It Is Well

In a few days, it will be three years since my late husband died of colon cancer. As such, I’ve been reflecting on our journey these last few years. Lydia and I think and talk about Dave often. And, I consider all the ways God helped us and came through for us.

I’ve also been thinking about how we honored Dave’s life at his funeral. Dave had no preferences, leaving the details up to me. My mom helped me choose the flowers, and I asked my dad to speak during the service. I picked out the songs.

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I chose “Give Me Jesus,” because at the end of his life, Dave was still sure of his faith. Shortly before he died, when asked if there was anything he needed, Dave’s response was: I just want Jesus.

The other two songs were classic hymns: “Victory in Jesus” and a personal favorite, “It Is Well with My Soul.” They felt like anthems proclaiming God’s goodness and faithfulness.

Somehow, in the midst of my grief, I looked past my pain to believe God still had a good plan for me and Lydia…though I could not see or understand what that was.

These songs inspire me to praise and trust God…when things go well and when they don’t. First day. Last day. Best day. Worst day. He is constant. Just…give…me…Jesus.

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Lately, I’ve been singing a newer version of “It Is Well,” a powerful song from Bethel Music. Lydia was too little three years ago to know we sang the original (classic) version at her Daddy’s funeral. Nonetheless, it has been moving to hear her belt out some of the lyrics!

I am simply amazed at how far God has brought us. He is still with us, showing us the path ahead. He has never left me alone to fend for myself. God has held me close, a strong and steady anchor in the storms of life. I’m so thankful for His help!

That first year without Dave was a struggle, though each year has had its own challenges. At one point, I wrote down a set of personal statements, which felt like drawing a line in the sand.

I posted little notes all over the house, and declared them out loud, often several times a day. They helped me refocus on the Lord in my deepest grief. I still review them often!

It is well

Today, I am sharing them with you. I hope they help you, too, in your tough moments. God’s promises fill us with hope. Therefore, I linked a few Bible verses after each sentence if you would like to read and ponder them.

I trust You, Jesus.

Psalm 28:7, Proverbs 3:5, Isaiah 26:4, Nahum 1:7

Lord, I need You.

Psalm 9:18, Psalm 40:17, Psalm 72:12

I will wait for You.

Psalm 27:14, Psalm 33:20, Micah 7:7

You’ve never failed before!

Exodus 14:14, Joshua 21:45, Luke 1:37

I receive Your peace and provision.

Numbers 6:24-26Job 10:12, Psalm 29:11, Isaiah 26:3

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Do you feel defeated today? Perhaps life looks anything but well. I’ve been there. Yet, as my dad so poignantly said at his beloved son-in-law’s funeral:

You don’t have to have all the answers to walk by faith.”

You may be experiencing peace and quiet today, or tossing to and fro. Either way, take it to Jesus. Cling to Him in both the calm and the chaos. He is the King!

As you trust in God’s love for you, stand firm on His promises. He will bring You through with Victory. And, I pray that you, too, will soon be able to say: “It is well with me.”

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God, thank You for your loyal and unwavering love. You are so good. As we speak Your truth over our circumstances, may we rest in Your grace and peace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: When facing life’s uncertainties, do you turn to God first…or last? How can I pray for you today?

Little Drummer Girl

At home, Lydia likes to bang on her own makeshift drum—an old Garrett’s popcorn tin from when she was little. The popcorn is long gone, but it has provided hours of headaches entertainment in our house over the years. Ahh, my little drummer girl!

“I wonder what the little drummer boy’s name was.” –Lydia’s Christmas carol commentary

In the song, The Little Drummer Boy, the (fictitious) little boy has nothing in comparison to other gifts brought. Yet, he gave what he could…a simple song. In some ways, we are all like the poor little drummer boy.

God is the Giver of all good things (James 1:17). He has given us the best gift in His Son, Jesus. Nothing we can bring will ever match His glorious sacrifice. All that we are or ever will be already belongs to Him, because it came from Him. So we can only give a portion back to God out of what He already gave.

The value of what we bring comes in the form of gratefulness—humbly accepting all He has done for us. As any loving parent, aunt, or uncle understands, it brings God great joy when we praise, honor, and adore His precious Son, Jesus.

What can we offer Him in return? In Luke 10:27, Jesus said that we should love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. This might include your time, effort, or money (1 Chronicles 21:22-25). God loves a cheerful giver, and out of His own abundance He ensures we always have plenty (see 2 Corinthians 9:7-8).

You may not feel like you have much to contribute, but like the little drummer boy (whatever his name), we each have a gift to bring… And when you lay all of it before the King, He takes it and makes something good.

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The great news is that because of Jesus, we don’t have to stay “stuck” in our circumstances or grief (or any emotion). We can rejoice that God continues to work all things out for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Praise God!

In our brokenness, we become a vessel He uses to bless others.

