Waiting Well

Tuesday morning, my prayer ended with me crying out, “God, what am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to start praying for a different result? Am I supposed to ask You to give me a new plea, a new prayer, a new passion? Or am I just supposed to continue to wait?” His answer was a deafening silence.  

Now God does not answer me audibly, so silence is not new. When I hear from God, it is a new thought, a new impression upon my spirit, a new sense of direction; accompanied by peace. Those responses are how I have always known that God answered my questions. So when none of the above happened after my heartfelt, hollered, hopeless, “What am I supposed to do…?” inquiry, it hit me like a ton of bricks: If I am not sensing the Holy Spirit’s prodding to pray in a new direction, then I am to keep praying and continue waiting. 

I know how to keep praying; I have done that many a time. I have frequently assumed God thought I was similar to the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15. Jesus’ disciples urged Him to send her away when they became annoyed with her repeated requests.  But I am always encouraged that the story ends with Jesus blessing her because of her faith. 

I wrestle with the waiting. Although I am pretty good at impatient, irritated waiting, waiting well with an uncomplaining, unfazed, unwavering spirit is not a talent of mine.

Waiting well takes a conscious and intentional effort. Psalm 31:24 (ESV) says, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!” Maybe part of the courage He expects from me is in returning to Him over and over with the same prayer and believing that He is not getting sick of me or my request. Maybe the other part of that courage is believing that His silence is not avoidance and boldly believing He is working in unseen ways. 

On Tuesday, I chose to wait well. By Wednesday, I experienced some moments of not waiting well. And on Thursday, I felt led to start my day in front of my computer writing about what I had been contemplating. 

I asked God to speak to me about what waiting well truly means. At that very moment, my eyes directly went to a “Verse of the Day” email in my inbox. I opened it, and it happened to be Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

My first thought was, “Wow, God, thank You for an unbelievable direct answer to my prayer!” My second thought was, “Wow, God, if only You could answer this other prayer so quickly and directly.” My third thought was, “It is up to You, isn’t it? I’ll continue working on this blog post and learning how to wait well, and You continue being God. Thank You for showing me that verse when I needed it and teaching me how to wait well.” Between you and me, I spent entirely too much time dwelling on my second thought.

Apparently, God still has some work to do in my heart. Thankfully, doing great works in our hearts is one of His areas of expertise. 

As I continue to wait for God’s response, God will continue to work in my heart, and I will continue to have a choice on how to wait. Waiting well may take more discipline than waiting with impatience, but it will always afford more opportunities to watch our powerful God work in ways that only He can. 

 

I Thought I Heard God’s Voice

I heard God’s voice. Loud and clear.

I had been praying unceasingly for a breakthrough in a difficult situation, yet I had such an unsettled feeling about how it was going to turn out – until that day. God replaced my tension with His peace. I heard God voice the reply I had been waiting for: “I’ll come through.”

As time moved on, I continued to tell myself, “There is still time for God to come through; I know I heard Him correctly.” However, time kept moving, and then time ran out. The breakthrough I had fervently prayed for did not come to pass.

Then doubt crept in. Did God really say what I thought He said? Was it my imagination? Was it wishful thinking? Perhaps Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known,” was meant for someone else. Maybe it was meant for EVERYBODY else. Except for me.

Then the questions started. “God, did You forget what You told me? Did You forget about this situation? Did You forget about me?”

I got frustrated that God did not do what I expected Him to do. I considered giving Him the silent treatment, at least temporarily. Then I had guilt about being frustrated with God and also about avoiding Him.  

While I tried to sort through those confused feelings, I came to the realization that I DID hear God’s promise correctly. However, I filled in the blanks as to how He was going to accomplish it. When He did not do it the way I supposed He was going to, I doubted He was going to do it at all. 

I had happily accepted His assurance, but I had assumed His approach.

If we compiled a list of adjectives to describe God, the words predictable and conventional would not make the cut. Our unpredictable God frequently employs unconventional methods. 

When God grants us His unmatched “calm down, I will come through,” peace in relation to a promise He has made, our jobs are to 1. accept the peace, and 2. allow Him to choose how and when He will bring the promise to completion. What a blessing to know He is a promise-keeping God who always comes through.

