Monday, January 23, 2017

Steady, My Heart

photo credit:
God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
    and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
    Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
river brings joy to the city of our God,
    the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
    From the very break of day, God will protect it.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world.”
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
    the God of Israel is our fortress.
Psalm 46:1-5 (NLT)

The Fog

One thing about living on our little hill, the fog shows up in all its glory. This morning, it was a complete white out. For the first time in my experience of driving in fog, I didn't feel apprehensive. I was cautious, careful, but calm. There was a strange peace about the morning as if the fog was hugging me. I felt the strong assurance that everything was where it should be, even though I couldn't see it. And by 11 AM, it was all clear.

So I was startled this evening when the glorious fog reappeared, in cloudy, swirling masses around the light posts at the mall where I was having a birthday slice of chocolate cake with a friend. It was interesting and mildly disconcerting to walk through the fog in the strip mall. We both knew we had to drive home in it, and I know that if it was so thick on these lowlands, what was it like on my little hill with no street lights?

I headed home, and as the highway gradually wound chill, the cloud got thicker and heavier. As I drove slower and more carefully, I began to worry about the drivers that were suffering behind me, because of my reduced pace. I exited the highway to begin the real climb, and the tiny glimmer of visibility I'd had on the journey so far disappeared. My attentiveness to the other drivers' opinions of my driving dissipated. My entire focus was on seeing what I could (Was that a deer??) and staying on track. After a few turns around the winding road, I realized that I  had missed my street! Turning around was impossible where I was (Who could see if the pond was over there and the woods over here??) so I continued at the painful crawl to the intersection with the street light, to turn around. Small twinges of uneasiness and, possibly fear played across my shoulders and in my stomach. Would I see my road coming back?

My Fog, My Clarity

The fog reminds me that I can't see what's ahead. When days are clear and bright, it creates the illusion of control and builds my dependence on my own skills. Those days feel really good. Therapies are working. School isn't calling. Kids are co-operating. The house is moderately clean. It's as if those clear days create a future prediction that I can manage what life brings. Then the foggy days come, and all the stuff I used to see clearly, I don't. I have to trust that it's still there even when I don't see it. My son is still the same incredibly beautiful, complex, philosophical human, in an uncooperative body. Nothing has changed. Except for my perception of my ability to cope. Perhaps my perception was false on the sunny days and the fog is the true reality. I can never see clearly. I must always trust that the Invisible God is in charge of the invisible.

I questioned my ability to get my car out of a parking spot that I had cleverly slipped it into, and my wise daughter, guided by the Holy Spirit, commented, 'That's future Faith's problem'. We left the car with confidence and attended to our current reality. Future Faith would handle it, with God. This entire week is invisible. Who knows what will happen? Well, that's future Faith's problem, and she will handle it, with God. And so will you. So steady your heart.

Dear Father, Thanks for the reminder that whether clear skies or in fog, the future belongs to you. You are my ready help, when I need it, resourcing me in the moment as life unfolds. So I steady my heart, and face this week, with you.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Urgency and Expectation

Hear me, Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
    save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
    for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
    for I put my trust in you.
You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
    abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, Lord;
    listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
    because you answer me.
~ Psalm 86:1-7, NIV~

I named my little kitty Indiana, after the famed Indiana Jones. She’s quite old in kitty years, about 18, I believe. She’s so old that every time she falls asleep I feel the need to check to see if she is still breathing. But even at 18, she’s still sassy and spunky and she still loves to eat. Her morning routine is always the same. She starts off the day, sitting to the side of the kitchen, head tilted slightly to the side, staring at me. And I know what she wants because we’ve been through this before.

As I go about my morning routine, Indiana scootches just a little closer.This goes on for quite a while, with Indiana slowly scootching towards me, head tilted to the side, staring in a not-so-subtle fashion. Do you know when it is that I finally stop what I’m doing and feed her? When she’s urgently asking for her breakfast. When she wraps herself around my legs until I trip over her, when she’s meowing so loudly I can’t hear myself think, and finally, when she can’t bear her hunger any longer, she stands up on her hind feet and sinks just the very tips of her claws into the fleshy part of my leg, clinging for dear life. Indiana clings only to me because she knows that when she cries out to me, I’ll meet her most basic, desperate need. Food!
King David shows us a model of prayer for when we are desperately in need. In Psalm 86, David cries out to God, urgently, for God to save Him from His enemies. He acknowledges his dependence on God, acknowledges his trust in God, he praises God, and he asks God for mercy from his enemies. He cries out to God because he knows that God will answer him.
Most of us probably don’t have enemies beating down our door to do away us with, but we do face struggle. Whether it’s work stress, or health stress, or loss, or a broken heart for a loved one with special needs, we all struggle. We want something more from this daily grind we call our lives. We all need to cling tightly to God’s mercy. We need to admit our dependence on Him, we need to believe, like King David, that God will answer our prayers and act on our behalf.