Because we are all so unique, this will look differently for each of us. For me, this recently has meant bringing my grief to the Lord and then being available to talk with others in their pain. Helping others has been healing in and of itself!

For someone else, it may be caroling at a nursing home, visiting a prisoner, or feeding the hungry. Maybe babysitting, writing an encouraging note, or giving a hug is more your style. Be generous. It all counts! They’re all gifts to the One who receives it. (see Matthew 25:35-40).

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

Each of our gifts, talents and struggles will be different. But, we ALL honor the King when we bring our very best to Him.

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Father God, Thank You for Jesus and all the wonderful things you have given us. We can’t out give You, God. You are so generous to provide good things for us. Help us bring our very best to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions to consider: What are your gifts? How might they honor God and help someone else?

Oh, Come! Let Us Adore Him!

Last Friday night, Lydia and I attended the Phillips, Craig & Dean (with Shaun Groves) concert at our church. As I mentioned in last week’s post about grief, I had debated whether to go or not. This was partially because of Lydia staying up late…and partially because of my grief. In the end, I decided to take her along for a fun experience. I hoped it might get me in the Christmas mood, because I wasn’t “feeling it”…

Well, the night was amazing. These “singing pastors” have been performing for 25 years. So, they sang some older songs and their most recent ones. Of course, they also sang Christmas carols, like ‘O Come All Ye Faithful.’ I was glad I didn’t miss it!

Lydia had fun—I’d say her first concert was a success! I laughed when she asked, “Why isn’t Craig singing?” (I think it was Phillips…) 🙂 I replied, “Because they each have their own part, and it’s not his turn!” My cup “overflowed” with joy, and thankfully, I grabbed some Kleenex before the concert!

I don’t make it to many concerts these days, but I felt like God personally invited me to this one. That evening I heard one word consistently: ADORE. The Lord reminded me of a key principle—worship is all about Him. Lord, don’t let me forget.

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And to think: I went to the concert to help myself get in the mood for Christmas—you know, to celebrate Jesus’ birth… (Wow! I admit writing that makes my rationale much more horrifying!) Now, grief is necessary and appropriate at times. Even so, I need to keep my eyes on Jesus—not myself or my situation.

Worship is not to help me feel better (though that may occur). It’s not about getting something, falling apart, or keeping it all together. It’s not about the lights, music or singing. It is about giving praise and adoration to the King of Kings…because He is worthy. It’s about being in the presence of Almighty God, my Savior, my Healer, my Comforter , my Redeemer, my Deliverer…the One who makes ALL things right and new.

“Not to us, Lord, not to us but to Your name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1). When we worship God, we give Him glory and magnify His Name. Jesus is the Name above all names (Philippians 2:10). When I recalled how magnificent He is, everything else faded away, unimportant.

I was reminded of the ‘smallness’ of my concerns because Jesus is greater. I am covered by the Prince of Peace. Praise God for His mercy and grace! It was an honor to be there in the presence of the King. He knew just what I needed.

PCD_Dec 2015 worship

“Come near to God and He will come near to you…” (James 4:8).

Christ Jesus the King invites us all to come. Come and behold the One “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Perhaps God is asking you to make some changes and switch your focus today. Oh COME! Let us adore Him together!

If you’ve never received an invitation like this, don’t miss it. God offers a new life and a new perspective through His Son, Jesus. Will you accept His personal invitation? Oh come! He is eagerly waiting for you.

If you’re uncertain about God, rest assured. He loves you so much! I can be that friend who introduces you to Him! Leave a comment below, or connect with me on Facebook. I’d love to help you know my Friend, Jesus!

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God, You are slow to anger and rich in love. You are kind and full of compassion; thanks for Your mercy. You have the power to heal and the grace to forgive. There is no one like You, God! You reign forever and ever! King of Glory, receive our full adoration! All glory be unto Your Name! Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

This holiday season, I’m enjoying how ecstatic Lydia is for Christmas! She loved decorating her own little tree. At church, Lydia and her friends are practicing Christmas carols to sing in front of our congregation. Yay for sparkly dresses!

Lydia also listens intently to the Christmas carols on the radio and provides commentary. It has made for many interesting conversations. “Mom, is Jesus is the King?” And then, “But Jesus is not the angry king—that was somebody else.” (She was thinking of King Herod!)

Noting Lydia’s interest in Christmas carols, I decided to take her to a special Christmas concert this week. I can’t wait for her interpretation of the songs! Pretty much every song becomes Lydia’s favorite… 🙂

Though, I debated about going at all because this holiday season has taken me by surprise. I have been sadder than I expected due to a combination of factors. Most often, these things don’t cause sorrow. But sometimes, it just all adds up.

It took me awhile to recognize what I was feeling: a new wave of grief. It’s not sadness 24/7, but for me, it ebbs and flows. A dear friend prayed with me, validated my concerns, and made me laugh. Just getting it all out—acknowledging the struggle—was so helpful. Now, my heart is light again.

