Nine years ago today, I laid in a hospital bed unprepared for the news I would hear. “You have to deliver the baby today but he won’t survive.” Incompatible with life. Just a couple more weeks in the womb and the story would be so different.
We held our baby Caleb, remarking on his long fingers and fingernails, and how he had his daddy’s nose. While our eyes filled with tears we knew he was home in heaven. In those moments I learned the depth of a mother’s love and the depth of a mother’s pain.
The days and weeks and months that followed brought grief, yet hope, sadness, yet trust in God, heartache, yet faith. I had family and friends who surrounded me in prayer, hope and support. It’s called a Turtle Formation.
In Bible times, when Roman soldiers were under attack they would come together with their shields – as big as doors – and huddle inside with the shields facing out. The formation looked like the shell of a turtle. Each shield was so big it would cover one soldier plus the gaps on the sides between soldiers. The enemy would hurl flaming arrows, but the shields would extinguish them.
Ephesians 6:16 tells us that God gives us armor. “Take up your shields of faith with which to extinguish the fiery darts of the enemy.”
On days like this I remember Caleb, nine years in heaven. I remember the sadness I felt. I remember leaning against the tree by his grave praying God would bring him back to life. I remember crying in the grocery store. I remember discovering that Kleenex shreds into pieces on my tear-stained cheeks. And I remember the faith-filled friends who stood by me.
Every comment on Facebook, every heart emoji, every text, every card, every phone call – they extinguish those fiery darts the enemy throws trying to make me question and doubt. Friends, your words have helped me stand firm taking up my shield of faith. I thank God for you!
Do you have friends like that? Do you have friends who hold up their shields of faith to protect you when you are hurting? When you face struggles and temptations, do you have friends to call? I hope you never need them. But I know that isn’t reality. We all need people to stand with us in faith when our faith is tested.
Be the friend who calls, who remembers, who cares. Take up your shield of faith and know that God is good, He is faithful, and you can trust Him.
The New Testament was originally written in Greek, so oftentimes looking up the Greek word provides helpful insight in understanding verses in the Bible. John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Word in Greek is Logos. The Greeks used logos as an impersonal reason of the universe, a sense of purpose, holding everything together. John goes on to explain that Jesus is the Word, or the Logos. Jesus is the personal, reason of the universe.
The whole first chapter of John is an introduction to the identity of Jesus Christ. John tells us that Jesus is God (v1), the Maker (v2), the true Light (v9), the Son of God (v14), God the One and only (v18), Lamb of God (v29), Chosen One (v34), Rabbi (v38), Messiah (v41), the One Moses wrote about (v45), the King of Israel (v49), and the Son of Man (v51).
How can Jesus be all these things? Because He is God. God became a man, so we can have a relationship with God.
In this first chapter of John, we see the beginning of Jesus’ disciples. Andrew had been following John the Baptist until he saw Jesus and declared “look the Lamb of God.” Andrew left John the Baptist and started following Jesus. The first thing he did was go and tell his brother Simon Peter about Jesus and bring his brother to meet Jesus. That’s exactly our mission too – tell others about Jesus, starting with your family. Simon comes to Jesus and Jesus changes his name to Peter, telling him that He has greater things planned for him.
Then Philip finds Jesus and follows him. Jesus calls Philip to discipleship: a surrendering of himself to follow Jesus. Philip tells his friend Nathanael, who is not so quick to believe. But Jesus knows Nathanael before He meets him. Hearing what Jesus already knows about Nathanael, he chooses to believe, declaring “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
Before He meets them, Jesus knows the disciples’ past and He knows their future. The same with us – He knows your past – the good and the bad. And He is calling you to a greater future. Don’t let your past hold you back from living the life Jesus has for you.
Yesterday we went to the memorial service for my neighbor, Kathleen. She was a kind, cheerful woman, always smiling. We would chat over the fence about gardens and landscaping. She would hire Jack to pull weeds because he was trying to earn money for something, but then of course, she had to sit with him and teach him which things were weeds. Kathleen was a loving person, thinking of others even when she was facing trials of her own.
