I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve said something and then heard my 25-year-old son say, “Filter, Mom!” In truth, remembering to filter what goes on in my head before it comes out of my mouth has always been a struggle for me. I tend to speak much more than I should in some situations and then not say enough in others. Often I’ve missed the blessing of hearing what others are saying in both instances.
However, besides the obvious fact that I miss things, what is the ultimate responsibility I have in my words? Are there consequences far greater than what I may or may not miss? (more…)
March 1, 2015 11:35 am
Message from my friend, Daniel:
“Joy, call me ASAP.”
I tried. No answer. I tried again, and still no answer.
I knew in an instant something had happened to my husband, Brent, or else he would have been the one calling me. I was praying my son, Blake, was safe.
The few minutes that went by seemed like hours, but finally I was able to talk to Daniel. There had been an accident at the Imperial Sand Dunes where they had gone camping for the long weekend. A bunch of them, including my husband and son, had gone, and five of them were in our sand car. My husband was driving, my son in the passenger seat and our friend, Daniel, and two other adults were in the back seats. They had been going up and down Test Hill.
If you have driven to San Diego on I-8 about 20 miles west of Yuma, you’ve seen it. It is the big sand hill just north of the interstate with the American Canal running along the base. Trips up and down the hill had been done hundreds of times throughout past trips. This trip, the third time down the hill and as they were making a U-turn to go back up, they lost control. The front wheel of the car caught in the sand and sent them flipping up into the air and over a large berm. They crashed down hard and rolled into the canal at the bottom of the hill. The water was about 20 feet deep.
Daniel said everyone in the car was able to get out, except my husband. They had tried to swim back down to the car, but the current was too swift, and they were not able to reach the car. I was praying he was able to get out of his seat belts and had just been washed down the canal in the strong current and was holding on to the edge somewhere.
I was in a panic on the phone. My daughter watched me. She was frightened and confused. I had to get there as soon as possible. It was a three and a half hour drive. I was ready to go, but I wasn’t in the position to drive myself and my daughter. I was able to contact friends to take me, and my daughter was able to stay with my best friend. It was a very long drive. I got a call about half way there that they had pulled the car out of the water, and my husband was still strapped in his seat. He had drowned.
I was numb. My only goal now was to be there for my son. Just as we were nearing the turnoff, I saw the severely mangled car on a trailer on the highway going the opposite direction.
Finally I was able to be with my son, and thankfully he was physically uninjured with the exception of a few bruises. They didn’t want him to see the car being pulled out of the water so they had taken him away from the crash site. He was in the RV. As I walked in, he ran to me. He was crying and scared. I held him, and I had to tell him his daddy was dead. His fear turned to anger. How could God let this happen? He threw his bible down. I told him it was okay to be angry. God has big shoulders and could take it.
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
The ride home was even longer and extremely painful. We arrived home and I now had to tell my daughter her daddy was dead. The only peace I had during this was knowing that Brent knew Jesus and he was in heaven.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Brent was kind and loving. He was a good father. My children’s earthly father was gone, but their Heavenly Father, has been, and will continue to be there for them.
Up until the morning of March 1, 2015, my story consisted of being a wife and a mom to an 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. I was a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a pharmacist. The list goes on, but just like that, in an instant, “wife” was swapped out for “widow.” I was a widow?!
We all have a story and this was NOT how MY story was supposed to go! Instantaneously and violently the pages of the story I had written had been ripped out and replaced. My story, as I believed at that point in time, was rewritten as a horror story, a horror story filled with body-trembling fear, chest-crushing anxiety, disbelief by the minute, extreme anger and any other terrible emotion imaginable.
Several days after the accident my son and I were talking. I asked him what he remembered. Did he remember being in the water and how he got out? It was just assumed that my husband had helped him, but if my husband were able to help Blake, I believe he would have gotten out also. Blake said he remembers the wheel breaking off, the car flipping and landing in the water. Then he said he tried to lean forward and wasn’t able to move. The car has five point harnesses which aren’t necessarily easy to get out of in a calm situation, let alone under water after a crash. He said he just wanted to go to sleep. He looked up and could see the sun shining down through the water. He said he prayed for God to help him get out of the seat belt. He leaned forward again and was able to get free and swim to the surface. He was wearing shoes and a heavy jacket so that made it difficult to swim. God immediately answered his prayer for help to get out of that car.
