Faith

Love in the Circumstance….

Those who know me well know that my mind races from one thing to another million others before my next blink of the eye.  How did I ever get to the place where I could allow God to sit my bum down long enough to put this to paper?

It began in 2014, when Warner was so sick and I needed help.  I was memorizing Ephesians and learning, as if for the first time, the significance of the local church.

When I was growing up, my dad always served at churches having problems and needing an interim pastor and/or someone to walk with them through a difficult season.  We never really went that deep in our local church since we weren’t there as often as in other churches.  I grew up seeing the local church pretty much as the “sending agency.”

While I was learning about the local church intellectually, my church, through my community group and other friends, was loving on me like I had never known.  They were teaching me about the local church experientially.   So, at 56 years old, after a lifetime in the church, I finally internalized the meaning and significance of the local church.  I determined to give back to my church home.

Fast forward several years and here you have some of my grateful heart giving back…. I wrote this study for my church body.  As I participated in it through our women’s ministry bible study this year, the study members encouraged me to step out in faith and make it available to all.

That is my heart.  I long for everyone to know and experience God’s love through Jesus in real and tangible ways that result in undeniable transformation.   The Bible tells us to “be imitators of God, as beloved children and walk in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us (Ephesians 5:1-2).”  The issue is that imitating God and walking in love is counter-intuitive, it is something we have to learn…

Coming to know Jesus as a man and experiencing Him responding in love to the relational challenges in His life when He walked the earth as a man teaches us how we can imitate Him by doing the same in our own lives.  That’s the point of this study.  It’s a tool to empower us through the Holy Spirit to mirror Jesus’ love on a more consistent basis in our daily interactions, whatever the circumstance.

I pray that this study serves you well.  I would love to hear from you as you interact with it and grow in love along with me……

You can find the study on Amazon.com and get it by clicking the link below.

 Love in the Circumstance: Mirroring Jesus’ love in difficult situations

Peonies and such …

2018 05 20 peonyPeony. What a strange name for a plant.   it seems somewhat irreverent and just plain wrong to name a such a beautiful flower a word that you can easily string out to say pee-o-knee or worse … um, well, you get the image….

This is my first spring in my new home and lo and behold, this week there were 3 such buds on a small bush in my back yard.  By Friday, they had transformed into gorgeous lush pink blossoms in full bloom.  And the memories came flooding back to this time 3 years ago.

A friend had brought me the most gorgeous bouquet of peonies.  She must have cut every single one that her bush had produced, and she gave them to me to brighten my day, creating beauty in sorrow. Mysteriously, those flowers lasted through Warner’s last days and past his funeral. I must have admired them a hundred times over. Funny the things you remember so vividly.

Three years without Warner.  1,095 days. 26,280 hours, 1,576,800 minutes. I cannot count the seconds.  There are too many. I can’t wrap my head around such a number.

And yet I am still breathing. I get up every morning.  I do the day. Most nights I sleep.  The sun rises and sets.  The months go by. The seasons pass. Not even one of those seconds I dare not count has stood still or raced ahead or been lost in all this time.

Remembering the anniversary of the death of your beloved is so different from remembering that person’s birthday or anniversary.  Those dates come naturally, and with them sweet and dear memories of times shared together, events, joy, celebrations, laughter.  Those were traditions, planned and executed with longing, expectation, delight.  Even though there is a sadness to them now, there is also a tenderness that comes from thinking back to special moments shared together.  Not so with a person’s physical death. It happens once. That day is marked forever as an ending, with each of its moments burned in your brain with irrevocable finality.  Done and done. That date on the calendar reminds you of one thing.

Even so, peonies still bloom.  I googled the word today to learn a bit more about this flower that I had shunned my whole life just because of its name. I learned that the word peony is “a merger of Middle English, Old English, Old North French, Latin and Greek words, related to paiōnios (healing), from paiōn (physician), and so called for the plant’s healing qualities.”

The peony is known as the flower of “riches and honor. With their lush, full, rounded bloom, peonies embody romance and prosperity and are regarded as an omen of good fortune and a happy marriage.  The peony is a strong symbol of beauty, fragility and transitory nature of existence. Furthermore, they depict that getting great rewards is only possible by taking great risks.”