My neighbor is actually Renee, Kathleen’s mom. A few years ago Kathleen moved in with her mom in case the 80-something year old ever needed help or someone to care for her. But Renee had raised a dozen children, mostly on her own, so she rarely needs help from others. Kathleen was the oldest of the family. I asked her how she was doing living with her mom. She said “It’s wonderful! I’ve been waiting my whole life for one-on-one time with mom!” She always had a way of looking on the positive side of things.
But instead of daughter taking care of mom, it turned out that Kathleen got cancer and her mom was taking care of her. She battled for several months before being diagnosed as terminal. Still she remained joyful.
Psalm 139 says “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. … For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (verses 7-16).
When things don’t go as we planned, we can take comfort from these verses. We can trust that first, God is faithful. He will never leave us. Even when we try to get away from Him, He is still there to hold us and guide us. Second, the Lord loves us. He created us. He wants to be with us. The Psalm goes on to say that His thoughts about us are precious. God LOVES us! Third, we can trust that God is good. We may not understand His plans, we may doubt there are plans at all. But His word says He planned all of our days before we were even born (Psalm 139:16). No one dies “too soon.” Surely they die sooner than we wanted. But God had all of these days planned. There’s nothing we could have done to lengthen their life.
When you find things not going as you expected – when not if, because I’m pretty sure a time will come – I hope you cling to these same truths. God is faithful. God loves you. God is good. May you find peace in knowing your Creator is with you. And like Kathleen, may you find joy no matter the circumstances.
Yesterday morning I wrote about Psalm 139 and how all of our days are numbered, planned by God before even one comes to be. I often share those thoughts with friends who have lost babies, and so I thought I should write it down for others. Little did I know that a few hours later I would hear the news that it was the last day for my friend Heidi.
I knew Heidi from Bible study where she was a small group leader – my small group leader in the beginning. But her faith was contagious and she shared it with everyone, so her small group was becoming large. We split into two groups and my sister Cathy became my leader. Cathy and Heidi were good friends, which is mostly how I knew Heidi.
Heidi was a joyful, compassionate woman who lived her life loving the Lord. She was often at the front door of Bible study to greet people with a smile and a hug saying “I’m glad you’re here, friend!” And often tell me “I’ve been praying for you.” Although she said this to many people, it was genuine. I think she prayed for the whole town! Everyone counted her a friend. What a blessing her friendship was!
We call her death unexpected – and it was to us. She leaves behind a husband and four young children. But her death wasn’t unexpected to the Lord. I remember writing about Psalm 139 yesterday and how easy it was. Its easy to write something, but it takes faith to live it. Some might call Heidi’s death tragic, a life cut short. As unfair as it feels to us, its not tragic to Heidi. You can be sure that she is rejoicing with the Lord in heaven.
Heidi’s life impacted many people. I can’t even begin to imagine the number of people who will be in heaven some day, having accepted Jesus as their Savior because of Heidi’s testimony. We will all certainly miss her – her leadership, her example of faith, her compassion for others, and her joy for the Lord.
Heavenly Father, may You comfort us as we mourn and miss Heidi. May You surround her family with Your love and give them Your peace that passes all understanding. Thank You for being near to the brokenhearted. May You remind us every morning that today is a gift from You. May Your light shine through us to reach a dark world with Your unfailing love.
If you have ever tried to meet up with me for lunch, you would know the title of this post doesn’t describe me. I am often late… at least now I can blame Jack, right?
In the early days of our marriage, Jeff would yell to me “We’re leaving in five minutes for church!” Which was approximately five minutes after I woke up. Thankfully I’ve had lots of practice getting ready in a short amount of time (basically because I’ve done this my whole life). Then I’d get downstairs, Jeff would be standing at the back door, and I’d proceed to fill a water bottle, and/or make a chai, and grab a granola bar. Jeff still doesn’t understand why I always have at least one beverage with me. What can I say? I like to stay hydrated. And, I’d like to point out, that he often steals a sip from my water bottle.
While “never early, never late” doesn’t describe me, although I’m getting better, it does describe God. A lesson I learned most tangibly after having Caleb.
“All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before even one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16
All of Caleb’s days – 19 weeks 3 days – were planned by God before Caleb was even conceived. It’s easy in our human nature to say Caleb was born too soon and died too soon. No matter how old our loved ones are, we would be likely to say they died too soon. Before our hearts were ready to say goodbye.
