Struggling with the New Normal

Well, this month marks the year-date of our son and his family’s move to South Dakota, 1,200 miles away. It’s our new normal. Several other “new normals” have found their way into my life. I don’t like them either, but what do you do when you can’t change circumstances that you don’t like?

We have several options. We can allow those issues to darken our days and live in misery. Sometimes, that just happens—it can’t be helped. But when misery decides to stay indefinitely, you now have another new normal that is unacceptable! We need to move on… but how?

Generally, there are five steps to the grieving process, and we can apply these to other situations as well as to the loss of a loved one: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. When our son moved so far away, a part of me died—the part that enjoyed seeing them often and at every holiday. It’s dead—not going to happen. The new normal is seeing them once a year at best. So, what do I do?

  • DENIAL: I lived in denial. It sounded like this: “Well, maybe this is just temporary. Maybe they’ll move back.”
  • ANGER: Sadly, I found myself unkindly barking at my dear husband for odd reasons. Somehow, it was his fault.
  • BARGAINING: I can see how the world would do this, but it didn’t make sense to me. Bargain with whom?
  • DEPRESSION: Yep.
  • ACCEPTANCE: Getting there… very slowly!

I don’t know how the world handles grief or deals with unlikeable circumstances, but for me, there’s only one place to go—the One who handed me these new normals! He allowed me to deny the situations for a while because He is kind and good and loving. He knows my weaknesses. But the anger had to go—it is sin to take your anger out on anyone for any reason! Besides, who wants to live like that? What a way to ruin any relationship you are in! Let’s make everyone around us miserable too!

Can we bargain with God? I suppose we can speak the words but it’s fruitless. He sets up “if—then” statements in His Word, but those are promises, not bargains!  And depression… it’s inevitable at times. Depression is a natural part of life, but like anger, we can’t camp there long. It’s a dangerous place to be. Depression allows Satan to whisper all sorts of nasties into our mind like, “This isn’t fair. God isn’t fair. If God really cared for you, He’d change things. He can do that! He’s just being mean. You deserve better.” On and on it goes until you yell, “STOP!” Remember the source of those thoughts! Once you take action to stop Satan’s flow of lies, it’s time to remember: remember past victories, past joys. Go to God’s Word and read about our wonderful Savior! Read the Psalms. They are such a sweet balm for a rankled soul!

Look at these:

2 Samuel 22: 31 As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him.

32 For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God?

33 God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect.

34 He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet: and setteth me upon my high places.

35 He teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.

36 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy gentleness hath made me great.

Psalm 28: 7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

8 The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed.

Psalm 37: 4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Psalm 40: 17 But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.

Psalm 54: 4 ¶ Behold, God is mine helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul.

Psalm 116: 6 The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.

Psalm 118: 8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.

(And just in case you didn’t get it…)9 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put          confidence in princes.

Isaiah 41: 10 ¶ Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Hebrews 13: 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

I could go on and on, but I’ll leave that to you! Go and feast on the mighty, precious promises of God!

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Tracks in the Snow

Pepper, our eleven-year-old black Cocker Spaniel is my walking partner. In any other season, she is also my protector. It’s a comfort to have her along as I walk back our country road when bears are lurking about. I’m not sure how I think she would protect me, but it’s a mental mirage that I have.1214160820

Recently, we had a beautiful, fluffy snowfall and I knew we needed to walk. The morning was picture perfect: blue sky, nip in the air, and chilly temperature. The snow was clinging to every branch and weed. This one was really doing its part!

When we reached the end of our road, storm clouds were gathering in the west, but the sun was still shining in the eastern dawn. The effect was stunning:1214160821c

It’s such a peaceful spot, and I couldn’t help put praise God for the beauty of His creation and His loving kindness in allowing me to be here.

On our way home, I happened to notice our tracks. I’ve noticed this before as Pepper tugs at her leash, nose to the ground, dashing to and fro!