Prayer: Lord, help me hear Your voice and trust Your ways. Help me feel Your Presence as I wait in confidence and expectation. Amen.

My sheep recognize my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 (TLB)

That Wasn’t What I Expected, Lord…

Help me realize that if I am trusting You with my future, it also means believing that You know what You are doing in my present

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Lord, I was confused for quite some time about that answer. “Yes,” would have made perfect sense, and I felt prepared to accept the blessing that I requested. And I was prepared to thank You for it.

But You said, “No,” and it came out of nowhere because I thought all signs were pointing to You responding to this prayer the way I hoped.

I felt blindsided, Lord. And You are very well aware of that because I told You several times. And then I asked several times, “Why, God?” And I did not sense an answer.

I began to realize I was in need of a heart check. I prayed that You would adjust my attitude to one of gratefulness, not one of bitterness. And while You were probing my heart, my eyes needed an exam as well. I needed You to clear my vision; to help me to focus on the many blessings in my life, instead of what I thought was missing.

Lord, I know in the future there will be more unforeseen responses to my prayers.  Remind me that whether or not I understand Your reply, it will be good. It will be right. It will be the answer that allows Your, “All things work together for those who love the Lord,” promise to be on display in my life. Lord, help my definition of good to be in alignment with Your definition of good.

Lord, from now on, help me to invite You into my heartache instead of shutting You out. Help me to acknowledge and appreciate Your Presence in my pain. If I intentionally listen for Your voice, my heart will be open to new and exciting lessons about Your restoration and redemption.

Lord, I am grateful for Your blessings. You bless me with more than I deserve and more than I could ever earn. You generously give to overflowing out of Your deep love, even though I too often zero in on the empty areas because of my short-sightedness.

You take no delight in my distress. You are willing to teach, guide, and love me through disheartening moments. You come alongside me. You never barge in and insist that I instantly proclaim Your plan as better than mine. Instead, You tenderly offer Your enlightenment, as I process the pain and revitalize and regain trust in You.

Lord, You have promised hope and a future to all Your children. Help me realize that if I am trusting You with my future, it also means believing that You know what You are doing in my present.  Replace any lingering feelings of lack and loss with Your perfect peace.
In Your holy name, I pray. Amen.

Praying For Whom?

Matthew 5:44, in my opinion, is one of the most difficult verses in the entire Bible. It says: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” 

Enemies. Can I safely assume that we all have someone who comes to mind when that word is brought up? Someone who is a source of stress and strife? Possibly it is someone who has physically or verbally attacked us or our family. Maybe it is someone who has become a thorn in our side because of their continual inconsiderate ways. Perhaps it is someone who initiated a one-time event that has caused unresolved bitterness.

    Do we pray for that person? Do we pray that God will touch their heart and heal the part of them that causes them to inflict pain on others? Do we pray that God will soften their heart and help them to see the hurt they have caused and feel sorrow? Or do we think prayer in this particular case is pointless because he or she is beyond the reach of God? (That last one was rhetorical.)

    I have been guilty of sometimes forgetting to pray for the people I have labeled as enemies. I have also been guilty of sometimes intentionally forgetting to pray for them…but I am pretty good at remembering to complain about them. I am pretty good at remembering to tell my close friends or husband what my enemies have done. I am pretty good at referring back to the offense that makes them so hard to pray for with the hope that maybe I can get a “prayer pass.” Maybe my confidante will say, “You know, what she did WAS truly horrible. Let others pray for her…it would just be too much to expect you, the victim, to pray for God to touch her heart and to perform a change in her life.” I have not yet heard those words or anything similar. I have a feeling l will be waiting a while to hear a response that will let me off the hook in the “pray for those who persecute you” department.

    Possibly part of what hinders me from praying for enemies is the realization that He might decide it is the ideal time for Him to impress upon me that I am in need of a heart change. And, you know, if He would choose to mention that while I am obediently pleading with Him to change him or her, it might be a bit irritating. 😉However, God speaks to us about our hearts when He has our attention. And sometimes the prime time for attention-getting is when we are right in the middle of telling Him why and how He should change the heart of our enemy. (And yes, I do say this from experience.)

    Loving and praying for our enemies is a big commandment given to us by a big God who never leaves us on our own to tackle the hard stuff. He will help us. He promises He will be by our side. As we pray, maybe we will not see a change in our enemy. But maybe we will. And as we continue to pray, we just might start to see a positive change in ourselves – a change in our hearts, our attitude, and our response, as He helps us to become more like Him. 