 Also, peonies rarely bloom the first year after planting. It often takes three years before you see an abundant display of flowers. Peony plants require little maintenance as long as they are planted properly and establish themselves; they do not respond well to transplanting. But once the plants do start blooming, you can look forward to a lifetime of beautiful flowers. They can live to be ONE HUNDRED years old!”

So, there you have it.  I think Warner would be pleased with my peony bush.  He had no problem with irreverence if it led you to a righteous goal. We shared years of good fortune and a happy marriage, full of beauty, fragility, the transitory nature of existence and great rewards directly related to the great risks he never feared to lead us through. And that comment about taking three years to abundance…  I sure do feel it coming…

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Happy Birthday Warner.  Since you’re not here for me to lavis016h you with presents, this birthday I’m thanking you for some incredible gifts you’ve given me since you went home to Jesus:

Finding joy in the ridiculous and being able to laugh at myself

There are days when I am 100% scatterbrained.  I can’t remember much of anything.  When something finally does come to mind, I have forgotten the reason why I was trying to recall it.  Of course, I am still very intense and focused.  However, it only lasts for fleeting moments!  Then I’m off to the next random thought, activity, conversation…

I have learned to find joy when, after diligent search, I finally discover my car keys in the freezer of all places.  Obviously, it made sense when I put them there!  I can see the humor in showing up for meetings on the wrong day and/or the wrong place.  It makes me giggle when I drive to Florida for the week, leaving my suitcase in my driveway in Franklin.

There are those days when I have it mostly together and am organized and on point like I was before Warner’s cancer…  Boy, do I notice, take advantage of and celebrate those!  At the same time, I’ve become less frustrated and more comfortable with myself when I just don’t have it together.  I think that this means that I am learning to cope. Or, to quote Peter Tunney: “I’m almost NOT crazy.”

The healing power of love

I seriously doubt that I would still be breathing today without Grigory and my close friends. They chose to carry me through and to the table this past year.  I have been dependent, needy, taking and not always being able to give. They have been gentle, giving, trustworthy in sharing the pain.  They have taught me love and I have been a willing student, watching, observing, learning…  Their consistent, untiring, active concern for me to experience their love each day has healed me more that words can express.  It is truly God moving through them into me.  We experience a fiercely strong and magnetic power of community that is beyond compare.  I am blessed.

 My pain honors Warner

At first, I ran from the pain when thoughts of Warner were so intense that they seemed to overwhelm and then paralyze me.  I would close my eyes tighter than tight, stand still and scream inside my head.   I tried every form of avoidance I could think of to keep from thinking of Warner, to keep from seeing and hearing him, to keep from missing him.   Warner was so stoic, pragmatic, unemotional.  I thought that he would want me to be the same in my grieving him.  I failed miserably.  I am not stoic or pragmatic.  I am emotional.  I needed release in the most desperate of ways.

A dear friend perceived what was going on inside me.  He explained that my pain of loss honors Warner.  I need to feel it.  It is a reflection of how much I love him and miss him.  I feel and react to pain differently than Warner did.  He loved me for who I am and would not want me to try to change and be like him or anyone else for that matter.

That conversation freed me on so many levels.  My heart does hurt and long for my man.  We were those “opposites” who attract each other and the synergy of our union was electric.  I’m actually hurting right now as I write this.  And through the tears, I do sense that I am honoring Warner, in my way, a way very different than he would honor me.  And he likes that just fine 🙂

Life Goes On

There’s a peculiar thing that happens when someone dies.  The rest of the world keeps spinning. Life goes on.  At first, I thought that it would stop.  Yet people continued to experience more than my husband’s death.  How could that be?  I couldn’t share in anyone’s joy.  For a while I couldn’t bear to look at facebook and see people having fun, getting married, having babies, graduating, and starting new lives.  It seemed so wrong.  Warner was dead.  The world was over.

Then I found myself waking up and smiling again.  Even my life goes on.  I miss Warner desperately.  Yet I also celebrate weddings and babies, graduations, daily life and vacations.  I laugh, I cry, I dance.  I have learned new skills – building bookcases, laying tile, fixing a toilet and a washing machine.  I wish Warner was here to share in it all.  Sometimes I still can’t believe that he is gone.  But then I feel the empty space and I know that he is.  Yes, life goes on…but not like before.  There will always be a “before Warner died” and a “since Warner died” in my life.  He will always and forever be a part of me.

