do this.”

Inwardly, I cried, no, no. You don’t understand. I can’t handle more failure.¬† I will disappoint you and me. Why should I put myself in a position to fail. . . I need to stay safe. I was firm in my arguments to her.

She smiled, looking a bit stubborn, “I will not let you fail.”

Me, not fail. Now, that’s impossible. At this time in my life when I feel a failure in many areas, why, indeed, would I invite another one? Why would I intentionally add another¬† failure to that growing heap?

Fragments of happier days lived with a sense of worth and purpose shatter around me like dry leaves. The brokenness of our family colors most days black, a dark midnight black; it screams of my failure as a mother. I can’t even write a weekly blog. No, no, I will not add another defeat to that list.

BUT. . . I went.  Anticipating defeat.

Why?¬† Maybe there was a slight hope that I could do something I never imagined possible. No. I went simply because of Joyce’s words to me, “I will not let you fail.”

 

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I compare my first canvas painting to life at the moment. I believed totally it was impossible for me to have accomplished anything recognizable! I learned something through this. Which is really what life’s experiences are about.¬† Right? I did something I thought impossible. How completely freeing on this journey. I was overjoyed.¬† I realized an enormous victory!

Isn’t this what Jesus whispers to me, to you, “I will not let you fail. I am with you. I will never let you go. . .” Countless promises.¬† I read the words of hope, while negating each one with doubt. I had even¬† forgotten my life verse these past months: “I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He who began a good work in me will continue and continue until the day of His return—developing that good work, perfecting and bringing it to full completion in me.” Philippians 1:6 Amplified.

God is looking for those with whom He can do the impossible—what a pity that we plan only the things that we can do ourselves.¬† A.W. Tozer

Surely there are failures in life.  It is how we see and use them that matters.  Charles Krauthammer, physician, columnist and news contributor, paralyzed from his waist down for all of his adult life never let the impossible stop him.  He is a great example that any of us can accomplish the possible, even when many impossibles surround us.

A fear of failure paralyzes me. Maybe you. Fear blinds one to new possibilities.¬† I needed this Snowman!¬† I learned NOT that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13. This verse is often misused. It is a Greek idiom that means being content in any and every circumstance, not that I, nor you, can do those feats we are not gifted or equipped to do.¬† Paul is in prison as he writes this, and he affirms he can be content¬† because the Lord has promised to give him the strength he needs for whatever is before him. God will sustain him in the failures and heartbreaks of life.

This snowman whispered, “Barb, take your eyes off your failures. Embrace the goodness in life for the many, many possibilities in front of you. The secret is in being confident that the Lord gives strength for the journey NOW . . .”

. . .painting contentedly. . .

 

 

 

 

 

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. . . caught . . .

A recent garden guest has been quiet, unassuming— not disruptive in any way.¬† For weeks. In fact, we hardly knew she was around.¬† But there she was! Near the entrance of the front door.¬† Lurking, plotting to catch other visitors in her inconspicuous lethal strands.¬†20180831_062452 (1)

A large female yellow orb garden spider set up residence in early summer and lived quite comfortably until mid October. She produced¬† 2 sets of egg sacs containing thousands of little ones and faithfully guarded them.¬† This species is considered beneficial for our gardens, so I deliberately allowed her long stay.¬† I didn’t mind this silent intruder near the porch; her daily routines intrigued me.¬† As long as she snared flies, mosquitoes and wasps in her enticing grid,¬† she was welcomed.¬† ¬†I often observed her as she quickly wrapped and prepared each victim for dinner. She munched each bite with deliberate detail; she relished each insect.

But when I discovered she had lured one of my butterflies in her subtle web, I was furious.¬† No, no!¬† You can’t have that one.

Not my butterflies!  I wanted to post a sign at the butterfly bush warning of impending danger.

My last post three months ago expressed the freedom and beauty learned in the struggle of the butterfly.¬† Shortly after, I found myself caught in such a web stronger than this spider’s web.¬† The strands made by spiders are five times stronger than piano wire.¬† By weight, they are stronger than steel.

We are often blind to the web right near our own front door!¬† ¬†The tentacles that began to grasp me— quietly, unsuspectingly, even easily, were more cunning than those of our garden guest.¬† And stronger!