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Note these famous words of the Christmas carol, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.”
“God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy”

Christ Jesus brings rest, comfort and joy. He sustains us with His mighty strength. Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. What a relief!

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If you are finding it difficult to ‘be merry’ this Christmas season…

Take some time to reflect. Stop and acknowledge whatever you are feeling. It’s okay. Don’t run from your feelings. Allow yourself to feel the emotions (however awful); you’ll ultimately grow stronger. Each time, your heart heals a little more. Trust in God’s timing and love during this tender process. (see Philippians 4:6-8)

Then, call a friend. Share your struggle with someone you trust. There’s no need to bear it alone. Give voice to your pain; call it what it is. Ask God to bring His hope and healing. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7, NLT).

Also, take good care of yourself. Go to a special event, like a Christmas concert. Buy yourself flowers …or an orange poinsettia! Try this five-day Bible reading plan on grief during the holidays. Maybe take a nap, read a book, squeeze in a walk/run, or get a massage.

Finally, relax your expectations of the season. Celebrate those traditions that bring comfort, and hold off on the others. Keep it simple. Loss affects many people. You might feel better by helping someone else, so find a friend who needs encouragement too.

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If you are comforting a grieving friend or family member, here are some tips for you: Remember everyone’s grief is different. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it does help. Grief can come at the most random moments—that’s normal. Grief cannot be “fixed” but it’s invaluable to know a good listener. Don’t press them to talk, but let them know you care. Invite them out or bring them a meal. Given the freedom to grieve, the feelings of loss may dissipate sooner.

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God doesn’t expect us to have it all together. So receive God’s grace and come to Him, just as you are. You are dearly loved. He has good plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11)!

Remember: Jesus already knows. And yes, He is the King!

Father God, thank You for Jesus! Thanks for Your peace, grace, and joy. Wrap Your loving arms around those who need comfort and healing during this season. Help them perceive  Your presence and Your love. Give them rest as they wait on You to heal their hearts. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

A Preschool Pick-Me-Up

Lydia and I were in the car earlier this week, listening to the radio on our way home. She was energetic after playing with friends, but I was feeling depleted. I wasn’t quite myself, and the dreary weather didn’t help my attitude.

Soon we heard these words on the radio: “Jesus, He loves me, He loves me, He is for me…” Now Lydia loves the original “Jesus Loves Me,” but this one, by Chris Tomlin, is a new rendition of the classic song.

Preoccupied with my thoughts, I hadn’t paid much attention to the song lyrics. Lydia’s matter-of-fact statement snapped me out of my funky mood. “Mom,” she said with a sigh, “Jesus already knows He loves me.” I smiled at her misinterpretation. In her childlike way, Lydia was irritated at the ‘suggestion’—as if Jesus could ever forget His love for us. As if!

With a jolt, I understood I needed the reminder of God’s love. I hope Lydia is always confident in Jesus’ love for her and boldly proclaims, “Jesus already knows…” To remember He knows what I am going through…to know He cares…and that He is with me is powerful. I can be joyful because of His love for me!

(photo credits: Becca Albertson)

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For me, joy is found where gratitude, grace and peace converge. Giving thanks focuses my attention on God’s goodness. I find joy when I accept God’s grace in exchange for my effort and His peace for my chaos. Sometimes it just takes my preschooler to remind me!

This may be a difficult time of the year for you. I understand. Holidays can remind us of loss, as we miss loved ones around the table. You may feel lonely, but with Jesus, you are never truly alone. For me, it is bittersweet because later this week is Lydia’s birthday—her third one without Dave. Nonetheless, I will celebrate the beautiful girl God has given me!

I choose to rejoice in the small things, because those really become the big things! Lydia and I enjoy warm morning cuddles and making banana muffins together. We share silly jokes over popcorn, laugh at our ‘dollar store’ treasures, and pretend we can dance (ahem).

Similarly, I am learning to embrace a slower pace while Lydia is young. This requires making plans to rest instead of resting when my plans are finished (which rarely happens). This includes reading more good books together, instead of booking my schedule. I am thankful for the ability to do that right now because someday that will change.

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

True joy goes beyond feelings of mere happiness. Joy brings steadfastness in sorrow or uncertainty. We might not enjoy a difficult situation, but it’s possible to rejoice in the final outcome. My mom is a great example of choosing joy in the midst of pain. She is excited to undergo knee replacement surgery this week. My mom is thrilled to finally get relief after many years; her surgeon said her x-rays are the worst he’s ever seen!

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Joy may look different for you. But we can all give thanks for God’s love.

Give thanks for His strength to stand firm during trials. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Give thanks for His peace as He guides us on our journey. “You shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace” (Isaiah 55:12).

Give thanks for His presence along the way. He is always for us! In His presence is fullness of joy (see Psalm 16:11).

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Lord, thank You for daily reminders of Your love. Guide us with Your grace. Thank You for filling us with joy! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: What brings you joy? What are you thankful for?