This week I have been posting on what it means that Jesus is our Healer. I talked about why we get sick, why we sometimes are — or are not — healed by God in a miraculous way. But sometimes sickness comes for reasons we can’t understand, and sometimes we are not healed, even when we do everything “right.” Because sometimes sickness has something to do with how God is going to be glorified in our lives, or God’s priorities for our lives. And when we live on the finite plane of existence, while God is on the infinite, there are often things He sees that we do not see, or things for which we can’t understand the significance in our little corner of time and space.

Paul, the great apostle who wrote much of the New Testament and participated in many people receiving divine healing from God, this same man experienced something in his life which he metaphorically called a “thorn in the flesh.” He tells of it in 2 Corinthians 12

even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What was it? What was that thorn? It is kept intentionally vague in the Bible, I believe, so that we can all relate to it better. There are as many theories about what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was as there are people who have unique challenges. We do have a few clues:

  • He writes to the Galatians and mentions an illness which in some way had the power to be revolting because he praises their kind reception of him even though he was sick (Galatians 4). Is this the same thing he refers to as a “thorn”? We don’t know.
  • He didn’t write his many letters by himself ― In some of the letters he mentions “see with what large letters I write” (Gal 6:11) or in several places he adds “I write this with my own hand” at the end of a letter, to authenticate it really was from him. Was Paul going blind? Did he also have rheumatoid arthritis and his hands didn’t work very well anymore? We don’t know.
  • Luke the physician traveled with him in later life. Luke himself mentions this, and also Paul mentions it in his letters. Did Paul travel with a physician because Luke was now helping him spread the gospel — or because he needed frequent medical care? We don’t know.

One thing we do know, though, is that sometimes our physical healing is not the greatest priority God has for our lives. Sometimes inexplicably, God will take someone and it just seems like “IT WAS TOO SOON.” And for reasons that we may honestly NEVER understand.

God has created us for eternity, but in the finiteness of our little minds and how bound we are by time and space, it’s easy to forget that this world and this life is not the end goal or the greatest glory.

In the church I attended in college, there was a widow whose husband had once been the pastor there. Sometimes people would ask Pastor Lilian, “Are you mad at God for taking your husband away so soon? He was such a good man who served God so faithfully.” Lilian shared with me that she would tell people that she was not mad at God, and though she may not know the reasons he died young, she did know this: “God doesn’t owe me anything.” Jesus has already paid the price for our eternal life! He doesn’t OWE US anything: not an explanation, not a husband, not a healing. She would say, I enjoyed my life with my husband and I am thankful. I continue to bless God and live for God now, while I still have life.

Pastor Lilian knew that healing in this life isn’t the real goal.

Eternity is the real goal. And she knew her husband had eternity with Jesus. That was enough. That IS enough. If we will embrace that possibility that Jesus with me is enough for THIS LIFE AND THE NEXT, then any blessings in this life are not what we are owed, they are bonuses.

But sometimes God has another priority first. I have so many stories I could share, but I bet you already know these stories, too. Stories of people who found something beautiful out of a pain they would never have chosen, yet they see how God is at work through it. Stories like my friend whose car wreck gave her lots of chances to share Jesus’ love with people… like the one in the wheelchair who knows if it wasn’t for that accident, he probably wouldn’t be walking with Jesus right now… like the girl who lived her first ten or so years with scoliosis, and then was instantly healed at summer camp before a few hundred kids who will forever remember that miracle.

Our Foursquare movement was founded by a woman who some would say had more boldness and faith than wisdom. When it was time to build a church, they only had enough money to dig the foundation. She said, “Dig a hole, God will fill it.” And God did. And when it came to healing, she knew that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If He could heal then, He can heal now. And she had an amazing healing ministry.

Why am I ill? I like to think it’s because God is going to get some glory out of this thing.

Is he going to heal me? Or is this my thorn in the flesh? I don’t know. But I am going to ask. Paul prayed “three times” and God said “my grace is sufficient, and my strength is made perfect in your weakness.” Basically, God said, “this is something you are going to have to live with so stop asking.”

I want to keep on asking until God tells me to stop asking.

But in the meantime, I’m not going to get mad at God for my body’s failings. And I am not going to let fear of what it could mean interfere with what I feel God is calling me to do. 