Are you hungry for something different, better in your life?  When was the last time you clung to and cried out to Him to act on your behalf? Did you get down on your knees and cry out to God for mercy, or did you stand across the room, head tilted, staring, wondering if God would hear your prayer? Did you go to Him with urgency, with expectation that He would meet your need?

Most Merciful God, I need You in my life today, but I have nothing to offer You except for my love and my trust. I am desperate for a change, for something different, something better; I need You to break me free of my struggles. Have mercy on me, God, and act on my behalf and on behalf of my loved ones who are struggling today. In the name of Jesus, Amen


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Preparing for the Flood

Mount Rose looking West as the third storm system moves into Nevada from California
Trust in the Lord forever, 
for the Lord, the Lord himself, 
is the Rock eternal.  
Isaiah 26:4 NIV

Last week my family arrived back home to Nevada from our vacation in Florida with just enough time to make a run to the grocery store for food and supplies before the torrential rains hit Northern Nevada and California.  On our first week "back to school" after winter break, our first day was canceled, the following two days consisted of late starts due to closed roads which had flooded and high schools being turned into shelters for evacuees, and icy roads as the temperatures were dropping and still more precipitation was falling. School was again canceled on Thursday and we had another delayed start on Friday. 

By most accounts, one would say that the flooding wasn't that bad.  But, Reno, and much of Northern Nevada seems to experience flooding on a sort of "decade-length" cycle.  After the floods of 1997 and 2005, they continued to try to improve on their "preparedness" for such a beating from "mother nature." Drainage systems were built into the newer housing developments and levees and ditches were reinforced and added.  

As we sang through our worship set today at church, one of the songs struck a chord with me... The Rock Won't Move by Vertical Church.

Here are the words that resonated so deeply within me:  
My hope is in the promise of Your blood  My support within the raging flood  Even in the tempest, I can sing [emphasis added] I'm hidden safe in the God who never moves  Holding fast to the promise of Your truthThat  You are holding tighter still to me...
The night before, my husband and I strolled along the Truckee River in downtown Reno. The river was rushing and high, still covering many of the walking paths, and still a dramatic difference from the trickle that was meandering over the bedrock two and a half years ago when we moved here during the heart of the drought.  I was fascinated by the idea of a ROCK and it's CONTROL over the rushing waters.  It directs and guides the waters around it.  IT does not move, the WATER must move.  

When God tells us to build our house on the rock, when people refer to God as a ROCK and a SHELTER in troubled times, it's because HE remains unchanged and steady even when the storms of life roll in and we are threatened by the flood.

As parents and care-givers of children with special needs, we can't control when life will bring us a flood.  We may often feel overwhelmed by a deluge of health issues, school difficulties, behavioral troubles and medical bills...and we may lie awake at night worrying about the NEXT storm.  

The one thing we CAN do is prepare for a flood by building our "house" on the ROCK...the only thing that we can count on to remain constant and unchanging. God.  We need to memorize scripture, even ONE verse can make the difference...repeat it over and over in our mind to keep us steady and grounded.  We must FLOOD OURSELVES with God's promises so that when the storms come, we turn to HIM rather than focusing on the circumstances around us.  "Even in the tempest" we can sing...

In the devotional Jesus Calling, today (January 16) I read: 
As you anticipate what is ahead of you, you forget that I am with you...Rehearsing your troubles results in experiencing them many times, whereas you are meant to go through them only when they actually come. (Sarah Young, p. 17)
That's exactly how worry robs us of today.  If we are focused on God and His promises, we don't have to experience our difficult times over and over again.  Going through them ONCE is enough, right?  So, let's prepare for the stormy times not by WORRYING about them, but by standing firm in our faith and flooding ourselves with God's love and His Word.

Pray:  Father God, you have called us to stand firm in our faith and you have promised to always be present with us, even in the storm.  Help me to believe this and proclaim it.  Help me to stay focused on YOU rather than the storm.  Amen.

~Tammie Hefty

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Is it Settled In Your Soul?

                                                                                                                                      photo credit: Josh Mckenzie 

My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from him. 
He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. 
On God, my salvation, and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. 
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is refuge for us. Selah.  
Psalms 62:5-8  NASB

I glanced up at my friend as she sat down beside me at church. We are both moms and caregivers for our adult child with physical disabilities. I easily recognized the familiar look of fatigue in her eyes. She leaned over and whispered to me that it had been a long morning. She was, however, excited to make it to church, even if she was a little late. I gave her a knowing look and a big hug.  

