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I DON’T KNOW ABOUT TOMORROW

WhoHoldsTomorrow

The past several weeks have been filled with heartache. I lost a good friend to cancer and a family member at age 59 to Alzheimer’s. I grope for words of comfort to share with those families torn with grief at the death of a loved one. Amidst this recent roller coaster ride of emotion, I received word that a cousin has been diagnosed with liver/colon cancer. The devastating diagnosis comes just days after her sister’s husband was laid to rest.

Nothing equips us for the detours of this earthly journey. We can prepare, plan and pray, but ultimately, we can’t control our future. For me, the reality of our human limitations was most realized as I watched my Daddy take his last breath. He was a dedicated minister, pastor and Bible teacher. His commitment to his faith was unquestioned; yet, he suffered a debilitating disease that led to death. He couldn’t control his future.

Did my Daddy pray for a miracle? Of course he did. Did he question or understand the earthly path God had chosen for him? If he did, he never shared those thoughts. Instead, he chose to accept those things he could not change and to live each day with hope and purpose.

Only God knows what tomorrow holds for us, our nation and our world. Satan continually deploys detours to keep us from following God’s divine plan.
His earthly arsenal includes sickness, disease, addiction, poverty, abuse, persecution and even death in his attempts to undermine our commitment of faith in Jesus Christ. Stand firm in your Christian faith; refuse to let the enemy compromise or have a stronghold on your faith.

This is a song my Daddy would sing in church when I was a youngster. It still seems very appropriate.

I DON’T KNOW WHO HOLDS TOMORROW
I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine,
For its skies may turn to grey.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what lies ahead.

CHORUS:
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But, I know who holds tomorrow
And, I know who holds my hand.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
Romans 8:38

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GIVE IT ALL TO JESUS

shattered-dreams3There is no amount of preparation for blind-sided moments life randomly throws into our path. One minute life is good and then something happens that stuns our senses; within seconds our immediate reality becomes surreal as we struggle to make sense of what just happened.

The phone call informing me my sister-in-law had been killed instantly in a car accident was just one of those blindsided moments for me. There have been others; like the words ‘Stage IV’ uttered by the oncologist when my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer or ‘I’m leaving you for someone else’.

History is filled with stories about mankind being blindsided by events or occurrences they can’t control. Certainly the Philistines were blindsided when the walls of Jericho came tumbling down and Samson was blindsided when Delilah cut off his locks of hair. Life doesn’t afford us the opportunity to redo moments in time. I wish it did and I am fairly certain you feel the same.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if my ex-husband still loved me, my sister-in-law was still alive or my dad’s cancer had been miraculously cured? But none of that happened and it never will. My new reality is to accept the challenge to regroup and move forward. It’s the only survival option we have and with God’s help it’s not impossible.

If you have been blindsided by something or someone in life, there is hope in Jesus. In our brokenness, hurt and sadness, he reshapes the attitude of our mind and infuses hope within us. The scars still remain, but so do the scars on the hands and feet of Jesus. It is our blindsided scars that bear witness to our desire to survive amidst some of life’s most difficult moments if we give them all to Jesus.

This song sums it up for me.

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DIANE’S STORY

Today, I share with you one of my sister’s writing from an upcoming book to be published. It will contain real-life stories, just like this one, to help encourage, uplift and bring hope when life situations break you. I have walked in the shoes of Diane; not just once, but twice. I pray this shared story uplifts the heart of someone today.

my storyThis vacation would be like no other.  I had no inkling of the devastating news I would receive.  As we packed and prepared for our summer family vacation, I felt a nudge from the Lord to talk to my husband Steve about an incident that had happened years ago earlier in our marriage.  Brushing it aside, I thought, “this happened 20 years ago.  Why would I bring that up now while we are getting ready for vacation?  “This can’t be God”, and proceeded to talk myself out of such a revealing moment.

Our vacation was going along well, until the last evening.  After dinner, I had decided to take a walk along the lake behind our campsite. Steve followed me after I had been gone for a few minutes.  It was at this time my husband of 21 years asked me for a divorce. My mind reeled, thinking “Divorce?”  I was plainly in shock, not suspecting this scenario at all.  It’s amazing I could even think of saying, “you’re involved with someone aren’t you?”  His response was “yes.”

