Blink

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Photo by Denis Vdovin on Unsplash

LORD, what is man, that You regard him, the son of man that You think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. Psalm 144:3-4

I knew I hadn’t written in awhile, due to many life changes over the last year, but I had no idea that so much time had passed since I last sat down to write.  It seems like I blinked, and here I am.

My last remaining grandparent left his earthly body on the 4th of July.  He was 99 years old.  My youngest son and I had plans to go visit him and my parents, who live in another state, in August. In the Father’s Day card I sent my grandfather, I expressed my excitement to see him soon, but that was not to be.  Instead, on the night we celebrate our freedom here in the United States, he was set free from the earthly body that was worn and tired.  A night of celebration across the country.  Was there celebrating in heaven as well?

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make a profit.” You do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

My grandfather was a WWII veteran, and proudly wore a WWII veteran hat whenever he left the house.  The small town he lived in during his senior years is a military town, and they treat their veterans very well.  It was not unusual for him to go out to dinner and have his entire meal, including tip, paid for anonymously.  When I was with him out in public, I saw how appreciative people were, often stopping to thank him for his service.

Some of my best childhood memories include my grandfather.

He and my grandmother lived on a lake when I was growing up, and he would take me fishing early on the mornings when I was visiting.  He taught me how to bait a hook, cast the line, and wait quietly and patiently until we had enough fish for breakfast.  We would come home with our catch, where he would clean and cook it.  The two of us would eat our delicious breakfast on the back patio with a view of the lake.  If the weather was bad and we couldn’t fish, he would make pancakes, and he always had strawberry or blueberry syrup in the pantry.  Breakfasts with my grandfather are my favorite memories of him.

My grandfather taught me to swim, and tried, unsuccessfully, to teach me to water ski as well.  He taught me how to drive a snowmobile, and told me to never say, “I can’t.”  He hung a wooden swing with rope on a huge tree for me, where I spent many hours singing songs and thinking about life.

My parents and grandparents came to one of my elementary school music performances.  I was just learning to play the saxophone, the very one my grandparents had purchased for my dad when he was in school.  I was so nervous, and looked out often to see the familiar faces of my family for reassurance.  My father and grandfather both worked in construction, and my grandfather had been involved in the building of my school.  Throughout the performance, he kept looking up at the ceiling, proudly declaring it a job well done.  And it was.  If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

It seems that I just blinked, and he was gone.

Wisdom is found with the elderly, and understanding comes with long life. Job 12:12

My youngest son is visiting from overseas, and he will leave for a country in Africa with his father when the summer is over.  It has been a busy summer, but in the quieter times, I have reflected on how quickly time passes, and have been thankful for the Lord’s constant presence and guidance throughout the years.

It is not easy preparing for my son to leave again.  He celebrated his 15th birthday here with family and friends.  It seems like just a few years ago he was born, the dark-haired little bundle who was brought to my hospital room.  He was wrapped tightly in a blanket, and he wrapped himself just as tightly around my heart.

I blinked, and was in Mongolia at a crossroads with my ex-husband.  Would our young son, seven at the time, live with him and travel or live with me near family and have more stability?  I prayed and prayed, planning what I would say in my defense.  When the time for a decision came, I said not a word.  I could not, and need not.  His father stated that he thought it best that our son be with his mother at that young age, and we would arrange summer visits with him instead.  My heart rejoiced, even in the midst of the grief that I felt over our marriage ending.  I knew the Lord had intervened, and I was thankful.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I blinked again, and was back in Florida, where my 12-year old son was preparing to go live with his father in Barbados.  I felt like my heart was being ripped from me.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way!

God hates divorce.  The devastation that it causes was never meant for us to experience.  We cope, and God can mend our hearts, but there is still pain along the way that He would spare us from.

I struggled with letting him go, but in the end, the Lord made it clear that he needed this time with his father, and so I had to let him go.  It was agreed that he would return for the summers, but the Lord has been SO GOOD to me that He orchestrated it so that I have seen him multiple times over the last three years!

It has not always been easy, but the Lord provides the grace for everything that we encounter if we but ask for it.  He is our comforter, our refuge, and our strength.

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand. Psalm 37:23-24

I blinked again, and now prepare to say goodbye again as he travels with his father to the other side of the world.

He has grown in ways that he would not have here with me.  The experience of being educated in an international school has shaped him in ways that cannot be measured.  It has been a necessary part of his development and I believe this is all going to be used by the Lord in ways we can’t even conceive.  Although I miss him like crazy when he is away, I know this is God’s will for him, and that gives me peace.

Goodbyes are hard, whether we’re saying goodbye to someone who has lived a long, full life or someone who has not been with us long enough.  While we have them with us, we need to love them well, pray for them often, and keep entrusting them to the Lord.

If you are facing a similar circumstance, I pray that you will seek the Lord for His comfort and His peace.  I cannot imagine going through these trying times without His constant presence.  He is only a whisper away.  Talk to Him.  Let Him in the middle of your pain.  He is faithful.  He will walk with you and guide you if you but ask.  He loves you so much.

Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge. Selah Psalm 62:8

Friends by Michael W. Smith

He is Enough

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Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.  Psalm 36:7

I so long for the simpler, easier days.  I long for the days when my house didn’t need repairing.  I long for the days when the floors were easier to keep clean (though we love them all, we had fewer pets).  I long for the days before my youngest son went to live with his father in another country.  I long for the days when I was debt-free.