 

1214160822We leave two very different sets of tracks. While on our walks, mine are the straight and steady ones. Hers zigzag back and forth across the road! But I have to wonder if my “life” tracks are more like hers as I zigzag back and forth on little rabbit trails of life. I can so easily be sidetracked off of God’s purpose for my life! Does my heavenly Father look down and wonder at my trail? As I tug against the restraints that He has graciously put upon my life—safeguards against disaster—does He tire of my tugs? No, never. What an amazing, loving God we serve! His patience is incomprehensible!

One of my goals for 2017 is to “keep in the middle of the road.” Our church men sing this African-American Spiritual every so often. Its message is clear—as clear as tracks in the snow!1214160823

Children, keep in the middle of the road
Children, keep in the middle of the road
Don’t you look to the right
Don’t you look to the left
Just keep in the middle of the road.

I hear those angels a calling loud
Keep in the middle of the road
They’s a standin’ there in a great big crowd
Keep in the middle of the road.

Chorus:
Then children, keep in the middle of the road
Children, keep in the middle of the road
Don’t you look to the right
Don’t you look to the left
Just keep in the middle of the road
In the middle of the road
In the middle of the road.

I can see them standing around a big white gate
We must travel along before it gets too late
For it ain’t no use for to sit down and wait
Just keep in the middle of the road.

I ain’t got time for to stop and talk
Keep in the middle of the road
‘Cause the road is long and it’s hard for to walk
Keep in the middle of the road.

I’ll fix my eye on the golden stair
And I’ll keep on a goin’ till I get there
Cause my head am bound that crown for to wear
Just keep in the middle of the road.

When your feet get tired and your song don’t sing
Don’t look at the world full of sinful things
Don’t lay down in the road for to die
Put on your wings and get up and fly.

 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13,14

He IS Coming!!!!

Today!! He is coming today!  Today, I will see him.  TODAY, I will hold him!  This is the day that I’ve been waiting for for forty-one days, or nine hundred eighty-four hours, or fifty-nine thousand forty minutes.  Count it anyway you wish, but today is the day!  Today, I meet Caleb Thomas MacAvoy, face to face.  I’ve heard his cry, I’ve seen his picture, I’ve even facetimed his little face, but what is that but a very dim shadow of human touch?
Caleb is our youngest son and his sweet wife’s newborn, and he arrived on Christmas day!  What a joy! Because of several circumstances, we have not seen him yet. It really didn’t matter how much we wanted to see him, it just didn’t happen.  It probably could have happened, but life is full of choices, and no matter how much we would like for a circumstance to be different—a loved one suffering with an incurable disease, a wayward child, a stolen credit card—there are times when we must accept our situation as the will of God.  Does that make us like it any better? Honestly?  Probably not, but it does give us a sure footing amidst the storm of emotions which swirl around us! Of course, the challenge is there:

 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.Philippians 4:11

So, what am I doing to get ready?  In a moment, I’ll begin cleaning.  Then I’ll wash the dog.  I’ll save my favorite task for last: cooking!  I’ll bake a pie and slay the fatted calf (actually the fatted pig) and prepare for not only Caleb, but the beloved couple whom we haven’t seen since Thanksgiving.  Is this a happy day? Absolutely! Are we anticipating a wonderful weekend?  Yes!  Are there any trials surrounding their coming?  More than you can imagine, but today it doesn’t matter!  Today, they just keep getting closer and closer! All day, I’ll be playing that first moment of laying my eyes on my youngest grandson for the first time. And when it finally happens, I’ll probably blubber all over the place!

Jesus us coming.  And here’s the challenge, short and sweet because I’ve got lots to do!  Are you looking forward to His coming?  Of seeing Him face to face for the first time?  Can you even imagine it?  Does it send goosebumps down your spine just thinking about it?  Are you getting ready, because when He comes, there will be no more preparing.  This life, which He so graciously gave us, and then so sacrificially and miraculously redeemed with His own blood, will be our gift back to Him.  Everything we do with these hands, everywhere we go with these feet, everything these eyes watch and these ears hear is either preparing a better gift for Him or destroying it.