As I look at the original message from Daniel, for only the second time since it was sent, I am now two years into the pages of my “new” story. But is it really a “new” story? Perhaps to me it is, but as far as God is concerned, it isn’t. My story was already written specifically for me by Him. He knew exactly what was going to happen that March morning, every day before and every day after. We all have a story given to us by God and He trusts us with those stories.
God allowed the accident to happen. My faith and trust in God was great before the accident, but they have grown exponentially since. Looking back on it, I can recall specific situations before the accident where God was preparing me for this part of my story. People say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I believe this statement is true as long as you allow Him in so that He can help you handle it. I could not have survived any of this on my own.
This journey has been anything but easy. There has been extensive pain throughout, both seen and unseen, but with His presence there has been unexplainable peace, answered prayers, major growth, multiple lessons and blessings experienced. He has a plan for my story, and I will continue to trust His plan with all my heart.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
“This is not my life.”
“Those are not my children.”
“That is not my husband.”
Have you ever looked around at your life and thought any of these things? I mean, this isn’t what we signed up for, right? No one told us the day we walked down that isle or the day we graduated from school or the day we heard our child’s first cry that things would one day take us to the brink of despair.
That’s someone else’s life. That’s not mine.
But then one day it is. One day you wake up and all those women whose lives were battered by unfaithful spouses or lost children or sickness or death are suddenly not just remote prayer requests. No longer can you abstractly look at those sad and torn lives and feel sympathy. Now you are smack in the middle of empathy. You’re living it, and the only thing you can do is look around and wonder, “What happened?”
The truth is that if you’ve been an adult woman for longer than three minutes, you will have experienced these emotions, and you’ll experience them more than once. We were never promised a rose garden in this life, and for the most part, we realize that.
But sometimes it’s not just a weed-infested garden that we find ourselves in the middle of. It’s a pool of sticky, slimy toxic waste, and we think, “Nope. This is not my life.”
What are we to do in those moments? What does a Christian woman do when even getting out of bed seems abundantly out of the question?
I have recently experienced yet another of those seasons in my life as a woman, wife, and mother, and I was struck with these thoughts in rapid succession. Huddled in the corner of my bedroom, lights off, and curled up so tightly on the floor that my joints ached, the despair caught me almost off-guard. I wasn’t even crying correctly because I couldn’t breathe well enough to make a sound. I just rocked and gasped for air. And then my thoughts changed from “This is not my life” to “I have to fix this!”
Isn’t that the way we are? That’s how God created us women. We manage things. Paul referred to women as the “managers of the house” in Titus 2:5, and managers manage things. Consequently, our first instincts are to manage our situations.
It only took me a few minutes, however, to realize that I couldn’t manage anyone out of anything this time, and instead of moving from that realization toward Christian resolution, I moved toward anger with God.
“I know You think I’m this strong. I know You think I can handle this, and I know You said I wouldn’t be given anything more than I could handle, but I’m not this strong! This is too much!”
Of course, I didn’t actually yell these things out loud, although I have before. No, this time I screamed with boldness in my head. I really was confounded by God’s apparent misidentification of my supposed strength. I needed Him to reconsider.
Have you ever felt this way? Are you feeling it now?
I am ever amazed at our Father’s grace. I’m in awe of His constant and abiding love and patience toward us. He could have yelled back at me right then. He could have struck me down completely for my irreverence. That would have been warranted.
However, what He gently did was fill my head with these words:
Debbie, I do not ordain these things in your life to point you to your own strength. I ordain them to move you toward Mine.