Near the end of church service, we stood with the rest of the congregation to sing the final song. A unique version of “It is Well” (You Make Me Brave - by Kristen DiMarco & Bethel Music).

As we sang my thoughts went to my friend standing next to me. I thought about how much she has gone through in the past few years and additional challenges in the last few months. Yet despite it all, I heard her quietly sing these words to the song, Through it all, through it all it is well...It is well. I knew it was not easy.

I have been there, where you strain to sing the words. Wanting to believe it, holding onto the hope that it promises and yet still the internal struggle. Near the end of the song she leaned over to me and said, “You know, it is well doesn’t mean what people might think.” I gave her a little hug, I knew exactly what she meant!

How do you explain to someone who may not comprehend how, in the midst of heartache and pain, that you REALLY can sing with passion, that it is in fact, Well with my soul?   

It is not a happiness or pretense that everything is great. More like you’re at peace in your spirit. That it is SETTLED IN YOUR SOUL!

Settled in your soul. Knowing who God is. Trusting him for strength for each day. Understanding HE IS SOVEREIGN gives us hope. Hope not dependent on circumstances. An Eternal hope, where one day there will an end to all heartbreak, pain, illness, struggles, and death!

When we know these things to be true in the very depth of our soul THEN we can say, yes even sing… It is well… with my soul. 

Some days may be more difficult than others but we can get to that place where it is Settled in our Soul no matter what!

Well then, how do we, during extraordinary difficult situations, freely sing those words with a deep sense of peace that it is well with my soul?

By surrendering constantly to Gods will. Believing he is God. Knowing he is in total control. Trusting in his faithfulness to keep his promises.

The real heart of the matter is that being well in our spirit and soul is not about us or our circumstances. It is experiencing His peace that passes all understanding even in the midst of overwhelming odds. It is resting in His love for us knowing that he cares for us. 

This is a beautiful song. Take a moment, close your eyes. Ask God to make it well with your soul.  

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for giving us hope. Hope that does not disappoint. Hope that endures through it all. It is because of that hope that we find only in you that we are able to say it is Settled IN our souls! I pray that you will bring that peace that passes understanding to each of us today as we turn to you and fully trust you and your will. 
In Jesus name, I pray

Photo Credit: Josh Mckenzie 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Having the Courage to Let my Child Fail

The righteous may fall seven times but still get up...
Proverbs 24:16, CEB

The mama bear in me growls, “I’ll protect my child against danger, disappointment, and discontent! After all, I want Bethany to be safe, happy, and occupied at all times.”

I think most parents lean toward making their child’s life lovely; beautiful, safe, enriched, and happy.

When Bethany was born with Down Syndrome, I took that charge to a whole new level. After all, isn't there more reason to protect someone who is defenseless and unable to navigate the depths of life?

As Bethany is now 16, and adulthood is quickly approaching, I’m constantly reminding myself, my job, my goal as her mom is to step back from “high alert protection mode” and allow her to grow up. Ugh!

Thank God, my awesome hubby, Jeff, has a different, more adventurous approach to parenting! Daddy takes Bethany driving in his convertible almost weekly. First, it was driving circles in parking lots, now its country roads. She’s driving about 35 mph and doing a good job.

Jeff is much better at helping Bethany grow up than I am!  I’m all kinds of nervous. I can think of every good reason not to get her hopes up that she will be able to first, take the driver’s test and be able to pass, and secondly, that she will have the ability to process the multitude of occurrences that happen while driving. Factor in crazy drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, drunk drivers, cell phone drivers, and fast traffic, and I could just about have a break down when I think about it.

But Bethany really wants to be able to drive.

Jeff is helping me understand that failure is not the opposite of success but part of success. Bethany will never know what she can achieve unless she tries.

When I try to protect her from failing, I’m crippling her future and undermining God's work of instilling perseverance into her character.

The truth is life is full of many failures that teach us to learn so we can do better the next time. Life is all about trying and failing, practicing and changing, and ultimately, growing in maturity. If I don’t want Bethany to remain childlike, I need to have courage to let her fail.

Bethany drives Daddy's convertible on a beautiful Kansas day!

“The work of trying over and over again” cultivates character and strength. Failing is the part of learning that leads to success.

I want Bethany to succeed and mature: that's why this "mama bear" is learning to have the courage to let Bethany fail.

Dear Father,
Help us to parent our children with courage and faith. Help us not be afraid of failing but see it as an opportunity to grow. As our children grow up, teach us to encourage them and cheer them on through their successes and their failures.In Jesus Name, Amen.

Cindy Barclay