Saturday, July 18, 2015

#15 Who Can You Trust?

Have you ever struggled with trust; trusting others? even trusting yourself, your own thinking, your own judgement for your walk in life? I sure have.

Trust. What is trust?  According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, trust is a noun, meaning belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.

1a. Assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.
1b. One in which confidence is placed.
2a. Dependence on something future or contingent; hope.
5a. (1) A charge or duty imposed in faith or confidence or as a condition of some relationship.
5a. (2) Something committed or entrusted to one to be used or cared for in the interest of another.
5c. Care, custody.
Some applicable synonyms: confidence, credence, faith, stock.
Is there anyone or anything that can be trusted to the fullest extent as defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary?  I believe we all fail at some point; fall short.  If you look at reliable, how many times have you been late or forgotten an appointment or promise you made?

How about good?  Who is really good; the person that gives money to the poor? How about the person that pays all their bills or keeps all their commitments?  Haven’t you had bad thoughts? Haven’t you judged people without knowing the whole story and come to find out later that you were wrong and thank goodness you didn’t say it out loud to anyone?

I find that little children can be very honest.  They say the cutest things and sometimes they are brutally perceptive. They have no boundaries or filters so they say what’s on their minds or say what they see. I had a cup of coffee at home one morning. I did not brush my teeth or use a mint before getting to work.  I was working with my autistic student, showing him how to say a word that started with the “th” sound. As I blew through my teeth and air made its way to him, he turned his head and placed his hand over his nose. “Well!” I said to myself. But I can trust that child to make sure I knew I need to take care of that coffee breath. I have, since then, kept mints in my pocket, in my car, in my purse, and in my backpack.

I don’t know if I would appreciate an adult telling me my breath is unpleasant, though I would rather know so that I am not inflicting odorous pain on people. But then can I trust the motives of someone who seems to want to help me but then I find that my feelings are obviously hurt?

As a human race, we cannot be trusted, as the word trust is described in the dictionary. We are not 100% reliable, good, or honest. Our actions may have secret motives that are self-seeking. Our actions may be of the “pat me on the back” kind, not humble and not selfless.  We can be trusted one day, but not the next. Our out-of-control emotions may dictate whether we can be trusted to follow through on a commitment made in the heat of the moment.

There is only one that can be trusted to the complete full meaning of trust and is worthy of our trust, and that is God.  When we live like Jesus lived, full of the Holy Spirit, we can know where we are going in this life. We know that God will not lead us astray and that He can be trusted with our lives. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

God doesn’t abandon us. When life strikes us down; when others fail us; when we have wronged those that we care about, He is good. He can be trusted to help us when we cry out to Him. Psalm 9:10 says “Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You.” And Psalm 22:8 says “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let Him deliver him, since he delights in Him.”

I see good people, who I have trusted and cared about, make a turn down the wrong road in life. Their reasons for turning away from the Lord are weak and disappointing.  I am saddened when a marriage of over 30 years is going down the road of destruction because of pride; when a relationship that is unequally tied together because personal feelings are more important than what God says is right; when substance abuse is acceptable because God cannot relieve the pain or change the circumstances; or when children are being exposed to an inappropriate lifestyle because parents do not want to accept that there is a better way. There is so much pain and hurt in the world; more than what I have experienced all around me. All I have to do is turn on the news and there it is; pain.

Can you trust others?  Sure, you can. But you must trust God above all others because people will fail you. Is it God’s fault when you are betrayed? No, it’s the fault of the person who broke that trust. They have free will to do as they want, including breaking your heart. The unselfish response is to forgive, just as God has forgiven you. 
We all need prayer. We all need forgiveness. 

Heavenly God, only You can be trusted. We cannot trust ourselves. We are corrupt in our hearts. We need You to forgive us, to restore us, and to put us on the right path of righteous living.  We need Jesus as our Savior.  Without Him, we are lost, we fail. With Jesus, we can have hope to move from a darkened state of living, to living and walking in the light. Lord, You can rescue us from ourselves. Change us, Holy Spirit. Help us to trust You with our lives. When we fall, You are faithful and trustworthy to pick us up again and move us from condemnation to fellowship with You. Lord, strengthen our faith in You, to trust you for all our needs, physical, emotional, financial, and mostly spiritual.

Psalm 143:8 “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life.”