On the one hand it can seem like “God designing people to be disabled or chronically ill is just mean.”

On the other hand, Who am I to say that differently-abled means defective? We ALL have some way in which we are differently abled than everyone else. I’m short – my husband is tall. Good for me on airplanes, good for him on reaching high shelves. We all have things we don’t like about our bodies.

I was part of a playgroup in California. There were kids there who were so smart and everything you’d think a kid ought to be. And there was a little girl in the group who had Down Syndrome. Kid #1 will maybe get a college scholarship and wind up making lots of money but he might also be the biggest arrogant, entitled jerk you ever saw. The girl with Down Syndrome was the sweetest, most loving, light of your life and make your day child  ― full of faith in Jesus and bringing his encouragement ― that you could ever meet. Both kids have equal potential to shine the light of Christ and make the world a better place.

I don’t care if you live in a wheelchair, have rheumatoid arthritis, a learning disorder, are blind, or live with an injury …

There is NOTHING THAT DISQUALIFIES YOU FROM AN AMAZING LIFE but your own attitude. Sometimes it is the attitude that really needs to be healed.

God has given us so many tools at our disposal for our healing.

Even in Leviticus we see things God told Israel to do, which we would call nutritional therapies or germ management or naturopathic remedies. God has given us therapies and healing foods and herbs and essential oils and things we can do to promote our own healing.

God has also given people incredible wisdom to create medicines and do surgeries and things to bring about healing. Often, these are things God uses for our healing.

But we often forget that there is a third option, which is divine healing.

There is a balance, I think we need to find, between “All I can do is pray” – when often that is NOT all YOU can do. And on the other end of the spectrum, we might say, “I guess I’ll just have to take medication forever… or die…” when there IS the possibility that GOD will show up miraculously.

I think that God likes to show up miraculously when we are ready to say, “this is way beyond me” and we are willing to stand up and say “I need a move of your Holy Spirit.”

Ultimately, the goal in this life is to be able to sing “It is well with my soul” no matter what kind of problems we face. No matter what kind of healing we are seeking– until it comes– God wants us to learn how to sing “It is Well With My Soul.”

But don’t forget that there are a lot of other songs we can sing, about God bringing healing, and doing miracles.

I need healing. How long do I want to do experimental treatments with my doctor and experiment with whatever lifestyle changes I can make…??? I mean, I want healing NOW! I want to be healed NOW. Can God do it? YES, ABSOLUTELY HE CAN!! Will God do it it now for me? The only way I can will know the answer to that is if I ask, and I keep on asking until he either says, “No, my grace is sufficient” or he says YES and I am healed. So I am ASKING!

Here’s a song to help you in your asking.

When we look at the New Testament and why people ARE healed divinely, it is really quite interesting to see the diversity of experiences people have of Jesus’ healing. The common thread is that Jesus heals in response to faith, and in response to our asking.

The Gospel of Mark is a really wonderful place to read to see some of the variety of experiences people had with Jesus with physical healing.

Sometimes he heals a person in response to someone else’s faith, like the parents who asked for healing for their child (Mark 5), or the four friends who lowered the paralytic through the roof so they could get close enough to Jesus (Mark 2).

Sometimes he heals in response to obedience like the one who first he forgives the man’s sin (sometimes it seems we really do need healing because of our own sin) – in Mark 2:5 – then he heals him.

Sometimes Jesus heals simply because of his own compassion:

  Luke 7:11 Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. 12 A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. 14 Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” 15 Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Sometimes we need to be PERSISTENT in prayer. There are several times in the gospels where it says people had to ask repeatedly (Mark 5:23, Mark 7:25-29). We sometimes give up too soon.

Sometimes Jesus would heal just to prove a point – I mean, wouldn’t you love to be healed just to prove a point in a sermon? Wouldn’t that be great to see on Sundays? In Mark 3:3 this happened.

It does seem to be the case, that when God wants to establish that HIS KINGDOM is come, like when Jesus walked on earth, or when the early church was being established, or other strong moves of his Holy Spirit around the world in modern day, that there often seems to be a strong move of God’s healing power.

When we AREN’T divinely healed – WHY?

Stay with me here, because this part is where you could get offended if you don’t read all the way through. And remember, I am still awaiting my healing… so if you’ve been praying for healing, and it hasn’t happened, please know that sometimes not receiving healing has NOTHING to do with anything that we are or are not doing. Okay? But sometimes it does. And I want to look at that part first.