    Heavenly Father, when we have someone in our life we are struggling with, help us to respond to them the way You want us to. The easiest reactions are to complain and to focus on the negative. But You’ve told us to pray for our enemies. Help us, Lord, to truly desire that our enemies will be touched by You and that they will feel Your love. Remove the bitterness and anger. Replace it with Your peace that transcends understanding. Reveal to us the ways in which You want to work in our hearts as well, and open our eyes to Your way. Thank You for Your love, Your forgiveness, Your mercy, and Your peace. Amen.fullsizeoutput_cdef

Tomorrow Will Be a New Day

I don’t have a blog post to share today, but I would like to share a song I wrote. “Tomorrow Will Be a New Day” is a lullaby that I started writing bits and pieces of while rocking my grandson, Traxen, to sleep. I recently finished it, and I hope you enjoy it!

Lyrics: Lullaby, lullaby. Close your beautiful eyes, and dream the night away.

Lullaby, lullaby. Close your beautiful eyes. Tomorrow will be a new day.

Now it is time to rest and take deep breaths. Say our prayers, and God will listen.

It’s time to say, “Good night,” by the moonlight, while the shining stars twinkle and glisten.

Lullaby, lullaby. Close your beautiful eyes, and dream the night away.

Lullaby, lullaby. Close your beautiful eyes. Tomorrow will be a new day.

Tomorrow we will talk, and take a walk, and listen to the birds sing.

Let’s make a list of what to do all day and be sure to cross off everything.

The sun will rise, and light up the skies. We’ll have a delightful day.

And when it’s time for bed, you’ll lay down your sweet head. We’ll fold our hands and pray.

We’ll thank God over and over and over and over again for loving us so amazingly.  

Amen.

Lullaby, lullaby. Close your beautiful eyes, and dream the night away.

Lullaby, lullaby.  Close your beautiful eyes.  Tomorrow will be – 

Tomorrow will be – Tomorrow will be a new day.

Home Sweet Home

Years ago, whether our family was arriving home after a week-long vacation or a day-long excursion, our kids could accurately predict that the words out of my mouth as our car pulled into the garage would be, “Home sweet home.”

I have always loved going away. However, when it was time for a family trip to end, an undeniable joy would grow inside of me as our car neared our house. As much as I love family time in exciting locations, and even though these trips provide treasured memories to reminisce about, the truth is, I love being home even more. I feel comfortable, content, and cozy. I feel “at home.”

My husband and I have four children and two daughters-in-law, and all six of them are in varying stages of their college or career pursuits, which means “coming home” has an entirely new meaning these days. 

When our adult children come to our house to stay for a day or two, they open the refrigerator for refreshments and are aware that they are more than welcome to use any household items. It feels natural to them as they “make themselves at home,” and I would not have it any other way.

John 14:23 says, “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  Ephesians 2:22 says, “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

Clearly, God’s Word reminds us that we are to be a dwelling place for our Lord – that He is eager to make His home in us with His Spirit. 

What an unbelievable blessing that Jesus chooses to abide in us and take up residence in our lives. Regardless of the fact that we are unworthy of such a gift, He sincerely desires that our hearts will be His home. Friends, our Lord longs to “make Himself at home,” in us!

What are some ways that our hearts can be a more welcoming place for Him? Are we striving to live our lives in such a way that it will feel natural for Him to dwell in our hearts, as He opens our eyes to His plan for us and uses us for His glory?

As we boldly love Him and bravely live for Him, let our prayer be that we will be a “home sweet home” for Jesus Christ! 

Thank You For Your Faithfulness

Lord, You are the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in a world where genuine stability and certainty is unheard of…we are beyond grateful. 

Lord, thank You for being completely faithful in a world where vows are often broken, commitments are frequently backed out on, and trust is routinely betrayed. Thank You for being dependable in a world where plans are often altered and schedules are often adjusted with no regard for who it affects.

In a world that is weak and wavering in respecting absolute right and wrong, Your Word is a solid, steadfast treasure. Your eternal promises are a gift. If You have said it, we can be assured that it will come to pass. It is settled and sure. 