You see, it will forever be our propensity to try and make things about us. It’s my knee-jerk reaction to bolster my own fortitude and figure things out, and then to be angry when I’m just not strong enough or smart enough or tolerant enough or when I feel forced to do things on my own. This is unfortunately an anger that when harbored will quickly turn into bitterness.
Indeed there are a lot of bitter women out there, and among them is no small number of bitter Christian women. Why? Because we simply aren’t strong enough, and truthfully, that was never God’s point.
Everything is about Him, and these times are meant to bring attention to Him, to His strength, His love, His mercy, His care, His tolerance, His grace, and His perfect plan.
What do we do as Christian women in moments of such complete despair that we can’t even breathe?
I was pouring out to a dear friend in the middle of this—which, by the way, I highly encourage you to do—and she reminded me of exactly what we are to do when we look at the life we now live and wonder how it all went so wrong so quickly. She reminded me of Psalm 121,
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
When you are on your bedroom floor and the pain is beyond your ability to bear, you do the only thing you can do, you do the only thing you should do, and you lift up your eyes.
Jesus told us in Matthew 11:28-30,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
There are going to be moments in these lives as pilgrims in this foreign land when we are nothing less than confused by the things that happen. We can become downcast in our souls over the heartache inflicted on us by the ones we love the most, and we will gaze at our circumstances with a sadness that feels insurmountable.
What do we do?
We lift our tired, tear dimmed eyes toward heaven and unto our Father. We rest in His divine and loving purposes. After all, we have a hope that the world does not share, a hope and an assurance that we do not serve a God who is an “absentee Father.” Our Lord is fully involved in the lives of His children, and He has promised us that He has a plan, a plan that will not harm us but will bring us a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) He has promised us that all of our lives are purposed for our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28)
So, my sisters, lift up your eyes to the hills. From where does your help come? Your help comes from the Lord, the very Maker of the heavens and the earth.
We’ve all done it. We’ve all invested time and energy into someone or something and then come to the horrible conclusion that nothing is changing. Nothing we seem to do or say helps them or changes them or even seems to reach them.
When is it enough? When do we stop hoping, stop trying…stop praying?
The answer is never. Well, at least that’s the answer if you’re a Christian.
The truth is that we never stop. Charles Spurgeon said,
We pretty much need to take on a snail’s view of prayer, too. Slow and steady, moving ever forward and trusting that the finish line is ahead, even if we don’t know how long it is going to take or how far it is ahead.
No matter how painful and useless our prayers and our efforts seem, God never gives us a pass on this one. As a matter of fact, the very act of persevering in our prayers and in our efforts is exactly what our Father requires of us. And we are to do so with absolutely no time constraints on either how or when He will choose to act.
No joke. This isn’t easy, but it is a fact. It has been said that a Christian is the only person on the planet who willingly sacrifices her present on the altar of her future. We have to do that on behalf of others, too.
This is often so hard as parents. It’s so hard to pray and pray and pray for our children, especially when they are in some sort of rebellion, and then just keep on praying as days and months and years go by with no change. Often it even seems to get worse. It’s certainly not that we want to stop praying; it’s more that we can get discouraged with God.
Why doesn’t He act? What is He waiting on?
These are difficult questions, and it gets increasingly difficult to persevere when nothing we say seems to make a difference.
I’ve experienced this with my own children, and I’ve often experienced it with the women I counsel. I get so downtrodden and frustrated with the lack of improvement. Eventually, I have to fight the urge to simply give up.
Yeah, I’ve wanted to give up plenty of times. There have been times when I saw a woman for years, every single week, telling her the same things and watching her heed not one of my words. I would think about changing what I told her. I would think about giving up, letting her go, telling her that our time had come to an end and that there was nothing else I could do for her. I’d get angry and frustrated and fight the drudgery of seeing her again and again, having the same conversations over and over.
Do you ever feel this way with others? With your children?
A friend and I were discussing this very issue the other day, and the example the Lord brought to my mind were His people, the Israelites. When God delivered them out of the hands of the Egyptians, He simply told them to go out into the desert. They would wander from place to place, knowing that the promise was for their land, but they never got much clarity about when they would receive it. The Lord only told them that they would get to it, but in the meantime, they were to keep walking.