The song Oceans, speaks about when the oceans rise or when life becomes difficult, when our feet fail because of where we walk, we can call on the Lord and He is faithful to rescue us. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

#14 Happy Heavenersary

Did anyone see the movie "Still Alice" about a woman's battle with Alzheimer's or did anyone see the Glen Campbell documentary, “I’ll Be Me” about his journey with Alzheimer’s?  Well, I watched them and of course, I cried.  My beloved husband had early onset dementia and went to be with the Lord on July 15, 2012.  This documentary aired on Edry’s anniversary month. Sometimes I wonder why I watch stuff like that.  I know I’m going to cry, but I do it anyway.  I think my biggest reason is that I don’t want to forget, for one minute, how much Edry suffered; how we all suffered with him and for him. “You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?” Psalm 56:9

In watching Glen and his struggle, the struggle of his family, it takes me back to where Edry and I were 7 years ago. The pain of losing a loved one can take years to soften the pain.  I know that it has softened a little for me. I don’t get as emotional as I had the first 2 years.  Those first 2 years were gut-wrenching. I would lose my sense of stability at the mention of his name. I would look at his pictures and the waterfall would flood my pillows.  The desire to go hide would overtake my common sense. “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10

A full 3 years is upon me and I look back to recollect his journey with his illness, my own journey with my illness and being a widow. And I have to say that God has been faithful.  He has been faithful to see me through all of my darkest days. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

God has given me the ability and the strength to reach out, rather than wait for others to come to me.  People didn’t know how I was feeling. My speaking up and making myself visible was the only way I received comfort from others.  Staying in a little cocoon, crying, hurting, angry, and depressed only made me a scary person. But I enjoy the friendships of the sweet women in Christ that have stood by me these 3 years.  “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
So what’s changed in 3 years?  I don’t feel guilty having taken down and storing some of my pictures of Edry.  I don’t feel guilty that I don’t go to the cemetery as much as I had before.  I don’t feel so broken when others don’t talk about him or when they do. I can listen to love songs and think about how we used to dance, holding each other tight, rather than turn off the song. I went back to work, maybe not the same job I had, but I’m working. I volunteer at church rather than hide from everyone. I can laugh. I can have fun. I’ve gone on vacation. I’ve traveled. I can talk to the car mechanic myself. I sleep on Edry's side of the bed. I can eat at the table by myself. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Some things I am still working on.  God is still working with me.  I am growing and I am glad that I’m growing; at the pace that God has set for me.  Some days are hard.  Anniversaries are the hardest. I want July 15 to come and go, but then I want the day to be so slow, just for me to meditate, cry, laugh, to remember all the details; if that makes any sense at all.  “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalms 147:3

Honestly, I still don’t like being a widow, but if I had to be a widow, I am glad and proud that I am Edry’s widow. What a good man he was, he is (because he still exists). He made me look good. He gave me more credit than I deserved. And he showed me that to love Jesus is the most important part of living, more than any one person. So as Edry’s third anniversary approaches, I will thank God for the gift of marriage I was able to enjoy for 22 years. I will thank God for the good father he was to my children and to his own 2 children. He was a simple man with a lot of love to give. I am grateful that God showed me what I needed; a man that loved God above anyone or anything, so that I could follow his example.  Happy Heavenersary, Edry. Praise God that you are with your Forever Papi.

I seem to find songs that say what I'm feeling.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

#13 The Voice of the Lord

When I was a young mother, I would get upset with my kids when they wouldn’t listen to me.  Didn’t they understand that what I was telling them was for their own good; to build good character; that they needed to do the right thing?  But then who was I?  I didn’t listen to my parents all the time either.

Isaiah 30:21
God wants us to listen to Him.  He wants us to listen for Him.  Sometimes we wonder if God is listening to our prayers; prayers that are the most important to us; prayers that are said in a state of pain, anxiety, or desperation.  But really, are we listening for God?  He may have given an answer and it flew right over our heads. He may be telling us something about the answer and we are not listening.

Who can hear God?  Mark 4:23 says “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”  If we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, we can hear from God. We have to listen so we can hear God speak to our spirit. When things are going crazy in our lives and don’t make sense, read God’s Word and God will speak.

John 10:27 says “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” So when God speaks, we listen to His voice.  But we have to be paying attention. 

How can we hear God’s voice?  Mark 6:31-32 says “And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)  They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.”

 If we want to hear from God, we have to separate ourselves from all the noise in our lives.  It’s not any different with people.  If I want to hear the Professor give his lecture and someone is trying to talk to me at the same time, or people behind me are talking, then I can’t hear.  I’m going to miss the important lecture that I need to hear to pass my exam or to write my paper. 

So it is with God.  When we need to hear from God, we have to go to a place that’s quiet; a place where we can read God’s Word and pray.  The disciples went to a secluded place to rest a while.  Our minds get so overwhelmed with the busyness of our day. We need to rest our mind and relax our spirit.  It is then that we can be ready to hear from God.  

How does God speak?  God can speak through His Word, Jesus Christ, creation, other believers, music, circumstances, Holy Spirit, and prayer.  The key is that in all these ways, we are paying attention.  Another believer may give us advice that can help our situation, but if we don’t give that person’s advice any thought, we miss what God had to say through someone else.  Some people are only waiting for God’s voice to come from heaven before they make a decision.  But that is what the Bible is for, what other people are for, and what the Holy Spirit is for.  Sometimes people call it intuition or luck, but it’s the Holy Spirit speaking into our spirit, prompting us to take a step of faith.