Sometimes it is as simple as looking back at those lists – we aren’t healed because we aren’t asking! We aren’t healed because we don’t have faith, we don’t even consider it as one of the possible remedies to our problems. We aren’t expecting it. We lack persistence in prayer.

Sometimes it is because we are not being obedient ― There are times God asked people to participate in their own healing by doing some sort of act of obedience, like in John 9 where the blind man was sent to wash in a certain pool.  There are also times when we face affliction because we are not doing what God has asked us to do. The founder of the Foursquare movement, Aimee Semple McPherson, is an example of this: when she came back from China and was remarried and now a mother of two, she was gravely ill on her deathbed. God had a call on her life, and she was not following through. Imagine with me: young woman, two kids, called to preach, and her husband wasn’t fully keen on the idea. But she knew what God was asking of her. And her body was literally wasting away because she was resisting the call of the Holy Spirit on her life. Sick in bed, she finally called out – God if you are calling me, and you will heal me, I will go. So God healed her, and she went! Deathbed bargaining with God isn’t always the best plan, but I guess it worked in this case. She even went on to have an amazing healing ministry herself.

Aimee Healing

As I said, I am in the middle of my healing journey – I’m not calling it my illness journey, I am calling it my healing journey – and I am asking myself all those things. God, is there sin in my life? Am I lacking trust in you and allowing stress to ravage my life? Am I allowing pride to get in the way of your healing?

Healing usually doesn’t happen in the dark. Sometimes Jesus would say “don’t tell!” but usually people couldn’t help but spread the word and publicly praise God for healing! In other time, he called people out. Like in the story of woman bleeding for 12 years (Mark 5) who touched Jesus’ robe, and Jesus was like, “Oh I am happy to heal but let’s give the Father the glory for this y’all! Who touched me? Who was healed?”

If we are going to ask for healing we ought to at least be willing to give God the glory! If shame is keeping you in the dark and you are praying for God to heal you, but you aren’t willing to tell anyone about what it is you need healed, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that you will not be healed without bringing whatever it is to the light. And that goes for more than just physical healing – all that I am saying is true for emotional healing, healing of marriages or other broken relationships, healing of addictions or bad habits or thought patterns or mental illness. If there is any area of your life that needs healing – or really, we all need it so I should say WHATEVER your need of healing is, not IF you need healing – whatever it is, BRING IT TO THE LIGHT. It doesn’t have to be a crowd. Where two or more are gathered, God is there!

Sometimes God wants us to participate in our healing, and when we are not willing to be full participants in the story God has designed for our lives, sometimes that is why we lack the fullness of his blessing in our lives, which can include physical healing.

But sometimes none of this has anything to do with it… sometimes God is just writing a different story for our lives. ALL of God’s stories are good stories, but they definitely do not all have the same ending, and sometimes the “happy” ending is the one that comes when we transfer to eternity, and sometimes the triumph is not at all what you would expect it to be. So check in tomorrow and I’ll talk about that!

Yesterday I mentioned a sermon I preached last Sunday at church about how Jesus is our Healer. This week, I am posting some of those thoughts here. I started with why we get sick in the first place. Today I want to share a little of my own context for processing all these thoughts.

This issue of the NEED FOR HEALING is something that I am personally experiencing and walking through with Jesus right now. In retrospect I can see that my physical symptoms began about a year and a half ago, but at the time, it was nothing that I wouldn’t attribute to just normal fatigue or aging. Just over a year ago I started experiencing some symptoms that were rather odd, and since it had been almost five years since I’d seen a doctor, I decided maybe I just ought to get checked out. Those early odd symptoms (I call it being “allergic to cold” … the actual name is Raynaud’s Disease) are something for which I am now very grateful, because they led to a much quicker diagnosis than I think I would have received otherwise. You see, in the process of doing bloodwork, etc. for that issue, a lot of other things I’d been experiencing in mild form got a lot worse.  I could no longer attribute fatigue to lack of sleep, because I was sleeping more than ever. I battled depression. I started getting fevers for no discernible reason. My joints began to hurt at random, with no tie to any injury or over-exertion. I began to stay up later, even though I knew I’d be tired the next day, and after a few weeks of that I was talking to God about it and realized I was afraid to go to bed… because I never knew what I would feel like in the morning, or what might hurt. The tendons in my hands felt like they were burning if I tried to fully extend my fingers, and I literally couldn’t make a fist. In the worst days, my wrists were so tender that picking up anything heavier than my cell phone was just painful, and I chose what to wear based on how much it might or might not hurt to put it on and take it off.