After this confirmation, I recalled the nudging I had experienced prior to leaving on vacation and began to relay to Steve the incident of 20 years ago.

We had been married for a few years and living in California.  We were at a very low point in our marriage.  Steve had been discharged out of the army and doing drugs.   I was working and feeling very alone taking care of our son Steve, who was between two and three years old.  During this time of loneliness, I had an affair.   As I relayed this to my husband, his face expressed shock but still dead-set on wanting to end our marriage.

It felt like a tsunami had hit me with violent force.  I felt physically ill.

In that moment, he expressed to me that I was a great person, and even a great mom, but we were just too different.  I was a Christian, and he was not.  “You should meet someone more like you.”  Already feeling emotionally stunned, he expressed he wasn’t happy.

How do you recuperate from that, having to pretend none of this happened, since my youngest son and his friend were with us?  We had the packing up and the drive home yet.

Upon returning home, he wanted to stay living in our house together for at least another week.  After what seemed like eternity, he moved out.  Before he did, we sat down with our two boys, Steven and Karl, and told them the uncomfortable news, “mom and dad are getting a divorce.”  I left the room crying forced to face the fact that our marriage was over.  Thankfully, my boys were very comforting to me.

Seven years went by before he filed for divorce.   Divorce is a painful experience.  You really do become one.  I experienced pain from crying but also an actual physical tearing from deep within my soul.  Thoughts would swirl around in my head wondering “what am I going to do now? I can’t believe this has happened to me?”

I needed help in getting through this, so I began going to divorce care and read a book on divorce from the perspective of the one who asked for the divorce.  It was a real eye opener.  I started to grasp his emotional disconnect when he broke the news.  He had already separated himself from me and made the decision to leave.  Now I had to start the process as well.

Divorcing is a lot like death, except the person is still alive.  I went through the stages of grief.  In order to get through my stage of anger, I began working out, lifting weights, because I didn’t know what to do with myself.  Some of my angriest moments were watching my children trying to handle our divorce.  I eventually came to the place where I would allow myself the space to feel it emotionally.  I knew I needed to.

Something remarkable happened to me in 2013 as I sat in church.  Our pastor was preaching about husbands and wives, something that was still uncomfortable for me to hear.  As he preached, I felt my emotions stir again, feeling the pain.  In that moment, I brought this pain to the Lord, giving it to Him, not knowing what else to do.

That Sunday evening, as I was getting ready for bed, I realized the emotion I was feeling was unforgiveness.  “After all this time, unforgiveness?”  The Holy Spirit was telling me that I needed to forgive Steve.  Forgive him for taking away my dream of growing old with someone.  I recalled thinking that thought when he told me he wanted a divorce. Praise God for that extraordinary evening when God’s presence burst into my life and I relinquished my unforgiving heart.

Through all this, I have learned I cannot control anybody else or their choices, only my own.  I’m responsible for me……Diane.  I had to deal with regretful thoughts like “how come I couldn’t win over my husband like the Proverbs 31 woman? I did pray for him, fasted for him?”  I had to come to terms that I was not responsible for the choices he made.

I’ve learned to embrace today and realize that once today is gone, it’s gone.

I have found a strength I never knew existed in me – living alone, doing things on my own.  My circle of friends has become larger.  I am totally surrounded.

Today, when I look at myself, I see someone completely different.  There are things I will not settle for again, when I do meet someone else.  It has made me know the Lord as my husband and deeply enriched my faith family.

Interviewed and written by Sharon Garner

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THE BUDDY BENCH

BuddyBenchLast week my granddaughter, Olivia, had a melt-down because she was being excluded by one of her school friends at recess time. Apparently, her friend had a new best friend and all former friends, including my granddaughter, were being ignored.

In an effort to promote harmony, I suggested we have a sleep-over for all parties involved. In doing so, NeeNee had a serious conversation with the girls about the emotional upsets they were having at school.

I love the honesty, resiliency and forgiving spirit of kids. As I talked with the girls they were candid about their feelings and in between their tearful sobs they talked about how it felt to be left out and sit on the playground ‘buddy bench’ the entire recess period because no one offers to play with them.