God can be working behind the scenes and He is holding back the answer to our prayers until everything is ready.  I think about a wife preparing her husband’s special meal and making the dining room very inviting.  She has cooked all day to make his favorite foods. She will be so excited when he sees all that she has done to make his evening special.  He comes home and is so grateful for all her hard work and for how much she loves him.  He didn’t know that she was putting this wonderful evening together.

God is preparing something for us.  He has to put all the right pieces in place before He presents it to us.  We may be anxiously waiting for an answer but when everything is “just right”, God will answer and we will be so grateful for what He has done for us.

Psalm 29 is titled “The Voice of the Lord in the Storm.” 
Verses 3-9 speak about the strength of the voice of the Lord.

3 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
The God of glory thunders,
The Lord is over [d]many waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful,
The voice of the Lord is majestic.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
And Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord hews out [e]flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord [f]shakes the wilderness;
The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer to calve
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everything says, “Glory!”

There have been times that I have asked God, “Where are you taking me on this journey of widowhood?”  It doesn’t make sense to me that God would bring the man I needed to share my life with and then for it to end in death.  God is working something out behind the scenes and when it is time for me to know, I will be grateful for what God has done for me.  It takes faith. It takes prayer. It takes patience. It takes trust.  And it takes time. That is the hardest part, the waiting.  But when my prayer is answered, it would be worth the wait as long as I continue to listen for the voice of the Lord.

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

#12 In A Pit? Time To Get Out

Imagine that you are walking along an isolated area of the woods, all by yourself, taking a short-cut to your camp when you fall into a pit.  It’s dirty and smelly. You try climbing out but you keep slipping back down. You can’t seem to get a good grip or footing. It’s getting dark soon and you’re afraid that bugs or wild animals might get a hold of you.  Thoughts go through your mind.  Why did I go this way?  Why wasn’t I more careful? Will anyone find me? How do I get out of here? I have fallen into a pit and I am stuck.

Today at our Women’s Ministry Event, I was one of three speakers and God led me to Beth Moore’s book Get Out Of That Pit, Straight Talk About God’s Deliverance. For weeks, I have been preparing and I had changed the focus three times.  But this third time, God led me to this book I bought over two years ago thinking that one day it might come in handy.

I shared about the three types of pits that people can fall into:
1. When you’re thrown into a pit
2. When you slip into a pit
3. When you jump into a pit

In the first point, thrown into a pit, this is when things happen to you beyond your control and you cannot regain any sense of control.

I was thrown into a pit at the hands of my first husband, who was abusive, physically, emotionally, and sexually. I lived years in fear of his anger. I was afraid to tell anyone about the pit I was living in.  I lived in hopelessness, except with a glimmer of hope that I would see whenever I prayed.  There was something inside of me that hoped for rescue.  Six years later, it came.  God gave me the clarity of mind to get out with my three little children and save myself and them. God made a way when I saw no way.

In Genesis 37:23-25, Joseph, son of Jacob, was thrown into a pit by his jealous brothers and then they sat down to eat.  How the enemy uses people to sit nearby and torment us by acting like nothing ever happened or making us feel like it’s our fault.  I think that Joseph realized his brothers hated him that much, that they would throw him in a pit to die. But they did pull him out and sold him into slavery, another kind of pit. Young, 17 year old Joseph could not control the hatred his brothers felt for him. But God had wonderful plans for Joseph's life beyond what he could see at the moment.

Another pit I was thrown into was in 2008 when my wonderful, Godly husband was diagnosed with early onset dementia. That same year I was diagnosed with a rare colon cancer.  Four years later, Edry died.  Five weeks after his death, my mother died from ovarian cancer. I was in a pit of despair, broken dreams, fear of tomorrow; unable to control my life; not sure if God was going to continue to allow me to suffer for a long time, like Job.
I could not control the chaos and losses that were going on in my life. I moved from health to cancer and chronic physical problems; from married to widow; from teaching to unemployment; from having a house to living with my daughter; from having lots of space to having to drastically downsize into a small space and get rid of parts of my life.

 I have slipped and jumped into pits of my own doing as well, either out of ignorance, having others take advantage of me, or downright rebellion.  But God has rescued me for the plan He has had for me all along.  His plans cannot be ruined, undone, sidetracked, or detoured.  I am where He wants me today. 

When I was in pain from the chemo treatments I would read these verses and it gave me comfort.  Psalm 40:1-5
1.      I wait patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
2.      He lifted me out of the slimy pit; out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand

3.      He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.
4.      Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.
5.      Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done.  The things you planned for us no one else can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.