I wanted to run for little scissors and cut the butterfly loose that evening.  That would be impossible.  Tom said it was already dead because all life was squeezed from it immediately as venom was secreted when the binding process began.

Traps are baited for us at every turn, every day.¬† ¬†Fear, doubt, distrust, pain, pride, busyness, lust, negative words and thoughts–oh, the list is endless and different for each one.¬† How quickly we can be charmed into an unsuspecting web. Our GPS failed to warn of impending dangers.

The analogy of the spider’s web and our webs stops here. As impossible as it is for an insect to free itself from the invisible web, it is possible for you and me to be set free.

“In my anguish¬† I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.” Psalm 118:5. There is a process in binding one up, slowly, slowly when we are “caught”, and there is a process in being set free.¬† Much is involved in being set free, yes.¬† Beginning the journey of release from being the prey to freedom takes prayer and action.

“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” Psalm 25:15

A broken heart in a family situation, coupled with fear crippled me these weeks.¬† Added to this or perhaps because of— a physical condition due to my Lyme history caused my auto immune system to crash.¬† Too many sticky silken threads, and I was caught . . .

I love these words from Ginny Owens, a beautiful Christian music writer and singer:

We meet God in our suffering and either learn to trust Him or turn our hearts away from Him. As¬† I cried out to God with fear and uncertainty, He gave me more of Himself. I didn’t need to have the answers anymore.¬†

¬†Listen to her song, “I’ll Walk through the valley if you want me to¬† https://youtu.be/aaXxwFpavj4

Perhaps you are currently caught in a web, held hostage, wrapped tightly.¬† I do not allow Satan credit for orchestrating the sticky strands of mistakes, choices, habits or even a physical issue, to entrap me —or you.¬† But he does delight when a believer is caught and is unable to live in joy and confidence. He pulls the dangerous, delicate threads tighter, and often, we see no way out.

It is then we must discover a new GPS– Grace’s Present Sanctuary.¬† “God has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless (no matter the strong web you find yourself–my words here in italics ūüôā¬† nor forsake nor let you down. I will not relax my hold on you–surely not!” Hebrews 13: 5b,¬†¬†Amplified.¬† I love, love, love that verse in this translation!

If you are currently ‘caught’, please reply. I am a bit experienced in untangling the threads.

Becoming  free . . .

 

 

 

 

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. . . struggling . . .

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. . . celebrating the pain . . .

It has been two months since I have written.¬† Is it because there is nothing to say?¬† Or perhaps my day hours have been filled with grand and glorious tasks for others, and there is no time or energy for writing.¬† ¬†I know there are bloggers who develop a business on line and yearly earn thousands of dollars–even millions!¬† They are consistent, generous with gifts and offer something to sell.

I am not one of those.¬† I am surely not consistent ūüôā

I can only share my heart. A part of¬† life, and today, I share the pain. I have deliberately kept silent as to not be vulnerable.¬† T.D. Jakes says, “why do we work so hard to not be vulnerable?”¬† ¬†He adds that we spend so much time and energy getting ready for tomorrow while disguising ourselves in the present.¬†Why do we hide who we are and how we are breaking?

And too often we cry alone. . . (how thankful I am to share tears with Tom.)

. . . celebrate the pain . . .

Wow.¬† Now, that’s a novel verb for this situation in which we find ourselves.¬† Who would give anyone advice like that?¬† I found the following poem recently while preparing a study on David celebrating before the Lord when the ark had been moved to Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 6)

“Live in the now with all its problems and its agonies, with its joy and its pain. Celebrate your pain, your despair, your anger.¬† It means you’re alive. . .”¬†¬†Clyde Reid, Celebrate the Temporary.¬†¬† The entire poem is attached at the end.

I have never thought of celebrating pain. Have you? Celebrations are fun, happy  occasions.  They are parties, full of joy. Of more than a hundred synonyms  associated with celebrate, the majority are defined with praise. Is it possible to praise this season of pain?

Lately, I keep myself sheltered within a safe place. It’s easier. But oh, what I have missed.