And I didn’t know why. I would pray, “God, you have to hold me together” because some days I felt like my skin was the only thing keeping my hands attached to my arms.

The diagnosis came at the end of September.

Rheumatoid Arthritis.

I decided to go with the medicine my doctor recommended and also look into alternative therapies, such as changes in diet, certain herbs and essential oils, and exercises. So far, I am vastly improved, and now mostly I just deal with a fairly constant achiness instead of debilitating pain. And the cold allergy is still there.

I don’t say all this to elicit sympathy. I do appreciate the prayers and encouragement of those who know a little of what I’ve experienced, but I really don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I have always hated appearing weak, and I don’t want to burden anyone else with my problems.

The truth is, I was struggling with my own fears of what an incurable, chronic autoimmune disorder would do for my own future and my dreams. One of my college roommates and dear friends dealt with juvenile-onset rheumatoid arthritis, and knowing what she went through was quite a shadow on my own hopes for the future. She is an amazing, strong, talented woman and a beautiful soul — really, I do want to be like her! But I wasn’t excited about sharing this particular trait with her.

But in not sharing my struggles I was giving Satan power in a number of ways. 

First, I was isolating myself by not letting anyone see the internal struggle. I was cutting off a powerful source of goodness in my life, which is the power of connection. You see, God’s power thrives in our lives when we connect with God and others. Satan’s power thrives in disconnection. When we are internally disconnected because we don’t internally process or admit to ourselves the emotions we experience. When we are disconnected from others by not sharing what’s really going on. When we are disconnected from God because we don’t know how He fits in this new paradigm.

Second, by allowing the fear to stay inside, I gave it a power in my life that fear NEVER has when it comes into the light. Simply by saying, “I am afraid” – the fear loses at least half of the power it has on my thoughts and emotions. Try it, you will see it is true!

Third, by not sharing my need for healing, I was depriving God of an opportunity for him to get glory in both my healing and in my testimony of how I might walk through this struggle WITH HIM instead of BLAMING HIM.

Fourth, by pretending that everything was fine I was allowing my pride to lead me in living a lie. The truth is, my body is just as weak as anyone else’s. To humble myself and admit my weakness and my need for God gets me back into that stream of God’s power, the place where my honesty and humanity connect me to you as we share in our unique challenges of the human experience. And the place where God’s grace is evident to me, as I allow him to love me and be with me through the difficult times.

I wonder … are there ways that you are isolating yourself in your own challenges? Who might God be calling you to connect with instead? Do you need to take some time to process some emotions you’ve been blocking, so that you can receive some healing in your emotions or spirit? God already knows what is going on in your life… bring it to the light with Him — be honest! Let Him walk through it with you. Find the connections you need — they lead to the peace that you also need. (Ephesians 4:3)

unity peace Eph 4.3

Our church is doing a series for the month of February on what it means that we are a Foursquare church. We are a Christian church, and more specifically part of the family of churches known collectively as the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.  Not an independent church, but a church that is part of something much bigger, and with a unique family style and emphasis. We celebrate Jesus as our Savior, Healer, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit and Soon Coming King. Last week our senior pastor spoke on the first of these four doctrinal distinctives – Jesus our Savior. Yesterday, I was privileged to speak about what it means that Christ is our Healer. I thought I’d just share some of these thoughts in a few blog posts this week, as this is a subject that I am personally thinking a lot about, as I am on my own healing journey, as I have shared a little bit in the past. Honestly, now that I have been on this little trip for a bit longer, I think my thoughts from last October were rather naive and overly optimistic. As I have learned more about my condition, well, I found it’s very complicated, and while I am still looking to see what I can do to partner with God in my healing, this is definitely something that is beyond me to solve or change. More on that later!

Anyway, I want to share some of my thoughts on what it means that Christ is our healer, and though I will refer more specifically to physical healing, all that I am saying is true for emotional healing, healing of marriages or other broken relationships, healing of addictions or bad habits or thought patterns or mental illness. Jesus can heal us in all areas!