Though, many times I did not wait patiently like I should have, but God heard my cry anyway.  That’s His choice. He did lift me out of the pit of pitiful despair and brokenness. My feet are not sinking deep into nothingness but are standing firm where I can see God’s hand at work. I don’t sing the “poor me, poor me” song, but the song of “God is great. His faithfulness endures forever.”  As I look back at my life, I see the wonders of God. There are so many that I can’t count them or remember them all.

If you find yourself in a pit of some kind today, whether you got thrown into it by someone or trials of life, whether you slid in there yourself by ignoring danger signals, or whether you jumped in due to blatant disobedience, don’t give up on the Lord. Wait patiently. Continue to cry out to God.  He is listening. He will lift you up.  Confess your sin.  Ask for forgiveness. Consent to God’s will, which is to live in freedom from bondage. You have to want it bad enough.  Say yes to Jesus.  He will move you from sinking sand, from the sinking pit to the solid rock, which is Jesus Christ.

God loves us. He is good. He is faithful. His mercy is forever. He calls us to be like Him.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

#11 Tribute to Mom

Tomorrow, on Mother’s Day, Mom will be in heaven 2 years, 8 months, 17 days.  This will be my third Mother’s Day without her.  As this week was unfolding, I could feel a disorientation going on in my mind.  My mind darted over to the thought “I’ve got to get Mom a card” and instantly I realized “she’s not here.”  That also happened last year.

It seems like yesterday that Mom was still here, but as time goes by, it seems she’s been gone much longer. That is when I apply this verse from 2 Peter 3:8 “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.”  Though Peter is talking about the coming day of the Lord, that feeling of time moving fast and slow, is there.

The first Mother’s Day without her, I bought a card and wrote a message to her.   But the second year and this year, I didn’t want to do that.  This year, it’s all about pictures and memories.  I love thinking about all the things Mom did for me that made me feel special and loved. 

Mom was strict.  I would look at her face and know that I better not do what I had planned on doing.  I usually didn’t get in much trouble.  My sister called me the “goody two shoes”.  Mom taught me how to cook Puerto Rican rice and how to sew on a sewing machine.  She showed me how to crochet and knit.  I can’t crochet and knit anymore, but I still sew.

When my first marriage failed and I was totally penniless, Mom watched my three little kids while I worked full time.  What was remarkable was that she was already watching my youngest sister’s two kids because she was a single mother as well.  Later on, my sister remarried and Mom watched the new baby too.  Yes, it was a great challenge watching six kids under the age of six but Mom loved us.

Mom cooked for all of them.  She made up games for them.  She broke up fights between them.  She watched them all summer while my sister and I worked.  She watched all those kids into their teenage years.  When I complained to others about my kids’ teenage years, I knew Mom could complain more, so I better not say much.
When Edry and I got married, Mom made her special, huge pot of Puerto Rican rice for our reception.  Mom always made extra food and sent it upstairs where we lived.  She knew that I probably didn’t have time to cook for my new husband with the long hours I kept at work. There were no complaints from any of us. 

When Edry and I bought our first house and moved out, there was Mom standing at the door, with tears in her eyes.  And there was I, in the car driving away, crying, because I wouldn’t see her every day, like I would want to.  But Sunday became family time, and there we were visiting Mom and Dad, eating away. 

Thanksgiving was Mom’s favorite holiday.  She loved having all her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren over.  As she got older and tired, my second sister and I took turns hosting Thanksgiving.  The last Thanksgiving Mom was with us, was spent at my sister’s.  When I hosted, I felt that same love of family being together that Mom felt. I knew why it was so important to her.

When Edry was near the end of his life, Mom was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer.  I was so torn between how to spend time with both of them.  When Edry passed away, I went to live with my parents and took a leave of absence from teaching to take care of Mom during her last five weeks. 

I was able to spend time listening to her stories, to her sorrows, to her fear of leaving Dad behind.  Mom has always been strong but she was so frail, a side of her I had not really seen.  We watched the Price Is Right, her favorite show, every day.  My youngest sister and I made up her medication schedule, her meal schedule, and her exercise schedule but in the end, God’s schedule was to take her to His place, Heaven.

I miss her contagious laugh.  I miss her cooking.  I miss how happy she made Dad feel.  He misses her so much.  I miss her smell of perfume.  I now buy the same ones so that I can smell her every day.   I wear her broaches, her earrings, and anything else I’ve kept, so that I can think back to that time when she wore it. 

I miss sitting with Mom talking about Jesus.  Sundays after church, we would talk about the messages at our churches.  It’s not the same but now when I visit Dad, we sit and talk about the messages at our churches.  I’m glad that Mom set the pace and the standard for both of us, that talking about Jesus is the best way to spend our time.

My mom, a self-sacrificing woman, not just for her children, but for the people she ministered to at St. Aloysius for over 30 years.  At her funeral service, the church was full of people that loved her.  She always spoke the truth to people and always turned them to Christ if they wanted to see results in their lives.  Mom loved the Lord with all her heart and it showed. 