Those days were good.  After the emotional roller coaster of divorce and the slow but steady re-building of our lives, it was good…peaceful…and as I clung to the Lord, our relationship grew deeper and sweeter.

I look around me now, still in the midst of a house renovation that seems to be taking forever, missing my son more than I ever thought possible, and I have to wonder…what happened to my peace, and my joy, and my contentment?  When did they leave, and how had I not noticed their absence before?

Pondering this, I cry out to the Lord, “When did You stop being enough?”

The answer comes swiftly.  It was when my focus shifted from Him to my circumstances.

Ouch.

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31

Peter went from walking on the water…walking on the water…to looking at his surroundings.  He saw Jesus, Yeshua, walking on the water, and he did the same…until he looked away, and his eyes told him that what he was doing wasn’t possible under those conditions.

Did you catch what happened next?  When Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he began sinking, and when he called out for help, Jesus immediately reached out for him.  Immediately.

Isn’t that so reassuring?  What He did for Peter, He will surely do for us.

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. Psalm 42:5

The Lord fills our lives with good things.  Family, friends, pets, jobs, and homes are good.  We enjoy these gifts, and thank Him for them. If we’re not careful, though, we can allow them to become idols without even realizing it.

You don’t think that can happen?  I didn’t, either, until the word divorce came up and I was suddenly faced with the possibility of separation from my youngest child.  The Lord was so gracious to me.  He showed me my heart, and it wasn’t pretty, even though it already belonged to Him.  I had to give my son completely to the Lord, even if it meant separation from him.  It wasn’t easy, and I cried many tears, but I felt such freedom afterwards, and peace like I had never known before.  In His mercy and kindness, the Lord allowed my son to live with me for the next five years.

When we allow anything to take the place of our Savior, when we hold on to anything tighter than we hold on to Him, we err.

The Lord allows it, too.  He allows us to fret and fuss and become miserable until one day we reach the end of ourselves and know we cannot continue down this path any longer.  And so we repent.  We return to the lover of our souls, no matter what we have to let go of in the process.  His peace, joy, and contentment then return.

For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.”  Isaiah 30:15

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. Psalm 131:2

Is there anything you’re holding onto tighter than you should?  Is your focus on your surroundings or someone other than the Lord?  May I encourage you to let it go, and readjust your focus?

Jesus, Yeshua, is enough.  He is more than enough.  He is truly all we need, and in the end, our relationship with Him is what will matter.  Truly.  Call out to Him, and He will come, immediately, and stretch out His hand to you and rescue you.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Lord, thank You for Your patience with us.  Please keep a tight grip on us so that we won’t wander, but when we do, thank You for bringing us back and reminding us how deeply loved we are, and how freely You forgive us when we ask.  Help us to let go of the things that hinder us, or keep us from fully following You.  Help us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on You, for You are more than enough.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

A Sacrifice

“The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.”  Psalm 147:11

There are many great, deep theological truths packed into the story of the Lord asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac – about how Isaac was offered up as a sacrifice as a preview of what was to come when God’s Son, Jesus, would be offered up as the final sacrifice for all mankind. About how the ram was caught in the thicket, a substitute for Isaac, just as Jesus became our substitute when He died on the cross as payment for our sins. About how Abraham remembered and believed God’s promise to him – that he would have a son and that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky, even if it required the Lord raising Isaac from the dead. About how the ram’s horns were caught in a thicket, and sinless, compassionate Jesus wore a thorny crown about His head as He became the sacrificial Lamb of God. There are many more, the depths of which humanity can only try to fully comprehend. What is on my mind most right now, though, is Abraham as a father.

Abraham was told many years before Isaac was born that he would have a son, and although he believed God, 25 years had passed between the promise and the fulfillment. Abraham finally had the son he had longed for, the son of the Promise. Now he was being asked to give him up? His only son?

For the last few days, I’ve come across this particular verse several times:  He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Genesis 22:13

Is there something you’re holding onto with all your might?  You’re afraid to let go, afraid it will slip out of your grasp, and out of your life?  May I encourage you to hold it up as an offering, palms up, no holding back?  I can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to keep this thing, this person, whatever it is, but I can tell you that there is freedom in giving it up.

Sometimes the Lord will let you keep it. When I separated from my husband, our youngest child was seven. At that time, it wasn’t clear whether he would stay with his father or with me. It was already a very difficult time, and the thought of being away from my son, too, was almost more than I could bear. Finally, it came to the point where I had to just put the situation in the Lord’s hands and give my son to God – palms up, no holding back. I had to trust that God would do whatever was best for him, even if the best wasn’t me. The Lord was gracious, and allowed him to live with me for five years.

Sometimes the Lord will not let you keep it. Recently, I had to do that again. It was a little easier this time, because my relationship with the Lord is stronger than it was then, but it was still difficult, and I still cried a lot – not because I didn’t trust the Lord, but because I knew I would miss him so much. Sometimes I still cry, but the Lord is gracious now, too, even though my son is living in another country with his father. He is learning things that he would not have learned here with me, and experiencing the joy of being with his dad.

Whatever His answer, God is good, and He is faithful, and He comforts us and provides for us. He is our exceedingly great reward. He heals our hearts, and fills our lives with good things. He honors our sacrifices and fills the empty spaces. His ways are not our ways, but His ways are good.

Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.” Genesis 22:14