Knowing that Caleb’s days had been planned by God has always comforted me. There’s nothing I could have done to prolong his life. His premature birth wasn’t a surprise to God. It was His plan.
Your child, teenager, mother, grandpa didn’t die too soon. They had lived every day God has given them. Although we can question and wonder why God would allow children to die, we know that heaven is way better than earth. Our hearts may hurt and long for them, but they are experiencing more joy than we can imagine.
I wonder how many days God has planned for me. And for you. Every day really is a gift from Him. May you find peace, comfort, and joy knowing that the God who created you has planned your days and loves you more than you can imagine.
When I was on bed rest several friends, acquaintances, even strangers – very nice strangers – signed up to bring dinner over. It was wonderful! One of these nice strangers has become a friend from my Bible study. She had brought Greek food, and while I’m not a very adventurous eater, I loved it! Last week I was thinking I should make what she had made us, but my knowledge of Greek food is so little I didn’t even know what to google (I guess you could say “it’s all Greek to me!” Ha!)
So I emailed my friend explaining my conundrum and she promised to bring recipes to Bible study. (My friend will remain nameless just in case she’s not this nice to everyone). Bible study mornings can be kind of busy for me between making sure Jack is taken care of in the nursery and practicing music with the band. This particular morning my friend had to leave early so she hands me a bag and says “I’ll email you about the book.”
I open the bag after study and pull out The South Beach Diet book. Most people may think a diet book… what is she trying to tell me?! Which is why I received an email from her later with the subject line “I did NOT give you a diet book!” I wasn’t offended. Not only did she buy me a cookbook with the recipes I wanted, but she went through and flagged her family’s favorite meals! She’s pretty amazing.
It was like a strange giveaway at bible study that week because I also received a reminder card to hang in the shower about breast self-exams to prevent breast cancer. [Other weeks I’ve received a gingham print children’s chair with “Jackson” embroidered on it, as well as a small bag with “Jack” embroidered which has come in handy to tote around Jack’s toys and food! Both passed down to us from an older Jackson and Jack. It’s so great!]
Oh yeah, and it was also a great lesson… praising God even in the midst of our suffering. When you’re going through a hard time, it’s like you have a checklist: talk to friends, read self-help book, eventually pray … But praise God. Thank God even for the hard time you’re going through. It doesn’t seem natural.
When we fix our eyes on the Author of our faith, the Sustainer of the universe, Creator of the world, Lover of our souls, we realize He does have a plan and as much as we dislike what is currently happening we can trust Him. This horrible thing in our life didn’t surprise the Lord. It hasn’t caught Him off guard. It has been woven into His perfect plan, with perfect timing, in our life and He will work all things together for us who love Him and are called to His purpose (Romans 8:28). I wonder what bible study will be like tomorrow!
I’ve found recently there are several things I both love and hate simultaneously. I’ve been making a mental list in preparation for this blog.
1. Jack will be fussy late afternoon despite my fun and creative playing with him. Then Jeff walks through the door and Jack smiles and cheers like he’s been a perfect little boy. Love It: Jeff’s a great dad and I’m glad Jack is happy to see him. Hate It: what’s wrong with playing with me?
2. In the middle of the night Jack sometimes cries. As soon as I pick him up he is quiet and asleep in my arms. Love It: Jack is so cute and cuddly when he is asleep! Hate It: I had to get out of bed and walk on a cold floor.
Jack cuddling with Mama because he wouldn’t sleep in his crib. Another Love/Hate.
3. When Jack and I arrive to see family, or friends, or Bible study. People immediately greet Jack. It takes about half an hour later for them to say hi to me. Love It: Jack is so cute and fun and smiles when he sees you, not to mention he’s changing everyday, so it makes sense people would greet him more. Hate It: You know Jack wouldn’t be here visiting you unless I had driven him over 😉
4. Usually Jack is with me at the grocery store. He sits in the cart like a little big boy and smiles at everyone we see, especially those of grandparent-age. People smile back, tell me how adorable he is, and often we are in conversation for a few minutes. Shopping without Jack is quicker, but less friendly. People aren’t as forgiving when you almost run into them with your cart. Love It: I enjoy showing Jack off and getting into conversations with strangers. I think Jack brightens people’s days. Hate It: I can brighten people’s days too. I smile. Just smile back once in awhile.