I know that one day I will see Mom again in heaven and what a great day that will be.  I love you Mom.

Give your mother a big hug and kiss and tell her you love her.
A Song For Mama by Boyz II Men

Saturday, May 2, 2015

#10 Be Brave

I did Warrior Dash in 2013 and 2014 to raise money for St. Jude’s Research Hospital for children. You have to be brave to do some of the obstacles of this yearly 5K mud race.  I’m not that young anymore but I got the courage to run with my daughter and sister. I climbed ropes, slippery walls, crawled up muddy slopes, and jumped over and through fire.  Having my daughter and sister helped me to be brave and exercise courage.  I could never do something like this all by myself.

Psalm 56:9 Then my enemies will turn back in the day
when I call; This I know, that God is for me.
How can we be brave when there is so much that causes us to be afraid?  You might be afraid of the past catching up to you.  You might be afraid of what is currently going on in your life.  And what about the future?  It’s scary not knowing what the outcome will be when tomorrow becomes today. 

Moses told the people of Israel that he would not be able to cross the Jordan and go with them to the Promised Land.  Moses told them that God will go ahead of them and destroy those nations before them.  He tells them to “be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Israel’s past was that they came from bondage in Egypt. At the present, they knew that with Moses’ guidance, they were going to freedom.  But impatience, slipping hope, loss of a vision, weariness, and the enemy’s blinding lies can cause doubt of the future, so Moses reassures them that God will be with them and Joshua will take the nation the rest of the way.

When I think about my past and present, I have seen God at work in some of my most difficult situations.  God walked with me during those dark days, where grief seemed almost hopeless in ending after my husband and mother died in the same summer. 

There are times that I wonder how I got through the first year.  I read my journal from those days and the words of desperation seem so unreal.  Was that really me?  God has been healing my grief.  I am not in that same place.  It was looking at the future that caused me to be anxious during that time.  All the questions I had asked God; what is going to happen to me?  How do I go on by myself? Who am I now that I am no longer a wife?

But like what Moses said to the people of Israel, “be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”

As the three year anniversary is coming upon me, I look back and realize that many times I was not courageous; I was not strong or brave.  I trembled at where I was and what I thought my future would be like.  As each day passed, each week, each month, I realized that God had walked with me. When I had been afraid, I prayed for God to let me feel His presence with me.  I searched His Word, I prayed, I talked to a Godly sister and I was reassured again.

After almost three years, I most assuredly know that I can run to the Lord with my concern and I know He’s there.  I have no doubt.  He is always there.  It’s not like God goes to the other side of the world and comes when I call.  God walks with me always.  I wake up and God is there.  I go to bed at night and He’s there. If there is trouble in my life, God is there.

In doing Warrior Dash, I saw it as how the troubles of this life resemble this race.  There are slippery slopes that cause us to feel that we are not going to make it.  There are high walls that seem almost impossible to climb.  There is fire that can burn away our faith.  I came in near the end of our group, but I made it.
I am a Princess Warrior

There are answers for my questions. What is going to happen to me?  God will grow me into a new woman.  He will fight for me when others try to take advantage of me in my vulnerable state.  God cares for the widow.  How will I go on by myself?  He has placed Godly women around me that pray for me, that share special moments with me, that point me back to the Father when I feel distressed.  Who am I now that I am no longer a wife?  I am a child of God. I always have been.  I am a vessel for God’s purposes and for His kingdom. I am a broken jar that is still useful for the Lord. I am a Princess Warrior that wears the Armor of God that helps me fight the daily battles of life.

I can be strong, in Christ.  I can have courage. I can know that I am not alone.  I never was.  I never will be. I can face tomorrow.  I can be brave. 
I can be brave. I am not alone.
 Where do we belong?  God has a place for us in this world.
Place In This World by Michael W. Smith

Sunday, April 26, 2015

#9 I Love Weddings

Weddings.  I love going to weddings.  The moment the bride walks down the aisle, everyone is up on their feet watching beauty walk past them all. The groom looks at his beloved, waiting for her to stand by his side and waiting for the official announcement that they will be Mr. and Mrs.

I went to a wedding on Saturday with my single girlfriend.  In the car, we talked about remarriage and when will the Lord bless us with another opportunity to be a wife?  Oh, I want this kind of wedding; I want to wear that; I only want this at my wedding.  Well, what about the man?  All the preparations for the perfect day, but what about the man being prepared? What about me being prepared?

My first marriage was a disaster. After six years, it finally ended in divorce.  It was the longest, painful six years of my life.  I can honestly say that I did not deserve the violence and cruelty I experienced. But I learned to wait for the right time to seek help. 

I was at a point in my life where I was tired of making poor choices in relationships. I was tired of being alone but also tired of being with the wrong person. Which was worse, being alone or being with someone and feeling alone? I had to wait for the right time and the right man.