The strength of vulnerability

In trying to comfort me when Warner was so sick and even after he died, people would tell me some version of: “You’re going to be o.k., you are a strong person…. You’re so strong you, I know you are going to make it through this.  You will grow and be a better person for it, etc. etc. etc.”

I did not feel strong then and I do not feel strong now.  Sometimes I feel weak and frail, even fragile. Sometimes I feel empty. I believe that I am the most vulnerable person I know.  I went to a counselor for help because I was so conflicted by what everyone said compared to what I felt.  This wise man explained that being strong doesn’t mean having it all together and “making it through.”    He said that strength is being true to your circumstance, not denying it, avoiding it or “dealing” with it.   Strength is walking through the difficult circumstance, present in mind, spirit and heart – feeling, thinking, doing, living and allowing God to lead me through the process.

This totally blew up my image of strength.  I am beginning to see that it is true.  I still don’t know how to respond when people tell me that I am “doing so well, that they knew I would because I am so strong…”  However, I don’t feel the tension between their words and my reality.  I am growing more comfortable and accepting of my vulnerability. I am who I am.

Letting go of expectations

I used to be the most productive person I knew.  I loved the challenge to excellence, the drive to achieve, the sense of accomplishment.  I pushed myself to do more, to be more.  I don’t live in that place anymore. What’s missing is my drive, my passion.  It is still on backorder.

This is not to say that I have gone into hibernation.  I still live an active life.  I’m just not willing to live it without margin.   I need down time now.  I schedule it in so that taking the time to breathe doesn’t mean going without sleep the next several days, struggling to make up for “lost time.”

There are only two things that I have done every single day without fail since Warner’s cancer took over his body and consumed our lives.  One is read my Bible.  The other is brush my teeth.  That’s it.   I am not obsessed on a daily basis to do more.  Sure, I tend to other things.  I continue my involvement with our church partner in Peru.  I trade stocks.  I spend time with my extended family. I plant my flowers and keep my garden.  Mold is not growing in my home.  I visit with my neighbors. I spend time at the lake.  I share in my discipling group, Bible studies, service.  I experience life with friends with whom I am bonded at the core of my soul.   It’s just different.  There’s no fire burning in my belly.

Have I lost my ambition, my life purpose in glorifying God?  No.  Certainly not.  The flame has not died.  It is just resting, recovering from the loss of my true love. I am living in “in-between.”

 What’s next

In this “in between” time when I am “doing” less, I am also thinking a lot more.  Since Warner died I find myself more focused on discovering God’s will for me and walking it out.  Certainly, when Warner was alive God spoke specifically into my life, guiding my individual sanctification process.  However, my course was based on a team model.  Much of my direction from the Lord was wrapped in Warner’s and his in mine.  We were as one, aligned, strategic, our vision as clear as God opened our eyes to see (and sometimes they were teeny, tiny openings!).

It’s all quite blurry to me now. God has not yet plainly defined my “next steps” as a single woman, as a widow.   This is especially challenging for me.  I am one who lives purposefully and intentionally according to a plan based on my internalized mission and vision.  Warner’s and my plan doesn’t work in my new world.   My mission hasn’t changed, it’s just that I don’t have an implementation plan.   Without the plan…   well, I feel pretty much like I’m sinking in bottomless quagmire.   So, I’m just “doing the next thing,” waiting, praying, hopeful.  I don’t think that this is necessarily bad.  I just thought that I would be further along after a year….

Oh, the options abound!  I’ve been given many suggestions and I have thought of at least that many more.  I could live in Peru, working with the CMA church in the Savings and Credit Associations.  I could finish seminary, going full time for a couple of semesters and be done with it!  I could move to a better suited house.  I could finish writing my book.  I could travel the world.  I could move to Florida and care for my mom.  There are so many additional options available. They are good options.  It’s just that I haven’t heard my “yes” from the Lord on any of them.  Without his favor, without his “yes,” any success in whatever endeavor would be short lived and dissatisfying.