Being excluded at any age causes us to ask ourselves, “What is wrong with me.” Loneliness takes up residency in our spirit and opens the door for resentment, anger and, in some cases, thoughts of suicide. In my lifetime, I have experienced that kind of loneliness. Betrayal, divorce, joblessness, anxiety attacks, death of a loved one; or the loss of or longing for friendship have all taken lead role at some time or another.

The reason for your loneliness may be different than mine, but one thing is certain, loneliness is no respecter of persons; the emotions it stirs within us are the same. Perhaps you are sitting on the ‘buddy bench’ right now waiting for someone to befriend you, to care; to listen. That person is sitting next to you at this very moment. His name is Jesus and all you need to do is take His hand. He longs to lead you to the still waters and restore your soul; He longs to be your friend.

You will always find Jesus on the ‘buddy bench’ waiting to be a friend to anyone who asks.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20, ESV

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ARE YOU A BRANCH THAT BENDS OR SNAPS?

IMG_0444I took a walk in the woods yesterday in search of specific branches to make fall wreaths. It is not uncommon to encounter deer, turkey and rabbits along the trails that run through the wooded area which is one of the reasons I love my property and the wetlands that surround it.

My youngest grandson, Fischer, accompanied me on the walk. I looked for branches while he searched for a strong and sturdy walking stick; the kind of stick he could bang against trees and fight off imaginary animals. Every once in a while I would stop, clip a few branches with my pruning shears and continue down the trail. Eventually Fischer wanted to help me.

“Here’s one Neenee. How about this one, it is really long?” he shouted as he ran ahead of me.
My reply was always the same, “Sorry, buddy, but that one will snap and break as soon as I bend and twist it into the shape I need.”

“How do you know if a branch will break?”

I pointed to a dead oak tree and said, “See how there is no growth on that tree? There are many branches that have broken off and fallen to the ground; they are now filled with rot and decay and will eventually get burned in the fire pit.”

He responded with “Oh” and continued to skip down the path whacking everything within reach of his walking stick. I, on the other hand, continued to seek out branches that would willing bend to my purpose.

As I walked back to the house and dropped my bounty, the following scripture came to mind:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15: 5-8

Let us seek to cling to the vine of Jesus so we can be shaped into His intended purpose.

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DUCT TAPING OUR BROKENNESS

The other morning a worker walked into my office. I complimented her on the new scarf she had knitted. She thanked me, turned toward the door to head to her work station.  “Hold up”, I called out. My gaze was fixated on the back of her shoes.

“What’s up with the heel of your shoes. Do you need help in buying a new pair”?

“Oh, no”, she replied. Her chuckle indicated this wasn’t the first time she had been asked this question. “I can’t bear to let go of these comfy shoes. When the heel areas fell apart, I started to duct tape the parts that were broken and torn.”

IMG_6913

Are you using duct tape to repair broken and torn moments in your life?

I have a shelf lined with duct tape moments. We are creatures of habit and letting go of comfy situations, even if they are broken, can be difficult. The easy fix is to pull out the duct tape to cover our brokenness and hurt. And if the first layer of duct tape doesn’t work, we will often apply a second, sometimes a third layer.

God longs to peel away those self-applied layers of duct tape.

Duct tape has been dubbed the ‘fix-all’; but it is only a temporary fix. Jesus is the permanent fix and longs to peel away our self-applied bandages. Sometimes we can’t fix the broken and we can’t repair the seams in our life that ravel and fray. But Jesus can.

“Some people see broken things and say, get the duct tape. Jesus sees broken people and says, get the cross.” ~Denise Marks~

Know when to trade-in the comfortable shoes of life.

My worker has no intention of trading her duct-taped shoes for something better. She is content applying continual layers of duct tape to hold together her footsteps in life.  But at some point the duct tape will erode and no longer bind together the broken parts. What then?

God does not intend for us to go through life using duct tape. In the spiritual world duct tape does not bind up our wounds.

“He heals their broken hearts and bandages their wounds.” (Psalms 147:3)

If there are wounds in your heart you are helpless to heal, you only need to call out to Jesus. The bandages of God heal, rather than hide, the source of our brokenness. It is up to you to lay down the duct tape and invite God to heal your brokenness.