. . . the Now of life.  When I cannot embrace this season of pain,  I have missed many now moments.  If I am numb to the pain, then I am also numb to the tiniest moment of joy.

Why are we so afraid to share our breaking hearts? We all have them. Or we will. Life happens, and we cry. We would rather read about happy events;¬† let’s ignore the pain. I encourage you to share your heart ache with another or listen quietly as they share theirs. May I add, don’t give advice–give yourself.

Today I will celebrate–the reality that I hurt. The fact that I am alive.¬† And I celebrate the Lord Jesus who gives life and joy in this season.¬†¬†I can choose to embrace the pain while praising the One who is still in control, who whispers His love in the darkness.

“My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” Psalm 145: 21

I dare not miss a moment of the NOW. . .

Celebrate the temporary

Don’t wait until tomorrow, live today

Celebrate the simple things

Enjoy the butterfly, embrace the snow

Run with the ocean, delight in the trees

Or a single lonely flower

Go barefoot in the wet grass

Don’t wait until all the problems are solved

Or all the bills are paid. You will wait forever

Eternity will come and go and you will still be waiting

Live in the now with all its problems and its agonies

With its joy and its pain

Celebrate your pain, your despair

 your anger,

It means you’re alive. Look closer,

Breathe deeper, stand taller

Stop grieving the past- there is joy and beauty

Today

It is temporary here now and gone

So celebrate it while you can

Celebrate the temporary

From Celebrate the Temporary by Clyde Reid

 

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. . . in which world? . . .

Hoof clops invade the morning stillness.¬† ¬†I watch the buggy pass the house, and I fancy I live in two worlds.¬† With the Amish–living without automobiles, electricity, running water, cell phones. . . no mirrors!

We live near a large community of Amish, the oldest order of this belief who settled in Lawrence county, Tennessee in 1944.  About 250 families have chosen to live here, but perhaps they only survive in this culture.  They live in another world, regarding the conveniences most of us use and enjoy as worldliness, the chief evil of life.  Isolating themselves from outside influences, they desperately  conserve the heritage of their past.

Am I missing something. . .

I listen a long time, realizing with each clop growing fainter that life, real life, needs to be slower, slower. . . slow.   My ears strain to hear the last sound as the hard wheels rattle a determined tradition of an old world.

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(this was my parking buddy at Kroger’s last week)

“Can your heart be in two places?” I asked Tom, one evening when we arrived home from one of our worlds into our other world.

“I think not”, he smiled. “You can’t for sure.”¬† He knows me.¬† Since December we have been living in two houses, in two worlds, every week–a hundred miles apart–one in Lawrenceburg where we retired in August 2016, living between cow pastures and corn fields.¬† The other in Lebanon near all the amenities of Nashville where Tom returned as Associate Pastor at Immanuel Baptist.

In our current living arrangement, I’m often confused in which place I am!¬† I know I had celery in the refrigerator–just not the one where I need it NOW.¬†¬†I realize I cannot be at home¬† in both places. I am more at home where heart things surround me, wrap me.¬† Where the floors creak ‘welcome home’ and memories murmur.

Some of you will remember the T.V. series, I Led Three Lives, based on the true story of  Herbert Philbrick.  He was a citizen of the community, a Communist, and a counter spy for the F.B.I. Not even his family, his church, his friends suspected his covert  activities.  For nine harrowing years, he cautiously stepped into each day frightened. . .

As believers anticipating an eternal home, can you and I be fully home in this physical world?  Should we be?  There is a longing for the other world, the one we call home. For the something more. . .

Our Amish community has found a way to live in this world but not be in it. John says in 1 John 2:15 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. . .” We live in two worlds, but which one do we love.¬† I wonder how many lives we lead in those two.¬† Tom and I joke about leading three lives these days.

And Paul cautions us to “not be conformed to the world, to the patterns of the world, to be transformed. . .” Romans 12:2.¬† I imagine¬† it may be difficult for the Amish to live simply, without conveniences — or not. Perhaps the pull to the other world is stronger than the desires of the flesh.

The words of the old song whisper . . .”this world is not my home; I’m just a’passin through. . .”

In which world are you living. . . NOW?

 

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