“Just keep walking,” He told them. “I will bring you into the Promised Land. I will give you victory over your enemies. I will protect you as My people. You are to keep walking.”
As I thought about these exchanges, I thought about how they must have felt. We can sometimes be so critical of the Israelites. Indeed, they were a rebellious and fickle people, but aren’t we, too? I mean, think about it. They wandered around for forty years! Sometimes they literally wandered around in circles, in the middle of the desert!
And all that time, God never said, “You will see the Promised Land in twenty-two days,” or in twenty-two years, or in any time frame at all! God just told them to walk and that He would certainly do the work.
Why do you suppose He didn’t give them His schedule?
I’m pretty sure it’s exactly why He doesn’t give it to you and me either. If He did, we would begin to rely on the schedule and not on Him. We would come to expect God to work within the parameters of what we think and what we want rather than just obediently walking where He tells us to walk and then having faith that He will indeed keep His promises.
That, my friends, is faith, and faith is precisely the way we demonstrate our full reliance on a God who has given us everything.
So, we pray. We persevere for as long as it takes—for decades if necessary—not because we have to do so in order to see the fruit, but because our obedience and faith are how we demonstrate our love of and trust in God.
Why do we never give up? It’s because the work is not ours to accomplish anyway. Ours is to walk, just like the Israelites, because God has promised in His Word,
God is not a man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should
change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not
(Numbers 23:19, ESV)
Additionally, the writer of Hebrews reminds us,
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,
for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23, ESV)
So, we keep praying. We keep testifying, and we never change our proclamation of the Gospel. In those words are life, and God will do His work—in His time. There have been occasions where I got to see God move in the women I counselled, even after years, and how marvelous it was to know that I didn’t give up! But there have been times that I did give up, and you know what? God still does His work; I simply don’t get the joy of being a part of it.
And with our children? Sisters, persevere! The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, ESV) He will do His work in our children, too. We do sacrifice our present on the altar of our future, and we do so for our children, as well.
We know that what we see does not determine what will be, and we know that God is right in the middle of what will be! Hallelujah!!
Trust Him. Pray to Him. Have faith in Him. Even if it’s hard, hold tight to Him.
If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:13, ESV)
Why did the snail finish the race? The same reason we do. He persevered.
“By the time I was twenty three years old, I was a mother of three children, ranging from 9 months to 5 years old. I found myself living 1,800 miles from family, with a husband who traveled 5 days a week.”
As I look back now, I can see that I was really a ‘needy’ person… pretty much from the ‘get-go’. I did well in school, but I used lying, deceit and “illness” to get the attention that I craved.
My dad was a successful Kansas dairy farmer. My mom worked very hard to keep up with farm chores and babies, especially after her mother and her mother-in-law died of illnesses. Life on a farm during the Second World War was, indeed, challenging (ration cards, no indoor plumbing, no electricity, gas lights, and an “ice box” for a refrigerator.) Mom and Dad were good parents and also strong Christians.
I was the youngest of three kids born in 3½ years. The day before I was born, my mom cooked for 12 harvesters. No wonder my mom would say that my birth put her in ‘overload’! While she didn’t mean any harm, she would reflect on those circumstances, when chatting with friends in my presence. As a result, I came to believe that I was a big mistake! To make matters worse, my eyes were ‘crossed’ necessitating surgery when I was 5.
Then, when I was 12 years old, my family had to relocate to Tucson, for health reasons. I went from a class of 6 farm-kids to a school with 400 city-kids… just in 8th grade! That was a sort of cultural shock. I didn’t feel very ‘cool’.
As for my relationship with God, I had answered an ‘alter call’ and was baptized at the age of 5. While I believed in Jesus as my personal Savior, there was no fruit or power in my life. Church was mostly a social event.
Later on, I met my husband, Dave, at church. I started dating him when I was 14 and he was 17. We married when I was 16. I became a mom at 17. We were immature and under enormous pressure. Can you imagine that our life did not resemble marital bliss?