In a world of instant relief, instant rice, and instant replay, etc., we thank You for demonstrating to us a patience that is unmatched. We are thankful that You teach us the meaning of perseverance, what it accomplishes in our faith, and how it enhances our character. 

Thank You for who You are and for changing us to become more and more like You. When we display faithfulness, dependability, patience, and perseverance to others, they are then blessed with a glimpse of Your character in a world that is in desperate need of more of You. Open our eyes to opportunities to develop Your characteristics in our lives. Open our hearts to the desire to seek more of You, so that those traits increasingly become a part of who we are.

We pray this in Your holy name. Amen.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.  Psalm 119:90

Thoughts and Prayers

Lately, the phrase “thoughts and prayers,” has taken a verbal beating in some circles. Numerous times, the common social media response of, “My thoughts and prayers are with you,” has been mocked, belittled, or challenged.

Of course, there are occasions when the “thoughts and prayers,” response may be a trite, typed phrase with little to no real meaning behind it. However, there are many times it is said with the sincere motive of asking God to comfort and strengthen those affected by hardship and asking for wisdom to know how to be of assistance. And in those cases, hearing a sarcastic or angry complaint after telling someone they are being prayed for can definitely take the well-wisher off guard.

When a Christian says that their thoughts and prayers are with someone, it is not to relieve them of the responsibility of doing something beyond praying. 

Prayers are not being said to check off some “thing I need to say to make myself feel better,” box. I get the impression that when someone expresses that their thoughts and prayers are with a person, there are people who actually hear, “Now I have said I am thinking of them and praying for them, therefore, I can go about my business and act as if nothing is wrong and continue hoping for no change.”  For Christians, when a tragedy strikes and it is a situation that they are able and compelled to help with, thoughts and prayers come to mind first in order to get prepared to take action. Prayers preface action because the person praying desires to take action that will reflect what God is calling them to do. Prayers preface action because they desire to hear from God, who promises to give wisdom generously to all without finding fault, as found in James 1:5.

In John 16:33, Jesus said that in this world we will have trouble, but to take heart because He has overcome the world. Until the end of time, there will be tragedies and difficult situations and therefore, many reasons to pray. But thank God, also until the end of time, we can pray with confidence to God because He has overcome the world. Friends, keep praying! God hears. God cares.

How Are You Doing?

How are you doing? It is a question that is easy for us to quickly answer most of the time. But for my daughter, Mallory, and others who have brain injuries, the reply depends on multiple factors. I would love to have an opportunity to give you an idea, to the best of my ability, to tell you “how she is doing.” 

Mallory suffered her 4th concussion in a basketball game in December of 2016, and her 5th in a car accident in February of 2017.  She has seen many professionals, all with the best intentions, but not all with positive effects. She has been prescribed various therapies, supplements, and medications with differing results. So far, many have made the “Not Effective” or “Made Her Feel Worse” lists. Right now she is in the midst of a couple new therapies that we are hopeful will give her a much prayed-for breakthrough.

Since December of 2016, she has struggled with a vast array of symptoms at different degrees of severity depending on several components including the time of day, how tired she is, how full her schedule is, and how much cognitive activity has taken place that day. 

There are bad days and there are “not-quite-as-bad” days, and rarely any indication of what kind of day it will be until she is smack-dab in the middle of it. Some symptoms she battles on a daily basis include a constant headache, fatigue, and insomnia. Also, her autonomic nervous system refuses to calm down, so she is constantly in fight or flight mode. She has short-term memory issues (the reason she writes in a notebook and types many reminders on her phone to keep track of what she needs to do that day, her homework assignments that are due, and even conversations that she has had because she is embarrassed when she repeats stories to people) soreness in her back, shoulders, and neck, because her brain is trying to coax her into the fetal position for protection purposes, focus problems, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to different sounds, sensitivity to overstimulation in her environment, anxiety, and because of the part of her brain that is injured, a difficult time trusting people. Add in the fact that she is a teenage girl and there is built-in stress with that and therefore…bad days can be, well, pretty bad. From my perspective, her “not-quite-as-bad-days” sometimes have me thinking (hoping) she is on the upward swing, when I can’t physically see her grimace in pain or suffer from fatigue, for instance. But it comes down to the fact that I often do not realize how bad her day has been since this young lady copes with her new life like a champ.