Becoming aware of small acts of kindness

Living in a place of need, I have become hyper-aware of many small acts of kindness happening all the time, every day, mostly unnoticed.  It has become my mission to take note and celebrate!    I see them while shopping when a clerk makes eye contact or smiles and is friendly, when someone stops me in an aisle and gives me advice on a product I’m considering.  I experience it driving when someone lets me get in front of them in traffic so I can turn at the next light.  I feel them when a neighbor stops to chat for a moment, when a friend just checks in, when I get a “thinking of you” card in the mail. There is something about these small acts that is grand.  They are totally voluntary.  They come from the inside and overflow to the outside.  They are pure, given without agenda or expectation of reciprocity.  They are just a kind thought evolving into a noble act.  These “acts” often make my day!

Experiencing this has led me to sense more opportunities to share little kindnesses with others.  I get at least as much joy in seeking out and giving small acts of kindness as I do in receiving them.  They have become my secret, almost holy delight.  One of my favorites is when I see someone sharing an act of kindness with someone who doesn’t catch it (and folks usually don’t) and I let that kind person know I noticed.  It creates an instant bond and has started great conversations.

I’ve discovered that focusing on the positive actions take toward me and that I take toward others helps my perspective on life.  Sure, we DO live in a fallen world.  There is more evil bubbling to the surface than ever before.  At the same time, we are not without hope.  The Holy Spirit alive in us through Jesus makes us light.  As light, we have the potential to shine brighter as the world grows darker.  We just have to turn that light on.  I’m learning that turning it on in even the smallest of ways brightens the path, encouraging us toward the next step…..

 How it feels to be a non-person

When Warner died, some falsely accused me of wrongdoing, determined the issue was not worth resolving and wrote me off.  After years of relationship, they chose to sever our tie completely, to cut all communication with me in every way.  They have erased any trace of my existence from their lives.  It is a feeling unlike one I have ever known.

I had heard stories of what can happen when someone dies, that things can get ugly and people mean.   I just never thought it would happen to me.  My first reaction was shock and disbelief.  That turned to anger.  Then I moved to analytical, trying to reason how they could believe and rationalize their position.   I found nothing.  Now I carry a great sadness, I grieve the loss.

There is a bit of irony in this.  In 1979 I divorced my first husband.  I moved far away.  I did all I could think of to distance myself from anything and anyone that could connect me to him.  One of my coping mechanisms was to turn him into a non-person.  In my mind, he no longer existed in real life.  But this was nothing more than an illusion.  You cannot make someone a non-person.  They still exist in real life.

He found me.  He would call me, repentant and begging my forgiveness.  I always blew him off.  I held the power of forgiveness over his head, or so I thought.  It wasn’t until God confronted me that I realized the damage and the ugliness of my sin of unforgiveness.  It took me almost 20 years to both forgive this man and be forgiven by him.  I have learned the blessed sweet release of choosing forgiveness rather than bitterness.  I cannot imagine ever allowing the bitter root take hold in my life again.  It is deadly.  I am slow, but I am not stupid 🙂

So now I know experientially what it feels like to be on both sides of “non-personhood.” This can’t be for naught.  I am expectant of how God is going to use this deep hurt.  I pray every day it will be for His glory.

 Last but Not Least, or First and Foremost

Even with all these other important lessons that I needed to learn, I think that the most impactful thing I’ve learned is how little I know and understand about my God and how much more there is to learn still beyond my grasp.  Each new high reveals yet more grace.  Each new low displays mercy beyond my imagination.  I realize that the sum of my knowledge, the sum of my love of the Lord is but a drop in the bucket of His vastness.  But how precious that drop is!  And oh, how I thirst for more…

 

Holding Hands, Holding On…

warner and sandy holding hands 2I see Warner weakening. I feel him slipping away. Sometimes I cannot understand the words he whispers to me, barely making a sound. This makes his brows furrow with frustration. My heart sighs with the same.

Then he looks me straight in the eyes. He clumsily reaches for my hand and he holds it. We sit as he wanders in and out of sleepy consciousness. He kinda’ smiles. I thank God for the moment.

God knows that I need those moments. He is faithful to fill me when I am drained, empty, dry. I could not count the moments when the Spirit alone has carried me through my minutes, my hours, my days. This time at home in hospice care and out of the mainstream medical system is my most challenging to date.