By the time I was twenty three years old, I was a mother of three children, ranging from 9 months to 5 years old. I found myself living 1,800 miles from family, with a husband who traveled 5 days a week. He was absorbed in his work-reports on the weekends. I was lonely and angry… and Dave was pre-occupied with his job. Quarreling was a way of life for us.
After a particularly bad argument on a Sunday morning, I picked up my kids and headed for church while Dave stayed behind. On the way to church I cried out to God. I said “God, you have to do something!” I had in mind something to “straighten out” my husband. God heard my plea, but to my surprise, His work was to be in me, not my husband.
I dropped the oldest two children in Sunday school and the baby in the nursery. I walked into the service while the congregation was singing the Doxology. I suddenly found myself reciting the first verse of 1Corintians 13 in my head. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” I had memorized that verse in VBS when I was 12, but had rarely thought about it since. I also had a vision of a tongue of fire simultaneously as I was quoting the scripture. I uttered out loud “Oh, God, you mean love, that’s what’s wrong, it’s me”! I was so overwhelmed I walked out of the service and went home.
Dave had left a note that he had gone fishing. I took my Bible, and on my knees with the help of a concordance, I looked up and read every reference I could find on love. In the next hour, God infused every cell of my body with His love! When I got off my knees to go back to church for the kids, all of my neediness had vanished and I was for the first time in my life satisfied! I was a completely new creation!
I waited for Dave to come home so I could share my experience with him. He was glad I was happy, but a bit puzzled about how to deal with me. Suddenly, sermons were spell-binding and the Bible was all I wanted to read! The smile on my face was impossible to wipe off. I was, in fact, NEW!
I have thought about how God has brought newness to my life. First, I’m sure our marriage of 46+ years would have failed before year ten. Second, my children would have not been exposed to God’s redemptive love from their mom. You simply can’t give what you don’t have. Third, God provided the power to cope with the new challenges just around the corner. God taught me to trust Him and rely on Him when I was REALLY lonely!
Rather than make things easy for me, God ‘upped the ante’ by giving me some real culture shock! Just two years after my extraordinary experience with Him. Dave was transferred to Madrid, Spain with his company. When he was traveling, I was left alone with our four children, ranging from 6 months to 8 years, without the benefit of even being able to make myself understood. I spoke no Spanish. There was no English-speaking church. I had no idea what I was doing in the European culture. (Remember, I was a Kansas farm kid!)
While this was a very hard, exciting, scary time… it was also a sweet time of fellowship with God. He was all I had to rely on! All of the normal props had been pulled out from under me.
Simply put, His love sustained me.
Five years later, we returned to Tucson where Dave returned to school for a graduate degree and I went to work for the first time in my life. Once again, there were many challenges; juggling family and work time, and intense financial stress as Dave struggled with starting a new business. I held onto the knowledge that God loved and cared for me and my family. I remembered how He had met me in my most desperate times of need, when I was hopeless. He didn’t choose to make the burden lighter; instead He gave me His strength to carry it!!
Our children are all married with big families (twenty grandchildren to date). All have found that the God who was faithful to their parents… is also faithful to them. They now share His love with their children and bless many others with their lives.
My prayer is that you, too, will find a need so great that you cry out to Him, so He can make you NEW!
I wish that the rest of this was going to be my take on all the songs that make me want to get down with my bad self, but it’s not. You see, I have an incredible life. It is full of love from my husband, my children, my family, and friends. We have the ability to be home together almost everyday of the week, and I have the blessing of home schooling my minis. Our needs are taken care of and we laugh. A lot.
But I got derailed. By that I mean I found myself withdrawn and had a difficult time finding contentment. I wanted to be anywhere but here, maybe start over somewhere new, just me. My husband wasn’t my most favorite person, I had been hurt by some people I trust, I had no patience for my kids, and I couldn’t seem to find peace. I was in one of the deepest funks I’ve ever been. Merriam-Webster defines funk as: a depressed state of mind. (more…)