There are two basic facts we can learn from the Bible and from life, when it comes to healing.

  1. God can heal ANYTHING 
  2. God doesn’t always heal

Before we talk about healing specifically, I think it’s worth touching on this topic of why we get sick in the first place.

We live in a fallen world. Viruses… old age… cancer… these are things that attack us all indiscriminately… you can eat lots of kale and exercise every day and meditate and drink water and all those things they say to do, and you can still be attacked by these kinds of plagues.

Sin. Oh that ugly little word that can be so hard to talk about. But it really has a lot to do with how much freedom we live in, physical or otherwise. Sometimes this can be something that isn’t a sin like adultery or stealing, but something like stress. Stress can have an effect on health, and while we usually can’t control those things that bring on stress, ultimately anxiety reveals an area in which we are not fully trusting God. When we look at the ultimate core definition of sin being a disconnection from God or a missing of the mark He has set out for us, it becomes clear how stress is an indication of disconnection. This is often the biggest way that most of us miss the mark — by the ways we fail to go to God when we find ourselves in distress or caught in anxiety ― and when, instead of deepening our trust in God, we internalize that stress or begin coping by overeating or other unhealthy behaviors or addictions — it can have a literally massive effect on our health. I am just as guilty of this as anyone else!

Sin leading to illness can also be things like lifestyle choices that open us up to greater risk of illness — like STDs, how smoking can lead to certain cancers, alcoholism can lead to organ failure … there are all kinds of ways we do not treat our bodies like the temple of the Holy Spirit  like 1 Corinthians 6:19 encourages us to do.

I think I would also mention here that we sometimes end up paying for other people’s sins, like when someone is a victim of abuse, or drunk driving, or other types of violence.

I only mention these, because when we find ourselves in need of healing, I think it is worth it to just come humbly to God and ask, “Is there something I am doing that is causing this illness?” Sometimes God will show us things in our lives that he wants to help us change ― sometimes an internal, emotional or spiritual healing is needed before we will be able to experience physical healing.

But sometimes God will say no – this has nothing to do with what you have done, because there are two other key reasons we sometimes face illness (besides the Fallen World thing, where we also have no control).

For God’s Glory – John 9 tells us this:

1 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”  “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him… Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!

Honestly, I can’t say that I fully understand what exactly Jesus meant by “this happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” Was Jesus just alluding to the fallen world, and saying personal sin has nothing to do with it, but we can take this as an opportunity to see God’s power?

Or is Jesus more directly saying, “God designed this man to be blind because he knew that blindness was going to give the man a life that we would still be talking about two thousand years later.” Really, the more I think of it, the less bad that sounds. I mean, how many people are remembered two thousand years later? Not many! This guy — I am sure being blind wasn’t so fun. Maybe he was cool with it. It doesn’t seem like he actually asked to be healed, even. But I bet he had fun telling that story for the rest of his life!

And that brings me around to the final point of why we get sick:

Because sometimes God has a priority beyond our physical health … and illness provides an opportunity for us.

I could share so many stories about this. While we would never wish a bad thing – an injury or an illness – on anyone, I know so many people who have lived with a disability from birth or who have dealt with a chronic illness or with an injury that developed later in life, and they say the way God met them in that struggle was something that shaped and improved their life in such a way that they would never trade the pain for the sweetness of God’s presence they experienced through it.

What do you think? Have you spent much time thinking about why we have sickness in this world, or what God thinks about it, or if he will still heal people, or if those stories in the Bible are even true? I’ll keep posting through the week, but I’d love to hear your thoughts!

IMG_1469I am forty years old today! And these were the deep ponderings of my heart this morning: what should I wear? What do forty year-olds wear? The answer, of course, is the same thing as thirty-nine year olds. But in all seriousness, I started my day in the best possible way: with God. I often will check my email quickly first thing in the morning, but this morning I thought, What do I want to be my first thing I read as a forty-year-old?  The most fitting answer, I decided, was Psalm 40, and it is a good one. It’s all about waiting for God when we need help, praising and trusting him despite any circumstance; “I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart” (verse 8). For God will deliver – even when no other help is forthcoming! I can raise a hallelujah to that. And that is a great way to begin my year. Full of hope and trust, praise, and patiently waiting for deliverance.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the knowledge that something else is more important than that fear.”