Sometimes feel such a weight of responsibility. Even though I take just one step at a time, completely in the present,  I get weary and overwhelmed. Warner is totally dependent on me for every sip of water, every dose of medication. And here I am, sleep deprived, emotionally drained and physically sore from trying to keep him positioned comfortably and help him sit and stand. (Warner has a catheter, but for some reason he thinks he still must stand to pee, especially late at night and in the early hours of the morning). I am a mess. I ask God what was He thinking when He favored me with this circumstance. Couldn’t He have waited until I was more mature, more sanctified, more prepared?

Grigory comes and comforts me. He urges me to go outside while he watches his dad. We reminisce and talk and cry together. A friend texts me with a scripture that speaks to my soul.  Another calls me with a kind word of encouragement. Others bring delicious meals. Some come by just to give me a hug or to pray for me, with me. Some send amazing cards, flowers, gifts. I know we are covered by the body of Christ. I feel the tender warmth of their love. I am not alone. They strengthen me. They lift me above the circumstance. They lead me to my Father’s arms. I may be a mess but I am also a daughter of the Most High God.  I am full.

Warner is obviously in some degree pain that the medicines cannot totally eliminate. How could he not be? He has been in his hospital bed in the dining room since mid-April. He has tumors on his upper lip, his chin, poking out from his chest, all over his frail body. Although he may look peaceful sleeping in his bed, this isn’t a walk in the park for him. It is hard. He is brave.

When I come to him and tell him I love him, he says “love you big” or just “big.”   He says it clearly so that I can understand. He kisses me back when I kiss him. When he wants water, he says “please.” He thanks me when he is through. He is not angry with the situation. He is kind. I marvel at his character. He is indeed a good man. He is finishing well, with dignity and a peaceful grace. He is ready, eager to lean into his Father’s arms for the rest of his eternity. What an honor to share in this most intimate moment. I am most blessed.  I love him more each day. At the same time that he is slipping away, we are drawing closer together, to that place where joy and sorrow meet.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

Warm Rain

Dwater_drop_on_grass_203309uring this season of suffering, so many of you have poured your love into me just like a warm spring rain.  Cleansing.  Refreshing.  Comforting.  Life-giving.  You keep me from spiraling down in the dark abyss of isolation. You breathe life into me.

Sometimes it is through a cry, a hug, a quiet sigh, a good word. Sometimes it is a laugh, a funny story, silliness, some good natured teasing.  It may be a story to distract, a moment to reminisce, a task to accomplish. A phone call, a text, a visit, an email, a card – all coming at the precise moment I need them most.  This could be nothing less than the heart and mind of God, working through His people, working through you to bring comfort in time of need.

I have yet to answer many of your expressions of love.  Yet none are forgotten.  All are treasured.  My life has been forever changed by the way you have wrapped your arms around Warner and me, walking together with us during this time.

There are days when I feel like I’m in Rephidim when the Amaleks came and fought with Israel (Exodus 17).  It is as if I am standing on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.  God uses that staff to win great battles.  This time the battle is not against Israel’s enemies but against mine, namely fear, anxiety and self pity.  When I grow tired and so very combat weary, it is not Aaron and Hur who give me a place to sit and hold up my hands.  It is you.  You keep me steady and victorious against the voices that speak death inside my head.

Other days I feel like Mephibosheth, the son of King David’s best friend Jonathan and the grandson of his worst enemy Saul.  I am crippled and lame from a fall that was no fault of my own.  I am not standing on the top of a hill.  There is no staff in my hand.  Yet even so, you lift me up to the table.  You show me God’s kindness and compassion.  Along with Mephibosheth I ask, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” (2 Samuel 9)

Then there are days when I am the paralytic that you tirelessly carry to Jesus.  You remove all the obstacles keeping me from Him.  You bring me to Jesus, face to face.  It is your faith in Him that takes the necessary steps to bring me to Jesus on those days when I cannot move.  (Matthew 9, Mark 2)

I see how very weak and fragile I am.  I am poor in spirit.  I am desperate for more of God.  There are moments when I hold my breath and then literally freeze up.  The pain is sharp and deep.  I have neither the strength nor the courage to exhale.   But miraculously somehow I do.  It is not from my effort.  It is the Lord’s.  Oftentimes, it is through the strength that God has given you that you in turn choose to share with me.  This is the church at work in perfect harmony. It is not a building.  It is people, in tune with their Lord.