He is coming!

 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. Matthew 25:7,8

His Way is Perfect – a short story about Abigail

Our Sunday School class is studying women in the Bible, using Life Principles from the Women of the Bible (Book Two).  It’s been a wonderful study and prompted a short story about Abigail and Nabal.  What a wonderful example of God’s difficult-to-understand yet perfect way!

His Way is Perfect – a short story about Abigail is my attempt to fill in some of the details which the Bible doesn’t supply.  So, once again, they are just MY imagination at work!  Just click on the title–hope you are blessed!

God’s Ultimate Creation – Our Ultimate Sacrifice

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.  Psalm 19:1-4

What would you name as God’s ultimate creation?  Many of you know how I love the stars. If I go down behind the house, the lights from the church street sign and the business next door is shadowed, and I can see a slice of the evening sky in total darkness.  If you stay out there long enough allowing your eyes to adjust, more and more stars appear; and when looking through binoculars – the sight is breath-taking: literally billions of stars dot the sky like something out of an astronomy textbook!  Are the heavens God’s ultimate creation?  Or is it the beauties of our earth: crashing waterfalls, breathtaking summits, or the myriad of unique creatures in the animal kingdom?

Although all these are wonderful creations which shout of their Creator’s existence, God’s ultimate creation is man.  Though he cures God, denies His existence, and goes his own way, man is made in the image of God; and only man carries a living soul within his body. (Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.)

At times, this ultimate creation requires the ultimate sacrifice on our part: the death of a loved one.  This summer, we witnessed the amazing faith of Dr. and Mrs. Phelps and others in their congregation as they were interviewed by the local press concerning the loss of their son, daughter-in-law and unborn grandchild in a horrific bus accident.  Other lives were lost as well, but because of their loss, many souls of God’s ultimate creation were saved.

Just this morning, I heard of another death: a retired missionary in Mexico.  After a weeklong visit with her grandchildren, the wife came home to find that her husband had been bound and beaten to death.  My first reaction was, “Why, Lord,” especially because he was the brother of my dear mentor who just lost her husband several weeks ago.  “It’s too much, Lord,” my heart cried.

How do we square the idea, that God is always good and always does what is best when we face the ultimate sacrifice?

Years ago, while visiting in a nearby neighborhood for our church in Greenville, SC, we finished a newer development and then started walking down a dirt road that led out of the back of the development.  We literally crossed over the tracks into what I can only describe as a shanty town: a row of ramshackle houses lined both sides of the road.  As we walked up onto the porch of the first place, we were careful to miss the holes in the flooring and knocked on the two-room shack.  From inside, we were called to come in.  A black man who looked to be as old as time itself spoke to us awhile before he motioned us to the other room. “She’d like to hear what you have to say,” he said.

In the adjoining room lay his wife on a bed.  The sheets were gray, and although it was warm outside, the place was stifling because of the wood stove that was burning in the living room.  As she beckoned us in, the first thing I noticed was her missing teeth, but then I noticed that both her arms were missing as well.  It was one of the hardest visits I ever made, but it was also one of the most rewarding.  As we spoke to her, she became the one with the “Good News” that ministered to our spirits.  I can still hear her quoting Job 1:21: “…the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

How can these people “stay the course” in the face of such difficulties?  Once again God gives us the answer through His Word and His Spirit working in and through His people. Hannah Whitall Smith states:

“We may make out of each event in our lives either a Juggernaut (a very large, heavy truck) to crush us or a chariot of God in which to ride to heights of victory.  It all depends on how we take things – whether we lie down under our trials and let them roll over and crush us or whether we climb up into them as into a chariot and make them carry us triumphantly onward and upward.” (God is Enough, October 2)

The ache is still there, the vacant place still haunts us, and there are times of defeat and discouragement; but our anchor WILL hold if we don’t let go of the chain!