But after eight years, then came my second husband, Edry, the man God had prepared for me.  I didn’t look for him at my job. I didn’t search for him on a website.  I didn’t put an ad in a newspaper.  I didn’t answer an ad in a newspaper.  I didn’t go on a blind date.  I wasn’t set up by a friend. God just brought me to him.  Don’t get me wrong; some of these things have brought many couples to a long and beautiful marriage. God just did a miracle in my life, I believe, so that I could see how great God is. 

May is our wedding anniversary month and in July, it  will be three years Edry has been with the Lord.  I no longer wear my wedding ring. I don’t mark the box that says Mrs. on any forms. I don’t file a joint tax return. I’ve had to learn how to use a GPS; read a map; take my car in for an oil change, pump my own gas (yes, I was spoiled); get my own Tylenol when I have a headache; sit alone at the doctor’s office; hold myself back from buying him an anniversary card; find someone available to go with me to a wedding.  I miss all these things, and more. These things have made being married a very good experience. 

So, would I do it again?  I sure would.  I believe that I have grown spiritually since my husband died. I also believe God is not going to miraculously bring me to “him” like He did with Edry, but that in my maturity, I have to wait on the Lord and make a Godly choice. 

I read this Scripture and hold fast to it because I believe that God can give me another good marriage.  Genesis 2:22 “The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.”

For the past 6 ½ years, since my husband was diagnosed with early onset dementia and I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, God has been fashioning me into the woman He wants me to be.  When the time is right and I am done being fashioned, God will bring me to a man that He has been preparing. Edry’s memory can never be erased or replaced by anyone else, but I believe God can bless me again.  That’s what I want, another blessing. But in the meantime, I am allowing God to fashion me for His purposes and to serve His people, for His kingdom and His glory.  Can God say, “no” to another husband?  Yes, He can, but I have not heard that from the Lord.  In the meantime, I wait, with hope.

Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
Psalm 25:21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for You.

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

Psalm 62:5 My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him.

There is always a song that is appropriate.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

#8 True Friends

My sisters, 7 years ago.
Growing up, my two sisters were my true friends and they still are. Growing up, I didn’t have true friends outside of my family. When I was in high school, I had different kinds of friends.  There were the friends I would eat lunch with or study with.  There were the friends I sat next to in class and shared class notes with. 

As I got older, I had my very close, intimate friends, who I ate lunch with at work and talked about my life and struggles. There were my co-worker friends, who I would help on a work assignment. There was a difference on how I related to these people, as well.  Some friends are closer than others.  There is something about me and other people that make us very close or make us not as close.

Friends are important in life. The old cliché is true that “no man is an island.” We cannot live in this world and operate on our own.  We will always be in contact with others (at work, school, church).  There have been times I have seen when a person does not want to interact with others. I’ve wondered if that person had any friends.  I think it’s a lonely place in life not to have any loving, trusting, and supportive friends. 

Jesus had twelve disciples that walked with Him, talked with Him, saw what He did, and they loved Him and He loved them. Jesus was not living a life of secrecy with His friends. He was an open book and He shared the way to eternal life with them.

John 15:15 says, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (NASB)

Jesus knew their hearts, their weaknesses, and their thoughts.  He knew Peter would deny his friend. He knew Thomas would doubt his friend’s words of resurrection and the words of his brother disciples. He knew Judas would betray his friend.

But isn’t it amazing that Jesus loved them even though He knew this about His friends. My humanity says, “Out they go; can’t trust them; don't want to get close to anyone ever.” But not Jesus.  He loved them all the way to the cross.  What does a true friend do when he or she has been failed by their beloved friend?  What does a true friend do when he or she failed their friend?

Jesus forgave. Peter repented. Thomas believed.  Judas would not repent. He did not believe. He tried to make his wrong right by trying to give back the thirty pieces of silver he took to betray the Lord, but that’s where he stopped.  Instead of believing in Jesus’ love and then repent, Judas killed himself. The money was not the issue.  It was his heart.   I think if Judas would have run to the Lord and said, “Forgive me, I took money to betray You”, Jesus would have forgiven him because that is what Jesus came to this earth to do; to forgive sin, all kinds of sin.

Armitage women, friends in the Lord
Not everyone can be our close friend.  Jesus had twelve close friends, but others did follow Him that loved Him.  I need those few, intimate friends that I can share my heart with.  I know I cannot do that with everyone, but I can still love others and be supportive of them. But with my closest friends, I can cry, I can share about my broken dreams and the dreams I pray for God to answer. With my closest friends, I can break bread with them. I can walk with them when they feel lonely. I can love them when they are hurt or confused.  I can tell them the truth, in love, and pray for them. Friends come and go in and out of my life but they are friends forever.