Thank you.  I know those words sound trite and common, especially in light of your extraordinary and rare gift to us.  But they are all I have to give right now.  They are sincere from my heart.

Perhaps you don’t realize the impact your words and actions may have.  Perhaps you think you do nothing, or very little or that it has gone unnoticed.  But the power of reaching out beyond oneself in the Spirit is immeasurable, no matter if it is one millimeter or one mile.

 Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth…. Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.  Hosea 6:3, 10:12

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God…. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.  1 Corinthians 1:3-7, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

 ♥

 

Tickle your fancy!

karina

The one thing that bothers Warner physically more than anything else is the loss of feeling in his hands and feet.  He has neuropathy.  I don’t think that I had even heard that word before 2012 when it became a side effect from Warner’s chemo.  It was the reason he couldn’t finish all of his treatments.  Since then, neuropathy has been an ever present ball and chain dragging Warner down.   He hates it.  It is what he prays most fervently for God to heal.

The official diagnosis is chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN).  This is an often irreversible condition that afflicts between 30 and 40 percent of patients undergoing chemotherapy.  The numbness is usually resistant to treatment.  Its cause is unknown.

I can’t even imagine Warner’s frustration.  How devastating it must be for this strong, proud and self-assured man to have to look down as he walks, to hold on to the railings, or to me.  For the most part, he has learned how to compensate so that other people can’t tell that anything is wrong.   But each time he has to ask for help to tie his shoes or do some other menial task requiring hand or foot dexterity he is reminded that his body is less than it was.   He feels old and feeble

My dear friend Heather told me about doTerra’s Aromatouch essential oil blend used for neuropathy.  In her diligent research to help us, she also found several massage protocols to use in applying it.

I began to massage his legs from the calf to his feet according to the protocol.  Now it is part of our daily routine.  As I massage, sometimes Warner tells stories from his childhood, family and career.  I turn the recorder on so that I can save these cherished stories to better remember them.  That man has more incredible stories than anyone I’ve ever known!

Other times he just listens to old gospel hymns. Sometimes he does Sudoku or watches TV.  I massage.  And I pray.  I listen to his stories, laughing, learning, understanding him more.  And I pray.  I sing along with the hymns.  And I pray.  I feel every bump, every muscle, every nuance of each leg.  And I pray.  Sometimes I cry quietly.  And I pray.

The other day as I was massaging his foot, he tensed his leg and jerked his foot up.  I asked him what was wrong and he said, “It tickles.”  It tickles?  It tickles!  We both just looked at each other and then laughed.  I tickled his foot.  He has feeling in his feet!  After all this time of suffering from neuropathy, we have massaged our way to a miracle.  It IS a miracle, a joyous, wonderful miracle.

His feeling isn’t completely back.  It is still less than half of what it was before “chemo 2012.”  But his walk has changed.  He can lift his head and look up when he walks.  He doesn’t have to focus on the ground below, deliberately plodding one foot in front of the other.  He can see the road ahead. He can look around while he walks.  There is a confidence in his gait that I thought was gone for good.  But it was just dormant, waiting for me to massage it awake.  It’s been a long time coming…..

Although we may not have visible neuropathy in our hands or feet, many of us do have neuropathy of the heart or the soul or the mind.  We walk around numb and unfeeling.  Our heads are down.  Our hearts are turned off.  Our minds are consumed with trivialities.  We are the living dead. Like Warner, we may hide it so that others can’t tell that anything is wrong.  But we know.  We know.

The only lasting way to come awake is through the presence of the living God in our lives.  It’s so much more than asking Jesus “into our hearts.”  It’s allowing him to be our leader, our life force.  We don’t know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power because we do not invite him to work in us.  Or we invite him and then put him in a corner, ignored.  He won’t force himself.  Yet He longs for us to come awake in Him so that we may experience the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

This makes me think of David and his lament in Psalm 17.  He begins the psalm asking for God’s vindication for the wrongdoings against him that have caused him such suffering.  Yet he ends on the other side of bitterness and resentment. David concludes with confidence and anticipation of eternity with God, awake and satisfied.