Disconnected

My computer finally bit the dust.  For a while, I was using the church’s laptop, but it has screen issues.  Now, I’m using Nathan’s laptop – he’s so gracious. 

Because I wasn’t on my computer, I didn’t have my password for my blog (among other things!), so I couldn’t get into my site to write anything!  Talk about feeling totally disconnected and handicapped!  It’s amazing to me how dependent I’ve become on this machine!  A day without the computer is like a day without sunshine!

Disconnected – aren’t you glad that can never be said about or relationship with God – at least, that is true on His end!  He gives us so many promises in the Bible.  Just this morning, my husband shared this verse with me from his devotions: “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.”  (Song of Sol. 7:10)  Now that verse would be special enough if it was just spoken to a wife from her husband, but the verse is from God to me!  His desire is towards me – He not only sees me but wants me!  That’s quite a connection!

Sad to say, we often break the connection.  Do you hang up on God?  Has He been ringing your number and you are ignoring Him?  Why do we do that? He offers us so many blessings; and yes, there is a cost: obedience, which often requires us to put our will aside and do His.  AND, we often do not see the blessings; however, remember: the rose has it’s thorns before the flower appears!

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew  theegreat  and mighty things , which thou knowest  not.” Jer. 33:3

 

 

To Clean, or NOT to Clean

Having a pastor-husband has many wonderful perks.  We can go to the mall at 1:00 Tuesday afternoon.  (Can’t stand crowds!)  We can spend a weekday with my in-laws who are no longer able to drive to our house.  We can take an afternoon and cut my mother’s lawn.  Our time schedule and our lives march to the beat of a different drummer and is measured by a different clock!

However, one of the “down sides” of having a pastor-husband, whose office is in our home, is that I’m never alone; and I have found that I can be a loner, even though I am in the ministry.  (Or maybe it’s because I AM in the ministry!)

Well, today I am alone!  Now, I KNOW what I should do – CLEAN!  The dust is so thick the plants are choking!  And we do have a Cocker Spaniel – need I say more?  But I don’t want to!  I’d rather do anything but clean!  I LOVE a clean house, and once I get started I’m fine; but sitting here at the computer tempts me with a thousand other desires: most of them are just plain time-killers?

So, is it God’s will for me to clean?  🙂  How do I know?  I’m being a bit facetious, but how often do we wrestle with that question: knowing God’s will?  Is there some secret formula for finding God’s will in our lives?

It’s the week after Easter.  What were the disciples doing?  How did they know what to do?  This one is simple.  Jesus gave them specific orders: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.” (Acts 1:4) Interesting that Peter went fishing!  I don’t remember seeing any places to fish in Jerusalem!  The command was clear: WAIT – the one thing that is hardest for us to do!  “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Ps 27:14)  When the way is not clear – WAIT!  I’ve made more blunders by pushing ahead to do MY will rather than wait on the Lord’s leading.

So what if we don’t have a clear mandate like the disciples did?  Paul gives us another great example.  When Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, Paul simply says, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6)  Right now, we are dealing with an important decision in our church. I know what I’d like to happen, and I do pray for that situation to come about; HOWEVER, I must always couch it in, “Lord, thy will be done.”  If it is not God’s will, it won’t be right and all will suffer.

Ask and wait, and keep serving the Lord.  When we were in India, we saw a great illustration of this truth.  We were in a nice restaurant.  It was early and the place was not crowded.  As we were seated and then received our meal, there were about 5-8 waiters standing across the room watching us. If we so much as blinked an eye at them, they were by our side, asking if we needed something!  That’s waiting and serving!  May we be so tuned in to our Master!  (And yes, I will clean today!!  As my mother used to say, “We don’t want the Board of Health to come and kick us out!”)

 “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.”    Psam 57:7