Quite possibly the most disturbing of all of her TBI effects is that Mallory feels like her brain belongs to someone else. She does not feel like herself anymore. She is on a roller coaster ride that she did not ask to get on. It’s as if her emotions, physical symptoms, and neurological functions conspired against her and boarded a different roller coaster that’s running right next to her. That ride is within reach, but she has no control over the ups, downs, twists, and turns.      

If you don’t mind, I would like to be “that mom” for just a few moments and say that brain injury is an invisible injury that doesn’t require a cast or crutches while healing, but it is just as real. I would like to shout from the rooftops that she is not faking it, it is not an attention-seeking ploy, she sometimes just needs a break from the world and to not take it personally, and, no she is not “lucky” that she has some school accommodations to help her cope with the fact that schoolwork is all of a sudden challenging. (She would much rather have a healthy brain and no accommodations, thank you very much.)  I want to say that because she seems happy-go-lucky one day and maybe not the next, it is to be expected, because it is a very up-and down-healing process. “That mom” in me wants you to know that she gears up for activities and does those activities to the best of her ability…but the “gearing up” takes a toll on her even before the activity begins, so after a busy week or a big event, her body and brain require extra time to get back to normal, or rather, whatever her new normal is.  “That mom” in me wants to say that the thing she wants the most from people is understanding. 

Mallory is attempting to figure out her new normal, and she is doing it while being a pretty amazing young lady.  She will soon be graduating high school and registering for college classes, she is involved in many music endeavors (I believe music is extremely therapeutic) she is on the local ambulance squad, she has started a blog (mallorythielgesblog.com) which I highly recommend checking out, and she does it all (most of it) with a smile. 😉

My husband and I have said that this is a whole new territory for us, and truth be told, we are getting educated on something we would rather have not known this much about!  However, the “all things work together for good” promise that God gives us in Romans 8:28 reminds us to look for the positives in this situation. The most important one is that Mallory’s faith and boldness in sharing with others about her faith have been renewed and revitalized. Engage her in a conversation, and you’ll likely be reminded of God’s plan and peace for your life. 

And that is my attempt to sum up how Mallory is doing. She is experiencing something she could be complaining about; something that could make her feel hopeless at times, but at the end of the day, she is finding and focusing on the positive. She is reminding others and herself of God’s plan and peace. And this mom thinks she is doing quite well.

 

New Song: Place Your Faith In Me

I want to share a song with you that I just finished writing yesterday!  The end of the chorus, “Do not trust in what you see,” is a phrase that God keeps bringing to my mind lately. He is constantly working in our lives and the lives of people we are praying for…sometimes in ways that we can see and sometimes not. He asks us to keep trusting in Him and believing that (as Romans 8:28 says) He is working “all things together for good.”

Scroll down for the link, take a listen and as always, I would love to hear from you!

Here are the lyrics:

Verse 1: Looking at our problems with human eyes, we don’t always realize that God is a god of miracles, specializing in impossible.

When it seems like He is far away, when you can’t grasp why life’s working out this way –if we love and live for Him it’s understood:  He’s working all things for our good.

Chorus:  Amidst the chaos ringing loud and clear, God’s voice reminds us that we need not fear. When burdens on your heart are weighing, on your knees you’re praying, Can you hear Him saying? “Do not trust in what you see. My child, place your faith in me.”

Verse 2: Daniel was in a lion’s den. Gideon fought against stronger men. Sarah thought she was past her prime.  God came through just in time.

David was hiding inside a cave. Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave. The thief felt defeated by his crime. God came through just in time.

Chorus: Amidst the chaos ringing loud and clear, God’s voice reminds us that we need not fear. When burdens on your heart are weighing, on your knees you’re praying, Can you hear Him saying? “Do not trust in what you see. My child, place your faith in me.”

Bridge: Since before we were born, we were called by His grace to pursue and reflect His beautiful face. So, remember when you don’t see the hands of God, You can always trust the plans of God.

Chorus:  Amidst the chaos ringing loud and clear, God’s voice reminds us that we need not fear. When burdens on your heart are weighing, on your knees you’re praying, Can you hear Him saying? “Do not trust in what you see. My child, place your faith in me.”

Place Your Faith In Me