 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.  Psalm 17:15

 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre!   I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.  Psalm 57:7-9

 I am smiling right now as Matt Maher’s lyrics just popped into my brain: “Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave! Oh Church, come stand in the light! The glory of God has defeated the night! Christ is risen from the dead, we are one with him again. Come awake, come awake….”

Cold Showers…..

cold shower pic 001

I could not have been more excited when Warner told me we were moving to Peru. It was as if it was God answering a prayer I had never even dared to think, much less verbalize. It opened my mind to a dream I hadn’t taken the risk to envision for fear of disappointment. For the past 14 years we have served in Peru from a distance with occasional short term mission trips there each year. In many ways it seems more like home to me than here. But move there, live there every day??!!? What a strange and wonderful thought…….

PERU!! I love the people – greeting everyone with a hug and a kiss and a “Dios te bendiga!” I love their openness and lack of pretense, the passionate animated conversations, the heartfelt prayers. I love the sounds – roosters crowing at 5am, vendors peddling their goods through megaphones at 6am, horns honking, music blasting and dogs barking at all hours – the total absence of quiet. I love the way that folks add all kinds of color to transform nature’s dust and brownness that surrounds them. I love the crowded busses, the language, the food. I love staying up at all hours, carrying hand sanitizer and toilet paper in my purse, the lack of toilet seats. I love it all……except for cold showers.

I know, I know. I’m spoiled. But I really hate cold showers. From my point of view, they are brutal and just plain wrong. Understanding that it was something I was going to face, probably more times than not, I determined to conquer this one thing that I actually dreaded about moving to Peru.

Beginning the 1st of September, every morning I turned the water as hot as I could handle for my shower. I wanted to get my fill of hot water – enough to last a year or more. As I stepped in, I began my prayer time by thanking God for hot water and then asking for Him to prepare me to learn to love to go without it. My shower time was transformed into a sacred moment of worship. Totally transparent and bare before the Lord (literally and figuratively!) I used that time to lay down my weaknesses and lift up all my petitions, questions, ideas, concerns and thoughts related to the SCA ministry and each person involved in it in Peru. I used the time to listen to the Lord and really hear Him. My shower time went from a 5 minute “in and out” to over a ½ hour, by far the best part of the day.

Then the dream died. Warner’s cancer is back. We are not going to Peru. We are battling stage 4 colon cancer that is spreading throughout Warner’s body. I didn’t need to pray for courage to sustain a cold shower after all. That issue had been resolved. My morning shower became a time of crying out to the Lord, begging for the comfort that only the Holy Spirit can give.

A few days before Lent I had an “ah ha!” moment – I realized what I’m certain is obvious to everyone else. I didn’t have to go to Peru for a cold shower. I could take cold showers right here at home! My strong Puritan ethic kicked in and, of course that’s what I decided to do. The changes in diet and routine, the doctor appointments, chemo, and emotional roller coasters as we adjusted to life with cancer weren’t enough. I had to blow away what had become the best part of my day. I had to be the martyr. I had to suffer through, prove I could.

It only lasted 5 days. On two of these I actually didn’t shower and felt guilty all day. I was a grouch on the three that I did shower. I was a pitiful, wimpy mess. Until… I understood that during all those months of begging God to teach me to bear one moment of difficulty a day, He was actually preparing me for a figurative rather than a literal cold shower. He was teaching me the intimate joy and safety in bringing my weaknesses and limitations to Him, trusting Him to magnify himself in them through his immeasurable, loving, gracious power. And He is doing this, every single day. Great is His faithfulness.

God has given me an overwhelming sense of gratitude and awe in this season of sadness, physical suffering and mental duress. No, I’m not in Peru. Yes, my life feels like a cold shower more times than not. But I am learning to appreciate these “showers,” to truly experience  them and allow God to use them to do His great work in me through them.

What about you? Are you running from a cold shower? Are you about to step into one? Are you drowning in one? I encourage you to consider that they may be from God, part of His covenant of peace, “I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing (Ezekiel 34:26).”

Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit, let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the Lord have created it. Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, “What are you making?” or “Your work has no handles?” Isaiah 45:8, 9