That is the advice Mia’s dad gave her via letter, posthumously, which she read as she decided whether or not to embrace her heritage as a princess. (Yes, I just quoted Disney’s The Princess Diaries movie. Have I mentioned I have a daughter? And have I mentioned that I probably love the movie as much as she does?)

If that was Mia’s dad’s advice to her, what is my advice to myself upon the occasion of turning 40?

How about,

“Admitting weakness is not admitting defeat, but realizing that sharing our weakness and gaining strength from friends is more important than pretending strength and defeating opportunities for friendship.”

Ooh… that’s good. *wink* Or how about this:

“The start of a new year does not mean anything will change unless there is also the start of a new attitude.”

Wow, I am so brilliant at 40! Here’s another good one:

“Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it… yet.”

Though I can’t take credit for that one since L.M. Montgomery came up with it to encourage her heroine, Anne of Green Gables. But it is still excellent advice to anyone who may on occasion go to bed wishing she had accomplished just a little bit more in her day, or done things just a little bit differently. I will tweak it a bit:

“Every day is a new day, with new chances to make small healthy choices toward being the best version of yourself.”

Life is often overwhelming. Just do the next right thing. (Princess Anna taught me that in Frozen 2. Once again, great advice from my fictional heroines. Apparently I am re-embracing my childhood as I turn 40!)

We seldom do it just like we thought we would. But I can’t worry about perfect, and changing the past is impossible. I can only learn from the past and move forward. So onward I go!

There are often more questions than answers. But as a wise man told me recently, “the questions are my friends.” Because if I am trusting and praising, as Psalm 40 says, and delighting in God’s presence and hiding His word in my heart, then the questions are just a reminder that life is a grand adventure full of beautiful surprises. Some days are rainy, but its the rain and the clouds that bring out the breathtaking rainbows and sunsets, water the wildflowers, and create amazingly powerful waterfalls that remind me of my awesome God who cares for me more than any of that.

Happy Birthday. Happy 40. I’m not even half way there yet.

Sometimes if you don’t choose to find a way to laugh, you’ll just sit down and cry. My husband was off work most of last week and it looks like he will be off most of this week. He does construction, and there are jobs lined up, but delays in the projects that are completely out of his or his company’s control. So financially, obviously that is a big challenge, since I barely make anything, and we have more than I am comfortable with on the credit card after a big trip we took in October, and the expenses of Christmas.

But with every cloud comes a silver lining, right?

Cloud: Husband off work.

Silver Lining: We have been able to get more done around the house and have some extra quality time together. He is doing more artwork lately, which he always wishes he had more time for. Also, we might be able to qualify for free school lunches for the kids if  this continues, and that would be really nice, right?

Cloud: The dishwasher isn’t cleaning effectively. We cleaned out the filters, etc., but still, the job wasn’t quite getting done.

Silver Lining: We are teaching our kids to wash dishes and clean up after themselves better, and we are actually better at keeping up with dishes because there is no thought of “I’ll just run the dishwasher in the morning.”

Cloud: I walked into my sons’ room this morning and it felt distinctly colder than the rest of the house. Odd, I thought, maybe they have their heat vent blocked? I stepped up to peer onto the top bunk, which is near the window, and there was definitely a draft. My son who sleeps up there was already out of bed, so I pulled aside the curtains to discover that somehow he had managed to break the old, single-pane glass window as he moved around in his sleep.

window

Silver Lining: We have thick, sturdy curtains by the window, and he has a bunch of huge stuffed animals to also cushion him, so no one was hurt, not even any glass spilled into the room, and we could tell it was definitely broken from the inside and not an attempted break-in. The other silver lining is that since my husband is off work, he is even now working on replacing the window. It faces into the backyard and we had thought if we were going to replace the windows, that would be a good test-case since you can’t really see it from anywhere but the yard. AND, the temperature is in the 40s (instead of the 30s) and it is not raining at the moment, so if it was going to happen, today is the best day for it.

Cloud: We ain’t got no money.