If I had no friends at all, who would have visited me when I was sick in the hospital and at home with cancer? Who would have prayed for me when my life turned upside down, when I had to sell my house and move? Who would have seen through the schemes of the enemy and protected me when I was being cheated? Who would have prayed for me when I struggled with Social Security, nursing homes, and care for my husband? Who would have comforted me when my husband, my mother, and my brother-in-law passed away within one year? Who would have prayed for me when I resigned from my teaching job and had no income while I sought God to figure out where He was leading me?

All my friends have prayed for me, whether close or not.  I make a list of people who ask for prayer and I pray for them, whether they are intimate close friends or friends in the Lord.  It doesn’t matter. Everyone needs prayer and we can be a friend by lifting them up to God in prayer.

Jesus is the greatest friend of all. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” I am so grateful that Jesus, my best friend, lay down His life for me so that I would not have to find a way to make myself right with God.  Jesus did it all on the cross.  He is the greatest friend with the greatest gift of all.

In being a child of God, when we accept Jesus as our Savior for our sins, Jesus says, “This I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:17.  That means to love like Jesus did.  Forgive our friends like He forgave Peter.  Reassure our friends like He reassured Thomas and the other disciples.  And continue on with the mission that God has set before you, even when there is betrayal.

There are so many sweet songs about friends.  It just warms my heart that even in the secular world, people sing about friends. When I met my husband, his favorite song of all time was Friends Are Friends Forever.  When I asked my sister to sing an appropriate song for Edry’s funeral service, she came up with the same song.  It’s amazing how God puts everything together, perfectly. Edry and I sang a song to each other at our wedding ceremony. I thought it was appropriate that I would sing one last song for my beloved friend, with my sister, at his service.  Edry was a good friend that anyone would want to have. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

#7 God Keeps His Promises

There are times I reflect on how God’s scriptures water my spirit.  Sometimes I sing songs. Sometimes I pray the scriptures and other times I write them into a poem form.  God has promises for every area of life; fear, hurt, sadness, loneliness, brokenness. There is nothing that God cannot speak to.  He is where we can go to find peace, comfort, joy.  It’s in that hiding place where He can restore us, renew us, revive us. 

               God Keeps His Promises

In need of mercy? Oh mercies keep coming.
They come every morning, new every day.
God is faithful and He pours them onto you.

In need of deliverance? God will rescue you.
Just call on Him when trouble comes.
And when you see His greatness,
You will glorify Him with all your might.

In need of stability? When life is upside down,
Jesus is the same always, never changing,
Yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever.
You can count on His promises.

Feeling alone? We know this too well.
God is there when you talk to Him.
He will never leave you or abandon you.

Full of fear?  He has redeemed you.
He has called you by name, you are His.
He will protect you.

Need love? The Almighty can satisfy you.
He starts to fill you first thing in the morning.
His love never fails.
It causes you to sing for joy.
It causes you to be glad every day of your life.

Need forgiveness? Come to the Lord.
He can forgive you; confess it to God.
God will forgive because He is faithful.
He will cleanse you and make you right with Him.

God is great. Give Him thanks.
Be still and listen.  Understand.
God is the great I Am.

beautiful song:  Most Holy Father

Lamentations 3:22-23, Psalm 50:15, Hebrews 13:8, Hebrews 13:5, Isaiah 43:1, 
Psalm 90:14, 1 John 1:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Psalm 46:10

Friday, April 3, 2015

#6 Ready to Die? Then You're Ready To Live

During the Lent season, the focus is the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.  Easter is the glorious celebration of Jesus rising and conquering death. 

Luke 14:34-36 says, 34 And He said to them (Peter, James, John in Gethsemane), “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” 35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”

Jesus’ humanity is so evident in verse 36 when He asks God the Father, that if it’s possible, to remove this cup from Him; the cup of God’s wrath.  Jesus knew that He would be in this place, at this time in history, but He still asked for the cup to be removed. He would not do anything that was not in God’s will. He had accepted the mission that had been laid out for Him. Jesus accepted to allow the wrath of God to be poured out on Him for the sins of humanity. He was obedient all the way to death.

Jesus knows how we feel when we are facing death. We do not have to face the wrath of God for our sins because Jesus took care of that for us when we accepted Him as our Savior, but we still have to face death; whether it’s the death of someone we love dearly or even facing death ourselves. Facing death is scary even when we know that we are God’s child and our eternal future is secure.

In the last 6 ½ years, I have looked at death, mine, my husband’s, my mother’s, and my brother-in-law’s.  Though I’ve not been a missionary like the apostle Paul was, who faced so much hardship for the cause of the cross, my faith was still being tested during my own cancer illness and subsequent trials. I will probably not ever know why my life had gone down a road I didn’t choose. I wonder what God purposed for me.  So far, He has not made everything clear but a few things are clear. The clarity of these things have been the cause for the joy I have in my heart.  It’s so hard for anyone to wrap their mind around joy through tragedy, but God makes it possible.