5. Sometimes I worry about Jack: what he’s eating, who can babysit him, what he’s going to be like when he grows up, he’s going to grow up and not be in my arms anymore. But continually God is reminding me that He is in control – not me, as much as I think I am often. God holds Jack in His hands. His purposes are greater than I can imagine. I can trust the Lord with everything, including my precious Jack. Love It: My faith is growing as I learn to let go of my concerns and realize that God cares and God is in control. Hate It: I don’t want to worry. I know I have to continually surrender my cares to God.
“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)
“Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders— He’ll carry your load, He’ll help you out. He’ll never let good people topple into ruin. But you, God, will throw the others into a muddy bog, Cut the lifespan of assassins and traitors in half. And I trust in you.” Psalm 55:22-23 (The Message)
A newsletter from our hospital just arrived in the mail. I glanced through the articles and my eyes stopped at “Patients Learn to Face Down Anxiety.” Sounds interesting. An anxiety cure has been found…
A patient in the program explains, “Instead of trying to eliminate your negative thoughts, you accept that you have them.” Maybe that will work from time to time, but I have a better solution.
Resist the negative thoughts. Instead think about “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things… And the God of peacewill be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).
With you. What’s the cause of most anxiety? Letting negative thoughts consume you, thinking you’re in control, the only one who cares, the only one who can do anything about it. But you’re wrong. I think somewhere deep inside we know that we can’t fix everything. We can’t protect our loved ones from every sickness, bully, bad grade, or injury. We can’t keep them alive, or keep them home, or keep them from losing their job. As much as we may try, we can’t do a lot of things. We don’t run the world.
Good thing. We would make a lot of mistakes.
The Lord – who does rule the world, whether we want Him to or not – The Lord is with us. If we think how He directs us, we will have peace not anxiety.
The next time you’re on the verge of anxiety or worry or fear, pray. Pray to the God who is with you, who holds your cares in His hand, who loves you more than you can comprehend. Pray to the One who is able to do more than all you ask or imagine.
“Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things… And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).
I’ve been reading Mended by Angie Smith whenever Jack falls asleep in the car. It’s perfect for a “car book” because it has short, devotional-like chapters. A few chapters about Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples, helped me see his faith that acts immediately.
Peter was a fisherman. One day Jesus walked by and said “follow me” and Peter went immediately.
When Mary Magdalene said Jesus wasn’t in the tomb, most of the disciples stood around wondering how this could be. Peter ran to the tomb immediately.
But my favorite example of Peter’s faith is walking on water. The disciples are in the boat out on the sea but Jesus had stayed behind. Now in the dark of night, Jesus comes to the boat walking on water. The disciples weren’t sure who it was, so Peter challenges in faith, “If its You, Lord, tell me to come to You on the water.” Jesus says come and Peter steps out of the boat.
He steps out of the boat –
into deep water
in the dark
out of the comfort of his boat and friends
trusting Jesus has the power to keep Peter walking on top of the sea.
And it works. Peter walks on water with Jesus! Then he looks around and gets scared. Peter sees the waves and the water. He realizes what he’s done and he gets scared. Even though Jesus had already proved Peter could walk on water.
Peter starts to sink. He calls out “Lord save me!” Immediately Jesus reaches out and grabs him.
Peter was the only disciple bold enough to believe Jesus – in the darkness, the wind, the waves, the middle of the sea – and therefore he was the only disciple to walk on water. Are you sitting in the boat with your friends, comfortable, unwilling and unwanting to boldly trust God to do the impossible?
As far as we know the other disciples weren’t punished for not walking on water. But I think they missed out on a miracle. A blessing. A gift.
Or are you walking on water but nervous about the wind and waves around you? Trust The Lord. Cry out to Him like Peter did – Lord save me – and know that He will. “Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and grabbed him. ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat the wind died down. Those in the boat worshipped Him and said ‘Truly You are the Son of God.'”
The story of Jesus and Peter walking on water can be found in Matthew 14.