Silver Lining: We always have enough, because we trust God with our finances and keep giving back to God His ten percent (the tithe), and somehow He always makes sure we have enough. Maybe not enough for everything we could WANT, but enough for everything we need. I heard someone on the radio say recently that if we don’t give God back his ten percent then somehow it will be taken from us anyway. I really believe that is true! We have had so many blessings, either as good deals or free items or things that it seems God just worked out for us, or cars that just keep on running. I really want a new couch, but saying no to my wants is good for me, and it is good for my kids to know that going out to eat at every whim isn’t the way to live. If I have money, I’d rather invest it into the church and missions and helping people rather than on fast food anyway. And I can deal with the couch for a little longer. It may be falling apart, but it is still comfortable!

Several years ago my husband and I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course. One of the thing Dave says in the videos is, “We ain’t got money but we sure got love… And it’s a good thing, too, because we sure ain’t got no money!” Something like that anyway! My husband and I like to say that to each other when we feel broke. But the truth is, we aren’t really broke. We have our emergency fund for things like buying that window today, we have very minimal debt besides the house, and in a couple months of careful budgeting we should have those extra credit card expenses paid off too.

1 Timothy 6:6-12 says this:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

There have been several times over this past year when I find myself thinking a little too much about money, and not quite enough about the God who shall supply all my need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). There are always going to be things in life that aren’t quite the way I would wish them to be. There will always be challenges, and unexpected occurrences that are totally out of my control. I often cannot change what is, or what is going to happen. All I can change is how I respond to the situations I am faced with. I need that reminder often — to choose gratitude over worry, to see the silver lining instead of the dark cloud, too look for the rainbow in the rain. I have thought about what I could do to make more money, to feel like somehow I am making more of a contribution to my family’s needs. My husband is so good to remind me that I contribute to the family in ways that are more valuable than money, in the way that I am involved in my kids’ lives. And whenever I think about looking for other work, there is always that still small voice of God saying “now is not the time.”

If I look too much to the future, I can get overwhelmed. If I look too much to what I can’t control, I can become anxious. All I can do is keep my eyes on Jesus, and seek and obey Him day by day.

That is enough.

“O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
Add the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Every year my church makes available Scripture Promise Verses. We print them out on slips of paper, just various random promises that are in the Bible, and we cut them, fold them in half and staple, so when you choose one out of the basket, you can’t see what you are getting. Last year, my verse was Psalm 107:13-16. I remember reading it and thinking “that doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a very good year.” Though I put it on my bulletin board, I think I pretty much forgot about it. Perhaps I should have spent a little more time in prayer – it may have made this to be an easier year. This is what it says:

“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.”

As it turned out, this was the year of unexplained pain in my body, leading to a September diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis with a side of Reynaud’s phenomenon and connective tissue disorder. It was the year of not being able to fully open and close my hands, of wrist pain too great to lift more than a dinner plate, of being afraid to go to sleep at night because I never knew what I would feel like in the morning. Of my hands falling asleep while driving or while stirring pancake batter. Aching arms and shoulders for no reason, unexplained exhaustion and unbearable inflammation after a light 1.5 mile jog. Of afternoons crying for no particular reason, and of not recognizing my own behavior as being that of myself at any previous point in my life. It was, I would say, one of the darker years of my life so far. Yet God was there in my utter darkness, and he brought me out of my distress.

As much as I didn’t want to have to rely on medication, I think I have come to accept that at least for right now, it is a necessary thing for me. I have tried looking into the naturopathic side of things, but for now, the information out there is a little too overwhelming and confusing. Leaky Gut! says one person. Household chemicals and heavy metals! says another. Take a pill that makes you smell like fish and all your troubles will go away after a year. Tai Chi! Ginger! Omega-3s! Chelation therapy! Food allergies! I just had to take a break from it all. The medication seems to be working okay and I have made some other healthy changes, and that is going to have to work for now.

The bright sides from all of this have been that God has been there with me, and has brought the right encouragement at the times I needed it. He brought friends to encourage, and a patient husband, Scriptures, and His own gentle presence. And he also brought people who gave me prophetic words and prayers, that though I may be facing a setback, God is certainly not done with my life. This past year looked very different than I thought it would, but as I enter a new one, I do so with more gratitude, humility, and hope. I will give thanks for the Lord for his wonderful deeds and unfailing love!

I picked up my new scripture this week, my word for 2020:

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” – 2 Corinthians 9:8

There are some words of hope to carry me into the new year!