Since my illness, I have thought about death.  It’s almost unavoidable.  It seems that everywhere I turn, there is death.  It’s in the news, it’s in my church, it’s in my family.  Some people die from acts of violence and some from an illness. Some people die young and others at a ripe old age.  No matter who we are, how we live, where we live, we are all going to die, unless we are alive when Jesus comes for His church.  So, are we ready to die?

I thought I was going to die on the operating table.  I was ready.  Then, I thought I was going to die from a pulmonary embolism.  I asked God to let me take care of my husband, who was slowly losing his battle with early-onset dementia.  Regardless, I was ready.  I thought I was going to die from all the effects of chemotherapy.  I really didn’t think my body could take any more treatments, so I prayed and told God that I was ready. 

But instead of me dying, God allowed my body to recover, for a reason. I watched my husband slowly leave me.  I prayed for a miracle.  I know others prayed for a miracle too. But when his behavior became so unmanageable, the doctor said it was time for the hospital and then a nursing home.  On his last day on this earth, I had gone to my Bible study that morning before I went to the hospital to see Edry.  I did not think he would die that day and that was because our class teacher read the following scripture that caused me to believe that there was going to be a miracle of some kind.  Edry would have life breathed back into him by God.

Ezekiel 37:4-6, Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.” Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I Lord will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.”

When I got to the hospital with my family, Edry looked worse than the day before.  My brother-in-law prayed for him.  I played his favorite CD.  I held his hand.  A couple of hours later, everyone went home and I stayed with him. I read the Bible to him, sang to him, and cried for him.  I was making arrangements with the nurse to spend the following days and nights with him.  I had to go home and pack a bag for myself.  I was worried he wasn’t going to make it through the night, but the hospice nurse said that he should still be ok.  I wanted him to hold on a little longer. I didn’t want him to die alone. I wanted to be by his side.

I started driving down the expressway to go home and pack. The caller ID on my cell phone showed the hospital was calling. Edry died twenty minutes after I had left him.  I turned around and went back to the hospital.  My daughter and brother met me there.  Edry was ready to die after I had left. He held on as long as he could.  The nurse said that he most likely didn’t want me to see him go; that he was trying to spare me the pain of watching him die. That sounded like something Edry would do, always thinking of what was best for me. But I know that it was God that did what was best for me.  God breathed life back into Edry, just like the morning Scripture, just not in this life.

One week later, I moved into my parents’ home to care for my mom with my youngest sister, who was losing her battle with ovarian cancer.  I don’t think she was ready to die.  She tried very hard to hold on but the pain was becoming unmanageable. Hospice can be a very emotional and stressful time. There is the dealing with lots of medicines, managing nourishment, and personal care, just like what I did for Edry.  Then I saw Mom’s face that day and she was ready. I held my mom’s hand while we waited.  My dad, my youngest sister and her daughter gathered around Mom as she was slowly slipping away from us and moving on with Jesus.

A year later, I sat in my sister’s bedroom while we attended to her dying husband.  Like Mom, he was not ready to die.  He was strong.  He fought it with all he had, but there came a point that he could not fight it any longer.  I helped my sister, during the week, to take care of him while he was in hospice.  Then one day while I was home sleeping, I got the phone call in the early morning before dawn.  He was now resting with the Lord.

There was a sense of peace that came over these three family members. Their hearts said, “I’m ready.”  They were always ready, but this readiness at the very end was different.  I have said that I’m ready to be with Jesus but when I was dealing with cancer, I struggled with really being ready to die.  Did I do everything God had wanted me to do? Were there things I had to finish on this earth? Would God be able to say, “Come, good and faithful servant?” I’m sure I could get a lot of differing opinions on these questions, but these are questions I wonder about as I’m walking this journey with death being so fresh in my experience.

Then, I think of Jesus.  He was ready to die.  There was no question about that. He told His disciples early on that He would die. Matthew 26:2 says, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.” He went to the cross willingly for all humanity. The crucifixion of Jesus is a sad event but He did not remain dead. He rose from the grave and sits with His heavenly Father.

My family members are with Jesus now.  They have faithfully served the Lord, spread the Gospel, and have been a living example of a transformed life for Christ. What great joy there is in knowing that their story is not over.  Just as Christ rose and is eternally in heaven with the Father, my family is with Christ, enjoying the fruit of their labor for Jesus. The Master has said, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Matthew 25:21.  How great thou art!

I am ready.  Are you ready? Heavenly Lord, always keep us ready for when you call us to come into Your joy. Let us not be afraid to die but allow us to rest in Your promise, that from this life, we will enter into Your presence, if we have accepted You as Savior, as Lord.
John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  Today is the day of salvation. Come to Jesus.  He takes away the shame and the pain and replaces it with joy and hope. He takes a broken life and transforms it into a useful vessel for His glory. There is nothing to lose, but everything to gain.
My Redeemer Lives is the perfect song for today.